Flipkart all set to curate products to introduce ?Smart Homes'
Flipkart all set to curate products to introduce ?Smart Homes'

While Internet of Things may be grabbing eyeballs in the world of technology, country's established eCommerce player Flipkart is expecting connected devices to become main stream very soon. The Bengaluru headquartered e-tailer is seeing stout uptake in products which fulfills lifestyle, fitness health, entertainment and security needs and predict the 'Smart Homes' category as one of the top verticals for the firm in the next couple of years.

Adarsh Menon, Vice-President of Electronics at Flipkart said that the company expects 1 in every 20 mobile phone buyers to purchase wearables automation products by 2017. He also added that while 6-7 months back the wearables category was looking very exciting; off late the products under the smart living head are finding a greater traction. Menon pointed that since such products offer comfort, luxury and security at the click of a button, more and more shoppers are browsing and researching about these products.

Some of the products under smart living include:

1. Smart bulb products for home security

2. Controlled lighting

3. Automated curtains

4. Entertainment systems,

5. Air purifiers

Smart bulbs and smart monitoring Wifi cameras are the top performing products under the smart home category. According to Flipkart, the company has witnessed three times growth in demand for smart bulbs, which retail at around Rs 1,800. The company is now planning to curate a product range which is expected to drive down the price of such products.

According to research by MarketsandMarkets, the smart appliances market is estimated to reach $37.2 Billion by 2020, a growth of 15.4 per cent between 2015 and 2020 while IDC predicts that by 2020, IoT will consist of 212 billion things, including 30 billion smart autonomous devices, dwarfing the conventional internet

Menon said that so far the company is observing the wearable category that shows two times growth on a quarter-on-quarter basis, it is expected to grow by three times going forward. He added that looking at the global trends, robotics and automation are expected to be the next frontiers for growth. The company is expecting sales in both business to business, as well as business to consumer category.

 

 
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Same Day Delivery: The Best Way To Grow Your Online Store in 2023
Same Day Delivery: The Best Way To Grow Your Online Store in 2023
 

In today's fast-paced world, where convenience and speed are paramount, same-day delivery has emerged as a crucial factor in the success of online businesses. As an online store owner, implementing a reliable same-day delivery service can significantly enhance your customer experience and drive growth for your business. This article will explore the importance of same-day delivery and provide valuable insights on how to leverage this service to grow your online store in 2023.

The Rise of Same-Day Delivery

In recent years, same-day delivery has become a game-changer in the e-commerce industry. Customers now expect their purchases to arrive quickly, and businesses that can meet these expectations gain a competitive edge. Same-day delivery offers the convenience of instant gratification, eliminating the waiting time between purchase and delivery. By providing this service, online stores can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The Benefits 

Implementing same-day delivery for your online store comes with a myriad of benefits. Firstly, it gives you a significant advantage over competitors who offer only standard shipping options. By providing fast delivery, you increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, leading to repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth. Additionally, same-day delivery enables you to tap into the impulse buying behavior of customers who prefer instant gratification.

Implementing Same-Day Delivery for Your Online Store

To integrate same-day delivery into your online store, you have several options.

  • Partnering with Local Delivery Services: One approach is to collaborate with local delivery services. By partnering with established courier companies in your area, you can leverage their existing infrastructure and expertise in handling last-mile deliveries. This partnership allows you to offer reliable and efficient same-day delivery to your customers without investing in delivery operations.
  •  Utilizing Third-Party Logistics Providers: Another option is to utilize third-party logistics providers (3PLs) specializing in same-day delivery. These companies have extensive networks, advanced tracking systems, and expertise in time-sensitive deliveries. By outsourcing your delivery operations to a trusted 3PL, you can focus on your core business while ensuring reliable and speedy order fulfillment.
  • Establishing In-House Delivery Operations: For larger online stores with high order volumes, establishing in-house delivery operations may be a viable solution. This involves hiring and training your own delivery personnel, acquiring delivery vehicles, and optimizing your logistics processes. While it requires a significant investment, having full control over the delivery process can offer greater flexibility and customization.

Overcoming Challenges in Same-Day Delivery

While same-day delivery offers numerous advantages, it also presents challenges that need to be addressed to ensure smooth operations.

 

  • Managing Inventory and Warehousing: Efficient inventory management and warehousing are critical for successful same-day delivery. It is crucial to have real-time visibility of stock levels and optimize your warehousing locations. Consider taking advantage of the 3rd Warehousing concept by establishing warehouses in different cities to minimize transit time and improve delivery speed.
  • Optimizing Delivery Routes and Logistics: Planning efficient delivery routes and optimizing logistics play a vital role in same-day delivery. Utilize route optimization software and leverage data analytics to identify the most efficient routes and streamline your delivery operations. This ensures timely deliveries while minimizing costs and resources.
  • Handling Customer Expectations and Support: Customers have high expectations when it comes to same-day delivery. It is essential to set realistic delivery timeframes and communicate them clearly to customers. Additionally, provide proactive updates on order status and offer exceptional customer support to address any concerns promptly. Transparency and responsiveness are key to maintaining customer satisfaction.

Tips for Successful Same-Day Delivery
To maximize the benefits of same-day delivery, consider implementing the following tips:

  • Investing in Technology and Automation: Leverage technology to automate various aspects of your delivery operations. Utilize inventory management systems, order tracking tools, and delivery management software to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Automation reduces errors, enhances visibility, and enables faster order processing.
  • Ensuring Efficient Order Processing: Efficient order processing is crucial for same-day delivery. Optimize your order fulfillment workflow to minimize processing time. Implement systems that enable seamless order capturing, inventory updates, and order prioritization based on delivery deadlines. This ensures quick and accurate order processing, setting the foundation for speedy delivery.
  • Adopting a Customer-Centric Approach: Place your customers at the center of your same-day delivery strategy. Understand their preferences, anticipate their needs, and personalize their delivery experience. Offer delivery options such as time slots or on-demand delivery to cater to their convenience. By providing a delightful and hassle-free delivery experience, you foster long-term customer loyalty.

Conclusion

In the competitive landscape of online retail, offering same-day delivery is no longer a luxury but a necessity. By implementing a reliable and efficient same-day delivery service, you can differentiate your online store, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive growth. However, it is essential to address challenges such as inventory management, logistics optimization, and customer support to ensure successful same-day delivery operations.

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Naveen Pandey, MD, AIPEX WORLDWIDE (OPC) PVT LTD

Naveen Pandey is an accomplished Managing Director with a proven track record of success in the logistics and supply chain industry. He currently serves as the Managing Director at AIPEX WORLDWIDE (OPC) PVT LTD, a leading company in the field.

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Photo credit: Image by <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/delivery-service-with-masks-concept_7765253.htm#query=same%20day%20delivery&position=4&from_view=search&track=ais">Freepik</a>

 

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Market for Internet First Brands Evolve in India
Market for Internet First Brands Evolve in India
 

The market for Internet First Brands (IFB) is rapidly evolving in India with several brands across categories developing on the back of online marketplaces.
 
Customer desire to try new brands coupled with company willingness to experiment with niche ingredients and materials is propelling the growth of 'Internet first' consumer companies, highlights a report by Praxis Global Alliance and Brands Decoded.

The report noted that incumbent brands are losing share to IFBs and are fighting back by establishing a deeper online presence and leveraging deeper distribution capabilities.

"Eventual shift from brand to product loyalty can reduce customer lifetime value and increase churn; high capital and customer acquisition costs limit offline advertising and expansion," it said.

While incumbent brands typically take 9-12 months to launch new products, IFBs have been successful in launching products quickly, in 3-4 months at the back of their deep understanding of online customers, it noted.
 

 

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Growing Role of Online Marketplaces as Part of India's Digital Economy
Growing Role of Online Marketplaces as Part of India's Digital Economy
 

While online marketplaces are experiencing growth and accelerated adoption, they continue to face operational complexities due to government and judicial overreach in several instances, said a report released by the E-Business Council of India (TECI), along with PwC India & Fidus Law Chambers.

The report analyses various aspects relating to intermediary liability of online marketplaces. It also focuses on those intermediaries which are online marketplaces providing e-tail and e-consumer services (including e-travel).

It notes that in addition to providing access, choice and convenience to consumers and enhancing market reach for sellers, online marketplaces are an important source of value-addition to the economy through their contribution towards employment, supply chain, exports and the promoting of digital payments.

"In the light of these benefits, it is crucial that an enabling regulatory regime is created to reduce the operational bottlenecks faced by online marketplaces," said the report titled 'Understanding Intermediary Liability for online marketplaces'.

Currently, the Information Technology Act, 2000, governs online marketplaces as intermediaries and also defines their functions.

Additionally, various other economic and sectoral regulations and policies like FDI guidelines, the consumer protection (e-commerce) rules, the legal metrology packaged commodities rules, and the trade marks Act limit the roles and responsibilities of online marketplaces to the functions that they provide, it said.

"However, despite having a distinct regulatory framework for intermediaries, it is observed that intermediaries are often penalised for the activities of their users, without the former's role being assessed or investigated adequately," it said.

The report had also made recommends for certain amendments in the IT Act in order to strengthen intermediary liability regime in India, with the objective to help create an enabling and predictable operating environment for online marketplaces.

The report focuses on those intermediaries which are online marketplaces providing e-tail, e-travel and e-consumer services.
 

 

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India's E-commerce Market to Hit $111 bn by 2024
India's E-commerce Market to Hit $111 bn by 2024
 

India's e-commerce market is expected to increase by 84 percent by 2024 to $111 billion. The growth will be driven by mobile shopping, which is projected to grow 21 percent annually over the next four years.

According to a new report from global financial technology company FIS, the global trends in digital commerce accelerated under the pandemic.

Countries including India have seen a shift in consumer behaviour caused by Covid-19, and new payment trends are shown to be on the rise.

"The Indian e-commerce industry has witnessed a huge upsurge due to Covid-19 and there is substantial room for future growth," Phil Pomford, Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Worldpay from FIS, said in a statement.

"E-commerce capability is no longer limited to just traditional websites, and physical retail has blended with the digital world," he added.

In India, ‘buy now, pay later’ is the fastest growing online payment method.

Currently only three percent of the market, based on analysis in the report, is projected to increase to 9 percent by 2024.

Digital wallets (40 percent) followed by credit card (15 percent) and debit card (15 percent) were the most popular payment methods online in 2020.

Data in the report shows that purchases made with digital wallets are expected to increase their market share of online payments by 2024 to 47 percent.

The FIS report found that Point of Sale (POS) market in India is projected to increase by 41 percent between now and 2024, according to data in the report.

The most popular in-store payment method is cash at 34 percent, followed by digital wallets (22 percent) and debit card payments (20 percent).

The report projects digital wallets will overtake cash as the most popular in-store payment method by 2024, accounting for 33 percent of payments.
 

 

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E-commerce Trends to Watch Out for in 2021
E-commerce Trends to Watch Out for in 2021
 

E-commerce is a game changer in retail. While the industry was already on an upward growth trajectory, the growth enhanced due to unprecedented consumer demand during the pandemic.

According to Statista, online shopping is one of the most popular online activities across the world. Further, e-retail sales are expected to grow to $6.54 billion by 2023 from $3.53 trillion in 2019.

With technological advancements, online shopping has become increasingly consumer-centric. The brands are consistently making changes to their marketing programmes to make them even more targeted, personalised, digital and precise. 

From leveraging new opportunities in niches previously untapped by entrepreneurs to increased overall sales, e-commerce in coming years would continue to grow, become better and more consumer centric. 

Let's explore key e-commerce trends that are set to define the marketplace in 2021 and beyond.

Increasing Adoption of Omnichannel Approach

Consumer buying preferences are evolving rapidly and today's consumer wants something beyond consumer satisfaction - not just a perfect product that suits his needs, but also a seamless buying experience. This has led to e-retailers adopting a broader approach which includes convenience, wider product availability and experience. Further, brands are focusing on omnichannel presence to ensure seamless as well as personally compelling shopping experience for each individual at every touchpoint through data-driven insights.

Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker also revealed that 73 percent of Indian respondents are willing to spend more money on convenience. As convenience and experience become the key growth drivers of e-commerce, brands are ramping up efforts and moving to customer-centric business models rather than sticking to channel-centric ones. This in turn is enhancing customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention.

AI and AR to Enhance Shopping Experience

According to a report by Markets and Markets, the augmented reality in the retail market is expected to grow from $411.3 million in 2017 to $7,951.2 million in 2023. From premium brands to small ones, everyone is exploring ways to enhance the shopping experience and make it more engaging. These advanced technologies are being tapped on for providing personalised recommendations and guidance to customers, virtual try-on features and in-store navigation. Nike’s AR app ‘Nike Fit’ is a great example of how savvy retailers are integrating AR-enabled applications into their businesses. This app allows customers to get recommendations for best-choice shoes according to the feet measurement.

Headless Commerce: An Evolving Trend in Online Sales

Headless commerce provisions the decoupling of the presentation layer or front-end of a website from its functionality or back-end. This facilitates developers to utilise the front-end technology of their choice to deliver a good content experience and plug-in an e-commerce solution on the back-end to manage the functionality. For experience-focused brands like DTC brands, lifestyle products, and brands relying heavily on influencer advertising, experience-led strategy like headless commerce is a blessing in disguise. It not only helps brands create a seamless and personalized buying experience but also lets them create a unique brand identity by customising their checkout, themes, and other functionalities.

Digital Advertising Competition

While e-commerce has expanded due to the pandemic, so has the competition. Brands that can lead innovation for advertising and marketing content will reap higher rewards. Additionally, digital advertising content continues to play a significant role in driving sales for a brand and companies will continue to make progressively larger investments in this category. In 2021, e-commerce will witness an increased ‘arms race’ for digital content.

Summing Up!

In 2021, e-commerce brands will up their game in how they interact with customers. Owing to evolving market conditions, marketers will get more sophisticated i.e. unify their communications with customers across channels and the customer journey. Further, brands will continue leveraging technologies for website and app optimization, customer experience, personalised services, customer relationship management, warehousing management etc.

 

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New Age Consumer Experience and E-commerce Related Business Practices
New Age Consumer Experience and E-commerce Related Business Practices
 

The world markets are still recovering from the wounds inflicted by COVID-19. Every sector is getting acclimated to the social distancing norm. At the dawn of 2021, the local and retail businesses are attempting to recover from the last year's damages. It is too soon to dismiss the relevance of the brick-and-mortar stores. However, the patterns suggest the customers would prefer to place orders online

Some Pre-Covid-19 Stats

Consumers are the most vital link in the global economic chain. According to the estimates released by UNCTAD, the e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion globally in 2018; an 8 percent increase compared to the online-based sales in 2017. It is evident from the data that the world is opening up to buy from online vendors.  
 
A healthy spike in global e-commerce sales is a promising outcome for businesses across the world. The off-shore consumers are now looking at the vendors from the developing economies to buy products. The cross-border online shoppers rose to 23 percent in 2018 compared to 17 percent in 2016 and 2017. 

These are the global numbers collectively. The USA alone has registered $8,640 billion worth of e-commerce sales in 2018, followed by Japan ($3280 billion) and China ($2,304 billion)

The Emerging Online Shopping Trends in Developing Countries

The unusual shopping patterns are emerging, considering that the societal trends related to how we work, how we learn, and how we use technology is rapidly changing. 

According to the Unicommerce report, there is a 65 percent growth in brands establishing their website. The order volume has increased to 17 percent on the e-commerce platforms in India. 

A few years ago, food and personal care were the least preferred purchases online. However, the trend has changed over the years. Most online shoppers place orders to get their food and make-up merchandise delivered to their homes after buying the goods from the online portals. 

According to a survey conducted by UNCTAD, in countries like Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Russia, Korea, South Africa, Turkey, etc., the monthly average online spending on food and beverages was down by 11 percent during the lockdown. It was the least affected business during the pandemic and lockdown. 

55 percent of Brazilian shoppers prefer shopping online. 68 percent of the Chinese shoppers and 58 percent of Turkish shoppers prefer online shopping over a physical store. 

In Asia alone, 1.7 billion shoppers are shopping online. It could reach 60 percent of its population by 2022, according to Solidiance insights. 
 
The internet penetration is increasing worldwide, likewise the demand for the retail stores to get their products on the e-commerce platforms is also increasing. Some of the key trends in consumer experience and the business practices that could influence the E-commerce business are:
 
Implementation of the Habit Loop - People are easily distracted today. The average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds. It has become a challenge to scout the viewer through the customer path. Implementing a habit loop helps businesses get the buyer's attention. Nir Eyal's HOOKED offers a detailed insight into creating a habit loop for the products. A research by the Duke University in 2006, suggests that more than 40 percent of everyday actions are habitual. 
 
Artificial Intelligence - Artificial Intelligence offers valuable insights into shopper's behavior, buying triggers, search patterns, distractions, etc. Artificial Intelligence is not just to understand the customers but also to develop marketing messages, programmatic advertising for remarketing, and customer support. Often, online shoppers abandon the e-commerce platform because the products offered are irrelevant. With AI, online stores can offer contextualized results to the buyers and improve their shopping experience. The AI-powered chatbots provide a personalized experience to the buyers. It addresses the customer's issues and makes necessary escalations by analyzing the customer's emotions. 

Omnichannel Presence - The Business Insider's research report in 2016 indicated that the platforms that engage with the buyers across ten or more channels have 47 percent more purchases than those who are limited to four or fewer channels - distributing the branding eggs in more than one basket. The omnipresence of the business offers valuable data to the businesses that help them deploy a marketing strategy that communicates best with their ideal customers.
 
A Dynamic Supply Chain - The marketing uncertainties are forcing the organizations to do more with less. Couple this with the customer's changing preferences, the expectations mismatch is a likely occurrence. The focus has shifted from value addition to the business to deliver value to the customers. Align the business and customer strategies with the supply chain. Fulfill customer requirements by synchronizing customer requirements. Hyper segment the customer portfolios to ideate, source, produce and deliver in a heterogeneous model. The business and customer strategies also offer insights into the supply chain risks. Re-asses the supply chain risks and define the supplier relationships to the market demand. Cost should not be the only criterion to select the supplier - onboard the supplier, emphasizing transparency and sustainability and risk analysis.  

The rapid change of pace in the post-pandemic environment demands e-commerce and retail suppliers to reassess their strategies. The businesses have a lot of ground to cover and time is of the essence. Establishing a customized system backed with the insights will help the companies enhance their customer experience with the trends mentioned above. The E-commerce platforms should have a cross-functional team to lead the strategies into execution and develop the path forward, assessing the risks. It is difficult to determine the next normal but not impossible.
 

 

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China's Social Commerce Sales to Soar by 36 pc to $363 billion in 2021, Ten Times the US Figure
China's Social Commerce Sales to Soar by 36 pc to $363 billion in 2021, Ten Times the US Figure
 

Though the US social commerce market is growing at a rapid pace, China is not likely to lose its position of dominance in the near future.

According to the research data analyzed and published by Finaria, the total social commerce sales in China was worth $242.41 billion in 2020, accounting for 11.7 percent of online sales. It will grow to $363.26 billion in 2021 and account for a 13.1 percent share of the e-commerce market.

The US will take the lead in retail sales in 2021, with $5.506 trillion against China’s $5.13 trillion. But China’s e-commerce sales will outperform the US by a $2 trillion margin.

52 percent of China’s Retail Sales Will Happen Online in 2021

The total number of social buyers in China was estimated to be 357.2 million in 2020. It is forecast to increase to 392.2 million in 2021, 420.0 million in 2022 and 446.8 million in 2023. 

The commerce market’s performance is partly attributable to China’s smartphone-driven culture. Most social buyers use mobile devices to shop and most digital storefronts start out on mobile layouts. 

WeChat’s Mini Programs is among the most popular platforms for social commerce. In 2020, the platform facilitated transactions worth 1.6 trillion yuan ($250 billion). That was double its 2019 transaction value. WeChat hosts around 2.3 million Mini Programs, compared to Apple App Store’s 1.96 million and Google Play Store’s 2.87 million.

Based on a study by WeForum, China accounted for over 50 percent of global online retail sales in 2020. The share of online sales in the country’s retail sales went from 20 percent in 2016 to 44.8 percent in 2020. Comparatively, the UK had a 27.7 percent share while the US had 14.7 percent. 

Lastly, according to eMarketer, 52.1 percent of China’s retail sales in 2021 will take place online. It will be the first time that a country records more sales online than offline. South Korea will follow with a 28.9 percent share while the UK will be third with 28.3 percent. The US will have a 15 percent share.
 

 

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Is India a Growing Market for Beauty Startups?
Is India a Growing Market for Beauty Startups?
 

India is a country where beauty is steeped in the very roots of our being. The inventors of Ayurveda, the lovers of DIY and to now the era of experiential consumers who are constantly looking for something new and innovative to catch their eye. It’s no surprise that estimations suggest India to expect an annual growth rate of 25 percent in the cosmetic industry, going up to a projected size of US$ 20 million. 

While the pandemic did impact people, brands and spending, the beauty industry was fast to read and analyze consumer behavior - they made an interesting pivot and re-strategized both product innovations and marketing strategies. To top it off, if the digital revolution wasn’t already on its ultimate high, this year took it to a leap that was unimaginable. So, if there was a time for you to consider entering the beauty industry as a startup, it is now. 

E-commerce Continues to Boom

A growing demand for convenience and product availability made it imperative for businesses to have an online presence. Today’s consumer is always online, they no longer depend on local beauty stores for research, but in fact look at social media, online marketplaces and websites.There is a surge in e-commerce sales which will continue to accelerate in the post-pandemic world.

Studies show that 19 percent of the people bought beauty and personal care products online for the first time during the COVID-19 crisis. This beauty digitalization through apps is a great opportunity for beauty entrepreneurs to bank upon. Consumers prefer apps for a convenient purchase, virtual try-ons and consumer reviews have become an alternative to the in-store experience. What’s more, technology has given a headway to personalization and thorough research, giving consumers an experience like never before. 

Conscious Consumerism

Rising awareness of beauty products, increasing attention on personal grooming, changing consumption patterns and constant dialogue towards sustainability has given rise to today’s conscious consumer. They are becoming more concerned to avoid nasty chemicals and companies whose methods are harmful to the environment. With the growth of organic products, synthetic compounds like propylparaben and butylparaben are not considered to be safe to be used. Just 35 percent of beauty products today contain parabens, down by nearly 7 points over the last two years. This shift in consumer behaviour has urged startups to market themselves accordingly. The outbreak of Covid-19 has also resulted in changing consumer preferences and are proactively seeking for clean labelled and functional skin care products, which in turn is expected to accelerate the growth of brands that offer them.

Skincare: The Top Priority 

Beyond the usual requirement of everyday makeup products, there is an increasing demand for skincare products. Demand for products like sunscreens, body lotions, face serums, and creams is expected to have a positive impact on the beauty market providing the perfect opportunity for new businesses to grow. Skincare sales increased from 81 percent to 84 percent during the lockdown worldwide.  

With growing awareness and accessibility, consumers are opting for products that are natural and organic and most of all, suit the Indian skin types. Beauty startups can take these needs into consideration, which largely remain unfulfilled by international brands. Home-grown brands that promise to pamper the Indian skin with natural and organic products have gained immense popularity and with the right marketing and scaling strategy, can be seen as a business opportunity for beauty entrepreneurs.

