1. What role do you think store experience plays in the customer’s buying journey?

The store has a number of roles, the most important being the experience. Stores are not only there to drive sales or sell products. They are about building the brand and the experience for store visitors. Moreover, stores are the technology being used to enhance experience and building awareness of the product.

Retail businesses around the world are using in-store technology to enhance customer experience. One example is of mass customization, for example, if you go to a Nike store you can customize your shoes. In Madrid, Zara allows shoppers to experience a cashier-less store. There are also augmented reality fashion shows and virtual fitting rooms gaining popularity.

One of the things we are doing since quite a while now is in-store online where we have screens in our stores. Consumers can come in and search for products. They can order it online if it a product is not available.

2. How do you see the frenzy of malls, is that something that will continue to see growth or do you think it will fizzle out soon given the expense?

The strategy that we have maintained is to keep larger stores and treat them as a marketing expense. Malls have recently come into Pakistan. They might be dying in the West but in Pakistan they are still a family affair. You can find cinemas, play areas and food courts and a lot of brands under one roof. Malls are still a destination.

Our conversion might be lower in malls, but it gives us a natural footfall which means that we might not be getting the direct revenue but the awareness for the brand is still building up.

3. How do you optimize your stores efficiency and make it a sustainable part of your business?

One of the most important factors to store efficiency is that the product has to offer a value proposition. Product knowledge and staff training is critical to conversion. In addition, one must make sure that we have an optimal staff level to service the customer.

The staff must be trained to make sure they understand the products. They should be able to educate the customers on the product, they should know product technicalities and should be able to cross-sell.

For example, we use Shopper Value to regularly monitor our IPT, UPT, service level intensity and conversion. Using analytics, we create targets and benchmarks which we strive to achieve and go above and beyond.

4. In general, have you had your people tag along well with the culture of KPI driven performance evaluation?

I think KPI driven performance is critical. In a business where there are so many different variables, it’s the name of the game. This business is all about data. Using technology is the name of the game.

5. Do you have advice for other retailers that can help them be more sustainable?

I think one needs to make sure that the cost structure of the organization is very lean. We need to train our people better, cross-selling needs to improve. Often we look at the investment in technology and we shy away because the number scares us but in reality it brings down your operational cost significantly.

Good data, analytical data, which means something, will cost money but you should be able to optimize your efficiency and achieve economies of scale with it.