Lessons from a “Kirana” shop in omni-channel retail

I often have thought of technology as an extension of human behaviour. It is evident in the way technology has evolved through the ages. From riding horses to carriages to cars to planes and now even to space crafts. We first invented solutions that reduced laborious work and then went on to build complex systems that have propelled humans into space and even beyond. But irrespective of all the new technology we invent, our basic needs remain same and necessity is the mother of all inventions.

Retail sector is no exception to this phenomenon. We can draw many parallels from the ye olde methods of retail that resonate with today’s omnichannel solutions. India has been the land of “kirana” (translates to grocery) stores, which can be found in almost every locality and which are thriving despite of the dawn of supermarkets and online grocery giants. Why wait for 60mins superfast delivery, when one can get the product immediately from the store-next-door?

When talking about Omnichannel retailing, often, one gets distracted. The complexity of technology distracts you from the simple solutions that it is set out to provide. When I envision retailing in the future, I will always think of the kirana shops. They have catered the excellent service and personalised engagement that extends comfort and trust.

Kirana, Retail, Omnichannel,
A regular “kirana” store can be found in almost every locality.

We tend to purchase from those retailers that make shopping hassle free and assuring.

Today, omnichannel retailers complain about the following challenges:

  • Lack of unified dashboard for viewing insights about their clients across all channels.
  • Knowing when to reach out to their customers with relevant products & services.
  • Retailers have already invested and deployed store systems that aren’t dynamic and would take too long to upgrade.
  • Retailer’s IT systems were designed to measure sales and not keep track of consumer behaviour.

The Kirana store is relevant and thriving today is because of the following qualities that makes it unique:

  • Is open at odd hours not 24×7 – Opens store for Milk & Bread sales early 530 am and often closes late at night by 11pm or so to cater to last minute late-night customers. Modern retail needs to be for their customer with relevant products at relevant hours.
  • Personal rapport – The store vendor calls you “Bhaiyya” or “Bhabhi” (uncle, aunty, big brother etc) and instantly bonds with you over small talk while he fetches your items. He might not remember your name, but does manage to serve personalization with his presence of mind. It is very difficult to up scale the same level of personalization in an omnichannel environment. But with social media connected intuitive tools personalization can be made more human than mechanical.
  • Extends credit – Accepts cash – Tenders change –These small shop owners extend monthly credit to their loyal customers and maintain a record in a simple easy to understand ledger. If you are short of cash, they accept your order and let you pay ahead. Such services build loyalty and build deeper rapport with their clients. Retailing would always be about experience. Once your store supports the customer through a difficult time, they would stick around with the same vendor for long-long time. The short-term expense/losses that you make while extending discounts etc would lead to long term loyal customers who would always reach out your store first.
  • Knowing your customer: As you have been purchasing since long, the store vendor suggests products in accordance to your buying behaviour. In your monthly grocery list if you forget to add an item, he would remind you of the same and at times, also suggests new products that would suit your requirements. Modern retail can easily keep track of customers past buying behaviour and intelligently suggest relevant products.

All your efforts to brand, promote and sell your solutions/products go in vain if they are identical to your competitors. Hence aim to customize and personalize each interaction with your clients based on their preferences. Build relations like the nearby “kirana” store owner has and reap long term customer loyalty.

Supermarkets, Omnichannel, Retail, India
Supermarkets and Mega-marts try to woo in customers by promising a unique shopping experience.

Personalization is Powerful.

It is also difficult to master. It requires real time intelligent insights. In depth customer analytics and relevant dynamic data. Your clients today are present both online & offline. This duality is the key to develop key insights.

At BPRISE, we are analytics based customer engagement company. Our vision is to make marketing innovative and intelligent, which would enhance ROI for your establishment. We built a unified dashboard that visualizes your customer’s profiles and helps you take informed marketing decisions to reach your customers at the right time. Our up-to-the-minute solutions help you build focused meaningful campaigns and equip you with relevant insights to drive better sales and effective customer satisfaction.

