Bring Digitization into companies is not just a mirage: it is a real challenge that may give significant growth and results by using right tools.
This happened in Malaysia in BATA’s retail stores. The company is well known as a leader in the footwear retail world, it has more than 20,000 employees and more than 5,000 stores in 70 countries worldwide.

In this article we want to share info regarding RETAIL 5.0 project, started in Malaysia more than a year ago and managed by the new Country Manager Mr Ajay Ramachandran, who has maintained a growing trend on the already significant double-digit results achieved in the previous semester, confirming an amazing growth on the (already significant) results of the first semester. We asked him to share the topics of the strategy able to transform work patterns and people, working hard day by day.

Mr Ajay Ramachandran and his team obtained an increase in sales that already achieved double-digit values regarding the promotional season and significant increase compared to the previous semester  by predecessor Paolo Grassi who had launched the project initially. An incredibly positive trend, which confirmed the innovative vision of the company management and full potential of digital tools; Whappy has definitely played a crucial role. This is an even more surprising result considering that Mr. Ajay Ramachandran joint Bata’s management when the project was already rolling and has been able to optimize the previous results, increasing efficiency and sales network’s performance, thanks to an innovative strategic approach.

Thanks to Whappy, Retail 5.0 digitalization project has been able to boost processes regarding workforce organization, motivation, productivity, sales incentives, as well as promotion to the final customer.

Let’s ask directly to Mr. Ajay Ramachandran how he got these results:

Interviewer: When you first started a year ago, the management of the new staff under your care was particularly focused on the efficiency of the processes & functions of the entire network of store employee. Can you share the approach used to spark the change?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: It takes a change in mindset and culture, and by employing the following:

  • encourage opinions through monthly open forums / meetings with store managers
  • reward good performing staff
  • increase in training and information flow
  • involving the staff and holding them accountable for their performance, with KPI’s

Interviewer: In your opinion, what are the most critical points that require change in the network of store and employee?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: Communication and speed in relaying information to our employees is crucial to drive the change. Traditional retailers often miss this point, where essential product stories, training information, and brand news are not relayed to employees’ quick enough. The employees are our walking brand ambassadors; if they miss such information, how are consumers to engage with the brand.

Interviewer: What kind problems have you solved with the use of whappy and gamification (incentive, game, badges and rewards) techniques?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: With Whappy, we were able to do the following:

  • Deliver training materials for products and brand information quickly (improved communications flow).
  • Align visual merchandising (windows, planogram, instore).
  • Monitor (in real time) the performance of individual employees against KPI benchmark (allowing sales managers to take immediate corrective action).
  • Create incentive programs which are easily trackable in real-time (driving employee engagement and motivation).
  • Make it easy to strengthen team building within the store teams.

Interviewer: What are the elements of modern retail which you believe are inseparable to differentiate and compete with a view to the progress of e-commerce? (e.g.: Human factors, Efficiency, Empathy Capacity, Retail Experience)

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: Efficiency and Human Factors are the key elements of modern retail. The modern consumer is now impatient, doesn’t have a lot of time, and wants only fast and efficient experiences with a retail brand. A brand that can cater to the new consumer journey, offering great experiences delivered by humans (retail staff) and a seamless customer experience (through omni-channel) wins the market.

Interviewer: In regards to the future retail 5.0, what elements are crucial to be kept under control considering the modern compulsive digital era? (e.g.: Product assortment, Service time, Display & Merchandising appeal, Retail user experience) How should they be interpreted and implemented?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: Retail 5.0 is when retail truly is customer-focused, where the customer is really king. We can no longer “sell” a product to a customer, the customer makes a decision on which brand they want to interact with. Every element is important, from using data and AI powered tools to determine product assortment, heat-map video to study window display appeal, to digital mirrors and kiosk to enable an easy and convenient shopping experience.