Challenges and Future Prospects in the Startup Beauty Space

To reap the rewards of having something of your own, there’s no doubt that you will meet challenges on the way. Along with creating products that attract your audience, there are aspects of trust and transparency that are paramount. Many shoppers who turned digital in the pandemic still fear the risk of buying cheap, counterfeit products. Thus, the one of the most important things for any brand to do is to win the faith of their audience by connecting with them through multiple touchpoints and constantly communicating with them. 

Startups will have to step away from the conventional norms of launching a beauty brand and understand the evolving nature of the industry. In order to strive in the beauty industry today:

●    Build a Niche Brand - Develop products or services that are unique, effective, and reliable. This will help you stand out from your competitors and attract attention to your brand.

●    Mobilize the Power of Digital Communication to Engage their Audience - Branded content on digital platforms can create trust and provide a connection with the audience. Instagram and Facebook have launched features that enable users to make purchases from the platform directly, without having to leave the page. Build a marketing strategy using these features for a boost in sales.

●    Invest in Technology and Research - The world of beauty is constantly changing and requires innovation and research to keep up with the emerging trends. Keeping up with the latest innovations and constantly offering the market with something new and experimental will attract consumer’s attention. For example, AR/ VR enables users to try on various products through images and live videos, before making a purchase. Leading brands are using this technology to give their consumers a personalized experience. An in-depth research about the market will help you understand what your competition and the industry are working towards to stay relevant.

●    Consider Indian Skin Types and Tones while Developing the Product - Brands are turning hyper-local to provide personalized beauty solutions. A startup in the Indian beauty industry will have to ensure that its product range and services are in the line with the needs of consumers. A localized approach to beauty has proved to be successful.

●    Identify and Approach New Target Audiences - Expand your customer base by identifying and attracting new target audiences. Beauty is no longer confined by the limitations of gender. There is a growing market for men’s beauty products, moving beyond basic grooming and styling products. Investing in men’s beauty now can give you a headstart in the industry. Adopting a new and innovative approach to men’s beauty will be imperative for success.

Covid-19 had a significant impact on the beauty market and it is safe to say that the beauty industry has bounced back. The startup beauty market in India deserves praise for its ability to successfully launch innovative products at high frequency and for being able to identify and leverage nascent growth opportunities. Upcoming brands will have to put efforts in order to understand the needs of the Indian consumer in-depth and put them to use.

In conclusion, an innovative way to approach the consumers along with a great marketing strategy will ensure success to startups in the beauty world. India is set to become one of the top five global beauty markets by 2025, don’t stop yourself from becoming a part of the wave- jump in and join the hustle.
 

 

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Future of E-retailing in India: Growth and Challenges
Future of E-retailing in India: Growth and Challenges
 

COVID-19 lockdown transformed consumer buying pattern in India, with the majority of consumers shifting to online platforms, even for their essentials and daily needs. Especially for e-commerce/ e-tailer players, the ecosystem has seen a paradigm shift. 

In India, the e-commerce industry is expected to grow from US$ 38.5 billion in 2017 to US$ 200 billion by 2026. India e-commerce industry is expected to become the second-largest in the world by 2034. On the other hand, the e-retail industry in India is primed to reach nearly 300 to 350 million shoppers in the next five years – propelling online Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) to $100 to 120 billion by 2026. The $850 billion Indian retail market is the fourth largest market in the world. 

This magnanimous growth in the industry is fueled by the increasing base of first-time internet and smartphone users, an outcome of ‘Digital India’ campaign. As of August 2020, India had 760 million internet connections.

Along with this growing online community, another aspect that has been contributing to the growth of these sectors is the unorganized nature of the household essentials market. It has opened new avenues for e-retail/ e-tail/ e-commerce companies who not only understand the consumer psyche well but are able to curate quality products and services which are synced with the requirements of today’s new-age consumers and bring them into the fold of the organized sector. As companies continue to innovate and onboard millions of shoppers, it is interesting to explore the major trends that will see prominence in this sector in 2021:

•    The Reality of Online Shopping will be Enhanced by Augmented Reality: When it comes to online shopping augmented reality (AR) will become a major game-changer as it will significantly close the gap of ambiguity. It will help the customers visualize and decide the product that they want to buy. Before pressing the ‘Buy Now’ button they will be able to decide whether the furniture that they are buying would look good in their home or not. This will bring comparison for the shoppers to a whole new level and therefore help them to overcome the hurdle of not being able to see the product firsthand.

•    There will be a Significant Number of People Using Voice Search: These days right from checking the weather to setting an alarm to buying products online people rely on voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Therefore, one thing that will that we’ll all see in the future is that people will order groceries with a simple voice command as it will save a lot of time on browsing especially if it’s a repeated order because one will not have to enter the brand, the address, the payment and shipping information again and again. Therefore, businesses that are looking to get into the ground floor for them there is a lot of untapped potentials.

•    Chatbots will Improve the Shopping Experience: Chatbots in the coming time will serve the role of the brick-and-mortar, a greeter as well as a salesperson. They will not only be a huge help to the company as they will be able to communicate with hundreds of customers but also give them the feeling of personal attention and provide them with thoughtful recommendations based on their responses. According to a study, people actually prefer to converse with bots and other digital self-serving tools as they have a faster response time. They will drastically change the way people shop online and become one of the most important marketing tools.

•    Subscription Feature to Help Customers Coming Back: For retailers, subscription plan have a number of advantages as they make it easier to predict fulfilment needs and they allow the customer to maintain and retain customers for a greater long-term value. Therefore, more and more companies will offer subscription service or monthly payment option for their purchases in the upcoming years to come.

•    Sustainability will Become one of the Main Focus in the Coming Years: One topic that is getting a lot of traction and hopefully is not a passing trend, is that now more and more people are becoming aware of their role that their purchasing decisions have on the earth’s limited resources. Therefore, now the brands have to find ways to weave into their product their marketing and fulfilment strategies. Brands that work on improving their operations by working on initiatives like having biodegradable packaging, going paperless, using recyclable supplies and working on behalf of the environment will undoubtedly have a robust impact on the buying decisions of the consumers.

Overall, apart from the above, in 2021, the industry also expects increase in export revenues and increase in tax collection by exchequer. Further, these sectors have not only grown by themselves, but also is having a cascading effect on allied industries, especially MSMEs. Partnering with MSME enterprises has helped e-tailers to expand their procurement and sourcing capacity, while also contributing to the business growth of MSMEs.

We are on a strong growth trajectory, however there are still few challenges that the e-retailers in India face. Some of the key aspects which requires attention are: 

•    Some customers return much of the products that they buy online as there are a lot of first-time buyers and they are not sure about what to expect from the e-commerce websites, therefore, they fall prey to hard sell and when they finally receive the product, they regret their decision and end up returning the good. This in turn increases the cost as returns are extremely expensive for the e-commerce companies.

•    Another challenge that companies face is that often the postal address is not correct and therefore it becomes a task for the company to deliver the product to the customer, affecting the delivery capacity of the delivery partner. 

•    Lastly, one of the major issues that the industry faces is the issue is maintaining a robust supply chain

To conclude, I would say that even though the per capita purchasing power is low in India, but still, it is one of the most attractive emerging market and this is one industry that is capable of doing a lot and as it is said “we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.”
 

 

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LCommerce: The Future of Commerce
LCommerce: The Future of Commerce
 

Commerce and Information have a long history together. A chokehold of Information and Logistics in supply chains have sparked great changes in society including triggering the sea-faring ways of the European countries which is singularly responsible for the current Globalized world.

History of commerce

Information (where, what, who, when, how much) and Logistics (how) are interwoven. Commerce in the pre-computer age was driven by a network of human relationships oiling the chain from producer to consumer. The advent of the computer completely changed the dynamics between the Producers, Traders, and Retailers. 

One battle that was fought in the 1970s and ’80s in the USA and won by the retailers is instructive to the future of commerce in the Digital Age. Retailers started insisting that all products have a standardized barcode. Over just a few years, the balance of power shifted from the large manufacturers to the retailers to the point that by the 1990s, even medium-sized retailers could reject products with faulty barcodes. Before that, the salesman of the large brand told you exactly how much of what product to buy and store on your shelves if you were a retailer and the retailer had no option but to comply.

Empowering Local Trade 

Modern Trade that emerged from this battle became the largest corporations in the USA in the ’80s since they had the best access to consumer preference information and had found a way to use it for their competitive advantage. Then came the Internet and eCommerce who took the Information advantage to an altogether new level further accelerated by advances in IoT, Deep Learning, and Cloud Computing in the recent past.

What does this history have to do with Local Trade-in small towns like Udupi and many other places with populations of 1L or more across India? That’s because the answer to how Local Trade can compete with Modern Trade and eCommerce lies in the effective capture and use of Information.

To do this, Local Trade needs to act as one united force and bring themselves together on a Digital Commons powered by Digital Public Infrastructure like IndiaStack. This is what LCommerce is all about. Doing this also enables a new vector of growth for the Local Economy. That is the creation of high-quality jobs enabled by Data analytics, AR/VR, AI, and Blockchain in the local area rather than these jobs being shipped away to cities like Bangalore. This has a trickle-down effect into jolting other parts of the local economy into innovation too.

What is LCommerce and Why Should India Adopt this Model?

Once digital parity is achieved through LCommerce, effective use of local data and the catalysing of synergies through network-based peer to peer organizing can result in LCommerce (Definition of LCommerce: Decentralized eCommerce Platforms optimized for Local Sustainable Living) becoming a Global best practice for the world transitioning into resilient circular local economies from the current linear global supply chain model.

LCommerce is essentially interconnected Open Commerce Marketplaces that are locally run for the benefit of local communities. An online presence for sellers and producers of all kinds and optimized for logistics in the local area. This will lead to true portability. Just like my mother can call my Airtel number from her Jio connection, a buyer on Amazon should be able to reach a product/merchant on LCommerce. The eCommerce race then goes from “Winner takes all” to “Everyone wins”. LCommerce is then a locally rendered Digital service that aims to facilitate better leverage of the local information. LCommerce is Digital and behaves like eCommerce but is not eCommerce in a fundamental way. LCommerce doesn’t alter data ownership whereas eCommerce owns all the information that it touches.             

LCommerce is an implementation of Decentralization that not just makes business sense in the post-pandemic world, but also provides a pathway to a more equitable, distributive, circular, high-velocity economic system.

The post-pandemic world has woken us up to the inherent frailties in our Global supply chain and the need for local action. Inventing a new Producer win, Trader win, Consumer win model for the rapidly digitizing world and creating sustainable development opportunities in the over 500+ locations with India with populations greater than 1L people is a very achievable goal with LCommerce.

 

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5 Learnings for Entrepreneurs Looking to Tap the Social Commerce Space
5 Learnings for Entrepreneurs Looking to Tap the Social Commerce Space
 

The social commerce space has grown and expanded extensively in the past years, more so with the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is dynamic and fast-moving, which poses many challenges on the way, but the brighter side of the success and opportunities is what keeps us going. 

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to enter the Social Commerce Space, here are 5 learnings that might help you. 

No excuse to hard work

The key to being a successful entrepreneur is to be on your A-game always. There are no alternatives to hard work. It is true that your everyday hustle will eventually speak for you. Setting the bar high for yourself is important, and it is also equally important that you remind yourself of that each day.

Seek help whenever you need it

Entrepreneurship is a journey that is filled with challenges and ups and downs. There are one too many hurdles that are going to block your way and at times you may catch yourself in a situation where the possible next step is unknown. This is where you should always seek help. Oprah Winfrey once said, "You get in life what you have the courage to ask for."

Building a business is a collective effort and requires a lot of help from external sources as well. There is no one person who can build an empire alone, you always need an army to go to combat. Your mentors are also equally important to your business. During crucial times, mentors come to your rescue to guide you, give you advice and get you out of trouble. If you find yourself some seasoned mentors, they’ll prove to be an important asset to the company. A true mentor will also give you honest feedback about your operations and the company’s functioning.

Be okay and open to making and learning from mistakes

Believe it or not, making mistakes is one of the most important parts of a business. Your mistakes will give you the learning far greater than your successes. To learn about “what does not work for the company” than to learn about “what works for the company” is more important.

When you are aware of your weaknesses and shortcomings, there is an area of improvement for you to thrive upon. It is also important to be aware of the challenges fellow entrepreneurs might have made, give you a direction, and help you know what may not work can prove to make a phenomenal difference in the growth of your brand. This way you’ll be able to avoid a lot of hurdles that the other entrepreneurs might have tripped on during their journey in the past.

Breathe the Ecosystem

You should always be aware of what’s happening in your industry. Your ecosystem is what affects your business directly. Being the founder, you must have the minute to minute update of the industry. Ecosystem awareness also helps you build your product and make changes as the trend changes in the market.

Believe in what you can do

Believe in your idea. Having self-belief is both an essential step and a challenge one must keep at. During the initial phase of setting up your company, there will be many such downfalls that would make you doubt yourself, in those times, it is crucial to trust your vision. There must be thousands of successful entrepreneurs rising every year in the world, but there are millions of those who lose trust in their vision and stop believing in it. Diane Hendricks once said, "Any plans or strategies are only useful when you believe in yourself, and your effort turns dreams into realities."

 

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How is Hyperlocal E-commerce Giving Customer a Real In-store Shopping Experience?
How is Hyperlocal E-commerce Giving Customer a Real In-store Shopping Experience?
 

The customer psyche with reference to buying products and services has undergone a major transition across the globe and especially in India. Earlier, shopping from the physical stores was the only method of purchasing. However, over the years, online shopping is increasingly preferred now by consumers of all age groups. 

The variety and convenience that it offers give it an edge over offline shopping. Scouting the wide variety in the online medium, multiple payment options, and doorstep delivery makes it a preferred way of shopping. The pandemic's entrance into our lives further accelerated the growth of online shopping. Its cashless and contactless features make it the go-to solution for all the purchasing requirements. 

However, off lately, consumers have been experiencing troubles with this ideal shopping gateway. Lack of delay, payment issues, defective products, and replacement scheduling are some of the few concern areas hampering the user experience. There are major trust issues with the online shopping process. While this concept was not welcomed initially by the Indian consumers, now that the consumers have adapted to it; misleading discounts and promotions, poor service, lack of credibility have additionally led to the reduction in its acceptance. 

Hyperlocal E-commerce 

In such cases when e-commerce seems to fade away, the hyperlocal markets come into the scenario. They perfectly combine the convenience of online shopping along with the comfort and reliability of the physical stores, thereby delivering the best of both worlds to the consumers. 

They tackle all the issues that any e-commerce platform usually faces. These majorly include logistics, inventory management, transactions, delivery, and communication with the customers. They follow a customer-centric approach and hence work to provide benefits to the customers. They help bridge the gap between online and offline shopping and provide instant resolution of customer queries. The hyperlocal market place is a hybrid concept encompassing the best of the traits of both offline and e-commerce shopping. 

How They Give Customer a Real In-store Shopping Experience

Hyperlocal Benefits:
Hyperlocal e-commerce extends various benefits to all the involved parties - the e-commerce, the buyer, and the hyperlocal platform. Few major ones ensuring a real-time physical store experience to the customers are:
•    The consumers can surf through the hyperlocal marketplaces offering a variety of products from multiple merchants and purchase via various modes of payment at convenient pricing
•    Ensure swift doorstep delivery and send across the products within a few hours along with breaking the geographical barriers
•    The consumers can touch and feel the product if they wish to by visiting the nearby retail store
•    This proximity to the store also ensures quick consumer grievance redressal
•    However, in case you don’t wish to visit personally, you can just check the variety online and place an order or order home delivery
•    Delivery is their focus area and hence they ensure they have the required manpower and system in place to provide swift delivery to the consumers as per their preferences
•    They also offer on sale certain products that are not available in the physical stores
•    The concept eventually leads to an increase in sales thereby benefitting the stores 
•    Help reduce geographical barriers thereby reducing the marketing expenditure
•    Provide control over the quality, quantity, variety, and delivery of the products
•    Help in inventory and logistics management

On the whole, hyperlocal markets have made the online shopping experience swift, efficient, and all the more convenient. It also helps uplift the local stores and aims to provide a better shopping and customer experience. 

From the business perspective:
•    They add value to the brand image
•    They also lead to a considerable increase in the consumer base for the retailers
•    Other added benefits include the ease of operations and business-driven approach

These are the major reasons that have led to the businesses focusing on the expansion of their digital wing by collaborating with hyperlocal marketplaces. Such coalition also helps the retailers in expanding and optimizing their operations thereby extending a real in-store shopping experience to the customers. Additionally, the brands do and can further expand this partnership by offering localized and specific products at specific locations thereby strengthening the interaction with the customers. 

Summing Up

The common myth is that e-commerce is replacing the physical buying experience. However, it is indeed a supplementary element to the traditional brick and mortar concept. With e-commerce growing, personal interactions and physical purchasing has reduced.By working in partnership with hyperlocal spaces, is a great opportunity for brands to strengthen their relationship with the customers. The best bit about this concept is that all brands irrespective of their size, the industry can undertake such partnerships. Despite the various pros of setting up the hyperlocal agreement, many retailers still fear to enter into such collaboration as they feel the efforts they will put in might not provide results in the long run. Additionally, there is an increase in competition and hence they need to come with new offerings and innovations to ensure the survival of the fittest. 

However, the hyperlocal sector is booming and is the face of the new age retail industry of India. Providing a win-win scenario for merchants, buyers, and hyperlocal spaces, the hyperlocal industry is here to stay and will witness a surge in its acceptance along with the entrance of new trends.
 

 

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Why are Jewellery Retailers Taking Up Digital Channels to Boost Sales?
Why are Jewellery Retailers Taking Up Digital Channels to Boost Sales?
 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses function and grow. Every sector is re-imagining and adapting their methods to overcome challenges. Jewellery retailers/ brands are no exception. 

Jewellery retailers and brands have re-evaluated their current brick-and-mortar business model and have now started implementing omnichannel approach with an enhanced digital strategy to boost sales. After relevant research, trials and keeping in mind the changing consumer buying behaviour pattern, the jewellery retailers and brands have discovered that the best strategy to reach out to the customers is the online retail adoption, which has also led to satisfactory sales results over the past couple of months. Going digital has also, enabled the industry to further personalize the customer experience at every touchpoint. Consumers are finding purchase through digital channels more convenient, safe and feasible for them. 

However, there is also a growing need of maintaining relationship with the existing customers, this is more important for renowned and legacy brands even while improving the end-to-end jewellery purchase experience. The good news is that enabling e-commerce has not cannibalized offline sales but instead has brought in new customers. 
 
Online Purchase Behaviour: Millennials Changing the Jewellery Game
 
Apart from the business aspect of things, jewellery buying has also undergone a huge change. Millennials are reshaping and redefining some of the traditions and norms around this behaviour. At a time when gold prices are high, people, especially the millennials are moving to the lighter and minimalist variant of the yellow metal. They are prefering these light weight jewellery more because these kinds can be worn anywhere with utmost comfort. Today, India’s millennials are changing the way the gold-crazy country buys jewellery. So in the coming years, all that glitters will be light-weight gold.

It has been seen that the age group of 18 to 45 years account for approximately 70-80 percent of online sales, while those over 45 years account for 20-30 percent. That’s why retailers have shifted their focus and are now targeting young, independent working men and women. These days, jewellery is purchased online for daily wear, during festivals or for gifting purposes. The endless choices which online shopping gives are something that buyer look forward to today. Also, during the festive season, there has been a surge in the sales of gold coins, bars and GIP as well. 
 
Innovation is the Key
 
The online experience brings with it an element of ease. It is much more convenient to be able to browse and buy online, without having to step into a store and enquire about pricing every time there’s interest in a jewellery piece. We, along with many other brands, have started taking bookings for both jewellery and appointments via video call. 

Imagine the convenience of buying your wedding or daily wear jewellery from the comfort of your home - all through a video call. You could select your preferred design and get the sales executive at the store to display it to you virtually. After that, you could choose to close the deal at home, take an appointment to visit the store and try out the jewellery, or even place the order and pay. This strategy has grown in the COVID era as consumers are increasingly opting for online shopping due to safety concerns. Along with the assurance of safety and hygiene, it also gives consumers a sense of freedom to browse and take their time. 
 
Digital Upgradation 
 
The silver lining of this pandemic for the gold jewellery industry is that, it has given brands enough time to think and motivate ourselves. We have been preparing ourselves for a digital and mobile-first world for some time now. The best thing about the online shopping space is that it can be modified relatively easily and every modification helps improve the user experience and increase loyalty. Facilities like online customisation help hugely in maximizing sales numbers. In fact, online retailers have an advantage over more-established retailers since younger customers are already comfortable shopping with them. The idea is that they gradually gain confidence from buying clothes and bags and then move on to spending even larger sums with the same retailer which is called an ‘upgrade' purchase. 
 
Keeping the trends, shift in consumer behaviour, preferences, and digital evolution in mind, Khimji Jewels have also launched Pan-India presence through an ecommerce platform. With specially designed pure gold jewellery collection across prices and variety in metal colours, we have built our foundation in the evolving digital retail sector.
 

 

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How Brands of Bharat Resurrected their Business for Positive 2021?
How Brands of Bharat Resurrected their Business for Positive 2021?
 

The year 2020 caught everyone off-guard and disrupted various aspects, including the distribution and supply chain of retail brands in the country to an extent whereby exploring new avenues of growth did not look like to a thing to have but a must have.  The pandemic has served as a wake-up call for a lot of labels and taught everyone different ways to sustain while establishing a digital presence and embracing the virtual world. As we have said adios to 2020, it is only wise for us to study the market and glance through the strategies and trends which might work out to business’ advantage in 2021. Here are some of the trends which can take the lead in the coming year, making it merrier right from the start:

Industry Outlook

The pandemic has wide caused disruption across sectors, however online purchase has seen a remarkable surge.

"Keeping the digital and social media growth opportunities in mind, jewellers are setting marketing strategies accordingly. But the arrival of festive season has helped in retail movement and counter interest, else the wedding jewellery market has also seen some growth as other expenses have been rationalised given the new normal at wedding functions," says Nishit Nanda, CEO, Consumer Business, Khimji Jewels.

Known for its Jaipurkurti.com brand, Nandani Creation Limited's revenue revenue from operations was up by 1.51 percent to Rs 12.06 crore during the quarter under review as against Rs 11.88 cr in the 3rd Quarter of  FY 2020-21. 

Their Q1 FY21 was impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in the country and its effect was clearly visible on the e-commerce business. With their new spring-summer 2021 collection, they are coming up with ‘New Normal’ with amazing themes and attires. They also launched ‘Value Plus’ and started the manufacturing ‘N95 Masks’ to meet the rising demand during the peak of the pandemic.

Consumer Behaviour 

There has been a major shift in customer buying behaviour during the pandemic. Consumers continue to bet big on gold as an investment option, the idea of going from store to store saw a dramatic redefinition. Today, there are so many online gold jewellery platforms to explore many different variations. 

Also, the endless aisle which online shopping gives us is something that the buyers look forward to today.

With the onset of the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, Mango Stationary, saw acute changes in terms of buying trends and also in terms of the way consumers spend.

"Being a stationery and electronics retailer, there was an obvious slump in office and school related supplies. However, they did see a huge spike in demand for computers/ laptops and related accessories, as work and learn from home quickly became the new norm. There was also a surge in demand for art supplies, DIY kits, games, as consumers across various age groups found ways to keep themselves and their children engaged and away from their screens," states Sitanshu Chheda, Director, Mango Stationery.

