Myntra follows in Alibaba's footsteps, builds on omnichannel retail with tech-enabled stores

Myntra follows in Alibaba's footsteps, builds on omnichannel retail with tech-enabled stores

Friday June 15, 2018,

6 min Read

Myntra has opened the second offline store for in-house brand Roadster, at Mantri Mall in Bengaluru. The stores, with RFID-enabled digital screens, promise customers more time to discover and shop, and less time to check out.

Online fashion commerce market leader Myntra is set to launch 50 brick-and-mortar stores in two years for its private labels, across cities. Mytra-Jabong CEO Ananth Narayanan has said 15 of them will be opened in this fiscal. He was speaking at the opening of Roadster Go, Myntra’s second offline store for their in-house brand Roadster, located at Mantri Mall in Malleshwaram, Bengaluru.

This is Myntra’s latest effort in pushing omnichannel retail, by enabling offline stores with advanced tech for better customer experience.

“Omnichannel strategy is all about how best to use tech offline. Tech makes it intuitive and easier for the customer to check out the items and make the purchase,” Ananth said. Myntra wants to use tech to increase the time a customer spends with the brand, and decrease the time spent on checkout.

Out of Myntra’s 15 private labels, Roadster has the highest popularity, with 100 percent annual growth. In March 2017, Myntra opened its first brick-and-mortar store — for Roadster — on 100 Feet Road in Indiranagar, Bengaluru. (Roadster contributes over eight percent to Myntra’s overall revenue.)

This store, which the Myntra team calls ‘Version 1’, had several unique features, including a video wall controlled by shoppers through a touch interface, which shows product details. The ‘Scan & Go’ purchase mechanism allows shoppers to add their favourites to their shopping cart on the Myntra app, doing away with shopping bags, checkout counters, or billing queues. This store is now EBIDTA positive, and is expected to be profitable in two years.

What is Version 2 ?

Roadster’s second offline store is one step ahead. Spread across 1,900 square feet, the store has RFID (Radio-frequency identification) enabled digital screens. Once you hold up a product against this screen, it provides all the details, including fabric, wash, color matching, availability of size etc. (This eliminates the need for staff’s support.)

Ananth elaborates, While normal offline stores are all about sales per square-feet, Roadster Go store focuses on data per square-feet. With computer vision, we can know the number of people visiting the store, male-female ratio, time of maximum footfall during the day, area/spots inside the store which get maximum footfall, and customer behaviour inside the store.”

Customers want more time to discover and shop, but want to check out as soon as possible. It tends to takes longer with offline stores, especially if there is a queue with customers purchasing multiple items.

But Ananth assures that the checkout will be done in less than 30 seconds -  a feature he claims is the first in the world. He explains, “Even if you have 10-15 products in your basket, the RFID tray will capture the product details and display the bill on the screen instantly, which can be paid using a debit/credit card upon confirmation. After billing, RFID is disabled.”

Manohar Kamath, Head, Myntra Fashion Brands (MFB), who was also present at the event, added that prices of Roadster products will be the same online and offline. “Whenever there is a sale online, the same (discounted) prices will be provided at this store too,” he said.

Manohar Kamath, Head, Myntra Fashion Brands (L), and Ananth Narayanan, CEO, Myntra-Jabong.

All this technology will be shared with all MFB in due course. Each of Myntra’s 15 private labels will have independent stores.

What is next?

Roadster’s third brick-and-mortar store will open in Pune’s Phoenix Market City in a few weeks. Myntra is also planning to launch HRX offline store soon. Ananth clarified that they choose the geographies based on the data from online orders and searches for each brand from different regions.

Also, they are able to verify the benefit of offline stores on the online channel – by the rise in number of orders from areas/pincodes around the store location.

Myntra crossed $1 billion in GMV last year and is heading towards profitability. But with active investment in tech, growth is not taking a back seat. (Myntra has recently acquired Bengaluru-based startup Witworks to be part of the tech team. Their losses have come down, and private label contribution to revenue is already above 25 percent.)

Also, Manohar assures that Version 3 of Myntra’s omnichannel effort will provide the “ensemble” feature – suggesting a complete look to suit an item that the customer is purchasing. (As is possible at the new store, it will be on a touchscreen so you can enhance the image, see sizes, check availability, and get an online experience in an offline store.) He also hinted that they would launch services like home delivery for customers who check out at offline stores.

Myntra’s plans have a striking resemblance to Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ model, which provides similar services. Ahead of their famous ‘Double11’ sale last year, Alibaba’s technology had converted around 100,000 retail stores in China into “smart stores” where customers could check out themselves using a QR scan code. In Alibaba’s experiment in the grocery segment, the customer can even get his purchases from the offline store delivered at home.

A few months ago, it was reported that Myntra is working on a feature to enable users to take a “mirror selfie” to see how their dress looks on them, through the app. While they have not launched it yet, Myntra seems to have taken a leaf out of Alibaba-owned Tmall. The Tmall “dressing mirror” has a camera that captures your face, applies it to the figure on screen, adds your body measurements, complexion, hair style, and style preferences in apparel, shoes, sunglasses, etc. It goes on to show you how you look in the different outfits you choose.

Similarly, in the fashion retail stores they collaborate with, Alibaba’s tech shows the store which items were and were not tried using the RFID embedded in the items and mirrors in the store so they can prepare and manage inventory better. Through such digitisation of offline stores’ footprint, tech enhances a shop’s inventory management system.

If Myntra’s tech pulls an Alibaba, the Indian consumer is set for a whole new range of experiences.