Recent war between brick & mortar stores & online retail has changed the face of Indian retail. Retailers are coming up with promotional offers & heavy discounts on merchandise to lure customers for shopping. “Sale” word is used every other day. Indian customer is evolved dramatically from buying books & electronics to buying clothes & other fashion accessories online. In fact fashion is major category having maximum number of transaction in year 2013. India is expected to generate $100 billion online retail revenue out of which $35 billion will come from fashion e-commerce by 2020. According to study conducted by Accel Partners, online shopping of fashion category is expected to grow at the whooping rate of 400%.
Online retail has created a great shopping experience for shoppers. Customer can now shop sitting at home enjoying his coffee or his favourite serial episode. Some of benefits like thousands of brands under one roof, heavy discounts, no long queues, no traffics, easy price comparison, user friendly shopping websites or apps & easy return policy make online shopping attractive option over the Brick & Mortar store. One of the best features of online shopping is you can filter goods on the basis of price range, colors, brands & categories. You can compare prices on number of shopping portals & avail the best price.
With the growth of online retail, some of the brick & mortal retail stores have also joined the band wagon to grow their sales. Madura Fashion & Lifestyle of A V Birla group sells their brands like Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Pantaloons, Van Heusen, Peter England & People through Trendin.com. Raymond has launched online platform RaymondNext.com to sell their brands like Park Avenue, Parx and ColorPlus. Arvind, one of the country’s oldest textile and apparel brand houses, has launched Creyate, a custom clothing brand for men and women that allows customers to do everything from the comfort of their homes through online platform. They can design their own garments and book home visits by Arvind’s style stewards, who will take measurements and provide consultancy. ”
Online shopping portals have offered great platform to small time manufacturers & start-up brands. They can sell their products online & have easy access to entire Indian market which was almost impossible without online retail platform. With the online shopping portals, it is possible for them to reach maximum target audience with minimum investment cost & risk factors. The huge cost of infrastructure, marketing expenses & manpower has been substantially reduced.
With remarkable growth in purchase made by mobile phones in past 2 years, next face of the online retail will be “App only” shopping. According to MasterCard Online Shopping Survey 2014, purchases made through mobile phones in India have grown by more than 100 percent over the past two years. Currently, most of e-tailers have nominated “Websites” as well as “Apps”. But some of country’s top e-commerce jargons like Flipkart & Myntra have taken bold step to switch to “App only” shopping portals looking at the strong potential of mobile phones & tablet based purchase in India. Many of the other players are soon planning to join the league.
The success of online shopping portals is backed by dedicated supply chain & technology. The warehouses are the backbones of the e-commerce industry. Warehouses are virtually mapped out by software to manage inventories & payments. These companies are constantly smarting up their hardware, software and storage. Highly automated warehouses & efficient supply chain management help them to meet timely deliveries & create great shopping experience for customers.
Online shopping portals need to be extra cautious during “Mega Sale Event” announced by them. Millions of users visit the shopping website & Apps during such events leading to huge traffic generation sometimes resulting in overload. The shopper faces technical glitches like down website, problems in connecting with payment getaway during such times which creates a bad shopping experience to users. It is necessary to forecast the kind of response, such events would receive & accordingly planning the infrastructure to avoid such unpleasant experiences to users.
Growth drivers for online shopping
- Increase in disposable income
Increase in disposable income has definitely increased the number of times shopper shop now. Online shopping offers convenient option for shopping.
- Rise in Internet users
IAMAI-KPMG estimates that there will be a total of 500 million Internet users in India by 2017, up from a current number of about 350 million. Growing Internet users is one the major reasons of growth of online shopping.
- Growth in Smartphone Users
Increase in number of Smartphone users has further catalyzed the growth of the online retail in India. In 2014, India had 140 million smartphone & 2 million tablet users which are expected to reach to 651 million & 18.7 million respectively by 2019 which marks tremendous potential for online retail in India in coming year.
- Increase in number of working women
Working women population has grown in past few years. Busy life schedule leaves working woman with very less time for household work & shopping. Online shopping has given great option to working woman to save her time. In addition to that financial independency is an added factor for increase in number of woman shoppers.
- Youth Population
India has world’s largest youth population which is quite open to try new things & new technologies. Online shopping gives smart tech-savvy option to this youth population
- Wide variety
The online shopping portal offers thousands of brands under one roof so enticing shoppers with huge variety. This is simply impossible in case of brick & mortar retail stores.
- Heavy discounts & offers
Whooping discounts & offers make online shopping attractive to shoppers.
- Extensive Marketing Tools
Digital marketing has given an edge to online shopping portals. Now it is possible to track the activities of shoppers & their consumer behavior. Innovative marketing campaigns are launched by online shopping portals to lure customers to shop. They often send personalized campaigns through SMS, mails or App notifications giving customers a sense of accountability.
Setbacks in online shopping
- Can’t touch & feel
The major setback in online shopping that merchandise can’t be felt & touched. Some of the shopping portals try best to display their product in such a way that it should look almost same in the product image. In spite of the best efforts, sometimes product has been found different in finish, quality or color than customer expectations resulting in customer dissatisfaction.
- Fitting problem
Fitting are the most common problem faced by online shoppers. Unlike Brick & mortar shops, customer doesn’t have trying option here, so customers face issues with size
& overall fitting of garments.
- Poor Return Policies
Some online portals do not offer flexible return policies to the customers. Sometimes the money is not refunded after several follow ups. This results in customer dissatisfaction.
- Missing the fun element of offline shopping
Some shoppers, especially ladies think offline shopping as an experience. For them, online shopping might feel like missing the fun element.
In India, Tier-1 cities are currently occupying big market share of online shoppers because of convenience of shopping in busy life schedule. A day is no longer when this boom will spread across the Tier-2 & Tier- 3 cities. But online shopping boom is the major concern to many of the country’s retailers & mall operators. Already retailers are noticing the reduction in footfalls in brick & mortar shops during festive seasons. Shoppers prefer to shop sitting at home rather than offline shopping. Shopping sites offering consumers heavy discounts are cutting down the profitability & giving preference to market share.
Almost a million of retailers selling online are concerned about cutthroat margins. This is making them difficult to survive. Some of the fashion retailers have already noticed the practice of trying the merchandise in showrooms & buying it online by shoppers because of heavy discounts. Some fashion brands are showing concern because their offline business is getting hit and to the extent there is fear among brands that their image can get hurt if the prices are too low. On the contrary, online shopping portals are also considered as a great platform to retailers to cut down their huge infrastructure cost substantially which can be used more effectively in marketing of the goods. Also it offers easy reach across the country by virtual presence. For long term perspective, though E-tail is here to grow but traditional brick & mortal model will simultaneously exist as brands can’t afford to discount the products too heavily for long term because they need to make profit at some point of time!