Published:  12:47 AM, 01 June 2018 Last Update: 12:52 AM, 01 June 2018

What drives shoppers to shop at superstores in Dhaka?

Retailers and supermarkets exist to provide services to their customers, and since serving customers better is the ultimate competitive goal of retailing, it is necessary to identify service attributes that are most important to customers. Recently, I wrote about booming sector of retailing and its future prospect.

There is a radical shift in customer minds too the way they shop at a specific superstore and the reasons behind it. There are many reasons why customers are rush to a store or strict to a specific store for longer. However, in our recent study, we identified the 10 most important reasons why customers shop at particular store.

The findings here manage to provide fascinating insights into the expectations and psyche of supermarket shoppers in Dhaka. Whilst these findings are in themselves telling, it is important to remember that we cannot automatically assume that such attitudes and responses would be replicated in other metropolitan areas of Bangladesh, let alone in the whole country.

The very nature of the retail outlets themselves means that they attract and appeal to a certain clientele, and these target shoppers are individuals, who are deemed affluent or relatively affluent when compared with their fellow compatriots and women.

The characteristics considered most essential in developing a perception of supermarket service offering is a convenient location, and the second most important aspect is value for money.

The next four most important attributes were `has an exterior that is visually appealing`, a variety of branded products, has sales personnel who appear presentable and neat and background music. Other important service attributes are: convenient to move around in the store, well -stocked products, cleanliness of the store and the visual display of products.

The shoppers` priorities help elucidate something of the desires of customers, but also reveal something about their underlying fears or anxieties. As we can see from the above in first place comes: Convenient location, something that should come as little surprise, especially as shoppers are reluctant to travel far in Dhaka, in view of its frequent traffic paralysis.

The siting of stores within or adjacent to well to do neighbourhoods ensures that supermarkets become a place of convenience, somewhere local enough to visit in person or to dispatch domestic helpers to, without incurring additional transport costs or the risk of being stuck in traffic jams. The sheer convenience of a store has the potential to increase the regularity with which customers choose to shop, thus making it not only a retail space, but also a 'knowledge hub' where information is exchanged between staff and shoppers and shoppers and their fellow shoppers.

A supermarket's location helps cement it within its local community, and this overtime, enables the establishment of the bonds of trust. In addition, traditionally Bangladeshis are eager to shop on a regular basis, whether this is for food, for themselves or hospitality, for items that help them mark family occasions or religious celebrations and thus having a place that meets their particular needs is something that is clearly of considerable importance. The concept of convenient is vital in Bangladeshi context, as people tend to shop within their localities.

As a rule, most retail outlets are keen to make their customers aware that they desire to be seen as places that offer value for money. Cost is always a significant driver and thus comes of little surprise that the majority of shoppers deems it to be so. Bangladeshis are used to shopping around and thus expect a retail outlet to offer competitive prices.

This is equally true of more affluent shoppers as it is those who are in the lowest income brackets within society. No customer wishes to feel that he or she has in some way been ripped off; we all appreciate a bargain and certainly expect retailers to make every effort to demonstrate a desire to keep costs down.

The fact that the third highest priority is to do with a store having an exterior that is visually appealing is itself very revealing. Buildings and the way in which they are maintained connote status, core values and are an indicator of what may well lie within.

Clean, bright fancies are an indication of a business that takes pride in what it is offering; they also add to the collective values of a neighbourhood rather than detracting from them.

Many traditional markets in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh are to be found in structures that are tired, dilapidated and in desperate need of repair. Such buildings are often a portent of what is to be found within. Modern supermarkets are expected to differentiate themselves from the bazaars of old and the findings indicate that first impressions are deemed important.

Those that actively choose to shop at supermarkets do so in the expectation that they will offer a wider range of products, especially those of a branded nature. Exposure to TV, radio advertising, as well as advertorials in newspapers and magazines ensures a heightened awareness of products available.

It is also a fact that those with high disposable incomes are more likely to travel for work and leisure and to have access to education outside the country, these factors influence-shopping choices.

