Traditional Indian Stores Weren’t Really Known for Service - Jermina Menon

Jermina Menon

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1. Tell us about your background and journey 

I started my career in advertising and worked on some of the marquee FMCG brands from Unilever and ITC Foods. It laid the foundation for my ability to think strategically and also understand the customer well. After 15 years in advertising, I moved to the other side as a retail marketer. 

My retail journey has been unique with a mix of retail and shopping center – the two sides of the retail space. Today, e-commerce and omnichannel retail marketing are what keeps me busy and engaged. 

2. What is retail marketing and how has it evolved? 

Retail marketing simply put is marketing a retail space – today it could be offline or online, but what you need is seamless customer experience. Retail in India is old, India has always been known as a nation of shopkeepers. But organized retail, that’s quite nascent comparatively – about 25 years old. 

Retail has changed in so many ways over the years. Earlier it was about the brick-n-mortar store, the physical retail ambiance, and customer service. Today it has evolved to include this experience seamlessly online too. What has however not changed is how retail can be successful. 

You have to have the right product at the right price and easily accessible to your customer. The beauty of retail is that you know within 48-72 hours if something is working or not, and you can modify your retail strategy accordingly 

3. Can you tell our readers about omnichannel experiences in the retail industry? 

Brands today are adapting to customer’s needs faster than ever. The COVID impact is one such example. If you had told any retailer at the start of the year that they would need to find ways to make non-store sales, they would have pooh-poohed the idea. 

But now you have stores on wheels. Video conference shopping, more and more brands building e-commerce presence or e-commerce stores. 

All this keeping the brand’s own way of serving its customer. 

4. What according to you is the secret of delighting a customer? 

Listen to what the customer tells you – they have many ways of doing so (& I am not just talking of complaints or compliments coming in or social media engagement, which are equally crucial too). 

First, listen to the person on the floor – they are closest to the customer and they can grasp the difference between what a customer says and what a customer means. Not too many retail chains or their managers take this seriously and which is why the staff may not be forthcoming too. 

I cannot tell you how often I have prodded them for feedback and returned with gems of retail insights. They are your foot soldiers and build your organization to service them. Next, analyze your sales and watch out for changes – they are the pattern reflecting a changing customer behavior. 

Today we have access to so much data but I think even less gets analyzed or taken seriously! When you analyze changes closely, you probably could end up using it as an advantage for capturing market share. 

5. How has customer service changes in the past few years? 

Definitely. Traditional Indian stores weren’t really known for service. Modern retail was seen quite suspiciously for being friendly towards customers, on exchange and returns policy, or even CRM activities. 

Today, service levels have gone up a 100fold from early days, but customer expectation of service is probably 1000 fold! However, this has its negatives too – with some customers taking advantage of such policies and bullying brands (specifically on social media). 

In such a case, one needs to stay firm and not give in to the bullying. 

6. Which is your favorite book and why? 

Undoubtedly Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It’s his memoir and shared how he built the brand. From being a distributor to creating his own product and brand; and then to expand it nationally in the US and later across the world. 

The candidness he brings to his failures and also his early days of lesser experience are humbling. What I took out from the book was how he focussed single-mindedly on giving a great product and enhancing, improving it over and over and over again. That is what makes Nike a Nike. 

I am also adding what I believe is the mantra I follow to business - it's even more relevant today in the COVID world. Knowetic, my fledgling consultancy that I set up a couple of months back. 

Jermina Menon

Retail Marketer 

Interviewed By - Sandeep Virothu