Post-lockdown, they saw a boom in sales for about 2 months, probably influenced by a lot of pent-up revenge buying and a surge in demand for the above-mentioned products. Since then, they have been seeing fluctuating demands, as the uncertainty with Covid-19 brought with it erratic spending behaviours. 

Rise of the Digital Channels

What started as a fad prior to COVID-19 pandemic has now become a statement with consumers favouring online shopping over physical or offline retail. There is a huge surge in online purchases across categories with FMCG leading the pack. Also, going digital has enabled the industry to further personalise the customer experience at every touchpoint. Consumers are finding purchase through digital channels more convenient, safe and feasible for them. Brands are investing and not postponing their decision to be in digital channels over physical retail.

JaipurKurti.com has been working with the online portals like Flipkart, Myntra etc since the inception of their company. These online portals have helped them to increase their sales as they were doing 99.99 percent business online. As of now, they have 3 retail stores in Rajasthan.

"The lockdown forced us to adapt and change their growth strategy. Over the course of three months, they doubled down on their efforts on digital platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, growing their follower base to roughly 2K to now 13K+ (on Instagram). They also took this opportunity to work on their e-commerce website, and were able to launch it in August 2020. This helped them to stay connected with their existing clients, and also opened avenues to reach a much wider, national consumer," Chedda says.

Now, it has become imperative for any retailer to develop an omnichannel presence to create multiple touch-points for their consumers, as the lockdown has forever changed how brands and consumers will interact going forward. 

During the lockdown, 100 percent of Mango Stationary’s business was done via WhatsApp, Instagram and their website. Though, that ratio has significantly dropped post the multiple unlocks, they still see about 20 percent of their sales being driven through digital channels, maximum of whom are the new clients they reached during the lockdown. 

Future is Omnichannel ` 

The silver lining in this pandemic for the industry is that, it has given enough time to think and motivate the retailers. The industry stalwarts have been building, testing and deploying strategies continuously to revamp their businesses.

Going forward, the primary goal of the brands seems to increase their digital presence and focus on generating higher revenues through their website and other digital platforms. 
 

 

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How Bright is the Future of Social Commerce in India?
How Bright is the Future of Social Commerce in India?
 

Shopping is, was, and will be a consistent social experience. And the same has led to the increase of social shopping trends in e-commerce in recent years. The crossroads between social media and e-commerce is social shopping. The intention is to encourage more and more sales via social platform and generate a positive word of mouth for the brand. 

Social shopping was an expected trend as both brands and social networks have been working diligently to convert social media networks into a sales platform. As the focus area for any brand is to enhance ‘customer experience’, technology helps in enhancing this experience. The next generation trend expected to reinvent the future of business is Social Commerce (S-Commerce) and this alliance of social media and e-commerce is going to create a new online shopping dynamics.

As shared by Mrigank Gupta, Director, RedSeer Consulting, "Social commerce is inherently focused on solving the trust issues of the next wave of online shoppers - as reflected in its high share of tier II-plus city consumers. We expect that a significant chunk of India's over 250 million online shoppers of 2022 and beyond will be very comfortable with social commerce and this model will play a key role in extending e-commerce to the masses”. 

Additionally, by 2025, the Indian e-retail market is expected to reach upto nearly 300 to 350 million shoppers - driving the online gross merchandise value (GMV) to $100-120 billion as per the report by Flipkart. 

Growth Drivers

Last year when the entire populace was busy discussing the unseen virus, social media usage got elevated, bringing in a rapid increase in e-commerce. The way to look at e-commerce has completely changed. Traditional e-commerce is giving a new path to s-commerce by building trust, creating engagement, reducing customer acquisition cost, and more is yet to come. 

According to industry estimates, home-grown social commerce start-ups have raised $100 million funding by having 10 million resellers on board. 

There are five predominant archetypes of social commerce consumers that have been identified by Bain Indian Social Consumer Survey - who is buying socially, why and how are they buying, and what categories they buy. 

This spectacular rise of S-Commerce in India was possible because of the availability of low data cost and rise of smartphone users, the proliferation of payment gateways, the rise of short-video platforms, availability of vernacular networks, and the opportunity to build online stores without any significant investment. 

According to a Forbes article, “brands are using social media like Pinterest, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Twitter as a sales platform where sellers and consumers both are enjoying this new shopping trend from product discovery to checkout process.”

Making Shopping a Social Experience

Every social media platform is providing a unique experience to its users by keeping innovative communication concepts like storytelling with integrated content and visuals. Instagram allows brands to tag five products in a post with the Verified Merchant Program (VMP) and a direct link to the website for a smooth purchase. 

Lens Studio has made Snapchat a pioneer with the best AR experience and a clear leader in AR advertising. Facebook with its Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs) giving an option to open up ‘shop’ directly and Pinterest with its Buyable pins have also build a wide array of sellers. 

S-Commerce is providing incredible benefits to businesses like brands are coming closer to customers and driving an authentic engagement, building trust and loyalty as people trust other people more than brands, making the payment process a breeze, user-friendly mobile shopping, refer and earn and the sky is the limit (Facebook alone has over 2 billion users and available in 101 languages). 

India’s leading social commerce brand Meesho is leveraging a layer of ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ by empowering around 5 million entrepreneurs- of which 80 percent are women and bridging the trust deficit for predominantly unbranded products. Similarly, DealShare model ‘Building for Bharat’ is also leveraging local store network to reduce last-mile costs. 

Unlock the Potential

To be in this digital ‘shop-o-sphere’ brands have to understand the ground rules to engage well with their customers. NIKE is one such brand that is known for effectively reaching out to their customers through social media. For a successful social commerce, brands should remember that social listening is more important than social media monitoring, collecting social proofs as ‘Review Matters’, understand where you stand in your niche, and efficiently designing social media strategy to reach your target. 

Today 85 percent of sellers using social commerce are small, offline retailers giving sharp competition to large organized sellers on e-commerce platforms. The essential nature of social commerce is serving the unidentified need (pushing the impulse purchase), brands should identify the untapped opportunity. 

As per Bain Analysis, India has the highest number of internet users (572 million) globally, with substantial room for growth (41 percent penetration) where only 8 percent (about 105 million) shops for the product online with average online spending of $286 per year which is much lower than other markets ($2966 US market). 

Indian market is at a nascent stage and needs an enabling system to achieve exponential growth as core consumers need something more in addition to trust. To build trust, all social platforms are using fun and engaging video commerce (Bulbul, SimSim), Connecting Community (Facebook, Instagram), Social Reselling (Meesho, Glowroad, Shop101), Convenience (WhatsApp, Telegram), and Group Buying (DealShare, Mall91). There is a potential to drive sales on social commerce platforms with the right plumbing. 

The Way Forward

Social commerce or smart e-commerce has made online shopping a universal concept. Third-party aggregators are also acting as facilitators by widening their array of services offering cutting-edge- technologies to optimize cost, time, and labor. As technology has taken a center-stage in this D2C model, the scope for social commerce expansion and evolution is high. Brands can tap the social commerce opportunity by a cohesive social commerce strategy providing experience over products and services. 
 

 

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The Future of Beauty Retail in the Post-Covid World
The Future of Beauty Retail in the Post-Covid World
 

The global beauty industry generates $500 billion in sales a year and e-commerce is now a part of our daily lives. In most major beauty-industry markets, in-store shopping accounted for up to 85 percent of beauty-product purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis. With the closure of premium beauty-product outlets, approximately 30 percent of the beauty-industry market was shut down. Restrictions on physical movement have forced a shift in spend from offline to online platforms and consumers are not expected to move away from online channels, as they’ve experienced advantages such as greater accessibility, convenience and lower prices.

The Future of Beauty Retail in the Post-Covid World

“The rapid changes we have witnessed in the beauty sector are here to stay.” says Vasundhara Patni, founder of cosmetics brand, Kiro Beauty. “To remain competitive, beauty brands across the world must capture new consumer expectations and behaviours, and respond to market’s evolution. Success in the beauty industry is more than just high-quality products. It's essential for brands and retailers to deliver a useful, effective, and seamless customer experience, supported by smart omnichannel strategies and disruptive AI/AR solutions.”

The growth in the beauty industry is likely to accelerate with direct-to-consumer e-commerce, amplification of brand websites and shoppable social media platforms. Beauty brands will need to prioritize digital channels to capture and convert the attention of existing and new customers. The use of artificial intelligence for testing, discovery, and customization will need to accelerate as concerns about safety and hygiene disrupt product testing and in-person consultations. 

Today, beauty customers are changing their spending habits, moving towards products that allow them to mimic the in-store experience at home. The rise of influencer marketing and user-generated content strategies puts consumers at the forefront from promotion to market research for new products. In fact, the Kiro website enables consumers to select their skin tone for shade recommendations, where products that match your shade card are highlighted throughout the website. Shopping for products based on the ingredient is another key highlight of the Kiro Beauty online shopping experience. The shipping timeline for all products is within three to five business days, while enabling a commendable distribution network that reaches all zip codes in India.

 

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5 Predictions for Retail & E-Commerce Industry in 2021
5 Predictions for Retail & E-Commerce Industry in 2021
 

The technological disruption in the retail space has made the consumer more connected with devices through online shopping, e-medicines, payments etc. As a result, consumer demands have evolved dramatically and they prefer 24/7, quick and easy shopping experience. 

With the adoption of technology, brands are now successfully delivering a better consumer experience and can even predict the trends well in advance. Even brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly adopting e-commerce models considering the demands of the present day market. This trend has evolved more amid the pandemic when offline retail has been hit particularly hard and online retail boomed more rapidly than ever before.

With 2020 being the year of key innovations, disruption and a major transformation of the retail industry, 2021 is expected to be a year of several key technological advancements around IoT, mobility, digital wallets etc. Let's talk about how the world of retail and e-commerce will continue to change throughout 2021.

Diffusing Lines between Online and Offline

With increased adoption of mobile devices, voice assistants, AI, IoT, Robotics, AR and VR; retailers are now trying to bring the comfort of online shopping to offline stores, whereas, e-commerce is exploring innovative strategies to bring the rich interactive environment of offline shopping to e-commerce. This evolving trend is a big one! While offline retailers have been already adopting online business model, more lately, an innovative trend has emerged. Online retailers are now focusing on bricks and mortar presence, for instance, Amazon's has opened cashier-less stores in the US. Further, many small start-ups are collaborating with bigger brands to expand their business. As we are entering into a new year, it would be interesting to see what shopping looks and feels like.

Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality

According to a Juniper Research report, retailers are expected to spend $7.3 billion on AI by 2022. This is a huge rise from $2 billion they spent in 2018. AI-driven big data retailing has been in the space for a few years now, however, its efficiency and techniques continue to enhance the customer experience. Major retailers rely on advanced analytics and AI for being the personal guide and in-store assistant. 

Further, in 2021, we can expect robots to take to the shop floor after successfully assisting with inventory management in warehouses. Also, Augmented Reality (AR) will help in enriching the online shopping experience and allow customers to see how a certain product would look before they buy it. Lastly, just as AI-powered voice recognition is becoming increasingly common to control our devices or search the internet, we will use them to extract information and make purchases.

More Solutions in the Last-mile and Autonomous Delivery Space

Partnerships with last-mile delivery companies will increase as retailers will seek to leverage their physical stores to fulfill locally placed online orders. Additionally, there will be more technological advancements to tap geography like India where still a huge part falls under the undeliverable category. We will likely see drone delivery vehicle and self-driving delivery vehicles coming to life in some parts of the world.

Niche B2B Platforms Continue to Rise

Instead of shopping on comprehensive e-commerce platforms like Amazon, where a specific product search gives thousands of confusing options, consumers increasingly prefer niche platforms. They offer a more tailored experience, simpler user journey and are less time consuming. These platforms are expected to continue doing well and rise in number considering the positive consumer response. Therefore, more retailers will resort to B2B trade platforms. 

Organized liquidation is another niche area that continues to rise in India.

Personalization

Personal attention at high-end stores or personalizing your high-value purchases such as bespoke clothing, cars and jewellery is a traditional phenomenon. However, technology is now ensuring mass-personalization across a wide range of goods and services. While e-commerce is bringing innovations in recommendation engines, retail stores are arming virtual shop assistants with customer's choices and preferences based on their past purchases. According to McKinsey, these initiatives have the potential to reduce marketing costs by around 20 percent.

Summing Up!

To summarise, 2021 is expected to be an exciting and interesting year for retail and e-commerce industry.  Omnichannel shopping, voice commerce, AR and AI will likely be prevalent. Therefore, retailers must be prepared to adopt the latest trends as soon as possible. 
 

 

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?Make in India' is Going to go Global at Massive Stage: Amit Agarwal, Amazon India
?Make in India' is Going to go Global at Massive Stage: Amit Agarwal, Amazon India
 

E-commerce is at nascent stages in India given that it is hardly even 3 percent of the country's total retail consumption, said Amit Agarwal, Global Senior Vice President and Country Head, Amazon India.

E-commerce will play an important role in the government's vision of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India) as more homegrown brands scale up and go global, leveraging digital infrastructure, he added.

"I think Make in India is going to go global at massive scale, you're going to have Indian brands become global brands and all of this is going to create a digitally robust business ecosystem across the country that is going to power millions of livelihoods," he said.

He further stated that "this is going to help us realise that vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and e-commerce is going to play an important role."

Speaking at a TiEcon event, Agarwal said the Indian e-commerce market looked very different when the company had entered India seven years ago.

‘Make in India’ is Going to go Global at Massive Stage: Amit Agarwal, Amazon India

He said the market at that time was mostly an urban phenomenon, people shopped on select events and it was not common to have people pay for shipping and convenience. Also, the infrastructure was not sophisticated and the seller base did not have the skills to go online yet.

"It was a whole ecosystem that needed to be built bottom up," he noted.

"We were very clear about our mission, it was the same global mission that we had, which is, we wanted to be Earth's most customer centric company...We are unusually obsessed with customers. We put most of our energy in trying to focus on things customers deeply care about," Agarwal said.

Amazon India has already facilitated $2 billion in exports for sellers through its global selling programme and has now set a bigger goal. 

He said over the next five years, the e-commerce giant aims to digitise 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion of exports, and create one million jobs. 
“Indian SMEs are unique in their entrepreneurial spirit. We are witnessing a reinvention where many of them are getting transformed as digital business,” he said.

He added that while competition exists, the company is more focussed on the right customer experience.

"We do look at competitors...And that's mostly to get inspired and how we can serve our customers better...it's very early days for e-commerce in India and if we've learned anything from the rest of the world it is that over a long period of time, there will be many winners, and there will be many models," he said.
 

 

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How B2B E-commerce Players are Digitizing Kiranas in India
How B2B E-commerce Players are Digitizing Kiranas in India
 

Last few years have seen some very interesting developments that have fueled the growth in B2B e-commerce. It began with Jio disrupting the mobile Internet sector because of which there was a fast adoption of cheap access to mobile phones and Internet. All of a sudden more than 300 million Indian’s were plugged in. Around the same time demonetization happened which shook the age-old cash dependent supply chain industry, which was quickly followed by the launch of GST. It was a clear sign that the industry was moving towards more formalization and the days of unorganized way of doing business were limited. More lately the COVID-19 pandemic has put the adoption rate on steroids. As e-commerce is gaining traction in general, everyone’s expectations are changing to faster gratification, transparent service and a high level of professionalism. And one sector which has recently jumped on the wagon is - kiranas.

“India will continue to be a kirana dominated market. COVID-19 has brought kiranas the attention that their >95 percent share of India’s food and grocery market rightfully merits. The kirana stores have tenaciously stood amidst pandemic and have reinforced their reputation as the most convenient, ubiquitous and reliable source for household grocery needs. In parallel, COVID has also exposed the frailties of traditional wholesale and FMCG distribution as well as those of large format modern trade. Retailers and brands alike, are seeking a reliable, resilient, 21st century alternative for B2B e-commerce,” says Karthik Venkateswaran, Co-founder & CEO, Jumbotail.

B2B E-Commerce Players Empowering Kiranas

Kirana stores are the backbone of food and grocery distribution in India with a 96 percent market share, but running a kirana store was previously a complex and tough task. Retailers faced multiple challenges in running their stores, like shutting stores to visit wholesale markets, lower margins, offline payments, lack of technology, etc. There was a dire need for a digital platform for kiranas where their problems are solved with a 360-degree offering. 

“We started MaxWholesale to be an online supplier for kirana stores and now we are providing them with end-to-end solutions like product delivery, higher margins, digital payments, and technology to do more with their resources. We are also looking at adding pharmacies and stationeries on the platform,” shares Samarth Agrawal, Founder & CEO, MaxWholesale.

How B2B E-commerce Players are Digitalising Mom-and-Pop Stores in India

Similarly, Jumbotail makes it very convenient for kirana stores to procure a wide selection of staples and FMCG products, reliably delivered to storefronts using their in-house supply chain and logistics. Jumbotail also provides access to formal working capital to retailers by connecting lending partners via its Fintech platform. It transforms traditional unorganised kirana stores into J24 branded modern convenience grocery stores, by providing a complete business toolkit and playbook consisting of J24 consumer branding, in-store GoldenEye retail technology and processes, real-time data driven product selection and merchandising insights, integrated supply chain with daily store servicing, Greencard loyalty program and payment solutions which create a differentiated in-store experience for consumers. J24 also provides complete omnichannel experience by taking the store online and also integrating with hyperlocal platforms like Swiggy, Dunzo, and Flipkart. 

Warehousing and Logistics Services: An Added Advantage

The B2B e-commerce players offer a full stack solution to the retailers as they aggregate orders as well as operate the warehousing and logistics for fulfillment.

“Jumbotail Logistics provides integrated warehousing, next-day storefront delivery and payments collection solutions through its highly efficient, flexible and resilient in-house supply chain  The company uses its own network of fulfillment and distribution centres as well as its last mile delivery fleet - all powered by in-house supply chain technology built specifically for the unique requirements of food and grocery wholesale; to deliver orders placed on the Jumbotail app to the customers’ storefront within an average turnaround time of 24 hours with industry-best fill rates of 95 percent plus. Jumbotail Logistics ships over 10 million units across 100,000+ deliveries every month,” Venkateswaran states.

“At MaxWholesale, we have developed capability to track thousands of SKUs in our warehouses in real time, make them available to kirana stores, do picking, packing and delivery operations all within the platform. Vendors deploy their commercial vehicles on our platform which generates continuous work for them for deliveries to kirana stores,” adds Agrawal.

A key challenge in the foods business is timely access to the market. The lack of strong and reliable logistics network results in a significant percentage of these products getting wasted.

Udaan’s strong supply-chain network spanning 900+ cities, covering over 12,000 pin codes not only ensures timely delivery, but also provides quality and fresh products to buyers at a better price," states Vivek Gupta, Head - Food Business, Udaan in a release.

"Our partner FMCG companies get direct and easy access to over 3 million kirana shops and retailers nationally on the udaan platform resulting in expansion of their target markets," he further adds.

Technology: The Game Changer

Technology plays a big role in operating the day-to-day operations for these B2B e-commerce players. They bet big on Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to find smart solutions.

Explaining the same, Venkateswaran says, “The Jumbotail ecosystem consists of 4 platforms powered by world-class proprietary in-house technology and industry leading processes and insights gained over 4+ years of operations: B2B Online Marketplace, Supply Chain & Logistics, Fintech for SME Lending, and Retail Platform that powers its J24 branded convenience grocery stores. Currently, we are generating billions of data points and building a number of AI driven technologies including AI driven merchandising, computer vision powered product identification system for scanning non-barcoded staples products, delivery promise engines, warehouse pickpack optimisations, logistics planning and optimizations, credit scoring, fraud detection and trust and safety applications.” 

“MaxWholesale is a data driven platform based on distributed micro-app architecture. Different teams work on different apps developed dedicatedly for them. All the data generated on the platform - which is a lot of data - is continuously being crunched by our central server, which converts this data into real-time insights and distributes work as action items. This AI enables our ground staff to be much more productive and efficient as compared to a traditional business. AI is also used in automation of inventory management and purchase order generation. We are also working on a few computer vision based ML projects in our warehouse,” Agrawal adds.

How Bright Is The Future?

The ongoing digitalisation, coupled with the pandemic has created a huge opportunity for B2B e-commerce companies, which, until recently, failed to make an impression in the market that is largely unorganised.

Even though back-to-back reforms like demonetization, goods and services tax (GST) and digital governance turned out to be hurdles for a while for the business community, these policies eventually turned out to be a boon for the B2B e-commerce industry. The ease of doing business with digital transactions is bringing a massive opportunity for growth and expansion for businesses. Moreover, considering that there is no FDI restrictions for the B2B sector, it becomes more lucrative for the opportunists, driving the overall e-commerce sector to reach approximately US$ 200 billion by 2027. 

“COVID-19 has accentuated the importance of kirana stores to the country as they tenaciously stood amidst pandemic and reinforced their reputation as the most convenient, ubiquitous and reliable source for household grocery needs.  The brands, and consumers alike have understood the importance of digitally enabled kirana stores, and post-COVID era, we believe that technology driven modern supply chains and digital transformation of kirana stores are absolute necessities to address the changed realities. The local knowledge, customer intimacy and convenience of the decentralised kirana network, when combined with resilient full stack partners will be a winning combination,” concludes Venkateswaran.
 

 

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How has Social Media Influenced Branding Image in the Retail Sector?
How has Social Media Influenced Branding Image in the Retail Sector?
 

Even before 2020, social media had the power to influence the purchase decisions of more than half of the millennials. Post the pandemic, it was obvious for small as well as large businesses to capitalize on their social media followers.

Internet’s impact, particularly with the expansion of the social media, on individuals' buying behavior has changed tremendously. Retailers, who used to rely upon customary stores to drive deals, have now discovered that the scope of social media reaches out past creating goodwill in the local market; it is likewise a channel to produce more income. Social media being the next sensible marketing field has incited retailers to move a level up in their promotion game. 

Online Presence for the Brand Visibility

The present customers are on the Internet, versatile, and social. What's more, they anticipate that their number one brands should be also present there. Retailers who are thriving in social media marketing are creating some of the most remarkable customer experiences, customer support, and customer engagement. With industry research demonstrating that customer interactions are an integral factor through which they eventually decide their purchases, retailers must build a solid online presence. 

By just incorporating 'likes' button on their Facebook pages, retailers have joined the likes of those who post about their new arrivals, industry trends, and great offers to boost conversations. These conversations then turn into purchases, helping brands utilize Facebook and other mediums to enhance customer experiences.

With more customers constantly active on their social media, it bodes well for retailers to continue their investments in social media and other store marketing endeavors. The methodology is an illustration of the blurring the lines between promoting, content and advertising as omnichannel promotion develops. 

Social Media Presence & Requirements

Retailers taking an interest in social media need to build a substantial procedure that puts the customers at the forefront. Posting content time and again or content that is unimportant to your buyer base is the advanced rendition of cold pitching. With a painstakingly thoroughly examined procedure, retailers can accumulate an abundance of information about their customers, assemble an affinity and help shape an online image subsequently permitting the business to acquire a more prominent understanding of their clients' needs, preferences and buying patterns. The watchword in 'online media' is 'social'; organizations should have the option to draw in with their clients in an important route without turning into a social botheration. Customers will like this and feel they are being tuned in to, assisting you with their information and assemble a standing as a business that thinks often about its clients; after all, ‘a happy client is your best possession’. 

