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(Article) Consumer behaviour and retailing decisions Does consumers' selection of retail outlets depend on the brands available

or is it the retail outlet first and the brand next? Marketers need to do in-depth research on the various aspects that link brand and retail strategy, says S. Ramesh Kumar DECISION-MAKING with regard to retail outlet selection is very similar to consumer decision -making on brands where the consumer goes through a process starting from identifying needs to postpurchase issues. There are a few interesting and important dimensions associated with consumer behaviour and retail outlet selection. Does the retail outlet have psychological implications on the target segment? When Titan and Timex watches were retailed through exclusive shops, consumers wanting lower end watches probably felt that a typical Titan showroom was too elitist, which could have had a negative impact. Does selection of outlets vary in accordance with types of product categories? While buying a TV or a washing machine, would consumers visit an exclusive showroo of BPL, Onida or Sony, or would they visit a multi-brand m outlet? Would there be differences in the psychographic (and demographic) profiles of consumers choosing outlets? What is the sequence in which consumers are likely to go about their decisions?Will they select the brand or the category first before choosing the outlet? What is the impact of the image developed by a retail outlet? Is FoodWorld different from a neighbourhood grocery shop in the minds of consumers? What kind of perception are co sumers likely to have with regard to n shopping from an online outlet such as Fabmart vis-à-vis a brick-and-mortar outlet like Fountainhead or Landmark? Would consumers be interested in store or retail brands? Traditionally, retailers have been carryingmanufacturers' brands. But in recent times (at least to a significant extent in the foods category), supermarkets such as FoodWorld have started carrying retail or store brands. Nilgiri's is another example in the South which carries its own brands of chocolates, biscuits and other commodities. What contributes to retail equity or retail image or retail loyalty? How do retail outlets handle perceived risks? Marketers need in-depth knowledge about the various dimensions which link retailing and consum behaviour. er There is research required to handle retail decisions in a competitive context. McDonald's found that a major chunk of its consumers decide to eat a few minutes before they make the purchase decisions and hence it is building small outlets in large supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. It is providing play areas to ensure a number of families visit its outlets with children. A few companies also operate through kiosks in airports, malls and high -traffic areas. Sunglass Hut is a brand which operates kiosks at various places which displays about 1,000 different models along with their prices. Consumers could place an order through these kiosks and the product is homedelivered. Retail outlet selection and brand selection

There are three fundamental patterns which a consumer can follow and they could be: (I) Brand first, retail outlet second (ii) Retail outlet first, brand second (iii) Brand and retail outlet simultaneously. A consumer wanting to buy a car may collect information on brands and purchase it from a retail outlet based on his perception of price offered or after-sales service provided by the outlet (typically, search for information on brands is followed by retail outlet selection in durables). In certain product categories, especially where `category killers' exist,

The manufacturer of the brand may have to ensure that the brand (and the variants demanded) will be available at the key outlets in a locality. The marketer would have to carry out primary research to find out specific markets where consumers have a very positive relationship with retailers. in the South. Consumers tend to have higher expectations about the presale service and the attention given to them. why. Retailers attempt to increase consumer traffic by providing a number of `add-ons'. display of point-of-purchase material and building the image of the outlet becomes important. Failing this. This model puts the brand in focus and reinforces the positive association a consumer may have about it. This feedback may have to be provided by the manufacturers of a brand to retailers in various regions (especially if it is a brand with a major chunk o the f market and one which is nationally advertised). Strategies and sequences Retail outlet first and brand second: When a number of consumers follow this sequence of decision-making. If the retail outlet is a large one dealing with a number of brands (like Vivek).consumers may t ink of t e retail outlet initially and t en t e brands (television. A `brand first dimension may need feature-based advertising and a `retail outlet first dimension may require a set of point-of-purchase (POP) materials and special training to sales personnel to recognise the needs of consumers. Further. Retail sales personnel also become important in this situation. which would be to the disadvantage of a retailer who has already won the confidence of consumers. refri erator and audio products retailed t rough outlets like Vivek and Co. could be an example). The shop-in-shop concept creates an aura of exclusivity. Primary research may be required to identify the brands in the evoked set. especially in semi urban and rural areas. it means that they have a certain preference for the outlet and would like to check the evoked set of brands there. A large store also is likely to stock several brands and hence all brands in the evoked set would have to compete with each other to progress from the evoked set to choice set. should product features be used. consumers may turn to a different retailer. the evoked set could also change from time to time depending on the strategies of brands. should the POP material be in the regional language. One more dimension may be to compare brands in the evoked set at retail outlets which also exist in an evoked set of their own. The local advertising could be different from the national advertising for the brand. Besides. Primary research could be used to discover the specific sequence involved in a situation of this kind. price.should visuals be used. and the differences between markets) to formulate retail strategies. Local advertising with the mention of brand names which have already got into the evoked set would enable consumers to be `pulled' to the outlet. Brand first and outlet second: The brand was probably thought of by the consumers because (i) the consumers may not have developed a relationship with any retailer which is strong enough to get into the `evoked retail set' or (ii) the brand has got into the evoked set because of advertising or positive word of mouth. A considerable amount of pre -sale service would have to back up the shop-in-shop concept. This is highly possible. This is likely to improve traffic to the outlet.these changes should be captured (how often this happens. especially in the Indian context where dealers develop a social relationship with consumers. This is important because of the influence of retailers over the purchase behaviour of consumers in the Indian context. About two decades ago. . there would have to be more emphasis on regional/local advertising which highlights the retail shop rather than regular brand-based national advertising. Large outlets may also have a built-in provision for a lower price (because of volumes) and hence may be in a better position to clinch the deal with consumers who may simultaneously consider both the brand and the retail outlet. There may also be a need to monitor competition from other retail outlets to ensure that consumers are kept satisfied in terms of service. The prospective consumers are "carried over" to the purchase stage by the store personnel and hence there should be incentive programmes for the store personnel. promotional deals and ambience. Even multinational outlets could make use of this approach and mention the brands in the evoked set (in a given geographical area). The interest generated in the brand would have to be backed by good pre-sale services at the outlet. The combination of `push-pull' strategy is shown in the table. This is to ensure that the retailers who have a favourable perception among t e target h segment carry the desired brands. If a company such as BPL or Videocon is dealing with a number of brands/sub-brands. if it is known that a number of consumers may be oriented to visit their favourite retailer (before obtaining information on brands) in a geographical area. it has to ensure the availability of specific brands which may interest the consumers. A brand may be advertised on features nationally but the retail outlet in may prefer to highlight the effective after-sales service associated with the brand as this may be a priority of consumers. Brand and retail outlet simultaneously: When consumers think of the brand and retail outlet together. Dyanora and Crown may have been top-of-the-mind (in a specific geographical area) but slowly gave way to other brands . Pointof-purchase materials which are to be used at the retail outlet may require primary research . a shop-in-shop arrangement may be preferable. brands like Solidaire. This is especially applicable to durables retailing in India (in cities). It may also be worthwhile to check if the evoked brands are carried by the retailers who have a positive relationship with the target segments.