To know more about BPRISE visit: https://bprise.com/

Of People Counting, Loyalty Cards and ERP

Before I started BPRISE along with my fellow founders, I made several trips to large retail chains and stores in the Middle East and India to figure out what are the gaps faced by retail analytics today which hampered marketing automation.
Here are some of my key findings
  1. Many stores are happy with people counting systems. It’s simple and answered all the questions.
  2. A lot of focus was put in over half the companies visited into their Loyalty Program.
  3. ERP systems are the go-to answer for analytics. And why shouldn’t it be, it captures almost everything in it.
  4. Some companies have experimented with Bluetooth based messaging.
  5. Mom and Pop stores rarely feel the utility (even if they are a chain of stores) of the toys used by the big boys.

People Counters:

A long running and often expensive solution is the ubiquitous people counter. It’s data helps you measure product abandonment, dwell time analysis and optimize your layout and flow. At a macro level this sounds like a lot. But how do we arrive at product abandonment? If 100 people stood in a small store, and 10 went to the checkout counter – you have product abandonment numbers with you. Straight forward.
But this gets very tricky when you have various sections in the store. Product abandonment finds meaning when integrated into an ERP system. Then you can make section wise people count minus section wise sales for the day to arrive at your numbers.

So where do people counters fail?

 Shop floor Purchase Cycle
In the above example, you cannot pinpoint people who saw your advertisement about  product and then entered the store and those who didn’t. Further, among the people who entered your store how do you bifurcate the ones who came to check the product between the two categories? Even further, who really purchased the product?
This I believe is one of the biggest failures of People counting systems. You cannot understand the journey precisely, more importantly, there is no way you can re-market to these users as you have no knowledge about them.

Loyalty Programs

Built in the 1990s loyalty programs have grown across the globe in shapes and sizes. This is one true program that knows your customer’s purchase pattern, history and value for your business. Since then, this data has been plugged into Big Data systems to analyze the information in great detail.

So what would enhance a loyalty program in today’s day and age?

Loyalty cards are generally produced at the checkout counter with the exception of hotels. In the good old days, if a wealthy patron entered the store you would personally greet the patron, enquire about the family and perhaps assign a dedicated manager to assist around the store. Why? Because this created goodwill and you got to increase your wallet share from the client. Circa today, most loyalty programs are just data munching tools. If your Loyalty card could signal to you when an important client entered the store today, then you could maximize your wallet share and customer experience.
The other factor lacking in Loyalty card data is the customer’s need analysis. You know what they bought. But you do not know what are they currently browsing and their present likes. This all important data is a key factor in your personalization arsenal.

ERP Systems

I strongly believe that ERP systems are the one dashboard where all solutions should fit together. This eases the life of the customer by a great margin.
ERP systems tell the exact color of the product that sells to the customer life cycle. This helps in your entire planning and forecasting based on the given data.
Again like Loyalty data, ERP systems are blind when it comes to knowing what each customer wants and crating a map of wants to ensure that sales can be optimized.

Mom and Pop Stores

Gone are the days when Mom and Pop stores could not compete with the big boys. With the advent of startups, e-grocery formats are taking mom and pop stores into the online world. Personalization is what mom and pop stores do naturally. You will always know your important clients and they would know the store as well. Where they cannot compete in price, they make up in personalization, free home delivery and giving known customers credit.


Every format has to evolve. In today’s fast paced world, knowing what customers want, taking into account their historical data and real time information is critical. Being agile is not just a software world terminology, every business has to live it.


The problem starts when you start collecting this data. Every piece of data from different vendors come in multitudes of shapes and sizes. This means the increasing reliance of using multiple systems to interpret data. Finding meaning in this haystack is not easy. Companies have to invest countless dollars in trying to customize solutions to get meaning from this data.


If that is not challenging enough, it is difficult for Marketing folks who need to use the data and IT to understand the middle ground between data and usable data. Finally how should this data translate into actionable Marketing?


At BPRISE, we are attempting to solve these challenges a step at a time ; from collating data to making it useful and finally using it for real world marketing. Stay tuned.