Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sense and Simplicity

Retail is all about common sense is an adage I have heard and also propounded often enough in my various posts and in my book “The INDIAN reTALEs”. Especially with regard to good execution, the simpler the idea, better the execution.

In this context I happened see a film about a design management firm called IDEO which is a US based one. They were showcasing their design management process to come up with a better shopping cart. It does sound a bit funny. A better shopping cart? What’s wrong with the current ones?

They figured out some of the key problems in current shopping carts and came up with a simple solution of a frame with wheels which can hold two baskets. This solved a variety of problems like pushing the carts into crowded aisles. A family can shop at the same time using the baskets and then put them on this frame. The wheels turned 360 degrees so, maneuvering it was simple, etc.

In the Indian context a similar idea was implemented in a national chain and proved to be successful. However, a problem unique to India because of the store’s smaller size is crowded aisles, especially if there are pillars/ columns in the middle. Even the frame based trolley would be cumbersome, especially during crowded times.

A few days ago I happened to visit a supermarket where I saw this amazingly simple but hugely effective innovation. A basket with wheels. The wheels turned all the way making it extremely maneuverable and it has two sets of handles. A long one to wheel it along and two short ones to carry it. Simply marvelous. It was easy to use and a great idea. Simple and sensible. Exactly the kind of ideas that are needed for Indian Retail. Please see the picture for details.

One can ask what is so great about this. After all a basket is used by shoppers to purchase small quantities of items and why take the trouble to put wheels on them and incur the extra cost. It has been proven that if shoppers are given a basket they end up shopping more. In fact this used to be a SOP in some of the store chains I have worked with. Every shopper was given a basket as soon as they came in. If this study is correct and has merit, the contra is also true. Shoppers stop picking items when the basket becomes heavy and even one PET bottle of any soft drink can make a difference. So, by introducing this innovation, this Retailer has enabled the shooper for an easy shopping experience while eliminating the drawback of using a basket.

As mentioned above, sensible and simple.