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The later a brand delivers a product, the poorer the experience says Unicommerce’s Prateek Mahajan

Becoming completely Omnichannel is a significant challenge many fashion retail brands face in India, but it’s not an insurmountable target. With the right strategy, resources, and a customer-centric mindset, successfully implementing an Omnichannel strategy and reaping benefits of increased engagement, loyalty, and revenue are wholly achievable, explains Prateek Mahajan, Director of Operations, Unicommerce in a session at the India Fashion Forum 2024.

Unicommerce, says Mahajan, is a supply chain technology company and positions itself as the backbone of the e-commerce supply chain. The company offers a comprehensive suite of SaaS products and its solutions act as a nerve centre for e-commerce fulfillment operations. It guides brands and retailers through a complete post purchase journey. The question Unicommerce asks companies is: how does your system end up managing everything once the order gets received from the customer till the time it gets delivered to the customer?

“This is where we come in – from backend warehouses to in-store technology, we provide end-to-end Omnichannel solutions,” says Mahajan, who has 12 years of experience across e-commerce platforms aside from establishing his own startup.

Helping Brands Achieve a Cohesive Experience Across Channels

An Omnichannel journey for a brand starts when they begin listing either on their web store or on other online marketplaces. Unicommerce helps brands achieve a cohesive experience across channels – including across web stores, physical stores and marketplaces.

Seamless Inventory Management: Mahajan explains that the first thing they help with is creating a centralized inventory system, so that the same inventory can be pushed across to all marketplaces and web stores. Orders can then be distributed smartly across the brand’s stores.

Endless Aisle: With a feature like an endless aisle, which Unicommerce helps develop, a store manager can himself figure out where is the nearest store where the inventory is available. The product can thus be sold and delivered to the customer the very same day and sometimes even before the customer reaches home.

Unicommerce is servicing multiple brands including Forever New, Rare Rabbit, W and Aurelia. These brands have seen massive growth after Omnichannel capabilities were outlined and streamlined by Unicommerce.

UnicommerceUtilising Inventory Better: Another thing that worries brands, says Mahajan, is the under/poor utilization of inventory. Brands want every season’s inventory to be utilised as soon as possible and to the fullest – this is literally their bread and butter, he states. They don’t want to get into situations where they have to sell inventory at a discount.

“Our technology allows brands to integrate with courier partners. These can be like Dunzo or quick commerce, quick logistics that can immediately pick up from the store and deliver it directly to the customer or even normal courier routes where it takes between one or two days for delivery,” Mahajan says.

Managing Returns: From an Omnichannel returns perspective, Unicommerce already has a solution for a bigger problem – which is that when an order is fulfilled by a store, and a customer returns that order, will the store be able to process this return.

“Unicommerce has a solution where you can route from the system itself where the returns go back to a central warehouse, which is better equipped and the turn around to go into a live inventory is much faster.”

Technology & Store Staff: Mahajan says that he has conducted many a discussion with brands who specifically say that their store staff is not motivated enough to process orders on time. “One of the main reasons for this is that the store staff does not understand when an order has come in or what the SLA is to process the order. So, how does one actually use such a complicated system?”

He explains that normal systems enable you to first pick, then pack an order and then finally send it over to the delivery partner who then hands it to the customer. Multiple steps are involved here. “What we do is that we have compressed this into a single step. When an order comes in, the store staff simply scans the product code and the order gets processed and a courier is allocated to it. For this, we have provided a unified dashboard – a nerve center if you may.”

However, he says that even to operate this unified dashboard, store staff needs to be trained well.

Collecting Customer Data: Whenever a brand sells offline and on their own websites, the data they collect is theirs. “They have CRMs which ingest and then process this data. In terms of returns, data collection is a boon because brands can actually call the customer and ask why they are returning a product and how they can work towards making it better,” Mahajan says.

To secure this data, Unicommerce has made the technology such that it is only on a ‘need to see’ basis, not just at the brand but even within Unicommerce. He says that brands have accepted this well, since they don’t want their data being leaked. This data helps brands and retailers make intelligent decisions on inventory planning, on customer satisfaction parameters, improves return scores, and generally enhances a brand’s quality parameters.

Fastest Delivery Time: People want delivery times to be as short as possible. Thus, customers need to be serviced from stores and warehouses as near to their address as possible. The sooner a customer receives a product, the better. There are, says Mahajan, specific metrics that drive this, for example RTO percentage. “We have seen that the later a brand delivers a product to the customer, the poorer the experience, especially with the advent of instant gratification thanks to social media, Zomato, Swiggy and other quick-commerce companies like Blinkit.”

Once the order has been placed by the customer, how does the brand fulfill these orders accurately and in the quickest time possible? This is where Unicommerce’s supply chain tech comes in. We also have AI and MLS models of supply chains.

Bottom Line Profits: “Our technology is such where reconciliation becomes a tool and where brands are able to generate quick profit and loss statements. One doesn’t have to wait till the end of the month to get a reconciled profit and loss statement,” says Mahajan.

Once there is a statement, brands can then understand what is working for them – which SKUs are profit making and which aren’t – and can start concentrating on fast moving, high margin SKUs.

“Indian fashion is a growing market. Many new brands are being launched every other day, brands are making it big, encouraging the entire fashion start up ecosystem. Many entrepreneurs, having succeeded are now giving back to the ecosystem, funding more brands. More and more offline first brands are understanding the importance of being online first, going Omnichannel,” he concludes.

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