To fabricate a genuine and lasting brand image among the youth, retailers should likewise be more relatable to their age groups, utilizing story narration, visuals, and credibility to promote their brand. The millennials’ value having an option to communicate with the brands directly and tell them about their interests and experiences. A brand's accessibility every minute of every day is fundamentally more essential to these target customers than other older age groups, making social media an ideal channel. 

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and a lot more

Social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram help retailers bridge the gap between item disclosure and purchase. Shoppable features permit clients to see an item via social media and snap on the picture to effortlessly discover where it is sold on the webpage within minutes. Clients aren't sitting around searching for items yet are all the more so discovering them via analytics. 

Engagement Parameters

While there are numerous ways brands can collaborate with social media to draw in clients, how do organizations know whether what they are doing is correct? There are a few different ways that this can be estimated. Measuring the discussions and engagement helps in tracking the number of individuals who are liking, commenting and sharing your products. At the point when brands have dynamic interest, this is a decent marker that buyers trust and like the brand.

Conclusion

Social media is the most persuasive form of online marketing utilized by customers around the globe searching for motivation. Along these lines, it is important that retail and ecommerce brands not just connect with their clients through this medium, yet additionally utilize all the devices and features for their potential benefit. Buyers need effortlessness and need an unforgettable experience, and that is the reason it's critical to offer digital encounters that educate as well as convert the potential customers.
 

 

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WhatsApp Shopping: Retailers Find New Mediums to Stay Connected to Consumers
WhatsApp Shopping: Retailers Find New Mediums to Stay Connected to Consumers
 

WhatsApp is one of the most widely used networking apps, used across age groups to stay connected with people. This app not only allows people across geographies to stay connected but also helps manage ‘Quick Response’ to most queries. And during lockdown, it became more popular in getting required necessities home delivered. 

“At Metro Shoes we used WhatsApp Shopping Service to support our ‘home visits’.  Customers who were keen to buy footwear but were hesitant to come to the store, used ‘Try and Buy’ from the comfort of their homes. Customers were able to choose the footwear, via a virtual tour of the store over WhatsApp. Shortlisted products were then taken to the customers home for trials and purchase. The bill is also shared via WhatsApp. Additionally, our store staff shares catalogues and pictures of new additions over WhatsApp with our regular customers. Customers, too, have easily adapted to this new shopping service as it is hassle free and offers a personalized shopping experience,” says Alisha Malik, VP, E-commerce and Marketing, Metro Brands Ltd. 

“While we scaled up our website Bata.in, and expanded our presence across market places like Myntra, Ajio, Amazon and Flipkart, we also realised that there was a segment of our customers that wanted to shop remotely, wanted the familiarity of their neighbourhood Bata store manager, was comfortable using simple messaging apps like WhatsApp and wasn’t as tech-savvy using online sites. To cater to this segment, we launched Bata ChatShop, a WhatsApp based platform which allows customers to remotely interact and shop from their neighbourhood stores by interacting with store managers. They are sent an extensive e-catalogue and they can pick and choose their favourite styles, which are then delivered right at their doorstep, within couple of hours on same day,” adds Anand Narang, VP - Marketing, Bata India resonating the same thoughts.

Similarly, fashion brand Forever New is also planning to launch their WhatsApp commerce this month.

Even, Bikayi, a one-stop WhatsApp integrated e-commerce platform, is looking forward to empower merchants in India to run a sustainable business online.

WhatsApp Shopping: Retailers Find New Mediums to Stay Connected to Consumers

Foreign Players Too Joined The Wagon

UAE based e-commerce company YourLibaas introduced AI-based chatbots for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to facilitate the ordering process as the major pain point turned out to be ‘inability to order online’. The company claims a 30 percent increase in purchase conversion rate post introduction of ‘Order of WhatsApp’ functionality. 

"Our primary audience is non-working women who frequently complained about the checkout process. Our goal was to increase sales from alternative channels following principles of conversational commerce," states Khalid Raza Khan, Founder & CEO, YourLibaas.

“With an increasing shift towards mobile devices, the company decided to choose WhatsApp over other channels. Users found it convenient to get in touch about product queries through WhatsApp and phone. They would send screenshots of products enquiring about the fabric details, price, delivery timelines and so on. Adding the missing human touch typical of a brick-and-mortar store is a trust-building measure,” Akram Tariq Khan, Co-Founder, YourLibaas further adds.

Adding Value To The Brand

With the launch and scaling up of three new hyper-local digital channels - Bata ChatShop, Bata Store-on-Wheels and Bata Home Delivery, Bata has been successful in reaching out to a wider audience. 

“Our customers have been very receptive of these initiatives, and these have been instrumental in reviving our overall sales. The overall digitally enabled sales including bata.in, marketplaces have moved from about 6 percent to now 15 percent,” says Narang.

“More than the overall brands income, this strategy has contributed towards helping us enhance our service levels. It helps us stay more connected with our customers and serve our customers in a very prompt manner,” adds Malik.

YourLibaas claims that the introduction of conversational commerce features resulted in 2,940 orders summing up a total revenue of Rs. 1.65 crore through the WhatsApp channel over a period of 90 days. Out of a total of 58.8K users that visited the website through WhatsApp broadcast messages during the same period, a significant proportion actually placed orders. The brand received an average of 260 requests per day for product information and WhatsApp sales increased by 70 percent. 

Trend Picks Up In Smaller Cities Too

Sonakshi Nathani, Co-Founder & CEO, Bikayi, says, “The pandemic has pushed the majority of local merchants and retailers to look at digital businesses. The trend has caught on more in smaller cities where transactions happen over WhatsApp. It is exciting to see how both merchants and consumers are choosing the platform, which is convenient and a part of our daily lives, to run a sustainable business and shop online respectively. In just the last 4 months, we have witnessed 53 percent sales from small-town India and believe that this number is only going to increase in the coming months.”

The brand witnessed 45 percent of the sales during 10 am-12 noon. Men shopped 3.4 times more than females during the pandemic (77.6 percent male as compared to 22.39 percent female). The age-group that was most active was 25-34 which contributed 30.68 percent to the overall sales.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

There aren’t any drawbacks as such, but nothing ever compares to the entire experience of touch-and-feel shopping. 

“Sometimes it gets slightly tricky to figure out your exact shoe-size while shopping through virtual mediums. However, to overcome this problem, we have launched a service called ‘Bata Shoe Size Finder’ for Bata ChatShop and bata.in customers. The service enables customers to find their exact shoe size by simply clicking and scanning a picture of their feet. It has helped us improve conversions,” reveals Narang.

“It’s difficult to share the entire range over WhatsApp and WhatsApp shopping is not a standalone channel for sales, it is and will always be an extension of our current stores. Not all customers prefer receiving messages over WhatsApp, as many see this as an encroachment into their personal space,” adds Malik. 

How Bright Is The Future?

With what is going on around us, the consumer behaviour and preferences have changed. They have now become more adept and used to shopping through digital mediums, and this trend will likely continue post-pandemic as well. Hence, Bata is planning to make Bata ChatShops a permanent feature.

Bata has launched another innovative solution called ‘Find a Pair’ for the store staff. In case a pair of shoes that the customer wants is not available in one store, it can be sourced from another store nearby with the help of the app, and is then shipped directly to the customer’s house. 

“Initiatives like ‘Bata Shoe Size Finder’ and ‘Find a Pair’ have helped with conversions as well,” Narang states.

“We plan on continuing using WhatsApp as we do see a potential in this channel. In fact in addition to shopping, we plan to use this channel to offer many other services to the customers,” Malik concludes. 
 

 

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The Future of Omnichannel Retailing in India
The Future of Omnichannel Retailing in India
 

Today, India’s hyper-connected consumers are rapidly entering into an era where they expect brand owners to provide consistent and unparalleled service across all touchpoints. They are not only looking for the right product that suit their needs but are also seeking a smooth journey in finding the product irrespective of various platforms that they use, buying it from and get it delivered at their doorstep. However, to better integrate in-store and online shopping experience, brand owners and retailers encounter multiple challenges to successfully execute the omnichannel strategy. 

Major Pain Areas:

●    Unavailability of customer data across different channels to strategically analyse and accordingly plan campaigns
●    Inconsistent product information or description across shopping platforms
●    Maintaining a consistent customer experience
●    Inability to identify customers across shopping platforms
●    No ecosystem to optimize online and offline integration for a truly omnichannel experience

Overcoming these challenges starts with envisioning an omnichannel strategy. Omnichannel retailing refers to a multi-channel approach that allows customers not only to shop across channels, but also to interact with the brand. It provides them with a unique, complete and seamless shopping experience, breaking down barriers between virtual and physical stores, and offering exactly what they need, the moment they need it. 

According to a study by CMO Council and Netsertive, 94 percent of marketers believe that providing an omnichannel experience is crucial to business success and customers are retained by companies who work with such omnichannel engagement strategies.

Advancement in technology and emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence, IoT, chatbots, robotized customer service, augmented reality is uniting the physical and digital world of shopping. Further, in-store digital payment options are blurring lines between the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce model, leading to hybrid retailing and improved user experience. In addition to traditional physical and online stores, new channels, such as smartphones and social media, are changing user habits, shopping behaviour and transforming their buying process. 

Staying in the game will require a holistic approach by retailers and brand owners, where the focus will need to be on customer engagement and fulfilment. To serve their customer in a delightful manner, brands require to create customer personas and market products basis the personas. Integration of technology, in-store operations, omnichannel retailing and merging physical & digital experiences will provide customers an inclusive and interactive retail experience.

Further, certain common consumer challenges faced by brand owners can be resolved through discussions under dedicated forums for retailers and FMCG companies. 

Going forward, given the strong consumer outlook and changing retail landscape, India is expected to witness redefining trends as the markets mature. The omnichannel strategy will not only make it easier for brands or retailers to converse with their customers but will also help customers to have better experiences.
 

 

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How to Market your E-commerce Brand in a Post-Pandemic World?
How to Market your E-commerce Brand in a Post-Pandemic World?
 

In a matter of a few months, COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we shop as well as spend online. While these trends were already unfolding before the crisis, the pandemic has simply accelerated them. Since then, more people have been turning to digital avenues for shopping, something that is likely to stick in the post-pandemic scenario. 
 
On the other hand, the outbreak has also left several marketers mapping out ways around how to scale their businesses and retain customers during this uncertain time. In this age of social distancing, with minimum physical contact, it has become evident that digital avenues are no longer a luxury but an absolute necessity. Then, it is only logical to ask yourself ‘Will the pre-pandemic playbooks work for my brand?’ Let’s have a quick look at some of the ways you can do so in the post-pandemic world. 
 
The Need to Embrace Digitization

An IBEF industry estimate suggests that India’s e-commerce market is expected to reach a valuation of $200 billion by the year 2026. This means - for brands - digitization becomes more important than it ever was to not just reach their customers in the emerging post-pandemic world but also to create a long-lasting impact. 
 
The situation has also given your business a chance to re-look at your existing marketing channel mix. You can leverage ‘owned media’ such as website, social media, and free channels like SEO to expand your digital footprint in the current times. Besides this, invest time on the basics – such as optimizing the content on your website, providing information or easy access to relevant materials and products, and using personalized emails and apps to add value to your loyal customers. 
 
Innovation

It is no secret that with significant changes taking place around them, customer’s behavior eventually shifts. It is precisely what has been happening since the COVID-19 outbreak. Considering the given situation, your customers have evolved and there have been significant behavioral changes such as remote working (or working from home) becoming a viable alternative for many. In addition, connecting virtually, giving importance to health and immunity building, as well as learning and shopping online are noteworthy transformations. 

Customers are also continuously evaluating and revaluating their choices across categories and brands. Therefore, if you are able to solve a real consumer issue as a marketer by offering products and services, you are on the ‘preferred choice’ list. This calls for innovation, and brands that can take advantage of this lucrative opportunity will flourish in the post-pandemic market. 

Brand Building

Ideally, brand building is initiated to generate awareness and engagement about your business that is crucial for both short-term as well as long-term growth. Therefore, to do so, continuous as well as creative investment to build a strong emotional connection with consumers is imperative for a lasting impact. It includes identifying the target consumer(s), formulating the brand message, developing intriguing content that can convey the brand message. It’s important to not lose sight of this while continuing with the performance-oriented campaigns which are more impactful in the short-term

Sharp Strategic Focus

Before devising innovative strategies and brand building, what is of critical importance is to identify the area where your business or brand needs to play in. The focus is to find out the areas where your business or brand can truly win and play a critical role in delivering a customer promise in a profitable way. Once this is arrived at, businesses need to rationalize their portfolios accordingly and ensure that the whole organization is rallied around the strategy. 

So, thriving in the post pandemic world would require following time-tested approaches of strategic focus and brand building, while adapting to the new ways through innovation and digitization.
 

 

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Is There Job Satisfaction or Gender Diversity in Southeast Asia's E-commerce Industry?
Is There Job Satisfaction or Gender Diversity in Southeast Asia's E-commerce Industry?
 

E-commerce is a fairly new industry. It arrived in Southeast Asia sometime around the ’90s, and only became what it is today, a rapidly accelerating economy, in the last decade. Thus, we may wonder if working in this young sector is any different than older, more developed industries? 

Since e-commerce is a place for the internet-savvy, are we expected to see the millennials’ and Gen Z’s work ethics more in this sector? Can we see more gender diversity in top-level roles?

Hence, iPrice Group gathered data to determine the gender diversity and job satisfaction rates of the top three e-commerce companies in 7 countries in Asia.

Is There Job Satisfaction or Gender Diversity in Southeast Asia’s E-commerce Industry?

Gender Diversity in Top-Level Roles

It’s crazy to realize how women just gained the right to vote about a hundred years ago. These days, however, we’re starting to see women climb up the career ladder on the same top-level roles as men. Nonetheless, the disparity is still present due to many years of women’s unconscious bias to be family-oriented.

In Southeast Asia’s e-commerce, we can see quite a gap in certain top-level roles, especially at the C-level position. Only 31 percent of women have C-level roles, while 69 percent of these titles are held by men. The same goes for the Vice President positions. 62 percent of Vice Presidents in Southeast Asia’s top e-commerce companies are men, while only 38 percent are women.

However, when it comes to Senior Vice President (SVP) roles, the gap is smaller. 44 percent of the top e-commerce SVPs are women while 56 percent are men. Similarly, the gap is smaller in department head roles. 41 percent of these roles are taken by women, while 59 percent are taken by men.

Overall, there is a 60-40 disparity between men and women when it comes to being in positions of power. Given centuries of gender inequality and women taking time off for child-rearing, the disparity isn’t as wide as we may have assumed.

Comparing all 7 seven countries, Hong Kong has the highest percentage of women in power in the top e-commerce companies in Southeast Asia, where 55 percent of the top-level roles are actually women. Vietnam and Thailand trail behind Hong Kong at 46 percent and 44 percent respectively. In the Philippines, 39 percent of these top-level positions are held by women, followed by Malaysia (37 percent), Indonesia (36 percent). Surprisingly, Singapore has the least women in power in Southeast Asia with 35 percent. 

Is There Job Satisfaction or Gender Diversity in Southeast Asia’s E-commerce Industry?

Job Satisfaction in Southeast Asia’s Top E-commerce Companies

Overall, employees don’t seem to loathe working in the e-commerce industry of Southeast Asia. In all seven countries, the ratings are average to above-average (from a 3-star to a 4.3-star rating). Half or more of these employees would recommend e-commerce companies as a workplace to their friends, while e-commerce CEOs have really high approval ratings (66-97 percent).

Indonesians are the most satisfied with the e-commerce industry as a workplace. According to iPrice’s data gathered from Glassdoor, Indonesians give these e-commerce companies a 4.3-star rating. 90 percent of the participants would recommend these companies to a friend, while 97 percent of them approve of their CEOs.

The next most satisfied employees are Filipinos. They give their top 3 e-commerce companies a 3.8-star rating, while 76 percent of them would recommend the companies to friends, and 87 percent of them approve of their CEOs. It’s quite interesting since the Philippines has one of the lowest recorded salaries (US$588/mo) among the seven countries, right after Vietnam (US$394/mo).

Despite having the highest salary among the seven countries (US$3,116/mo), Singaporeans seem to be the most unsatisfied with working in the top e-commerce companies. Participants of Glassdoor only gave an average of 3-stars to the top three e-commerce companies in Singapore. Only a little more than half of them (53 percent) would recommend these companies to a friend, and only 66 percent of them approve of the CEO. 

In Conclusion: Southeast Asia’s E-Commerce Industry is Not a Bad Place

With iPrice’s aggregated data, it seems that this young industry does hold the value of its employees by gaining at the very least, an average satisfaction rate among its employees. Lastly, it doesn’t seem to discriminate gender as well, given the total gender disparity among top-level roles is not so wide (60-40). The future seems to be bright in a new industry like e-commerce, where there are more empathy and less discrimination to its employees.

 

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Mobile Applications: Transforming the Future of Online Retail Business in India
Mobile Applications: Transforming the Future of Online Retail Business in India
 

With the advancement of technology in the 21st century, the retail sector is experiencing a global revolution, and the whole credit goes to digitalization. Thanks to digital evolution like mobile applications, through which businesses are experiencing revolutionary changes. 
The online retail business in India has improved its operations and become more customer oriented by leveraging mobile apps. According to Statista, mobile retail e-commerce sales in India were estimated to be valued at nearly US$38 billion by 2021. 

No More Traditional Methods 

The thriving mobile platform has brought revolutionary changes in the way retailers can connect and communicate with customers. Online retail based app development helps you get rid of traditional marketing ways using leaflets, billboards, and other printed material. 

As a mobile phone always remains in the hand or pocket of an individual, a dedicated retailer app allows you to attract their attention in a way that no conventional marketing tool can match. It is easy to spread awareness about discounts, new launches, and promotional offers through a mobile app as these customized applications have a lasting impact on customers. Moreover, a mobile app for online retail business allows you to provide information regarding sales, discounts or any other offers that you are giving to your customers on a real-time basis.
 
Customers need the freedom to purchase goods and services anytime and from anywhere, at one go. Hence, more online shoppers prefer mobile applications to websites, as they offer advanced speed, convenience and adaptability. How can online retail benefit from mobile applications? Let’s see.

Improved Customer Engagement

With the technological advancement and the use of mobile applications, the retailers have the opportunity to engage with customers more precisely and effectively to know various queries, prospects, concerns and requirements that further help them to deliver products and services. It has also eliminated prior limitations and helped the online retail industry be more responsive to the current market trends and demands. It has not only helped the industry to examine existing workflows, but has also made the process of shopping more convenient, seamless and easy for the customers. 
 
Run Loyalty Program

 
Mobile applications provide a great platform to run a reward or loyalty program for online retailers. Customers can get reward points for buying or referring your business and you can increase the sales. The loyalty program can be controlled comprehensively with ease through a mobile app. A loyalty program can also help you keep the customers retained with your app. The more time they spend on your app, more are the chances that they will become loyal customers. Thus, it also acts as a connective tool between your business and consumers.
 
Analytics Study

In the consumer-oriented world, analytics become the new currency. To understand customers’ preferences and deliver to them personalized experience requires deep data insights and analysis. But first, you need to collect the data. The mobile app provides the best capabilities for this. This data help deliver improvements and updates, create personalized content, develop an advanced marketing strategy and efficient promotional campaigns. Such an approach gives vast maneuvering space for shopping experience improvement. As a result, retailers can both satisfy their customers and also drive sales for the business. 

Brand Recognition

Mobile apps provide a perfect platform in order to improve the visibility and brand loyalty of your product. For example, users willingly share links to their favorite sites, ask for feedback and describe their customer experience in social networks. Also, you can integrate popular social media platforms into your application to let customers discuss your products and services. These are powerful tools for building your brand’s reputation, marketing about your service and drawing the attention of potential customers. 

Moreover, mobile users have amazing opportunities to get push notifications with special offerings, discounts and giveaways. It means that they are budget friendly, so from a psychological perspective, they are likely to interact with such shops on a regular basis.

Mobile Payments
 
Technological advances have completely changed the mode of shopping as the faster technology and smart phones have made internet shopping available at people's fingertips. With this advanced shopping, came the mobile-based payment facility or mobile wallet, which is in great demand. It provides the maximum convenience for shoppers. Through a mobile app, you can offer your customers multiple payment options which are not always possible in a brick and mortar store. Customers tend to pay securely through a mobile wallet on the move and purchase instantly. The online retailer app development services can integrate mobile-based payment in your app so that your customers can conveniently pay. 

Conclusion 

Undoubtedly, mobile apps are transforming the online retail industry. They are a great alternative to traditional marketing methods for all industries, and e-commerce is no exception. This high growth in the online retail sector through a dedicated mobile app is going to grow even stronger in the coming years.
 

 

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Future of Commerce 2021
Future of Commerce 2021
 

It’s no secret that 2020 has pulled commerce forward by 10 years. Regardless of what 2021 brings, the result is a new normal—especially when it comes to the way we shop.
 
Young consumers will change the business landscape as e-commerce charges ahead. While the pandemic kick-started a behavioral shift to e-commerce, the highest shift was seen in young and middle aged consumers. Brands will need to adjust the way they do business to meet new consumer expectations and have staying power.

Consumers are hesitant to return to in-store shopping.
 -  84 percent have shopped online since the pandemic; 38 percent have shopped in-store.
 -  85 percent of consumers said they will shop online regularly in the next 6 months.; significantly fewer (31 percent) say they’ll shop in-store regularly in the next 6 months.
 -  85 percent of younger consumers (18-34) and 90 percent middle-aged consumers (35-54) years shifted more of their spending to online shopping since the pandemic was declared, compared to the 86 percent average.

Brands should pay attention to the habits of younger consumers as they lead the shift to e-commerce, especially because they are more likely to:

Discover and shop via social media
- 55 percent of younger consumers who purchase from independent retailers discover brands via social media compared to 45 percent of middle aged consumers 35-54 .and 33 percent of older consumers 55+
- 41 percent of younger online shoppers said they purchased via social media, compared to 44 percent of middle aged online shoppers and 22 percent of older online shoppers.

Prefer to shop for sustainable and green products
-  83 percent of young consumers (18-34) prefer to shop for sustainable and green products compared; 93 percent in the middle aged bracket also prefer to shop for sustainable and green products

Shop to have an impact
- 42 percent of younger consumers who shopped from independent retailers since the pandemic was declared did so to have a positive impact on society, compared to 26 percent of middle aged consumers
 
Physical retail will transform as we know it, giving local businesses new advantages. Omnichannel features and experiences that retailers adopted in 2020 will give new life to physical stores and allow businesses to take advantage of proximity to local consumers.

Some of these new strategies and technologies resilient retailers adopted and will continue to offer include:
- Contactless payments: 82 percent consumers are more comfortable making in-store purchases with digital/ contactless payments (81 perecent - younger consumers, 86 percent - middle aged consumers, 76 percent - older consumers)
- Alternative pickup and delivery options: Among those who used alternative fulfillment methods, over half did so more often in the past six months than before the pandemic was declared. These include:
- Local delivery: 71 percent of consumers are receiving items through local delivery more often than before the pandemic was declared.
- Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) or curbside: 69 percent of consumers are using BOPIS or curbside pick-up options more often than before the pandemic was declared.
- Pick up point: 69 percent of consumers are using a pick up point option more often since the pandemic was declared.

Consumer pain points: Merchants will need to improve the following aspects of consumer touch points for better online experience. Top factors that made shopping online frustrating for consumers include:
- 42 percent say limited stock is a concern
- 36 percent feel shipping took longer
 
Consumers want to shop independent. Businesses will adapt to make that easier. Consumers expressed the desire to shop with independent businesses but still purchase from marketplaces for convenience. Independent brands will continue to close the gap.  

