itc-logoITC Limited has launched an online store locator to find offline stores that sell its FMCG products across different categories, reports Times of India.

The report states that the company has mapped more than 20 lakh stores across the country including organised retail and kirana outlets with near real-time information on the availability of its products on the online platform. Apparently, the company is planning to link the inventory billing of its products from these outlets so that buyers can check the availability of a product before visiting a store.

The report also states that the store locator has recorded more than 29,000 visits since its soft launch in May 2013 and plans to market the locator through point-of-sale counters and information on product packaging.

When we checked the website, we noticed that users can enter the name of the city, pincode/area and the name of the product to search for the availability of the product in the stores in that area. Products can be searched by brands or categories.

The website offers store locators for its FMCG products including food products, stationery, personal care, lifestyle brands like Wills Lifestyle and John Players. The website has integrated a map for its lifestyle brands since the number of retail stores would be much lesser than the stores that retail its other products.

The company has a mobile optimized version of the website too, but it should have either launched the locator on a separate domain or a smaller sub-domain since users may find it difficult to type such a long URL on mobile devices.

ITC store locator

What is the need for a store locator? Although an interesting effort, why would a consumer use a store locator to find just one product from ITC? The store locator in its current form might not be of real use to consumer. It seems that the company is looking to target a certain segment of its audience more as a branding exercise rather than to increase sales. If sales was the goal, the company could have instead launched a SMS service for the same in order to have better reach throughout the country.

However, if the company intends to launch a mobile app or even collect data on customers looking for products in the long run, it could suggest other products from its portfolio to the customer, creating more brand association with ITC. In case the company is looking at consumer utility then it might be useful if one could search for multiple products through a single search and find a store that sells all of them.

It is not clear if people will use ITC’s feature especially when there are products such as AaramShop, a Delhi based startup that connects a shopper to mom-and-pop (kirana) stores and lets them place orders. AaramShop does not take any cut from the shopper or the shop, instead charges brands for promoting their wares through the service.

Adding the feature of ordering through phones could be an option, but that might pose problems for ITC since it is a B2B player that mainly deals with stores, vendors and product dealers. Instead, it could launch an e-commerce platform through which it can handle the operations entirely and not depend on retailers for the same.