How many of you order online for movie tickets, books, electronics or pizza these days? Compare that with few years ago, the patterns have changed haven’t they? It is like when ATM’s were first launched, nobody went to the machine to withdraw cash, interacting with a teller was preferred, until the trust in the technology grew and people started lining up at the ATM’s instead. It is the classic case of Tipping Point, after which a large majority accepts a new trend or technology.
These are exciting times we’re living in, with the Indian Internet Subcriber base touching 100 million and Mobile Subscriber base growing at exponential rate, they are converging together to form a force of tech-happy consumers. The e-Commerce story in India has been interesting, from introducing ‘Cash on Delivery’, the game of reviews, online payment options and adapting to Social Media. New websites are being launched everyday to compete with the big players in the arena. The Great Indian e-Commerce Dream is slowly Becoming a Reality, or is it? This is what we set out to discuss at the 85th Social Media Breakfast (New Delhi), to understand the evolution of Online Retail in India, starting from early days and taking it to the future.
Those were the days
Back in decade, e-Commerce story in India had just started, the focus was at serving foreign customers shipping products in India. The US to India flow of gifts, India to India ordering and shipping was rare, with VPP as popular option for payment/shipping. The internet penetration in India being the reason for this sluggish growth.
Back to the present
Internet subscriber base has touched 100 million and growing by the day, consumer confidence is increasing in online payments and more players are joining the game, a classic case of industry wide growth. Though Mani Singh pointed out that its becoming a sellers market with increasing numbers. Even though customer expectations are more realistic now compared to the past, expectations of discount with every purchase are common. With new players entering the online retail arena everyday, the noise has increased as well.
Ravi Mathur and Kaushik Pal echoed an interesting observation – a customer today is more educated about products than the salesperson. I remember this from last week, when I saw a teenager arguing with the salesman at a popular electronic store about specifications of an upcoming smartphone. With un-boxing videos and tech reviews becoming popular on video, its making an informed customer out of everyday Joe.
Kartik Suri shared his experience from Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany) this year, that bookstores are fast becoming showrooms for new titles and authors interactions, and book sales are happening mostly online.
With the mobile smartphone users increasing, perhaps we’ll see mobile based retail like what this South Korean campaign did. Other popular trends like group buying and mobile commerce are waiting to be ignited in the Indian online space as well.