Interviewer: Even if retail works inbound thanks to store traffic, how do you view the importance to maintain the motivation of sales employees in a shop? Do you think it has a real impact on their sales or is it only for corporate “good will”?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: I have always believed that the personal touch in the brick-and-mortar experience is the differentiator to e-commerce shopping. Therefore, maintaining the motivation of the sales staff in the store is part and parcel of building a great experience for the customer. Providing adequate training, speedy information, world-class grooming, and rewarding employees are the steps to keep employees engaged with the brand and motivated to sell the brand to customers.

productivity gamification

Interviewer: How do you judge the Customer Retail Experience factor within the relationship with consumers, why does retail resists? Based on your experience, what are the elements that e-commerce aren’t able to provide?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: The future of the brick-and-mortar business lies in enhancing the customer experience by seamlessly integrating digital channels, data, and the actual physical experience. By utilising data collected from digital channels and consumer purchase behaviours, retailers can better understand the customer’s needs when they arrive at the store – offering customers a personalised shopping experience. Customers look for recommendations, assistance, which can be provided by well-trained sales personnel.

Interviewer: How did you achieve such tremendous results after already achieving the significant increase the previous year? Your increase last year was a double digit growth which is really a rare result; what is the secret?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: We have made 3 significant changes using digital channels and technology:

  • shifting our communications channel to focus more on social media, programmatic digital advertising with messages personalised according to audience
  • expanding our Bata Club loyalty program with more engaging programs, customised according to audience
  • using Whappy to deliver training to store employees, product and promotion information, incentive programs, and tracking and monitoring of staff performance

Interviewer: Do you think what we are seeing here in Malaysia is abnormal growth compared to other parts of the global retail market? In your opinion, can we consider it a generally uniform retail trend worldwide? Or maybe is it only happening in a specific retail area?

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: We would say that the success achieved in Malaysia for the last 12 months has been a significant growth, considering the many macro factors affecting the retail trend in Malaysia. It is definitely not a uniform retail trend worldwide, as each country is going through a different phase in consumer sentiment and trend. We have been fortunate to deliver such growth in tough times.

Interviewer: How much do you see the digital retail world changing? How can the new tools, applications and new multi-channel models contribute in disruptive way to the “retail 5.0 model” in the future comparing to how it is today? Which areas of retail will be priority (general productivity, training, sales, HR, selection, social tool advocacy, internal process automation ..)

Mr Ajay Ramachandran: The digital retail world is accelerating at a fast pace especially with mobile first. In Malaysia, we have just started ‘mobile payment’, and soon this will become a norm. Retailers are already adopting technologies such as mobile apps, coupons, push notifications to drive traffic to stores. In the near future, AI powered tools can also help sales associate to understand customer’s needs as they walk-in to the store, allowing the staff to offer recommendations tailored to individual customers. I believe the key areas of priority would be social tool advocacy and increasing general productivity by enabling our employees’ access to digital tools that will help them provide a world-class shopping experience to our customers.

Innovation, Engagement, Motivation, Brand Employee Advocacy, Training, Incentive, Digital Mindset, Brand Loyalty.

Gamification’ milestones are well expressed in this interview and in Whappy DNA. They are part of the vision we have, regarding the world of sales and modern retail.

What Mr Ajay Ramachandran said is not just a story linked to a closed process: it allows us to highlight a fundamental case study in the Asian markets and with a global perspective of digitization through gamification.

Retail market described by Mr Ajay Ramachandran is a mature, saturated, very organized market. It is what would be described as a “red ocean”. It’s apparently saturated, with small area to be improved … apparently.

How was it possible to transform the Malaysian market into a “blue ocean” capable of growing?

Modifying the logics in which visual merchandisers monitoring phases, staff motivation, sales reporting and strengthening brand awareness. In this Whappy has confirmed to be the ideal partner by creating an effective digital support using gamification logics.

74% of employees feel that they are missing out on company info and news (Sorce: Gallup) 92% of employees say that having the technology to do their job efficiently affects their work satisfaction. (Ultimate Software)

A gamification project that immediately obtained spontaneous adoption rates with an average of over 90%. An APP available for all different levels and functions in the company hierarchy. Each of the actors involved shared the great potential of the tool, thanks to an efficient and engaging user experience, able to give each employee a personal challenge as well a team-based standpoint.

Our mission is to make everyone’s work easier and engage them through gamification. What happened in Malaysia surprised by the numbers achieved, but no wonder, cause it is nothing but the result of effective processes directly integrated in real time with day by day work. We made it possible through a specific gamification APP, able to support actions just when these are done, generating data useful to boost continuous process efficiency.

Our appreciation to BATA management who had the courage to start this process more than a year ago, respect and admire to those who managed the Retail 5.0 revolution in an effective way like this.

Whappy: because there is nothing better than gamification to bring a serious digital transformation!