Consumer intentions lean toward supporting independent & locally owned businesses.
- More than half of consumers (81 percent) look for independently owned businesses to support for reasons including: supporting entrepreneurship, buying unique products, and experiencing good customer service.
- 86 percent of consumers say they support small businesses, while 83 percent say they look for locally owned businesses to support

Consumers’ intentions to support independent businesses are not yet reflected in their purchasing habits. However, this may change: 
- 44 percent purchased from marketplaces since the pandemic was declared, while 52 percent say they’ll continue to shop from Local/ Independent businesses regularly in six months’ time.
- 76 percent of consumers are willing to shop at new brands or stores for the first time. 

Independent & Locally-owned retailers should highlight the benefits of their business models and adopt features offered by large retailers to meet consumer needs.

Fast and free shipping
- 42 percent of online shoppers say free delivery would improve their online shopping experience while 28 percent say free returns and 42 percent say faster delivery would make online shopping better.
- 75 percent of Shopify merchants who generated sales between March through September have free shipping enabled on their stores. (Shopify merchant data)
- In Q2 2020, Shopify enrolled more merchants and increased fulfillment volumes for Shopify Fulfillment Network by 2.5 times over Q1. (Shopify merchant data)

Conversational commerce
- As e-commerce continues to grow and retailers navigate challenges presented by COVID-19, fostering an online dialogue between merchants and customers is becoming increasingly important.
- Merchant sales attributed to chat on Shopify Ping increased by 185 percent from March 16 to July 1, 2020. (Shopify merchant data)

Shoppable social media
- Independent retailers are increasingly adopting ways to meet customers where they spend their time online.
- At the start of the pandemic from March through April, marketing on Facebook and Instagram via Shopify’s channel integration saw 36 percent growth in monthly active users—a trend that continues to rise. (Shopify merchant data)
 
More consumers will vote with their wallets. Consumers will make an informed decision while choosing  brands. Brands must demonstrate authenticity, transparency, and accountability as consumers increasingly support local businesses and sustainable products.
- 87 percent of consumers prefer green or sustainable products.
- 80 percent of consumers respond positively to retailers making a donation to a cause with each purchase.
- 27 percent of consumers shop at local or independent retailers to reduce their environmental impact.

Consumers’ main reasons for shopping at a locally owned business (online or in-store) include:
- Strengthening the local economy (37 percent)
- Helping support local job creation (41 percent)
- Investing in their community (22 percent)

35 percent of Indian shoppers purchased something from an independently-owned retailer in the six months since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic

Top reasons for shopping independently include: having a personalized shopping experience (43 percent), having a positive impact on society (36 percent), and to reduce their environmental impact (33 percent)

More than (58 percent) of consumers who shopped at independently-owned businesses found them through recommendations, followed by through social media (48 percent)

Modern financial solutions will disrupt business and consumer banking, finance, and lending. Providing options that traditional banks don't offer, financial solutions that prioritize speed and access to capital, faster ways to pay, and more flexible payments like installments are growing in popularity among businesses and consumers.

- The quality of the digital user experience is a key factor for merchants: 48 percent global consumers say a “good online banking or mobile app experience” is one of their top three most important features when considering a bank for their business.
-  More businesses are accessing capital outside of traditional banks: Across the US, Canada and UK, cumulative funding from Shopify Capital reached approximately $1.4 billion at the end of September.
- Buy now, pay later has grown in popularity: The number of Shopify merchants globally who offer buy now, pay later has increased by 60 percent since the start of the pandemic.

These trends were revealed in Shopify’s first annual report, ‘Future of Commerce 2021’.
 

 

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Redefining E-commerce: Trends That Will Shape India's Online Industry In 2021
Redefining E-commerce: Trends That Will Shape India's Online Industry In 2021
 

As the COVID-19 pandemic upended lives and livelihoods almost overnight, companies across several verticals faced its wrath with plummeting business and revenues. However, for a few sectors such as ed-tech and e-commerce, 2020 has been a surprisingly good year. Despite several tectonic shifts in trends and even fundamental operations, India’s e-commerce industry has triumphed against all odds in this challenging year. 
 
With several defining moments over the year, the e-commerce industry has matured and observed steady upward growth even amidst the pandemic, which has further enlarged the sector’s scope for 2021. As 2020 draws to an end and we gear up to step into the New Year, let us take a look at some of the trends that are most likely to shape the Indian e-commerce industry in 2021.
 
Fortified Omnichannel Strategies
 
In 8-9 months, we have witnessed consumers displaying a shift towards a safety-conscious preference for convenience. As per the Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker, 73 percent of Indian respondents were willing to spend more money on convenience. In response to this, brands are now adapting to the new normal by ramping up efforts to make customer experience consistent across various channels.
 
Besides, they are also focusing on creating targeted and more personalized experiences to enhance customer retention, acquisition, and satisfaction. Brands are now increasing their efforts in bolstering their omnichannel strategies and moving to customer-centric business models rather than sticking to the channel-centric ones. For instance, there will be a surge in the ‘Buy Online Pickup In-Store’ (BOPIS) model which will become mainstream, particularly with FMCG and low order value clients.
 
All Things Digital
 
Recent years have seen a considerable rise in the adoption of technology across the country and the pandemic has accelerated this. Increased internet proliferation and smartphone usage have paved the way for consumers to opt for online shopping methods such as mobile commerce and social commerce on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.
 
Furthermore, with cutting-edge technology making its way into every aspect of business in the e-commerce sector, brands are expected to enhance customer experience by deploying AI and AR systems such as chatbots, online assistance, recommendations, virtual trial rooms, etc. Players in the e-commerce sector will also experiment with live and pre-recorded video commerce with third-party platforms as well as their own platforms and will look to integrate social commerce as another online sub-channel.
 
Integrated Payments
 
Speaking of digital, the payments segment is one of the crucial aspects of increasingly digitally-savvy consumers. Although digital payments in the e-commerce segment caught on quickly amongst Indian consumers, the pandemic facilitated a massive upsurge in the number of consumers opting for digital payments. This, along with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) urging people to avoid using cash for transactions has even made consumers who aren’t very tech-savvy and first-time users jump on the digital payments’ bandwagon. Consumers will now be more comfortable opting for contactless payment options. Alongside this, brands will also be increasing their focus on payment integrations, loyalty programs, and introduce membership programs similar to Amazon Prime to expand their customer base and retention.
 
‘Vocal for Local’

 
With India’s vision of becoming Aatmanirbhar, the ‘Vocal for Local’ movement, an initiative to make India self-sufficient, has been gaining immense traction. Brands are encouraging consumers to opt for locally made/sourced products and the movement is catching on amongst consumers who are consciously making an effort to support local businesses. Over the next year, brands will leverage virtue-signaling online through the ‘locally sourced’, ‘Made in India’, and other such positive attributions, with an increased focus on authenticity and transparency.
 
Apart from the ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Made in India’ movements, another trend that is quickly catching on is the consumer preference for sustainability. With several people and environmental activists and organizations voicing out their thoughts on social media concerning sustainability, there has been a major surge in awareness amongst consumers. So, it is expected that over the next few years, the preference for brands advocating sustainability and environment-friendly products will see a rise in their consumer base.  
 
India’s e-commerce industry has emerged with little damage from the global crisis and is on the right path to growing exponentially in the post-pandemic era. The aforementioned trends are some of the crucial ones that will shape the course the lucrative industry takes in the next year.
 

 

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Changing Scenario of Online Shopping in a Post-COVID World
Changing Scenario of Online Shopping in a Post-COVID World
 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disruptive impacts on our individual lives. Suddenly, our habits, interpersonal relationships, shopping preferences and our relationship dynamics with technology have revolutized with the rising internet penetration and advent of AI.

A study from Bain & Company titled “How India Shops Online” indicates that the Indian e-commerce industry, that has seen significant upsurge in the last 5 years, is expected to grow at 30 percent CAGR ($100–120 billion in GMV) over the next 5 year.

Driven by consumers’ need for safety and convenience because of COVID-19, online shopping is expected to gain salience and reach 300 to 350 million shoppers by FY2025. The growth will also be spurred by factors such as growing internet penetration (1 billion Internet users by 2030), increasing smartphone usage (820 million smartphone users by 2022), availability of cheap, ubiquitous data (data prices have reduced by 95 percent since 2014) and digital natives coming of age (more than 75 percent of India’s population in 2030 will comprise of Millennials and Gen Z).

What E-commerce Companies Must Do To Adapt To This Change?

With online becoming the primary channel for shopping, it is extremely vital for e-retailers to improve their online capabilities. Highlighted below are several action points for the industry:

-    Focus on Realigning Product Categories

Consumer preferences need to be constantly reassessed. Product categories and offers need to be aligned accordingly. By automating predictive analysis for consumer behavior, companies will be able to analyze consumer trends and match offerings and demand accordingly. 

-    Build Immediate Response Capabilities With Suppliers

E-commerce companies need to adapt their supply chain network and logistics to ensure availability of adequate supplies according to the demand. Agile approaches like dropshipping, fulfillment centers and distribution centers, among others, can be implemented to expedite the delivery of online orders. For instance, to improve their presence in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, Amazon India recently set up 10 new fulfillment centers.      

-    Scale Up Operational Agility To Ensure Delivery Assurances And Flexibility

According to the Consumer Behavior Survey conducted by Capgemini Research Institute in April 2020, more than 50 percent consumers prefer e-tailers that offer delivery assurances and flexible delivery options. To ensure that delivery assurances and flexibility are offered and fulfilled, e-commerce companies need to scale up their operational agility and improve last-mile delivery. Else they’ll risk losing existing and prospective customers to competitors who offer these assurances. Jio, for example, plans to tie up with over 30 million kirana stores for last-mile delivery across 200 cities.

-    Focus On Innovative And Personalized Customer Engagement 

E-commerce platforms need to start using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), chatbots and personal assistance apps to personalize customer experience. This will not only make online transactions more seamless, but also improve brand credibility and trust. For example, Lenskart uses augmented reality (AR) to allow customers to try on different frames and choose the one that looks best on their face.   

-    Specialization And Customization Will Be Key Growth Drivers 

While big players like Amazon and Flipkart will continue to dominate, the demand for niche/ specialized players will also grow. Instead of shopping from online superstores like Amazon and Flipkart, customers will prefer niche players that exclusively sell cosmetics, furniture, eyewear, etc. 

-    E-commerce Localization Will Help Reach A Wider Audience

According to a study conducted by KPMG and Google in 2017, the Indian language internet user base is expected to reach 536 million by 2021. Hindi internet user base is expected to outgrow English user base. Content written in Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada will also be searched for. E-commerce companies will have to make content in local languages and curate regional offers to get a wider audience.       

Challenges In E-commerce Ecosystem: Mitigating Fraud

While going online has been the lifeline for many retailers, operating online carries several risks. According to a 2019 American Express Digital Payments Survey, 27 percent of online sales end in fraudulent transactions - and concerns about fraud have only grown as the virus has spread.

In the fiercely competitive e-commerce environment, merchants are constantly looking for ways to attract and retain customers by offering them new products and services, as well as an optimal experience. For their part, the crooks are continually trying to get ahead of the curve.

Historically, merchants have focused on preventing credit card fraud at the time of the transaction, which has led fraudsters to explore other aspects of the customer journey.

The Basics Of E-commerce Fraud

Delivery fraud is of particular interest to criminals. Today, retailers are competing with giants like Amazon that offer same day shipping and delivery services. Such an offer exerts strong pressure on retailers who are obliged to in turn offer increasingly shorter deadlines, which then benefit fraudsters. Delivery fraud works as follows - after an individual makes a purchase using a stolen credit card, the merchant allows them to change the delivery address. Then, this type of fraud can take different forms.

Purchases made online with in-store collection are also a very popular form of fraud. In this case, the criminals demand that the package be kept at the merchant before using a fake ID, using a mule, or manipulating the vendors to receive the package at a new location.

Another tactic that fraudsters use is address manipulation. Here, they deliberately trick automated means of control, such as Address Verification Services (AVS), by changing part of the address so that it does not match the actual address or the change is sufficiently insignificant so as not to be noticed, creating a conflict between the systems. With minor changes and bypassing validation processes, scammers can redirect items between the intended delivery location and drop-off locations that are more convenient for them. All that remains is to resell the fruit of their theft and pocket the profits.

How To Prevent Fraud

Faced with the increase in fraud and the need to deliver a seamless customer experience, retailers must rethink their current protection strategies. Retailers or any company marketing goods or services on the Internet must use a unified solution combining a high level of technology and in-depth expertise in fraud techniques, while meeting the expectations of brands and the specificities of different sectors.

The ability to ensure full automation coupled with real-time decision-making capacity is essential, especially in terms of scalability during seasonal peaks such as sales and promotional periods (Black Friday or Cyber Monday). This will allow businesses to protect the entire customer journey and deal with multiple online fraud methods.

Finally, by protecting the customer journey from A to Z, it is possible to fight against fraud beyond the transaction itself - and to be able, for example, to detect and stop BOPIS frauds, which take place. excluding transactions.

On the other hand, using a solution designed to protect the business by detecting fraud in real time and in an automated manner while blocking fraudsters without penalizing the customer experience will allow you to provide excellent service to consumers. Retailers need to quickly and easily identify legitimate customers to increase approval rates, as they detect and repel fraudsters. It's a delicate balance, but when it is struck, the business can grow with the confidence that it can count on a truly secure system.
 

 

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E-Marketplace: The Road Ahead for Jewellery Business
E-Marketplace: The Road Ahead for Jewellery Business
 

A disruptive idea often faces dissent before blooming. For a country where ‘holding the product in hands before purchasing’ holds precedence over everything else, it was quite obvious for naysayers to write off the destiny of e-commerce. Undoubtedly, the model is quite an audacious one to accept for the Indian populace that abides by the ‘touch and feel’ norm like a sincere school kid.

The speculations of trade pundits later moved on to different categories. Taking challenges head-on, the industry picked up the pace with even the unconventional categories such as lingerie, smartphones, larger appliances, furniture, and so forth. As opposed to the nascent belief, the e-commerce industry is thriving in India today. 

But buying high-value investment products such as jewellery online could have raised a few eyebrows. Going by the general perception, people would not have felt comfortable investing in precious gems and metals without experiencing the end product. But e-commerce is quashing this notion like a pro. The segment is growing strength to strength, anticipated to reach US$ 3.6 billion within three years.

So What Is Aiding Its Growth?

A Plethora of Options/ Variety

Be it a solitaire wedding ring, exquisite necklace studded with Kundan or Polki, Temple, Jadau, fine, heavy, imitation, or other kinds of ornaments, jewellery marketplaces ensure you get everything under one roof. One does not have to wander helter-skelter in search of different types of adornments, as they do while showrooming. Not only this, online platforms are introducing apps for jewellers to expedite a product’s journey from showroom to the online catalogue. Maybe, a jewellery piece is being added online as one reads these lines. With so many options at your fingertips, where else would a customer like to go?

Online Is The Way To Go

As per a report, an average Indian consumes 11 GB of data per month. Going by an Accenture report, 89 percent millennials claimed to have easy access to real-time information, which impacts their shopping choices. It further adds that the cohort goes for online shopping, even though they may examine the product offline before placing the order. It could be a major factor why leading jewellery brands want to transition online, despite having a huge presence as physical stores. Reviews on the product, after-sales service, etc. are add-ons. Expansive internet and smartphone penetration across cities are one of the biggest reasons why jewellery marketplaces are a hit amongst masses.

Broadly, omnichannel marketplaces will rule the future as there are still certain segments that like to go the traditional route of ‘try before you buy.’ For instance, a bride-to-be may want to wear the jewellery that complements her dress on her big day, for which she will most likely head for an offline store. The retailer that will put technology to the best use by seamlessly blending online and offline shopping journeys will have an upper hand over competitors.

Eye-Grabbing Discounts

Catchy discounts, schemes, cashback, etc. play a major role in attracting people. Today, customers will at least compare the price of an item online, although they may buy the product in-store. Discounts are where Etailers have an upper hand on traditional retailers. What makes this possible is the absence of overhead cost and investor’s money.

Round-The-Clock Sales

Digital showrooms do not have to pull down their shutters after a long day at work. They are up in the cloud, displaying articles and cracking sales 24*7 through its integrations with payment gateways. One does not have to rush into decision-making as happens with offline shops. No pushy salesman will get on your nerves to influence you for sale. In fact, it has also eased the process of returns and refunds. The aspect is however not turning out as profitable for businesses, which we shall touch upon later.

Robust Quality Control

Certain online marketplaces adhere to strict quality controls to reduce incidents of online frauds. For instance, one of the online shopping platforms does not allow selling used or pre-owned jewellery to eliminate the possibility of seller-generated scams. This instils a sense of confidence amongst the buyers to look forward to online shops as a trusted source for their needs.

Customer-Friendly Services

New-age technologies such as virtual try-on are enabling customers to experience jewellery on themselves. Some brands allow 3D view within the try-on through sophisticated apps or send in dummy ornaments, in case of rings, before sealing the deal to trusted or loyal customers so they can pick up the right size for themselves. Brands are also going omnichannel to cater to the needs of all kinds of customers and simplify their purchase journey. Marketplaces allow a good return window in case a user dislikes the item.

The Challenges Ahead

Hands down, marketplaces are leaving no stone unturned to bring the best for the customers, be it about no questions asked returns policy or exchanging products at the doorstep without incurring additional cost to the customer. But the sentiment is not the same sometimes from the other end of the spectrum. Sellers often complain about receiving imitation products from the users as returns. Imagine sending a 24 karat gold earring to the customer and receiving a fake brass earring as a return. Also, people tend to exploit generous schemes by using the jewellery for an occasion and raising a return ticket post-event. Then, some sellers copy the designs of other brands which leads to brand infringement. These are serious issues which need a quick and foolproof resolution, going forward.

Right technological tools and balanced policy framework can foster a holistic environment for both sellers and buyers. After all, businesses can only serve customers better if it remains profitable. Trust is the core foundation of any relationship to strive, and it always works two-way. Rest assured, if you want to adorn fine jewellery for everyday use or look to purchase a heavy neckpiece in the yellow metal as an investment, your search ends here.

 

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E-commerce During COVID-19: The Long-Lasting Boom in Retail Industry
E-commerce During COVID-19: The Long-Lasting Boom in Retail Industry
 

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted every sector of our economy and the most prominent being retail. The work from home and social distancing measures has made every requirement of customers just a click away. As the situation is changing every now and then depending upon the surge in COVID cases, people are coming to terms with the new normal.

Experts feel that the COVID-19 has accelerated the e-commerce growth to such an extent, which would have taken four to six years to achieve. It shows that just to fulfill their necessity; many more people have started shopping online. Companies who didn’t have their presence on e-commerce, too, have scrambled to rectify that. COVID-19, then, has begun what looks like a second boom in e-commerce.

Changed Consumer Preferences

In many nations including India, people will continue to adhere to social distancing measures and be avoiding crowded places for retail therapy post the Covid-19 pandemic. If we see the current condition when many businesses are open but the footfall to retail stores remains down. That’s due both to social distancing measures and changed consumer preferences. Customers have realized that with the advent of AI and chatbots, shopping online has become a more convenient and safer option. The popping online messages, getting an advanced shipping notice, and then taking delivery are the way to go.

In fact, COVID-19 has resulted in a more permanent shift to online retailing over brick-and-mortar retail. Even many brands have announced store closures and a host of post-purchase surveys also show that consumers are more elated and satisfied with e-commerce experiences.

All Age Groups Migrated Online

Gone are the days when millennials or youth opted for e-commerce. The pandemic has made every age group shop online not only in India but also in the world. In India, for instance, cash withdrawals have fallen sharply during the pandemic. Simultaneously, though, the use of the Indian online payment platform, UPI, has risen dramatically.

A leading e-commerce website’s recent sales figures ably show the uptick in online shopping. In 2020’s second quarter, the e-commerce giant showed a 40% year-on-year increase in net sales. That equated to a financial boost of more than USD 88 billion.

Removing Other Barriers to Purchase for Stress-Free Shopping

As people are losing jobs or going through major pay cuts, finance will take little time to settle. Therefore, buying on finance, buy now, pay later, has been taking hold when it comes to online shopping. With a new range of goods expected by online shoppers, though, this seems likely to change. Brands that do have an online presence can also make changes for the post-COVID-19 world. They can look to make e-commerce offerings more accessible to a greater number of people. That means removing barriers to purchase.

Conclusion

The intensity with which the crisis will change our world, the result will be witnessed in the coming years. For some businesses, though, COVID-19 has created opportunities as well as challenges. E-commerce, in particular, looks set for a boom that will last far longer than the pandemic itself. Consumers, by necessity, have come further around to the benefits of shopping online. Forward-thinking firms, then, should be preparing now for the upcoming post-Covid era. That’s one that will be more digitalized than ever before.

 

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The Indian Retail Sector in the ?New Normal?
The Indian Retail Sector in the ?New Normal?
 

The Indian retail scene is set to change forever. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused severe disruption across the globe over the past few months, it has offered valuable insights as to how the retail sector is set to evolve in the days ahead.

Prior to the pandemic, 86% of surveyed millennial shoppers and 56% of Gen X shoppers have already indicated that they have shopped in a store and left without a purchase only to end up buying the item online, according to Zebra’s 2020 APAC Shopper Study.

E-Commerce gaining momentum

A report by Bain and Co. further pointed out that India’s e-commerce market is set to clock $100-120 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) and have a total of 300-350 million shoppers by 2025. But before we jump to the conclusion that this must spell the end for physical retail stores, the same Bain and Co. report also highlighted that India’s e-commerce segment today only accounts for 3.4% of the overall retail market with 100-110 million users and an online GMV of around USD$30 billion.1

E-commerce has not made physical stores obsolete, contrary to what headlines would suggest, and e-commerce retailers, including digitally native stores, are often sending their customers into brick-and-mortar locations for “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) transactions and online returns.

Retail remains critical

Retailers have not been forced to abandon the operating principles that have sustained storefronts for many decades either. The convenience of online shopping has simply compelled retailers to set and strive for new customer experience, operating and inventory efficiency standards to appease 21st-century shoppers who expect instant gratification, whether in the form of information, products, or services.

So, it is not all doom and gloom for physical store retailers just yet, if they can implement the right technology to modernize their stores and supply chains. However, it can be difficult to determine which technologies truly give retailers the ability to sense what is happening in their operations or in the market and analyze the reasons.

Need to invest in intelligent technologies

Without the right technologies in place, it is nearly impossible to know how to “act” in real-time to resolve issues that could negatively impact a shopper’s in-store experience, such as a misplaced item that could look like it is out of stock, or to take advantage of an opportunity to increase basket size.

Some brands may just want to know if the investments they are making in new mobile computers at the point of sale and workflow software in stockrooms are enough to gain the intelligence they need to better serve customers. They may also require insight into the need to integrate additional layers of “intelligent” technologies, such as an Internet of Things (IoT) platform or a prescriptive analytics solution, to make those devices, and the workers using them, as smart as they need to be in today’s retail environment.

And just how much could an intelligent automation solution improve the in-store experience for shoppers? Could a robot-like device roaming the aisles checking inventory levels and planogram compliance really prevent out-of-stock scenarios, and therefore shopper walkouts?

