FCB India, Networkbay to power new contactless retail experience for brands

FCB India, in collaboration with Networkbay, today announced the launch of ‘Retail: Day 1’, a special initiative to work with brands and retailers to ‘manage, redefine and transform’ their retail experiences in the post-COVID era.

Adapting to the new normal, the launch of ‘Retail: Day 1’ beckons the first day of contactless retail experience. Through this collaboration, FCB India and Networkbay will work with brands and retailers to quickly adapt to this new scenario. By leveraging digital tools and spatial design innovation, ‘Retail: Day 1’ is aimed at creating enhanced new retail virtual experiences which are engaging and at the same time fulfilling business requirements of conversion and sales for brands.

What is ‘Contactless’ Retail?

Contactless retail is about creating seamless virtual experiences in the retail space so that consumers can get the benefit of trying out physical products.

That means in the cosmetics space where samplers and freebies are a big part of the retail experience, the post COVID-19 scenario with give birth to a contactless makeup journey, where AR technology will be leveraged to deliver a virtual makeup experience.  

Large department stores often see a large mass of consumers congregate to purchase products. In a post COVID-19 world, such a situation poses a health risk, so retailers will deploy technology to determine if the numbers of customers in a store cross a certain threshold.

Today, online shoppers are struggling to use e-commerce apps to buy groceries and essentials. They still prefer to visit the store to purchase essential products. To make their journey to the store much safer, consumers will be able to browse store products in a virtual space before actually entering the store. They can then get to making the purchase right off the bat, thus reducing time spent loitering in the store.

These technologies can be deployed at low cost and at scale for retailers across the country. The vision of a ‘contactless’ future is not something in the distant future but can be created today if clients are willing.

As retailers struggle with incredible fixed costs compounded by the COVID-19 scenario, these solutions will help accelerate their bounce back journey once the economy opens up.

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman & CEO, FCB India, commented, “Consumers will expect retailers to adopt new standards and practices measures because of health and safety concerns. Many brands talk about health and safety and now we provide the technology expertise to enable that journey. We aid clients to understand the specific points in their consumer journey where technology can be deployed to enable a ’contactless’ experience.”

He further said, “In the Auto sector, a big change that we’ve observed is that millennial consumers who were using services like Ola and Uber are reconsidering purchase of vehicles because safety is now a paramount consideration factor. This is a remarkable sharp shift in consumers view towards ownership of vehicles. We expect to see more shifts like these in other sectors.”

Speaking on current challenges, Ohri said, “This lockdown period will change our world forever. When we emerge on the other side of this crisis, retail experiences will be redefined. Our research shows that shopper behaviour will dramatically change. Even though retail stores may be open, customers who shop there will not engage with the stores as they used to. Retail needs to urgently reinvent itself for the post-COVID world. We’re hoping that with our Retail Day 1 initiative, we are able to help our clients rapidly build back their business.”

Hozefa Attari, Co-Founder, Networkbay, added here, “Our platform combines the strengths of some of the leading retail design, technology and service brands to develop every retailer’s Store of the Future. Project ‘Retail: Day 1’ will allow us to work closely with FCB, taking advantage of their deep expertise in brand and customer behaviour, to develop radical customer journeys, be it contactless automotive dealerships, virtual stores or even connected packaging and Augmented Reality.”


A recent survey by National Retail Federation (NRF) deduced:

  • 9 in 10 consumers have changed their traditional shopping habits
  • More than 50% of consumers have ordered products online that they would normally purchase at the store
  • Nearly 6 in 10 consumers say they are worried about going to the store due to fear of being infected

Some of these changes would be temporary while others will be permanent. As the community moves beyond the survival mode, the digital-adoption momentum is likely to carry forward and become permanent. As a matter of fact, consumer behaviour will be dependent on 2 factors – the reluctance to mingle in crowded public places and higher propensity for digital adoption. While the survey by NRF represents finding in America, but the human sentiments resonate with the changing behaviour across the globe.

A study by Deloitte published on March 30, 2020 shared an outlook on the retail industry with the emphasis on changing behaviour.

  • Non-contact demand during the pandemic is expected to boost sales at smaller stores that can host smaller crowds at a time. However, supermarket chains have ensured supply of products at regular prices
  • Due to the pandemic‘s impact on consumer behaviour and habits, “online-sales” are expected to witness a significant surge, even after the industry recovers
  • The establishment of online platforms is expected to become indispensable for offline stores, and online–offline service integration is expected to increase

A Nielsen study unveiled in March 2020 looked at the retail purchase in traditional, modern and e-commerce channels, and evaluated consumer attitudes. It tracked this behaviour for several weeks from the time the disease first surfaced in India till the country went under a lockdown. First, it observes an increase in consumer interest in health and hygiene products, leading to purchase of safety items such as hand sanitizers and face masks. As the disease spread, consumers started stockpiling their pantry with shelf-stable food and broader assortment of health and safety products. Store visits went up and the basket size expanded. The quarantine stage, followed by restrictive living, led to a rise in online shopping, fewer store visits, purchase of essential goods.

The recent Mckinsey study in China suggests, consumers are likely to opt for online shopping even after the outbreak ends, especially for categories such as groceries and personal care. This trend is likely to continue long after the lockdowns are called off as people would still be apprehensive to visit crowded areas like malls or supermarkets.

The aforesaid data and research excerpts imply that it is time for contactless retail experience for brands and it is here to stay. Even after the lockdown is lifted, consumers will still be apprehensive about stepping out and visiting stores. The footfall would be very low. China is a precedent of this consumer behaviour pattern. With the emergence of the online platforms that empower the consumer whilst ensuring their safety, engagement will be driven more on the basis of the ‘experiential’ rather than ‘material’. The post-COVID retail environment will surely be a default online retail preference.


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