In Q1 2020, Pickaboo launched its physical retail operation. Today, it has 11 outlets across multiple cities including Chittagong and Barisal. The ambition: building an omnichannel retail brand for mobile and gadgets in Bangladesh at the intersection of online and offline.
Pickaboo’s reputation in the online world as a customer service-focused ecommerce company coupled with advantages in data and technology has helped the company in building an offline operation within a relatively short time. It collaborates with smaller retail entrepreneurs for retail expansion — a model greatly aided by its online reputation. The existing relationship with brand partners has helped fast-track its offline operation. The combined online-offline operation strengthens Pickaboo’s overall demand aggregation improving Pickaboo’s leverage with partners aiding it to design better benefits for customers.
The mobile handset market, combined with gadgets and accessories, is a BDT 16,000 crore market in Bangladesh and growing. Over 90% of the mobile handset market remains offline despite mobile handsets and gadgets being one of the most popular categories in ecommerce. While the coronavirus pandemic has given a surge to online commerce, the majority of consumers remain comfortable trusting offline retails shops over online sellers. Retail continues to be the largest market for any vertical across markets.
Pickaboo sees a gap in the market in the lack of credible multi-brand retail outlets for mobile phones and gadgets in Bangladesh. There is no shortage of retail shops for mobile and gadgets. But few have a strong brand image. And none that has an online operation at scale. Using its experience online, Pickaboo wants to take the opportunity.
Over the past months, Pickaboo has created multi-brand outlets across cities allowing customers to experience products of different companies under one roof. The result has been overwhelmingly positive, Pickaboo CEO Morin Talukder told FS in a previous story.
eCommerce is an excellent utility. Avoid the hassle of offline shopping — purchase anything you want without braving Dhaka traffic. Get home delivery. Excellent collection. Online shopping nowadays also offers excellent price benefits, discounts, or otherwise.
Of course, there are customers who shop online for discounts — these are bounty hunters and rarely loyal going from one platform to another for discounts. And there are customers who shop online for the benefits online shopping offers such as convenience plus price benefits. While both camps prefer to have discounts, service remains the key sustainable differentiator.
Most customers who stop using a service do so because they are unhappy with the service. Customers do expect price benefits from ecommerce companies but obviously not at the cost of service.
While ecommerce has seen excellent growth in the past few years in Bangladesh, the segment is tiny compared to the retail market. People go to offline shops for a number of reasons - the chief of them is trust. Ecommerce companies have to be able to replicate this trust battery to achieve meaningful scale and loyalty from customers.
Discount continues to be a key strategy in the ecommerce industry in Dhaka, which is a good idea if you can ensure service and find a sustainable strategy to offer consistently low prices to customers. But it happened in the past whenever an e-commerce company focuses on discounts alone as a growth strategy, customers don’t get quality service — a challenge the ecommerce industry has to overcome as it goes mainstream.
The coronavirus pandemic has fast-forwarded the future of ecommerce bringing customers who never tried ecommerce before. Unfortunately, many customers who came online for the first time remain skeptical about ecommerce due to unsatisfactory service. While there probably are valid reasons for ecommerce companies failing to deliver expected levels of service, such as infrastructure, customers rarely agree and customers are entitled to have the service they are being promised.
To take ecommerce mainstream, it is necessary to gain the trust of customers. Discounts and benefits to customers are a driving factor for ecommerce growth. But discounts should not come at the cost of customer service.
“The current growth will only continue and become sustainable if companies deliver to customers what they promise”, says Pickaboo CEO Morin Talukder. “If we promise our customers something, and don’t keep it, people will eventually get tired of the commitment.”
“At Pickaboo, we don’t really see our business as an online store where we compensate for poor service with hefty discounts,” says Mr. Morin. “We see Pickaboo as a convenience store where you get excellent services, fast delivery, and high-quality products.”