 These are the questions that will be answered soon as the results of these pilot programs start to roll in. However, there are other factors that retailers should consider while engaging in their own pilot programs to pair the right solutions with their individual needs. These factors, along with variances in infrastructure and labor assets, all influence modernization strategies and technology outcomes.

Retailers must move from “systems of record” to “systems of reality” if they want to sustain the success of their physical stores in a digitally empowered economy. Only those with a certain level of operational intelligence and agile execution can adapt to changing market dynamics in real-time and meet customer expectations every time they walk in the store.

 

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Why Brands Should Consider Launching Their Own E-Commerce Portal This Festive Season?
Why Brands Should Consider Launching Their Own E-Commerce Portal This Festive Season?
 

The upsurge in online shopping has led to an increasing number of brands to foray into the e-commerce landscape. As a result, many of them are looking to build their own dedicated e-commerce platforms, rather than listing their products on other online marketplaces. Retail and e-commerce have overall undergone a sea change during the pandemic-induced lockdown. And in the upcoming festive season, the players in these two sectors need to strive to make their customers happier so that they become brand loyalists. 

While retailers are providing expedited services to their customers, brands are opting for D2C. The key channel for better conversions is M-commerce, which is also assisting e-commerce businesses with predictive analysis so that they can forecast consumer sentiments. Online selling is all about setting up multiple customer touchpoints and going the omnichannel way. In addition, brands are exploring multilingual options to engage more effectively with customers. Alongside, hyperlocal e-commerce is speedily gaining massive popularity, wherein the retailers are striving to deliver orders as quickly as possible.

Reasons Why E-Commerce is a Must for Brands

By investing in setting up their own websites during the festive season, brands will have a higher chance of reaching and capturing their target customers, who are otherwise still skeptical about stepping out owing to the pandemic. Also, the direct-to-customer (DTC) business model helps in achieving better user engagement on the digital platform, along with physical stores.

Certain benefits that brands can leverage by going online are:

  1. Higher ROI

As brands take to the online medium, they will be able to clock in better ROI. As lockdown was lifted, consumer sentiments also turned favorable. Going online will enable brands to leverage the upbeat customer mood and buying frenzy where shoppers are looking for a variety of products for themselves and for gifting. As offline shopping takes a backseat in light of the social distancing norms, a greater number of consumers took to shopping from e-commerce platforms.

  1. Push Mobile Commerce

In today’s digital world, people are tech-savvy to the hilt and seek convenience. Mobile apps have made it easier for everyone to do everything on the go, right from researching to purchasing. Brands can, thus, leverage mobile commerce by rolling out special deals and discounts for improving conversions. They can even promote in-app purchases by swiftly launching mobile apps with the aid of mobile app builders using a modern e-commerce platform.

  1. Tapping into Remote Markets

By building stores on future-ready technology like PWA, they can reach far off markets where mobile is the only way to access products of these brands. In 2019, about 45% of online e-commerce purchases were made using a mobile device in India. Almost 65% of India’s online traffic came from smartphones. Mobiles are fast becoming a popular mode for online shopping in India, which is why it is imperative to have a fully mobile-optimized web store that looks amazing and works flawlessly.

  1. Enhanced Customer Experience

In the digital age, customers are constantly looking for convenience. This demand surges during the festive time, when they need swifter deliveries. Hence, to avoid the seasonal rush, brands can effectively leverage hyperlocal e-commerce and set up their own fleet of delivery boys to efficiently manage deliveries that are hyper-local.

  1. Providing Services in Regional Languages

Going multilingual is another very effective tool in engaging more customers online during the festive season. Buyers buy much more when they are offered products in their own language. This way customers also develop a personal connect with their favored brands and every time a need arises, they come back to the same brand for fulfilling their requirements. This gives rise to a long-lasting brand-customer relationship.

  1. Enables Easy Targeting

Setting up a dedicated e-commerce platform will allow brands to easily dabble in targeted marketing as this way they can go about building customer-group or location-specific online sub-stores for their customers. They can further personalize it with multilingual themes and relevant, attractive content which will, in turn, result in better buyer engagement and retention.

  1. Sell on Multiple Channels

By going online, brands can also have an omnichannel presence as well as sell on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp. Setting up e-commerce business multi-channel helps the brand spread possible risks around so that if anything goes wrong, the business is still safe and revenue is still being generated. Plus, if the existing marketplace customers know the brand’s name, they can easily find its website and go there directly to make a purchase.

  1. Gauge International Customer Sentiments

With an online presence, brands can tap into impulsive buying by offering real-time deals and offers, round-the-clock, on their app, and desktop sites with notifications. They can conveniently enter global markets and enjoy an extended festive season – leveraging the festive shopping mood of international customers.

Summing Up

With their own e-commerce platforms and with the appropriate strategy in place, brands will be able to scale their sales, improve branding, build trust among their customers and lower their cost per sale. This will further lead to consumer awareness, encourage loyalty, and customer retention. and the festive season will give the much-needed head start in this direction.

 

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Omnichannel Retail in post-COVID era
Omnichannel Retail in post-COVID era
 

The current COVID times proved it to be a challenge for all business sectors but considering the meat and seafood sector this phase turned out to be a game-changer and an opportunity to elevate the services offered to the customers.

Opportunity for meat and seafood sector

Firstly, when it comes to customer relations after the COVID-19 pandemic it has created a positive movement, where many customers who would have taken several years to switch to hygiene meat/seafood brand is happening at a much faster rate. The industry has seen an increase in demand since people are confined to their homes. This is an opportunity at a time of crisis for the entire meat and seafood sector. Companies had witnessed an uptick in customer awareness as they need to be sure of where the meat and seafood are coming from and the hygiene practices followed by the seller. Hence, all the FSSAI/WHO guidelines were deeply looked at not only by the authorities to provide safe seafood or meat, but even by the customers in a big way and this will be the new normal for the meat and seafood retail industry. 

Retailers have been forced to question the sense of having physical as well as an online presence in the last few months but they do realize that physical format will be the key to cracking the industry code which has long seen an image that has led to a different set of challenges for the companies that operate in the sector. New initiatives like Contactless retail, contactless payment, online ordering is among the first few initiatives that have been implemented but also have given customers the liberty to click, choose, order, and collect from the stores. The experience of buying meat and seafood from the store still holds a lot of mettle and consumers have become increasingly wary during COVID-19 times.

Supply chain bouncing back to normal

Speaking about the backend operations, as soon as the lockdown was imposed, the supply chain was majorly hit because the transport services of goods was restricted, and the situation of transport of essential services was also no different. But few days down the line, the vehicles carrying essential goods and perishable items were labeled, and with the help of local authorities, the movement of perishable items was facilitated. Within a few weeks, the supply chain bounced back to normal. 

Challenges faced by meat and seafood retailers

In India, animal breeding, slaughtering, and processing segments highly rely on manual labor, but the worker shortage was one major challenge the industry faced. The meat and seafood industry has witnessed some of its worst challenges during this COVID period. Meat and seafood retailers have started looking at reinventing their approach and develop a true omnichannel model and bolster both their physical as well as an online presence. These terms don’t play a big role in the life of a customer, when it comes to meat and seafood it boils down to the in-store experience and can play a pivotal part in securing the loyalty of the customers. The better the experience, the higher the chances of customers coming back to the store to buy meat and seafood.

Retailers need to mold businesses in accordance with the changing customer needs. COVID-19 has heightened the focus on how people buy and consume meat in India by providing them with a convenient and hygienic experience. Companies have been quick to understand that traceability (farm to the customer) of the meat for the best quality and shelf-life and the inventory management for reducing wastage based on auto forecasting, is the key to run the business and have disruptive margins (>33%), hence technology is the most important factor to manage and automate large parts from procurement to last-mile delivery which will play an important role to change the existing image of the industry and address the prevailing issues ailing the industry for long. Given the current situation, it is the right moment to look at new opportunities for development starting from farming, processing, storage, and distribution, the whole scope of the supply chain.

To Conclude:

The key for omnichannel retailers especially in the meat and seafood sector in the long-term is to understand what do consumers want, where do they find comfort in, hassle-free buying process, and how innovative the look and feel can be for a customer when they step-in to a store. Meat and seafood will find takers who want to go a store and get it customized according to their needs and this factor will remain dominant in the future too.

 

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What are the Best Practices in Drop-Shipping?
What are the Best Practices in Drop-Shipping?
 

H.L. Mencken once said that “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” While some companies’ practices are solely based on the potential that nobody will look, to begin with, it is becoming increasingly necessary to take a different approach. In order to be fully transparent in the dropshipping business realm, there has to be a focus on environmental sustainability. Businesses cannot solely rely on profits and neglect their impact on the planet anymore. The age of climate change and awareness of the environmental impacts of e-commerce, in general, have shifted the priorities of most individuals.

This year’s pandemic has caused a major shift in the consumer spending habits of those who traditionally never look to online shopping. With this in mind, corporate social responsibility has the ability to serve as a guide to businesses. Whether it be using compostable packing mangoes, or cutting down on plastic packaging, successful dropshipping practices are ones that benefit the planet and provide value.

Building Relationships With Users:

Besides technical advancements, building interpersonal relationships with those affiliated with dropshipping businesses is a crucial act. Whether it be scheduling calls with suppliers to strategize and create a supportive environment, or publishing blog posts relating to many of the adversities people all over the world are currently facing, people are curious to see what exactly is behind the brand. Transactional experiences and product transactions are two very different concepts; There is no reason to correlate the two, seeing as a business is more than making a profit. Business is about bettering the world, forging connections with customers who truly believe in what you’re trying to achieve, and leaving a mark on the world. If a drop shipping company does this, then people will take note and will likely want to demonstrate some form of support. This is the important note behind the success of many white-label saree, and electronics resellers in India.

Positivity And Energy For Success :

Of course, none of this can be done without ensuring that those behind the scenes at drop shipping companies are healthy and happy. Small businesses and larger scale corporations cannot strive toward revolutionary practices without sparking creativity within their teams. One way this can be achieved is by building a positive company culture. Generally speaking, positivity and energy are infectious. Although the world is at a bit of a standstill, e-commerce companies still have the potential to move forward by banking on the pathos of the business world. As we observe, Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal, Ritesh Agarwal, or any other founder of Indian unicorns, it was their energy and positivity towards their idea that made them successful and highly respected.

Importance Of Social Media:

Maintaining an active social media presence is another way in which a company could grow to be a leading e-commerce company in a short period of time. Through taking careful measures to ensure that the company comes across authentically is vital because, behind the screens and articles, there’s often just a group of passionate individuals striving to make e-commerce more efficient and accessible. Tasteful memes, supplier shoutouts, and more all could contribute to strong branding.

Part of said success could stem from the fact that well-crafted posts exemplify the enthusiasm vested in each and every team member; Taking into account the different personalities of the people behind the scenes and letting them shine on social media accounts encourages interaction. This open-minded approach to dividing up tasks and responsibilities allows every individual to demonstrate that they have something unique to offer. Embracing individuality is a business approach that is often ignored, but has become more important in an age of AI and automation.  

Conclusion:

This isn’t all to say that by doing this, a company will never experience bumps in the road, stressful predicaments, and the occasional loss. Because, odds are, it will. It isn’t often that a business is willing to shine a light on its shortcomings, but behind every success story is adversity. Dropshipping companies need not place shame on a lack of continuous linear growth and consistently high rates of supplier onboarding every month.

The market of e-commerce often shifts and as a result, so does the reality of the affiliated business. By enduring these changes, a drop shipping company has a prime opportunity to become stronger and more persistent. Acknowledge the problem, ensure it won’t happen again and move forward. Only by taking a methodical approach can a company remain relevant in a field of ever-changing practices. If there is one thing drop shipping companies need to do, it’s to act like the whole world is watching. Because given the growth of this business sector, the spotlight is coming their way. 

 

Ths article is written by Kartik Gurmule, the Co-Founder and CFO of Shoppable Inc.

 

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The Future of Online Shopping: How E-commerce Trends Are Shaping Retail?
The Future of Online Shopping: How E-commerce Trends Are Shaping Retail?
 

Access to the internet is almost becoming omnipresent from being ubiquitous. Yes, apart from a handful of remote and inaccessible regions all over the globe. Since most people have an Internet-ready device in their pocket, they can now browse and buy products and services instantly right on their handheld device screens. The United States, which has been the leading country in the e-commerce scene for years, also experienced a steep hike in demands in recent years. 

The exponential growth of e-commerce shopping not only changed the way customers buy products but also the way brands promote their products and target their audience. In the overall measure, the impact of e-commerce on the retail sector is huge. Here we are going to explain some of the ways e-commerce trends are continuing to shape retail.

Increase In Direct Sales From Manufacturing Brands To Consumers

With the kind of rapid growth in demands online stores are experiencing in recent years, it was expected that online sales will at least account for 16.1% of entire retail sales. But as the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown helped e-commerce stores to appear as saviors for people's essential needs, presently this projection can be a few times more.

With the online retail showing lucrative growth and profitability, an increasing number of product brands are trying to take the opportunity of selling their products directly to customers instead of relying on the multi-brand retail stores. This is going to expand the overall e-commerce sector creating more opportunities for direct retail to consumers.

Three key benefits that have become the impetus for direct sales to customers include establishing direct customer relationships, allowing personalization in products and services to satisfy customers, and thereby boost sales and collecting direct customer data for more informed decision making.

The Rise of Small, Local and Private Label Brands

The increasing popularity of online stores and mobile stores also gave rise to another trend. Now, a lot of small, local, and often personally owned or household products are making the rounds of sales across stores. Widely dubbed as private label brands, they constitute a significant portion of online sales across major e-commerce stores.

Since customers are more price-conscious and often like to try local delicacies and items with slightly different attributes and benefits uncommon with the products of legacy manufacturers, these private-label brands are becoming tremendously successful. With the rise of these private-label brands, brand loyalty is often taking a backseat creating a level playing field for big and small local brands. The emergence of direct sales from manufacturers to consumers is further fueling this trend.

Data-Driven Marketing and Analytics-Based Strategy

Online stores in many markets are facing stiff competition since major players such as Amazon and Walmart are still holding the biggest market share while the rest competes for the share of the leftover market pie. Naturally, in business operation, strategy, and marketing they need to embrace measures and tactics of big brands to stay competitive and hold on to its market share. This is why data-driven marketing and using data analytics for strategy building remains so important for all e-commerce brands. Since every major e-commerce store is using customer data analytics for pushing growth, you cannot leave this as blank.

Moreover, the e-commerce business organically allows you to get access to customer data that can be utilized to know the market pulse, customer preferences, pain points, and shortcomings. Based on these customer insights an e-commerce store can build its marketing strategy to boost sales and business conversion. You can use a variety of tools for customer data analysis and getting the most relevant data-driven insights for your marketing and business decisions.

Personalized Shopping Experience Facilitated By Machine Learning

Since most consumers now access the online stores and services right from their smartphone devices, the sheer personal nature of the mobile devices creates their expectations for the more personalized shopping experience. Moreover, the world's leading online stores already embraced personalization in their stores and helped customers with personalized access to their preferred products and services. This largely helped deliver an improved shopping experience.

Naturally, no e-commerce store now can ensure a great shopping experience without personalized product recommendations, display of items, and payment options based upon earlier purchases. Just by analyzing the earlier preferences and customer behavior, an e-commerce store can quickly help customers to find and purchase what they need and the way they want to purchase. The emergence of machine learning algorithms and sophisticated data analytics tools made this personalization easier.

Most CMS platforms now come equipped with plugins for machine learning and artificial intelligence. If you have a Woocommerce store, you can just hire a Wordpress plug-in development company and develop your custom machine learning plugin for the store.

Progressive Web Pages (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Most e-commerce sales are now happening on mobile devices and hence digital commerce is slowly becoming the prima facie of online stores. But maintaining a native e-commerce app alongside a fully-fledged e-commerce web store is often difficult and expensive. This is where emerging solutions like the Progressive Web App (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) have come as credible alternatives to both native mobile apps and traditional website based storefronts.

A progressive web application (PWA) is a website with a lot of attributes common to mobile apps. It can be saved on the mobile screen for instant access and can be loaded instantly. PWAs also can access native device features more easily for better performance and can allow offline access to contents through local in-device caching. An e-commerce store by embracing PWA can deliver a far better shopping experience while just relying on web technology.

The accelerated mobile page (AMP) is another similar technology which offers stripped-down HTML web pages to allow instant loading. These web pages are now being embraced by many e-commerce stores for fast-paced and instant loading, enhanced mobile performance, and better search engine ranking.

Voice Commands Pushing For The Final Transformation

More than any of the trends mentioned so far, voice interactions and commands have become a major harbinger of transformation for e-commerce stores across the niches. According to most estimates, at least one-third of US households possess one smart speaker and globally at least one-fourth of Google searches now happen through voice commands. Naturally, e-commerce stores cannot be left out of this trend of incorporating voice commands and voice interactions for product browsing and making purchases.

On the other hand, the smart speakers and virtual assistants across the platforms are increasingly becoming sophisticated with their capabilities of understanding voice commands better. Natural Language Processing (NLP) and dynamic voice range analysis are helping voice-enabled assistants and smart speakers to understand different voice modulations. Future e-commerce shoppers will likely use voice commands more and sales through voice interactions will hold a considerable portion of business conversion.

Conclusion

There are several other trends in the e-commerce arena that equally deserve a place in our present discussion. But all the major e-commerce trends we explained so far hold substantial truth for the future of the entire sector.

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Author Bio:

Yakshit Bose is the Senior Developer at leading Custom Wordpress Development Company CMARIX Technolabs Pvt. Ltd. He is an experienced, WordPress developer. He likes to share his thoughts on Web development, CMS development, and Technology News.

 

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The Indian online retail market to grow at 30% CAGR over the next five years: Study
The Indian online retail market to grow at 30% CAGR over the next five years: Study
 

Bain & Company has launched a new report titled “How India shops online”which addresses one of most topical issues of the new economy today - the online-shopping landscape. The report in partnership with Flipkart, notes that the $850 billion Indian retail market, the fourth largest in the world, is on the cusp of a transformation, led by the emergence of e-retail and its growing influence on Indian shoppers. While Covid-19 has caused an inflection in e-commerce penetration globally driven by consumers’ need for safety and convenience and even in India, online is gaining salience.

According to the report, the Indian e-retail market is primed to reach nearly 300 to 350 million shoppers over the next five years—propelling the online Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) to $100 to 120 billion by 2025. It adds that e-retail is democratising the shopping landscape, with access to 97% of India’s pin-codes, and empowering Bharat’s small sellers while breaking go-to-market barriers for insurgent and incumbent brands. It concludes with an interesting summary of consumer trends, the future outlook and suggests value levers for brands to win the online race.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The Indian e-retail industry has seen an upsurge in the last five years with online retail penetration currently at 3.4%, indicating a strong headroom for further growth.
  • Bain and Company estimate, the Indian online retail market to grow at 30% CAGR over the next five years.
  • Online shoppers in tier-2 and smaller towns makeup nearly half of all shoppers and contribute to three out of every five orders for leading e-retail platforms.
  • Consumers are increasingly opting for e-retail platforms for product searches—nearly one in three product searches in India already starts on an e-retail platform, with vernacular searches on the rise.
  • To increase conversion, sellers must invest in high-quality product images and high impact summary product descriptions. One in two visitors browses the image gallery and only 1 in 15 click the detailed product description.
  • In China, e-retailers are trying to win women shoppers in tier-3 and tier-4 towns through social shopping.
  • For the next wave of online customers, peers and community play a much larger role in influencing purchase decisions than for the current online shopping base.
  • More than 50 private equity and venture capital investments in social commerce were closed in the last five years.

 

 

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5 Post Lockdown Strategies for Online Retailers to win ?new normalcy'
5 Post Lockdown Strategies for Online Retailers to win ?new normalcy'
 

Indianretailer.com has recently hosted a webinar session on the topic The New Normal Webinar: Successful Post Lockdown Strategies with Xia Feng, Founder & CEO, The How Consulting in association in association with alavi.ai on 11th June. Xia Feng is a former senior executive in the fashion and retail industry, who now advises US and European businesses to succeed in China.

Alvi is a online digital marketing application that makes technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning easy to use for SMEs in the online retail space. Alvi helps companies not only in identifying the audience which will be interested in their product categories but making them interested in buying those products as well. Such precision helps companies in slashing their marketing spend by targeted advertising.

Learning from China

Covid 19 has caused very different consumer sentiments as the market has opened up; China is the first country to witness this change.  Most of the businesses shut down in China post 23rd January and opened in late March. It was the worst quarter for the Chinese economy ever when GDP was plumped by 6.8% and retail sales had registered the fall of 19% ( as compared to 8% jump in the previous year). Usually, these numbers used to fall on the positive side.  

china

During the lockdown period ecommerce registers the growth of 16%. As soon as quarantine announced, many small retailers jumped online As per Xia here are few strategies which they adopted.

Live Streaming

Live streaming was already a very big phenomenon in China and Covid 19 further escalated the trend. The only difference is, earlier only influencers used to do it, but now right from CEO of the company to restaurant chef everybody is doing the same. Live streaming is turning out to be a very interesting trend of online selling.

In the presentation, Xia quoted the example of beauty vlogger who started his journey through brick and mortar stores and end-up selling via live streams using Alibaba’s B2C platform. Now people are using different of technics to engage with their audience including bringing experience using cloud technology, social clients and many other disruptive technologies.

Virtual Department store

Citing the example of a departmental store located in Honjo China where they turn entire department store into virtual shopping channel.  Store associates were involved in hosting in live streaming channels.  The audience was through these associates who actually worked as advisor to them.

EBay and Myer, the Australian marketplace, are joining forces to launch what they are billing as the world’s first virtual reality department store.

Digital fashion brand Ambassador

Many fashion brands when they opened again after lockdown they turned their store associates into a digital brand ambassador. Since, Wechat is a popular shopping app, the store's associates used the Wechat platform to keep contact with their VIP and existing customers, lapsed and new customers. Brands provided the store staff the digital images and trained them sufficiently to spread social messaging while integrating the brand promotion.

Car Shopping from home

Car sales were dropped whopping 95% as coronavirus hit. When people were scared of stepping out of their homes, many automakes used live streaming to boost the sales. For example, Chinese carmaker Geely is the latest to launch a new online service to try to boost sales in the country. It joins the likes of Tesla, BMW and Mercedes-Benz who are now actively marketing cars over the internet.

Factory to closet gone digital

Online selling has started disrupting the traditional institutions of buying and selling. Covid 19 lockdown cause order pileup at factories and a huge backlog of inventories. So factories are encouraging their employees to conduct direct selling sessions online. Through this model, they don’t need any wholesalers to bring the product into traditional distribution channels. Many of them have opened their shop at Tmall.

 

 

 

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What Are the Best Ecommerce Development Platforms in 2020?
What Are the Best Ecommerce Development Platforms in 2020?
 

With the growing popularity of the Internet, the online market has become a thriving industry. The online retail industry is not only booming but is also extremely competitive. Having said that, eCommerce platforms stand to be the base of the digital retail industry.

A little insight

According to G2, there are over 370 eCommerce platforms available for businesses. Various eCommerce platforms aim to increase customer convenience. This, in turn, works in advantage of the business. The digital retail industry is highly variable upon customer experience. This makes a suitable digital platform extremely essential for the best results.

ECommerce development platforms and the online retail industry

There are over 2 billion digital buyers all across the globe in 2020, as stated by a Statista report. This huge marketplace has been a big attraction to major retail businesses all across the world. In fact, it has also attracted several local and regional businesses to start their operations on the online platform.

