From pop up stores, to store on wheels, and foraying into Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns, mobile players in India are finding new ways to chart retail growth.


The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption across the world. Reports suggest that in the US consumers spent 44% more on online shopping in 2020 as compared to 2019. A survey conducted in India found that 59% respondents had moved to digitized shopping, primarily due to Covid-19. 

Shifting consumer behavior in the past year has trained retailers to embrace uncertainty and complexity. The retail landscape is undergoing a shift, that’s led by data and technology, and opened possibilities that are hugely different from the growth levers that have existed until now.

The Road Ahead for Retail Expansion

Offline channels are still going strong

Even though brands are focusing on strengthening their digital footprint, offline shopping channels continue to stay strong. Technology and supply chain innovations have enabled offline channels to reinvent their work models to bring greater efficiency and provide seamless customer experiences. 

Many mobile brands that were earlier banking on e-commerce to drive purchases are now turning to offline retail to boost their sales numbers. Data suggests that Xiaomi is aiming to double its exclusive store count to over 6,000. Realme is targeting increasing its offline sales to 40% by setting up 300 to 500 exclusive smart stores and being present in 35,000 offline multi-brand outlets in India. 

Phygital is the way forward

Consumers are increasingly browsing for products offline and ordering online. Curbside pickups are gaining traction. Retailers that have existing delivery channels are utilizing it to boost online opportunities. Those who don’t are struggling to survive and are doubling efforts to establish an online presence. Let’s look at how mobile phone brands are embracing phygital models:

  • Samsung recently partnered with Benow in a move to enable customers to go online to buy Galaxy smartphones from their neighborhood stores. 
  • OnePlus has launched an e-commerce service that allows customers to browse online and order smartphones from physical retail stores.
  •  ‘Vivo Smart Retail’ is a new model announced by Vivo to digitally connect offline retailers with their customers. The company accepts orders and product-related queries from customers and passes the leads to the nearest retailer. In its initial phase, 20,000 retailers will be part of the initiative. 

Stores Have a New Face

Mobile phone brands are adopting innovative and radical concepts – like pop up stores, experiential stores, and store on wheels – to make their offline presence felt in the furthest corners of the country. How are they doing this?

  • Xiaomi recently announced ‘Mi Store on Wheels’ to bring exclusive retail experiences closer to their customers’ homes. The stores operate out vans that travel across towns and remote places, in order to increase availability and ease of purchase in the Indian hinterland. 
  • Vivo has launched its first “technologically-advanced and innovative experiential” store in Thane, Mumbai. 

Going beyond the obvious market

The next billion users are fast turning into a reality, and retailers are looking beyond the metros to spur growth.  Xiaomi plans to invest Rs 100 crore over the next 2 years in order to expand its offline retail footprint in Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns and in rural India.

Realme’s retail expansion plans are focused on building exclusive smart stores across India, and boosting its distribution channels to expand its offline presence in Tier-4 and Tier-5 cities.

Put your money where it matters

In order to capture high-end customers, brands like OnePlus, Apple, Realme, and Vivo are planning on opening experience centers and smart stores across the country. OnePlus recently launched its largest Experience Store in Hyderabad, spanning 16,000 sq ft. The company plans to open 100 such stores across 50 Indian cities.

After a hugely successful online stint in India, Apple is set to open its first exclusive retail store in Mumbai, this year. This will enable the brand to offer exclusive experiences of its devices and services, improve market presence, and boost sales.


The future growth in retail will be attributed to both existing and new pillars. While offline channels are experimenting with new form factors for retail expansion, the biggest driver for growth would be data led by technology. For a modern marketer, data is the tool to be leveraged to understand the impact of various channels on your sales, campaigns that deliver and those falling flat or unique purchase metrics that can lead to valuable business insights. 

Stay tuned to this space to read more about how retailers are using data to their advantage.

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