Pickaboo has managed to establish a reputation for superior customer service in the ecommerce industry. It has invested heavily to maintain that reputation. It has identified areas customers suffer from and taken measures to address those challenges. For example, timely delivery — an area where the majority of customers have complaints. Pickaboo makes sure it delivers on time. The company has a number of delivery options such as 24 hours delivery, Fast Pick, 48 hours delivery, etc.
Pickaboo works directly with brands and manufacturers to ensure authentic products and excellent after-sales service. The company trains its customer service representatives before deploying, has built tools for customer service representatives to properly answer customer queries. Product details are collected from brand partners and are organized for customer representatives to access easily and answer customer queries.
After every successful delivery, Pickaboo reaches out to customers and collects feedback on product quality, delivery man behavior, and the overall Pickaboo experience. The feedback system helps the company correct mistakes, and improve the overall process.
Pickaboo treats every interaction with customers as part of the customer experience. In areas like logistics, it trains delivery people on customer interaction etiquettes to ensure customers have a friendly experience when receiving products. “Customers come to see us through our website and our delivery personnel,” says Mr. Morin. “How our riders behave with customers make a difference.” Pickaboo delivery riders are capable of giving basic product support such as connecting products with devices, assisting in initial setup, and so on.
Pickaboo allows a customer to return a product to the delivery person if they want to for free of charge, a service customers value greatly. “We have a 3 days easy return policy,” says Mr. Morin. “All you have to do is call our customer care or fill out the return form on our website and we will pick the product from your place free of charge.”
Unlimited waiting time is a common customer complaint. Pickaboo says it has brought down the customer care call waiting time to 20 seconds. For Pickaboo Club members, the average waiting time is less than 5 seconds.
Pickaboo has so far stayed away from the discount race in ecommerce in Dhaka. Instead, the company has been working hard to execute its omnichannel strategy and build a sustainable operation.
Pickaboo sees marrying online and offline operations can create strong competitive moats giving access to a larger market opportunity. Offline outlets can eventually be utilized as delivery hubs for online deliveries — a hyper-local ecommerce model — reducing friction, improving resource utilization and cost.
The convergence of offline and online commerce is happening across markets. It has certain strategic relevance in Bangladesh given the strength of offline retail in the country and an apparent deficit of trust in ecommerce. It does not come without a cost though. Offline remains expansive and fraught with equally intense competition.
Pickaboo says it has the advantage of the brand, data, and focus and a tested model for superior customer service, quality products, and service innovation to build a strong position in the market. To that end, a convergence of offline and online commerce can help Pickaboo expand the market and achieve strategic upsides.
VI. Omnichannel coupled with superior customer service
Superior customer experience such as ensuring on-time delivery, high-quality products, continuous service innovation, and excellent after-sales service remains a key piece of Pickaboo’s strategy both online and offline. The company has consistently invested in new solutions for customers such as automating product tracking for customers, reducing service queues, making return and refund easier, providing customers with temporary phones when they need to service their phones, etc.
While offline retail has better trust from customers, most companies offer a generic service to customers. But there are rooms for improving customer experience on offline retail. Pickaboo plans to translate its online customer experience to offline retail. It has introduced processes for its outlets, trained its outlet representatives, established mechanisms to take feedback from customers who visit and shop in its outlets, etc. It has started a self-checkout based on customer feedback where customers can checkout without involving a shop representative.
Pickaboo views customer service as a core part of its growth strategy and as the best marketing. Happy customers will come back and bring new customers. Pickaboo sees every interaction with customers as part of its customer service.
“We try to deliver a seamless positive experience to our customers in every interaction from placing orders on our website to making payment to product delivery to after-sales service,” says Mr. Morin. “The entire operation is designed keeping that in mind.”
The company says it plans to double down on customer service as it gradually builds out its operation at the intersection of online and offline retail.
“At Pickaboo, we don’t see other ecommerce companies as our competitors, we are competing with brick and mortar stores who are 99% of the total market”, says Mr. Morin. “Our bet is on service. We could doggedly stick to our priorities because we have a sustainable business and don’t have pressure to grow our number by any means. We look at our business differently. We want to build a business that is profitable and that can serve its customers in a sustainable manner.”