As stated earlier, the online marketplace is hugely reliant on suitable eCommerce platforms. These platforms are developed with the help of eCommerce development platforms. When a business wants to enter the online market, the core technology which is being used is extremely essential.

Along with all other investments and resources allocated to develop an online business, the role of an eCommerce development platform is extremely important. Choosing a suitable eCommerce platform is important for:

  • A suitable eCommerce site that has all important features and facilities
  • Customer convenience
  • Customer experience
  • Catering to the specific needs of the business and the buyers
  • Reliability and user-friendly interface

The best eCommerce Development Platforms

A suitable eCommerce platform is the core technology that enables buyers to buy products and services on the digital platform. This is done through an interactive and self-service experience.

The platform also provides also relevant data and information related to the purchase. Additionally, it also highlights key features and points of each product and service that influences buying decisions.

While the market has several eCommerce development platforms, here is a list of the best ones available in 2020, and complete insight into what makes them the best.

Shopify

Shopify is one of the leading eCommerce development platforms available in the market right now. Starting off in 2004, it now boasts over 1 million businesses across 175 countries. It is one of the easiest to use platforms, especially for beginners and small to medium-sized businesses.

The platform integrates with almost every essential feature and tool including aspects. Some examples are storefront design, content marketing, and performance analytics. Let’s take a look at the key site-building features:

  • Unlimited product listings
  • Customized domains, themes, and templates available
  • Real-time sales analytics and statistics
  • Inventory tracking
  • AI
  • Upgradation through third-party extensions

It also avails a 14-day free trial period.

Shopify Plus

This is an upgraded or premium version of the original Shopify platform. It is a very useful and efficient platform for larger businesses on the enterprise level. It provides several additional and advantageous features, which are more suitable for multinational chain businesses.

The platform is popular for executing complex technological developments through a simplified process. It, making it suitable for international trade. Let’s take a look at the key features:

  • Enables the easy handling of huge product inventory and lineups across multiple channels
  • Higher levels of technical and onboarding support
  • Complete automation tools
  • Suitable for various industries like Beauty & Cosmetics, Consumer Electronics, Fashion & apparel, etc
  • Advanced features, customizations

BigCommerce

Originally established in 2009, BigCommerce is one of the top eCommerce development platforms in 2020. It has been used by online retailers across 120 different countries, totaling to sales worth of $25 billion.

The platform is another excellent one to be used by larger multinational companies, who require a more versatile platform for their site. It has several features and higher price than most of its competitors. Let’s take a look at the key features:

  • Abandoned cart feature and shipping integrations and POS software
  • Customized domains
  • Reporting, ratings, and review
  • Multi-currency sales feature
  • Tier-based sales amount
  • 12 free themes and 160+ paid themes

The platform is available in three different packages, namely, Standard, Pro, and Plus at three different prices and annual sales limit.

Magneto is the most popular open-source eCommerce development platform right now. Originally released in 2009, it has been replaced by Magneto 2.0 with improved features and functionalities. It has two versions:

  1. Magneto Open Source
  2. Magneto Commerce

The platform is very suitable for small and medium businesses. Let’s take a look at the key features:

  • Integrated checkout, payment and shipping methods
  • Mobile-site optimization
  • International sales and catalog management features
  • Advanced customizations and site search options
  • Online help center and customer forums

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is another very popular open-source WordPress shopping cart plugin, which is also free. It runs a whopping 30% of all stores on the Internet right now. Let’s take a look at the key features of the platform:

  • Numerous third-party themes and plugins
  • Flexible
  • Mobile-optimized shopping
  • Geo-location support
  • Catalog & Inventory management
  • SEO, product reviews and other shipping options and calculator

Summing up

Having said all that, choosing the best eCommerce platform for the perfect business operation is reliant on factors like ease of search options, user-friendly interfaces, plugins, themes, and complete ease of purchase. A suitable eCommerce platform helps in uninterrupted trade and smooth customer experience.

About the author

Kiran Patil is the founder and CEO of Growisto, an E-commerce marketing and technology company based out of Navi Mumbai. He has 16+ years of experience in e-commerce, phone commerce, and digital marketing. Growisto helps brands & private labels to grow their businesses on platforms such as Amazon and their own website. Kiran is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and has worked with companies like Evalueserve and Future group before starting his entrepreneurial venture.
 
Works Featured on YourStoryET RetailIndian RetailerBusiness2CommunityIndia Retailing, and many others.

 

 

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MSMEs and Export Promotion through e-commerce will be key to revive the Indian economy
MSMEs and Export Promotion through e-commerce will be key to revive the Indian economy
 

At a recent webinar organized by The Dialogue, a Delhi-based public-policy think-tank, on “Make in India for the World – The revival of the Indian economy and the role of MSMEs”  Gopal Jain, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India spoke about how MSMEs, with an enabling policy framework and seamless implementation on the ground as well as exports, will be critical for the revival of the Indian economy. He said, “As India moves in the direction of becoming an Aatmanirbhar nation aligned to Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision, Indian MSMEs will play a big role in translating that vision into a reality. I am extremely happy to note that some of the sellers have doubled their exports through e-commerce during COVID 19 times while a global business downturn was seen. The need of the hour is to expedite the policy push to support MSMEs and also promote exports by reducing barriers and intermediaries. This would only be possible if we ensure seamless implementation and execution on the ground leading to the revival of the MSME ecosystem and helping us achieve the critical national objectives of FDI promotion, job creation, livelihood promotion, and an improved consumption demand amidst the current economic slowdown.”

The panel extensively discussed the role of exports in the Indian economy and how in contrast with a decline in exports recently, Indian MSMEs selling to international customers via ecommerce and online channels managed to sustain as well as build their businesses further.

 Jain went on to say that, “The last three months, bear witness to the fact that e-commerce has been an effective channel for exports. The need of the hour is to adopt a culture that incentivizes this and builds this into the country’s ecosystem. Indian MSMEs need all the support from the Government as well as access to export channels like ecommerce that provide direct and immediate access to customers globally. It is important to formulate the necessary policy and regulatory culture that is favourable to boost exports, increase FDI and provide necessary support to MSMEs.”

For India to become an attractive export destination the Government must play the role of an enabler to allow sectors and businesses to grow. A forward looking approach focusing on implementation and execution, with minimal obstacles, is the need of the hour. The e-commerce sector offers multiple options on the economic front and therefore should be top priority for the government.

There are three ways in which this can be achieved. Firstly, focus on the ease of doing business and increased flexibility, secondly, incentivizing businesses, whether it is through investments or getting rid of procedural bottlenecks and thirdly, providing necessary support to the e-commerce sector that in turn must deliver on exports, FDI, MSMEs, jobs and livelihood. These would curate the right script for India to be a box office hit in the new world order!” – added Jain.

 

 

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Why Dropshipping Is A Great Choice For First-Time Entrepreneurs
Why Dropshipping Is A Great Choice For First-Time Entrepreneurs
 

The ecommerce market has been booming for years without reaching the point of saturation (there are still developing markets throughout the world), and the global pandemic that’s keeping many people confined to their homes is only bolstering this growth. Now more than ever before, people from all backgrounds (and of all income levels) are eager to buy online.

Let’s say that you’re a budding entrepreneur looking to take advantage of this demand. Maybe you’ve been considering it for a while, or you’ve lost your job due to the business impact of COVID-19 and you’ve decided that you might as well bet on yourself by opening a store. It’s a good choice — but what kind of store should you run?

 Well, one option that works incredibly well for first-time entrepreneurs is dropshipping. Let’s cover what dropshipping involves, and set out why it’s such a good choice.

The basics of dropshipping: how it works

Here’s the core concept of dropshipping: instead of stocking products and selling them online, you find products that suppliers are selling and list them through your store. When someone orders a product, you pass the order to the supplier (and pay their product price), and they handle the rest. You wouldn’t make any money at all just charging the supplier’s price, so you raise the cost in your store and profit from the margin.

That’s all you really need to know here, so I won’t spend too long going into detail about the general pros and cons of dropshipping. You can find them in this expanded dropshipping guide if you’re curious, but for now we’ll move on to why you should use it for your first store.

Try ecommerce without any financial risk

Here’s the biggest benefit of dropshipping, and the main reason why it’s so popular and so useful for new merchants: it’s completely risk-free (or as close as online retail can get) from a financial standpoint. And the only reason it isn’t 100% risk-free is that you’ll always have to pay for your website hosting, and that money can go to waste if you don’t make any sales.

 When you list a product from a dropshipping supplier, you don’t need to buy that product and potentially watch it devalue as you fail to sell it. You don’t need to fund a warehouse with decent security so you can track and protect your inventory. You don’t need to pay for packaging or labels. You don’t need to hire couriers to take packaged products to their buyers.

 Aside from the meagre cost of keeping your website going, you don’t need to pay for anything at all, meaning you don’t need a decent budget to get started. Given that budding entrepreneurs often have minimal savings, this is incredibly useful.

Learn how to present products well

The other huge reason why dropshipping is so worthwhile for new sellers is that it’s also extremely challenging. When you’re running a standard store, you can make sales through having products that are exceptional and/or unique, or even just hitting price points lower than those of your competitors. You can’t do anything like that when dropshipping.

 Dropshipping products are generic and available to everyone, and you can’t sell them for less than anyone else because your profit margins are wafer-thin. There’s only one thing you can do to have a better shot at selling a dropshipped product than someone else: nail the presentation. Use a combination of great product copy and high-quality images to make it sound fantastic.

 Do this well, and an item that shoppers gloss over elsewhere will stand out to them in your store. You can also stand out through providing great customer service, but that only helps you once you’ve made some sales — sales that you can only earn through good presentation.

 The two reasons we’ve looked at here are more than enough to justify trying dropshipping for your first online store. You won’t put your finances at risk, and it’ll teach you some invaluable lessons about the importance of product presentation — lessons that you can draw from with any other stores you create in the future.

The article has been authored by Rodney Laws, Editor, Ecommerce Platforms

 

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What is the future of ecommerce?
What is the future of ecommerce?
 

Ecommerce has become an integral part of the modern business world. It is an enormous, lucrative, ever-changing industry with many layers to explore and study. Research shows that global ecommerce sales reached nearly 3.5 trillion dollars last year. It is no wonder so many people are interested in the future of ecommerce.

Now bigger and more powerful than ever, the realm of ecommerce is here to stay. The ecommerce market has already seen many changes, and many more are yet to come. We’ll help you understand what the future holds for ecommerce and prepare your business for the next chapter.

Social media shopping

Social media platforms are shaping the way people shop across the globe. Social media channels are no longer just advertising channels. Since social media shopping has never been more convenient, online shoppers are gradually switching from native apps to social media shopping. Brands that have embraced social selling are already reaping the benefits. Social media giants like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube have enhanced their social selling features with the aim to reduce the time and effort needed to make a purchase on social media. The future of ecommerce already looks bright for the shopper, doesn’t it?

The western hemisphere will no longer be the center of ecommerce

In 2020, the US share of the total global ecommerce retail market is expected to decrease drastically due to globalization and the advancement of technology and infrastructure in non-western countries. The prognosis for the upcoming decade is that non-western regions will be the center of ecommerce.

To adapt to this ecommerce trend, businesses are starting to adopt an international approach. Therefore, you should work on your global accessibility and convenience. This global business model does not mean you must be physically present outside your own country. Just find partners you can trust and collaborate with in the countries where you have a high demand.

Voice commerce is the future of ecommerce

The number of people using voice-enabled search assistants is higher than ever. Consequently, more and more people, mostly millennial consumers, are using voice searches while shopping online. Smart devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, are making it easier to shop online without using a screen. As a business, this is a sign to reconsider your selling strategy to meet the needs of your customers.

The use of keywords is the main difference between regular searches and voice searches. When typing in the search bar, people typically type keywords and related search phrases. When using their voice, however, people use queries, such as ’’Where is the nearest…’’ Voice search doesn’t reduce the significance of SEO for ecommerce, you just need a different approach. It’s all about optimizing content for voice searches.

Mobile shopping revolution

Keeping an eye on the latest trends and trying to stay ahead of the competition by being an early adopter is key to success in the era of ecommerce. Today’s online shoppers want to complete the transaction on their mobile devices, without having to use a desktop. Shoppers can now browse, research, and pay for products and services using their phones. The time and place are no longer an obstacle. To ensure the best customer experience, your mobile checkout must be speedy, seamless, and user-friendly.

If you don’t have your own mobile app yet, you should consider elevating your customers’ shopping experience and building one. As most people will be using an app for their shopping activities in the coming years, missing out on this opportunity would be a costly mistake. This applies to all brands, from industry leaders to small startups. Building an app isn’t that hard either. With the tools that are available today, you can easily convert your company’s online website into a mobile app. If you’ve prepared for the future of ecommerce and you already have your own app, apply ASO techniques to improve its visibility in the app store’s search results. It is a good idea to send push notifications, such as exclusive discounts or special promotions, to your customers. Push notifications are a great way to promote your brand and re-engage with inactive customers.

About the author

I am Angela Alwyn, a freelance writer from New York City. I work at moversdev.com, a New York based company, a part of the Digital Dot network. It was founded with the idea to provide moving companies with top-quality services and optimal solutions in Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Clicks Advertising, Website Design and Development, and software tools.

 

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How Metro Shoes is leveraging technology to deliver an omnichannel experience?
How Metro Shoes is leveraging technology to deliver an omnichannel experience?
 

Omni-channel retail has changed the way India shops today. With multiple options to choose from, customers can enjoy a fully-integrated shopping experience that includes buying through brick-and-mortar stores, mobile browsing, web stores, marketplaces, and social media. It goes without saying that technology has played a huge role in this evolution. Not only has it helped retailers push the envelope in terms of research and innovation to reach out to its dynamically evolving customer base, it has also empowered the customer to make his own choices right from choosing their products online to tracking consignments.

Brands that have aggressively adopted this omni-channel approach have been seen to have a better scope of thriving in the current, uncertain economic environment. Geographical barriers have been bridged effortlessly due to technology. Any product can be shipped from anywhere to customers in different parts of the world. Consumers and retailers are able to directly interact with each other from remote locations. Consumers are able to access a wider range of brands and products online from the comfort of their homes. All these conveniences have come as part of the multi-channel shopping experience.

Omni-channel Marketing

Omni-channel marketing is an asset for retailers and is crucial for sales today as it allows businesses to maintain a 360-degree view of each consumer. Retailers can unify consumer data from disparate channels and systems like shopping carts, device IDs, social media, loyalty and referral programs which, in turn, allow them to analyse customer behaviour and interests assisting them to leverage customer buying patterns.

This strategy works wonders for a brand like ours. Metro Brands Ltd has a network of 546 stores across more than 125 cities. We house brands like Metro Shoes, Mochi, Walkway, DaVinchi and operates retail stores for Crocs. We also have a dedicated website for online purchases and have partnered with retail e-commerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra to reach out to our customers across locations. Omni-channel has helped us understand the diverse customer preferences across locations based on which we curate our collections for different stores and regions. It’s an exciting and challenging way to do business because we’re constantly on our toes catering to the unique preferences of individual customers both global and Indian. We’ve also seen a considerable increase in our sales because of the different touch points our products are available at for the consumer.

It is easy to create an innovative mobile marketing strategy, a creative and engaging social media campaign and a well-designed website, but the challenge lies in stitching these together for seamless functioning and in accommodating innovations, engaging customers and retaining their loyalty, while at the same time generating profitable growth.

Brands today are actively working towards developing a successful omni-channel strategy, but to successfully follow through with them, the right communication and execution is key. As technology has increasingly begun to take center stage in most businesses, spiking the number of customers who are embracing the digital space for their purchases, an omni-channel retail strategy that rests on the foundation of technology will go a long way in galvanizing the retail sector to grow by leaps and bounds in the future.

The article has been penned down by Alisha Malik, Vice President - Marketing and E-commerce, Metro Brands.   

 

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Cross border eCommerce: How viable is the model for Indian consumers and retailers?
Cross border eCommerce: How viable is the model for Indian consumers and retailers?
 

India is gradually becoming an important player in the eyes of the world stage, with a population that ranks at number 2, just behind China and an economy that is set to accelerate in the coming years.

While India has often received brickbats for its lack of pace in infrastructure and developmental issues and not being able to sustain investors' interest, this has turned around completely in recent years, with country paving the way for startups and entrepreneurship.

India is being strongly associated with the tech industry for some time now,eCommerce is seeing a boom among Indian consumers, especially in urban areas. With the advent of technology and internet penetration, the online sales market in the country is offering promising prospects for the global business giants, which have already set their sights on capturing.

According to the leading global digital commerce agency TMO Group, India’s eCommerce sales make up a sheer of 4.4% of its total retail sales that allows major players such as Amazon and Alibaba to explore the market to the fullest. The country’s untapped potential and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.8%, higher than any other country for the period 2019-2023, is a major reason for global online shopping firms to eye their fortunes on India.

infographic

The above graph delineates the eCommerce landscape in India.

Amid the growing online shopping platforms in the country, the cross-border eCommerce is the new disruption in India’s ecosystem. The cross-border eCommerce is a global trade between a firm/brand and a consumer, or between two companies and even with brands and retailers through marketplace platforms. In simple words, cross border eCommerce is the procedure of buying products from outside borders.

Undoubtedly, India’s love for eCommerce shopping has enabled many customers to become early adopters for products from overseas markets. Keeping in view the fast-track consumer sentiments in the country, firms like Amazon India has a dedicated ‘Global Store’ which ships products from across borders to India, and if one has ever visited the Global Store he would know that it offers products that are not available in the country, due to companies deciding not to enter the market.

Not only that, a recent study conducted by Acapture shows that India exports 16% products to the US, 4.3% to China and 3.3% to the UK via cross border eCommerce channels. Likewise, for imports, the country gets 14% of products from the USA, 6% from the UK and 5% from China.

To validate this fact, Sanjay Keswani, Director at Eunimart, a cross border eCommerce startup, told the leading Indian media publication that the cross border eCommerce is growing at 17% compared to domestic eCommerce across the globe, and is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2021.

SMEs contribute to approximately 50% of domestic eCommerce but can get to only 5% when looking at exports. India, with 50 million registered SMEs stands to gain most by the momentum due to the large range of diverse categories that Indian artisans can churn out, Keswani added.

Moreover, a Global Ecommerce Study states that at least 73% of Indian consumers shop cross-border though many of them abandon the orders due to the high price on shipping.

The growing smartphones have also contributed to the rising eCommerce business in the country, with the launch of 4G network adding more impetus. As stated by the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian eCommerce market is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2026 from $38.5 billion in 2017. Online retail sales in India are expected to grow by 31% to touch $32.70 billion in 2018, led by Flipkart, Amazon India, and Paytm Mall.

Going by the above figures, it is evident that the eCommerce space in India is not going to see the doomsday anytime soon, however, much depends on the push in the mobile technology in the country.

Challenges for cross bordereCommerce

India’s eCommerce potential, especially cross border, is limited by low urbanization, internet penetration, and income levels. However, the biggest challenge for the country is the internet dispersion. Despite a reasonable demand for overseas products and consumers willing to spend money to purchase foreign-made goods, the large section of India’s population still relies on domestic retailers, due to the unavailability of the internet.

A research carried by Netherlands-based market intelligence firm The Paypers suggests that internet penetration covers only 19% of India’s population as of now. This means 80% of the country’s population is untapped rather lacks accessibility.

Another challenge lies with the purchasing power capacity of Indian consumers. The high-end overseas products come with a certain price tag, including the shipping cost. Interntional players such as Newchic and few more have higher shipping price, therefore, it makes consumers indecisive about buying the product. India, with not much strong purchasing power, will continue to witness a reasonable fall when it comes to cross border eCommerce.

Conflict in cross border eCommerce space

Despite a fairly well demand for global products and reasonably well-purchasing power especially in urban cities in India, the local retailers have alleged the unfair practice of selling goods in the Indian market by foreign brands.

Among the global players, Chinese shopping apps have been aggressive in claiming a share of India’s online retail market over the last few years. Apps such as Club Factory, Shein, AliExpress, and a few others have allegedly exploited by dispatching eCommerce packages as gifts, which was not under the scanner of import duties. However, the Indian government has announced that “gift” packages from abroad will no longer be allowed to come in without the collection of import duties.

For the same, Minister of Commerce PiyushGoyal has said that all online shopping services will have to register locally by June 2020 to ensure legal accountability.

The move is considered a reaction to the outcry from Indian traders who claim the Chinese apps have taken away business thanks to lower prices that were only possible because of the (alleged) avoidance of import duties and other taxes and regulations.

“Chinese goods are coming into India at 50% to 60% below the price of Indian sellers,” said a spokesperson for the All India Online Vendors Association, according to a media report.

Road Ahead

The eCommerce industry has been directly impacting the micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME) in India by providing means of financing, technology, and training and has a favorable cascading effect on other industries as well.

The Indian e-commerce industry has been on an upward growth trajectory and is expected to surpass the US to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world by 2034.

Technology-enabled innovations like digital payments, hyper-local logistics, analytics-driven customer engagement, and digital advertisements will likely support the growth in the sector.

The article has been written by Aditya Rangroo. He is a retail consultant. 

 

 

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4 Do's and Don'ts before starting an eCommerce site
4 Do's and Don'ts before starting an eCommerce site
 

Are you planning to launch a website for your business? Then you might be thinking of an eCommerce store. You have a great thought there. With an eCommerce website, you can sell and deliver your goods anywhere you can reach your customers. eCommerce will power your growth tremendously - but only when you do it right.

So, how can you do your eCommerce business right for the best returns? The simple answer is that you need to follow some rules when setting up your online store. When you have everything up and running, you will see consistent business growth as much as you can fulfill the orders on time. In this post, you will learn the things you must consider before you start your eCommerce site.

These are the things you must do and those you should not do when starting your online shop.

Do These When Launching an eCommerce Site

The Do's involve the mandatory things to consider for guaranteed business growth when you launch your e-shop. They are the building blocks toward your success in eCommerce. These are some of the things you should DO before you begin your online business.

1. Research Your Products

Whether you are selling physical or digital products or services, you need to test them. Before you conclude your business orientation, identify the target market, and see if the products you are selling are in demand. Without demand, you are less likely to make any sales on your eCommerce. Although you like the products, or you may have some customers in your area, it is vital to test product performance beyond your current market.

An eCommerce store can help you to reach people in a broader market. But the idea only works when you have a product with demand. Identify the products your prospects like, and provide solutions to their immediate needs. The only way to dominate a market is by providing customers with solutions and not just new products.

2. Organize How to Fulfill the Orders

Food

The essence of an eCommerce website is to help shoppers make orders wherever they are. It is up to you to ensure that you deliver the products on time. And, for that purpose, you should plan how you will ship your products to your customers. In the case of digital products, you can allow the customers to download their purchases as soon as they pay. For online services, you should communicate with your customers when to expect the delivery.

Selling physical products means you have to send the item to your customer and ensure it arrives at the address they provide during the purchase. For this, you need to work with a logistics company before you launch your eCommerce site to fulfill all the orders customers make through your eCommerce mobile app. Your business boundary limits will depend on how far your preferred logistics company network reaches.

3. Prepare Your Marketing Budget

Business without marketing is as good as no business. Only through marketing can your brand gain recognition and make conversions. When it is the first time to start selling online, you need to add various forms of online marketing to your business strategy to complement your other means of advertising.