In the same way sales personnel are expected to be presentable and neat. Such standards are reassuring, especially when it comes to hygiene and general conduct. Much of this is about forging bonds of trust at various levels, and it is interesting to see that background music scores so highly.

Creating a homely ambiance with the playing of traditional songs and melodies can prove extremely evocative and cements a sense of well-being. Music is an integral part of the Bangladeshi identity and thus the mood it creates in a retail outlet is very different from the discordant sounds, chaos and detritus that is all too familiar in some of the more traditional retail spaces, especially partially covered markets.

The music adds to the shopping experience and helps reinforce positive values. From the supermarkets point of view the shoppers are more likely to browse at leisure and thus may well end up spending more as the relaxed and positive vibe often has the effect of loosening purse strings. Equally the store lay out enables a far less frenetic and stressful shopping experience.

If there are wider aisles, well-stocked shelves in a bright clean store where products are displayed artfully and with care then all these factors have a bearing on the overall experience and the likelihood of discerning shoppers to feel at home and develop a sense of loyalty towards a store.

Findings also indicate that mailings from the store, in store prayer room facilities, facilities for children and credit card facilities are least important to Bangladeshi organised food retail shoppers. Bangladeshi customers appear to set little store by whether a retail outlet or supermarket is concerned with customer needs.

This may appear to be an anomaly, yet on reflection, there is almost certainly a very good plantation as to why this should be the case.  As there has not been, a long established tradition of store engagement with customers, shoppers have developed their way of appraising and assessing whether or not a store delivers what it claims.

Families, friends and neighbours provide a powerful antenna that appears to act as a mechanism for gathering opinions as well as disseminating them.

Thus, shoppers are remarkably independent in their approach and appear indifferent to more scientific retail theories and practices that place considerable emphasis on cultivating a rapport with customers. Naturally, such attitudes are often deeply ingrained, especially in a culture that has rich traditions anchored within family, faith and community.

Therefore, it should come of little surprise that mailings from the store seem to have limited impact. Supermarkets and the like are expected to focus on their core products and services and so whilst prayer facilities, play areas, or a crèche for children might appear laudable extras in fact are optional extras that, rarely enter the thinking of the average shopper. Bangladeshis, whilst being a deeply religious people do not associate supermarkets or shopping malls with acts of devotion.

Those who are especially devout will order their day around the required prayer times and will often refrain from engaging in activities that might in some way detract from their devotions. Places of worship are deeply personal and are full of familial and community associations.

Shopping in larger market malls and supermarkets can often be an experience in itself, one that has a purpose given added impact by associations such as in-store music (often of traditional songs and melodies).

As a rule, if a family goes on masse they wish to savour the experience together and they see little need to divest themselves of their young and entrust them to strangers in a crèche or designated play area.

For some, better to do shoppers, there is the added consideration of safety, especially the fear of kidnap, so it should come as little surprise that children are kept close, often indulged and expected to share with the retail activities of their parents and or their extended family.

Whilst retail outlets may wish to connote modernity and radiate modernity, some offerings appear to meet with limited enthusiasm from adult customers. In Bangladesh, cash remains king and to date the take- up of credit cards is decidedly patchy.

Customers appreciate simplicity, and there is a general perception that cash transactions are straight forward, free from the potential fraud or bureaucracy of credit and debit cards and affording the shopper the potential to bargain in certain circumstances.

Shoppers want what suits and what might work in London or New York may not always be deemed desirable in Dhaka or other Bangladeshi cities. Such apparent reluctance to embrace new means of payment must not be misinterpreted, for Bangladeshis are extremely canny shoppers.

Put quite simply, cash transactions are straightforward and are free from the involvement of external parties or institutions.

    The writer is Executive Chair, Academy of Business & Retail Management (ABRM), London, UK and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Business & Retail Management Research (JBRMR)-A SCOPUS Indexed & SCIMAGO Ranked Journal, UK.
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