Friday, January 02, 2009

Silent selling

Prepare for Silent Selling!

By Harish Bijoor

The on-the-move culture is here. Almost here, if we are to believe the numbers doing the rounds in the more developed parts of the world.

Selling is on the move, it seems. Everybody is on the move. More so now than in the past. There is very little time during the working weekday for anybody to think of a really sedentary life. The day starts in a rush. Breakfast is to be grabbed on the way. There is a Café down the corner that has ready-made-sandwiches for you to grab at as you take your car out of the garage. There is coffee to go as well. You can pick it up at your corner petrol bunk. It’s hot, comes in a neat take-away tumbler and has a thoughtful lip-tip that will not let you scald your tongue!

You carry a mobile on the go. All your transactions happen on it. The U.S. prediction is that by the year 2006, seventy four per cent of mobile users will be mobile Internet users as well. And with the Internet comes every conceivable opportunity of working, entertaining and educating you. Again on the go! Everything you do, every breath you take, and every step you take, will be on the go.

The on-the-go culture is here! Almost! In India as well! Particularly so in the large metropolises that clutter our landscape.

Products, services and their peddlers will therefore have to morph their offerings to cater to the mobile needs of the mobile consumer. Take-away cans of 20 liter petrol sold out of petrol bunks to avoid the long waiting time at these retail points, take-away things to eat, to drink, even take-away things to defecate in (as Japan has actually offered in its super-markets; mobile toilets to bide your time through all those traffic jams)! The take-away culture is here!

Manufacturers and entrepreneurs behind products and services in India, particularly in Urban India, need to focus keenly on the new need of a whole lot of people who will demand for products and services that offer velocity and speed. A burger that will be hot and ready to take-away in a minute, piping hot 'biryani' available as a take-away from a drive-in point, packaged fruits, drinks and ready-snacks that can be grabbed into cars and scooters at street-corners, are going to be offerings that will hold relevance to a whole bunch of people. They will be small in number in the beginning. Their numbers will however grow.

The impatient consumer on the go will have a short span of attention on things that he grabs at junction-points of his busy life. His demand is for high quality at a geographical point of convenience. The 'sandwich-wallah', the Café, the bookstore and retailing enterprises of the kind, need to be at arms length of his desire. If the quality on offer for his brief stint at your retail-point is upto expectation, his franchise will return. Just as long as you keep offering a range of offerings that do not cause for that flavour-fatigue knocking off his custom, you have a life-time value of sandwich buys in your pocket! Don’t forget, this could run into thousands of rupees of business in the long-term!

Plan then for this customer on the go. The guys out there in the Indian marketplace are looking for that quick-grab on-the-go product to accompany them in their busy lives. The clever marketer will address this need and brand it as well. The clever salesman will sell it in his own style.

The salesman of today in the “On-the-go” market will need to be a salesman who is out there at the right place at the right time. A salesman who is going to distinguish his offering more in terms of visual merchandising ability rather than on the merit of the sales spiel he will let loose on the customer. Remember, the customer has no time to listen. He will just look, assess in those nano-seconds it takes for the mind to process visual information vis-à-vis need, want and desire, and pick the product or service he wants to franchise.

This is a quick-generation which has no time to stand and stare. No time for the sales banter. The new era salesman in these markets in a hurry need to customize their sales offerings completely basing the selling strategy on the two counts of location and visual appeal through merchandising and Point of Purchase material. Silent selling then!

If you ask me, this trend is already alive in the large metropolises of India. Particularly in Mumbai, where grabbing a sandwich, a ‘vadaa-pau’ and possibly a sachet of ‘Neera’, is a culture all of its own. Only this time round, the market is skewed towards the yuppie of Corporate India. This guy will not be seen dead grabbing a ‘vadaa-pau’ from an unbranded joint round the corner.

Silent selling with its appeal tags of visual merchandising appeal, hygiene, convenience and Point of Purchase glare, is here to stay. The salesman needs to re-define his abilities, and get silent for a change in these kinds of markets.

And that’s a difficult one!

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a private-label consulting firm.


Adi said...

PHENOMENAL article sir. i read this article long time back and was awed by the view of thought and the insight on the generation on the move.

I am unable to comprehend why you have stopped writing

It is your DUTY to impart as much knowledge as you can to students like me and many more. So, please pen in your wise words. Thank you.

Diamond Head said...

Interesting perspective Harish.

Another but somewhat similar view - from a vantage of being in the US looking at the Indian marketplace (having been a consumer myself at one point in both of our infancy - mine and the Indian market) I fail to understand if plethora of brands will dominate the Indian retail landscape the way it has matured here. That is not to say that we are better for it except the commodities are further price reduced to the point of being affordable to larger masses. Go Walmart! (not the brand but the idea of a UBER BANIA).

For one, when it comes to the folks that reside in the US since the expenses on basic necessities are not a significant percentage of their disposable income they can afford to indulge in other non essential (but purely brand driven) desire to satisfy their vanity. I suspect that is not true for a majority of Indian consumers.

Disenchantment in life with all things ephemeral and pocket money left over coupled (some actually have negative cash flow but that is for another forum) with a credit driven economy here, is incentive for marketeers to flood the store shelves with their USP around something as mundane as cereal (to non sensical applications for the iphone) and permutate it with more combinations than in a rubic cube. Eventually the congress takes notice and starts issuing guidelines on what to publish on the box. I suspect the costs of compliance and box building are more than what is inside the box at this point but then again as someone said Mr. Schulz is not selling coffee anymore in his machiato ventis at Sbux rather a cool and hip image.

Go figure - so now you are caffieneted for no reason to the point you BELONG to the club but are found bouncing off the walls akin to your other mochafied brethren. End result - lack of true productivity and boost to the Stbux share price.. maybe.

I do not believe there is anything hip about anything that is a commodity in its simplest form. A rational person can determine if a widget satisfies his or her need and can decide to act on it based on information available to him.

Although I see how a lot of the markets evolve based on criticality of need I am not sure there is enough margin to eke out a profit (in the Indian context - more so in the rural hinter or not so hinterland) and satisfy local needs by additionally branding a product so that it can be marketed.

Extolling virtues of an unknown commodity is essentially equivalent to coercing the gullible folks to act. There are a lot of them around the planet and somehow feel consoled that they BELONG to some brand.

That is why I personally am still suspicious of what true value brand marketing delivers to the end consumer (perhaps the reason open source and cloud computing are catching on is people are wisening up to the notion that having a branded IBM server with a branded Oracle S/W on it is not justification of any level of security and servicability but merely a branding exercise designed to provide notional comfort at a Premium).

Look forward to further personal enlightenment through other posts to this thread.


End Consumer.

Anoop Savvio said...

I agree to the previous comment !

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

darshan patel said...

excellent article sir,

let's discuss about fruits and vegetables in a super market and a footpath

but whenever we are talking about silent selling i would say it's the synonym of visual merchandising and the factor what we are overlooking is the "nutrition".

from my personal experience i would rate footpath vegetables are far better than the stuff in supermarket. where as if we see the visual merchandising plays a key role.

can you please throw some more light on this area sir.

thanking you

Anonymous said...

Very innovative concept sir. Do you think silent selling will work in india?
Cafe coffee day and In and out retail tried to use this strategy in india they opened outlets at petrol pump but they failed to earn expected revenue and most of them are now closing their operations.