In case you have been selling on your social media pages, setting up an eCommerce store is easy. You may only need to integrate some analytics features and increase the budget to reach more targeted customers. Whichever the case, you need a surplus amount of cash or a consistent flow of funds to cater to your marketing needs until the business can sustain itself. Whatever you plan to do, do not stop advertising your business.

4. Acquire High-Quality Product Photos

Lens

Customers want to see what you are selling before they can buy. You need digital photos of each product you are selling or plan to sell on your eCommerce store. For each product you are going to list, you should add some clear photos that show their details. Have all these before you start developing your eCommerce store.

In case you are not a professional photographer, hire one for the task. You have a smartphone with an HD camera. Why hire a photographer? The answer is simple. You want everything professional since this is business. And you should avoid using generic images from the internet for your products. Customers want to see something unique. Clip arts and illustrations will not work either because they do not show the details of what you are selling.

Avoid These Habits When Launching an eCommerce Site:

Sometimes, there are things that we do that are wrong for every business. In eCommerce, these are the DON'Ts  you need to know. Avoiding this can help you to run your business smoothly.

1. Don't Be a Jack of All Trades

You think you have mastered and can sell everything? I guess not. Running an eCommerce store for your business is not quite easy. When starting, you should not try to do everything at once. But it all depends on whether you have been selling products at a local store. If not, begin with a niche-based set of products, and expand your business as you grow.

2. Don't List Products You Do not Sell

I have seen many people listing items online. When I visit their shop, they go to another shop to make the order. I feel cheated. Listing items on your eCommerce website and the customer orders it is not a problem. The problem begins when you do not find the product to ship within the promised span. You become a liar or a con.

3. Don't Think eCommerce is a One-time Project

Setting up eCommerce for your business requires lots of care and detail to ensure that everything is perfect. A simple mistake or typo can break your business. You need to update your site consistently to reflect the latest products and their prices. Test all the pages and links to ensure they are working, and the checkout process is functional.

4. Don't Collect Customer Credit Card Information

Money

Choosing your payment processor will help you to sell faster. Customers are willing to pay with their credit or debit cards, but the method you use to handle them determines how safe their information is. PayPal and Stripe are the most advanced and popular methods of payments that a customer can use when shopping online with a credit card. You can as well implement digital currency payment to make your e-shop more secure and enhance privacy for your customers.

Winding Up

An eCommerce can help to grow your business boundaries and performance. But the implementation procedure you take can determine how successful you can be with your venture. The few tips of Do's and Don'ts you have ready will get you started with your online business as you plan on your expansion.

The article has been penned down by Jenny S, Content Specialist,INKingAce. Writing helps her to improve her knowledge, skills & understanding about her industry. She loves to educate her audience about eCommerce business and eCommerce mobile app. Apart from writing, she loves traveling & photography.  

 

 

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8 Ecommerce Business Secrets that You Must Not Miss
8 Ecommerce Business Secrets that You Must Not Miss
 

Back in the mid-1990s, only 20% of people made online shopping. Now, over 70% of people rate ‘Ecommerce’ as a trusted way to shop online and buy things conveniently.

In current times, Ecommerce businesses are sure-fire ways to succeed.

Are you wondering, how?

It is pretty easy - you need to have a product or service which should be unique, effective, and useful; sell it online and build trust among your targeted audience. 

But here is a catch to it: There is NO guarantee that your customers will ever be able to make a purchase. You’ll have to buy their trust. Maybe, there will be days when your store won’t be able to generate any lead.

Wouldn’t be it great to get experts’ help?

Here, I’m confiding in 8 Ecommerce business secrets that you must not miss. They are tried, tested and can help boost your sales and will generate more orders for you.

Get ready….!

Top 8 Ecommerce Business Secrets:

1. Domain Comes first and foremost.

Make sure your domain name is catchy, unique, can better represent your brand vision and don’t forget to check it’s availability. Register the title before you lose it and someone else would acquire it.

Important Tip: Keep your credit card handy when you’re looking for a domain. As soon as you get an available domain, purchase it without wasting a second. Always go for a trustworthy and highly secure hosting service provider

2. Focus on the Design Part
An Ecommerce store design impacts the customers greatly. If a customer is well-engaged in the first few seconds - It’s a big win for you and your ecommerce business. There are a lot of cost-effective solutions which offer addictive Ecommerce website design solutions. However, you need to have a knack of basics of custom-web designing.

3. What is the structure that you’re willing to follow?
An Ecommerce needs a planned structure to execute well. Though, there are many options from which you can choose which type of business structure you want for your business: A Corporation, A Sole Proprietor, or A Partnership.

With well-planned structure, you contemplate ways to expand your business. If you’ll decide this in the early stage, it would be easy for you to scale your business at the right time because you’ll have to deal with many complexities while running a business.

4. Get your Business License First
No matter if you're running an Ecommerce business, it doesn’t exclude you from getting licenses and permits. Keep abreast with the rules of the country and state you’re operating from. As you know every country has its own regulations. Get the weights off your shoulders and get your business licensed.
 

5. Market Early, Scale Fast
There is a saying that ‘An early bird gets all the good worms. No matter how much money you’ve put aside for your startup, you need to have a fool-proof marketing strategy to expand your business reach. Therefore, you need to market early and will have to learn how to scale fast.

6. Use Best Customer Management and Voice Technology Software

It is ‘Technology’ that can either make or break you. To run a successful ecommerce business, it’s indispensable to offer best help to the customers. Keep in mind: ‘When internal processes of the company are streamlined, it will be easy for you to grow your business.’

And, most importantly, you must add voice technology into your Ecommerce business because it was studied that over 45% of millennials search for products on eStores using voice searches. So don’t waste this opportunity, benefit from voice technology and drive yoursales.

7. Keep your Inventory in Check
Today’s multi-billion dollar ‘Amazon’ was started by two people in a garage. Now, it has around 175 operating fulfillment centers across the globe. If you want to scale your Ecommerce business successfully, you’ll have to do some inventory. Find out your best-selling products and put them on sale. Along the way, find new ways to generate leads on those items and certainly you’ll be able to stand out in the crowd.

8. Scalability is New Victory: Make your Business Scalable
One of the most significant mistakes Ecommerce store owners make is to forget the core factors which can make them successful. They start from the scratch and don’t give their best efforts to scaling.

Sanity is to keep tiny elements under consideration so that they could make you highly successful later on. Keep your eyes on all essential elements and find out how each aspect responds to change.

Whether you’re running an Ecommerce business or selling anything online, it’s inevitable for you to be fully aware of causes and reasons behind why some products sell more and why it drags more orders over other products and goods.

Final Words - 8 Ecommerce Business Secrets You can’t Afford to Miss at Any Cost

Finally,

It takes hard work, patience, determination and heedful planning to convert prospects into leads and generate sales. If you want to get it done right way.

Here are 8 ecommerce business secrets to win your competition:

1. Domain Comes first and foremost.

2. Focus on the Design part

3. What is the structure that you’re willing to follow?

4. Get your Business License First

5. Market Early, Scale Fast

6. Use best Customer Management and Voice Technology Software

7. Keep your Inventory in Check.

8. Scalability is New Victory: Make your Business Scalable

Don’t forget - There is a tough competition in the Ecommerce industry, you can only win with top-notch business strategy, not only will it bring traffic on your website but also will make your business sustainable in the long run. So, these are the Ecommerce business secrets which will help you to make your eStore trustworthy in the eyes of customers and they will always come to you to buy new products and services.

About the author

I am John Lawson, Head of operations at Golpik Inc. It’s a technology company that excels in Web development, App development, Ecommerce development and much more. I manage overall marketing activity for the company. I am proficient at developing technical content in various styles for several platforms. I write creative content that engages audiences with a wonderful experience. 



 

 

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How Blockchain Technology Will Modify the ECommerceRetail Industry over the Next Few Years?
How Blockchain Technology Will Modify the ECommerceRetail Industry over the Next Few Years?
 

The Blockchain technology is undoubtedly a revolutionizing technology, designed to store transactional data. The transactional data is not only limited to financial activities but, it can be any clear action that requires an unassailable record, including actions related to payment and order fulfillment.

Today, most of the e-commerce sites including Alibaba, Unilever, eBay and more are struggling to implement Blockchain technology. The Blockchain is the latest technology that will be the next big thing in the future of e-commerce industry.

Since the e-commerce industry is the fastest growing industry, therefore, many problems are emerging in today's e-commerce business model. Most of these problems are associated with payments, supply chain management, data security, transparent marketplace, satisfied retailers, efficient management systems, and satisfied consumers.

It is expected that shortly, Blockchain technology will be beneficial to resolve all these issues and will have a potential impact on the e-commerce sector.

In this article, we will explore how the Blockchain will solve e-commerce problems and how it will be changing the e-commerce industry.

Blockchain in e-Commerce

The Blockchain technology is transforming e-commerce industry by providing low-cost financial transactions, high-security standards, and overall fantastic customer experience.  Here are a few practical ways through which Blockchain technology will change the e-commerce industry.

1.    Alternative Payment Method

Sharing and receiving money was never that easy before Blockchain-powered currencies. Today, cryptocurrencies are commonly adopted as the alternative currencies, enabling shoppers to pay with Bitcoin in the same way shoppers did with PayPal, Stripe, or any other payment processor.

Over traditional currencies, Bitcoin offers various benefits to both customers and merchants, and it allows customers to share and receive money as quickly as sharing a QR code.

Some Blockchain projects such as Request Network and ECoinmerce is moving forward with an aim to build a Blockchain based marketplace using fast and secure transactions for any e-commerce business model.

The Request Network is also implementing Blockchain technology for the financial transactions aspect of the e-commerce industry by providing cost-effective financial transactions, high-security standards, and overall excellent customer experience.

2. Faster Transactions

Blockchain transactions work on a main & single network, and it eliminates the need for third parties involvement. Online Transaction speeds are controlled by the network speed and with the rate at which new blocks will form.

Moreover, since Blockchain technology involves various systems, it enables business owners to reduce cost related to IT support, administrative tasks and so forth.  

Also, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Bitcoin cash, Litecoin, and other digital currencies are quite cheaper compared to conventional currencies. Therefore, by spending less on transactions, customers and shop owners will be able to initiate considerable savings.

3. Improved Order Fulfillment

One of the key benefits of incorporating Blockchain technology in the e-commerce platform is each block in the Blockchain links to the previous block. It makes a visible chain of events that closely reflects the process of fulfilling an order.

For example, if a customer is placing an order on the Blockchain-powered e-commerce site, every step in the ordering process adds a new block to the chain with the time required to perform a specific action.

When a customer orders something on Blockchain-powered e-commerce, as soon as he will select the item and enter shipping information the marketplace will generate a block as a proof of work.

Similarly, on the completion of every step, a block will automatically generate that will verify the entire order fulfillment process.

There are more benefits to Blockchain technology. It reduces conflicts regarding payments and other order details. Also, it is reported that only 1-3% global e-commerce transactions face disputes related to payment and orders; however, due to the Blockchain public record, this will reduce further.

4.  Supply Chain Management

The Blockchain technology does not only enable us to more securely and transparently track all order fulfilments and transactions. It also entails endless possibilities across the e-commerce supply chain.

The Blockchain-based e-commerce platforms document every single transaction when a single product changes hand. It means Blockchain powered e-commerce sites can easily create a permanent history of every product, from manufacture to sale.

Incorporating Blockchain technology in the e-commerce world will radically reduce time delays, added costs, and human error that disrupts transactions today.

Implementing Blockchain technology in the supply chain will make sure that the recorded data is transparent. It will assure that any alteration in the quantity or quality will be tracked and for this reason, we are expecting that Blockchain technology will be a boon for the retailer, e-commerce platform and the customers.  

5. Streamlined Operations

The Blockchain technology will help retailers to store all information to the cloud which means there will be no need for administrative work. Moreover, it will digitize the logging process through which retailers will easily access the needed information without relying on other partners.

With Blockchain technology, operations will be more streamlined. Retailers can access all the product related information from one location. It will improve both communication and operational processes.

6 Increased Trust

Since Blockchain comprises a decentralized nature. Therefore, it promotes transparency. Customers and retailers can access information anytime related to their shipment tracking. It allows retailers to know where their stock is at any given time which is especially helpful in the e-Commerce industry. Also, it will help retailers to determine when an item will arrive and whether or not the vendors are supplying the correct products.

Moreover, the information stored on Blockchain is free from third-party manipulation. That’s why this virtual network is impossible to hack. The incorporation of Blockchain technology in e-commerce will not only reduce the cyber-crime rate but will also establish trust between shoppers and retailers through its transparency.

BlockChain Is the Future of E-Commerce

Blockchain will change the future of the e-commerce landscape. Big players like Amazon and eBay have already started investing in Blockchain technology to remove the dependency of

middleman, and third-party organizations from their business model. The application of Blockchain technology in the e-commerce model will save a lot of time consumed in the overall process ranging from inventory management, order placement, delivery operations, and other e-commerce related functions. We are expecting that soon Blockchain technology will penetrate the whole e-commerce industry.

 

Author Bio:

Sundas Noor is a Digital Content Producer working for CubixInc, a software development company in Washington, DC. She writes about Digital Marketing, Blockchain Development, Game Development, and Artificial Intelligence.

 

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How VR is a third Dimension between online and offline?
How VR is a third Dimension between online and offline?
 

As we inch towards the year 2019, we realise that while everything else – including product prices and number of players in the market – is seeing an upward trajectory of growth, the retail shop floors are facing a massive space crunch. The high-end luxury brands are the most hard-pressed in this regard to navigate the intricacies of finding a place, which is free of the Sunday market clutter and yet is approachable enough to appeal to the right customers.

With the increasing purchase power and understanding of quality and style being evinced by the Indian market, how can the international brands capture the interest of their customers without compromising on their margins, well the answer is – virtual reality, a free floating third dimension between the overly cluttered physical and online retail spaces. About a year ago, Rebecca Minkoff collaborated with eBay and Magento to create a digitally connected store, which used “connected glass shopping walls” and digital fitting rooms to guide shoppers through the experience, while collecting data about customer preferences and trends. Within six months of implementation, sales of ready-to-wear increased exponentially, which is attributed to enhanced in-store experiences.

With a customer centric approach to scaling businesses that are not just transactional, but aim at creating customer lifetime value, brands are increasingly re-vamping the retail ecosystem by introducing digital technologies in it. VR/AR market alone is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 76 percent over the next five years, according to a report by Growth Enabler.

 As each year gives way to the next, more and more retail brands across product categories have begun using digital disrupters such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence to segment and personalise the experience of their customers. For instance, one of the retail majors deployed a model analysing the shopping pattern of customers and predicted their chances of Parents-to-be in recent future. The retailer then was able to send promotional offers related to baby products according to the pregnancy scores.

Apart from analytics, even augmented reality has great potential for the online retail platforms as the technology helps increase store visitors, reduces cost of operations and product return rate along with breaking language barriers.

Even though the adoption of AR/VR technologies is at a nascent stage in India as compared to markets like the USA, UK and China, the outlook is very promising for our market, especially for the manufacturing and healthcare sector, apart from consumer retail, where precision is key.

Outlook for 2019:

Business Model: Digital, especially social and mobile commerce would enable retailers to explore new business models to stay relevant

Operating Formats: Omni-channel strategies would continue to expand along with other retail formats such as subscription, flash sale etc.

Positioning: Digitally enabled store experiences would help retailers differentiate and provide better experiences.

Segmentation: Data insights allow companies to bundle and monetize services in addition to products.

The article has been penned down by Anil Talreja, Partner, Deloitte India

 

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How small companies can compete with Flipkart and Amazon?
How small companies can compete with Flipkart and Amazon?
 

India’s e-commerce market is expected to hit $200 billion by 2026 as per the report published by Morgan Stanley last year.  We if look at market leader, majorly it is largely ruled by Flipkart and Amazon and if sources are to be believed Google is all set for e-commerce foray in India. Google’s entry into e-commerce space which is valued at around USD 38.5 billion will certainly create ripple. Though Google has earlier plans to invest in Flipkart but now it is planning to come by its own.

A report titled ‘ Digital Lending - A USD one trillion opportunity over the next five years’ suggest that by BCG estimated that over 40 per cent of mobile phone users in India would be using a smart phone, with 250 million new users in this space being added every year.

Report also indicated that as many as 650 million Indians will have a digital footprint (internet access) by 2020, with more than 85 per cent having access to high-speed internet.

Google’s entry in this highly competitive e-commerce space will certainly create more challenge for existing players big or small.  With massive Internet users India, it is certainly a big opportunity that no one wants to miss out.  

Certainly, the big companies has the advantage of being ‘big’ but it does not mean small e-commerce companies have lost on all opportunities.  We should not forget the fact that homegrown companies will certainly have the advantage in long run as consumers would be more attuned and comfortable to shopping online with them. Also, no doubt, it is all about ‘Product or service’  that you are offering but there are small things which really creates a difference.

Here are few tips that small e-commerce companies can adopt to compete with giants:

Write product description smartly

Product descriptions are very important element of search engine optimisation (SEO).  Never rely on product description provided by product companies or sellers. Such practice won’t allow any SEO benefit.

You can use provided content as base but do not use them as it is. Big brands might have product portfolio as large as hundreds or thousands. And, creating unique description for every single item might not be possible for them.

Here is an opportunity for you. Look for the ways to add value in the existing content. You can look at innovative ways adding 360 degree view of product image along with buying guides, case studies and usage videos.  Try to make it as user friendly as it can be.

Focus on subscription model

Subscriptions ensure fixed monthly revenue. Even big e-commerce players such as Amazon is investing heavily in promoting their subscription model, for example, recently, Amazon had run two day long campaign called ‘Prime Day’ to increase the number of Prime subscriptions. As per the data released by the company, more customers in India joined the Prime membership program in the week leading up to Prime Day than in any other week before, with more than 35% of new members living in tier 2-3 towns.

Subscriptions are the win-win situation not only for seller and e-retailers.  Even customers get shipping advantage on subscription based orders. If you are operating in food, grocery, beauty & wellness kind of category then ‘subscription model’  might be boon for you.

Improve your shipping

Most of the e-commerce companies lost their business due to poor shipping. There are various studies which shows that shoppers tends to choose the items which are labelled as ‘free shipping’ or ‘discounted shipping’.

Since you are start-up so offering free shipping might not be a viable solution.  But, you can consider offering discounted shipping on certain cart value, for example, you can offer free shipping on orders above Rs2000 or maybe you can offer free shipping for your first time customer. However, whatever might be your strategy do not compromise on quality and experience. There is nothing bad than customers receiving damaged products.

We hope that above write-up is useful to you, if you are a start-up in an e-retail or have build an online brand then request you to share your experience/ challenges with us right beneath the article in the comment section. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why it is important for retailers to focus on app strategy?
Why it is important for retailers to focus on app strategy?
 

Mobile websites and mobile apps each have their own unique advantages. Where web offers immediate access and wide reach, apps are able to provide a rich, convenient experience that creates and engages loyal users. As per the report published by appannie,  smartphone users spend 7x more time in native apps than in browsers, and access apps more frequently. Globally in H1 2017, native mobile apps accounted for 88% of time and 93% of sessions on Android phones (the remainder was spent in browsers).

Which Approach retailers should take?

On an average, consumers spent about 2 hours per day in apps. The time spent over apps has been doubled over last two years globally.  By 2021, it is expected that users will spend more than 3 trillion hours in apps globally, and industry professionals expect sustained growth across the app economy.

Despite its pervasiveness, mobile is still a relatively new frontier. Understandably there’s some confusion, and we’re commonly asked which of the options to the right are most important for a business. In some cases, there’s even a belief that the various options are interchangeable — If you have a well optimized mobile website, why even develop an app?

The truth is, all of these options have their own unique advantages, and in most cases pursuing a mobile app and a mobile website will be the appropriate answer. Yet, when it comes to regularly engaging loyal users, apps are the clear winner. With that in mind, and to help inform your own decisions, we want to highlight some of the key advantages of apps.

Here are some unique advantages of having app only strategy:

Apps Are a Critical Tool for Creating and Engaging Loyal Customers

While mobile web offers a wide reach and immediate access to new users, apps are the best place to both serve your most devoted customers and to make your users more loyal. We’re engaging with apps at an unprecedented level, with many of us using them for well over 2 hours each day. Most pertinently, appannie  analysis shows that smartphone users tend to spend  7x more time in native apps compared to  direct browsers. Hence, this presents a big opportunity for businesses.

Apps Offer a Highly Targeted Channel to Communicate With Your Most Loyal Users

Push Notifications are a well known used feature in marketers’ tool kits. They allow you to send adverts, recommendations and essential information directly to users’ devices which have been shown to boost retention and engagement; however, not all notifications are equal. Support is much more consistent for mobile apps — they are not currently available in all browsers — and apps also have a number of additional advantages:

●   The notification comes from your app, not the browser, which allows more control, and it looks more authentic.

● On iOS, and soon on Android, a notification alert can be shown on your app icon, catching users attention whenever they view their homescreen.

 â— They can contain richer, more appealing content such as images and videos.

 â— They can contain a more meaningful call to action by triggering an action within the app. For example, putting something in a basket or opening a reply window for users to respond to a message.

● Finally, notification from apps can be sent in response to users’ actions on their smartphones — often their location, or a recent interaction with the app. Triggered push notifications of this type demonstrate a markedly higher ROI.

Apps Offer a Faster, More Streamlined, User Experience

It’s well documented truth that a slow, poorly optimized mobile website will cause users to drop out. However, when it comes to optimizing for mobile, native apps are the gold standard. While websites must be compatible across a range of browsers, apps are designed and programmed for a particular mobile operating system (OS).

This ensures they:

● Feel familiar and authentic to your users — Apps have access to native device inputs (swiping, pinching or clicking) as well as official OS user interface elements and style guides.

● Run quickly and efficiently — Apps can operate while users are offline, have the ability to run in the background (for a quick startup) and can access smartphone processing power for more complex activities. This ensures delays are kept to a minimum. In fact, Facebook switched from HTML 5.0 to native apps in 2012 largely due to the dramatic increases in speed — and they wish they’d adopted the platform from the start.

● Are easy to access — With an icon on the home screen there are no URLs and no additional steps to open a browser. In time, apps’ initial hurdle (downloading and installing) will further reduce as instant access to apps becomes increasingly common

Native apps can be designed to deliver a more elegant, tailored and elaborate user experience and they currently provide the best experience on mobile devices.

The App Stores Provide a New Way to Gain Exposure

The app stores are busier than ever. It’s an extremely competitive market, and app publishers will have to fight to earn a place on customers’ homescreens. However, it’s worth it. In our recent survey of app marketers, it has been found that organic search drives both the most app installs and attracts users with the highest lifetime value (LTV).

Despite this, many apps are not marketing themselves correctly and are placing themselves at a significant disadvantage. In contrast, a strong App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy can immediately put you ahead of the pack and give you exposure to a huge, and growing, potential market. For example, we know that 65% of app downloads on iOS come directly from a search on the App Store. By continually refining your app’s keywords, monitoring reviews and considering paid placement in search results (search ads), you have an opportunity to significantly boost your presence. This effect is further amplified if you are ‘featured’ (promoted on the homepage) by one of the App Stores — a huge boon for featured apps, and especially powerful in South Korea and Japan.

 

 

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An analysis of the e-commerce growth in India
An analysis of the e-commerce growth in India
 

By: Mayur Saraswat, Head Sales- Digital, TeamLease Services

With Walmart acquiring majority stake in Flipkart, everybody is watching this sector with hope and optimism. E-commerce, which has been the poster boy of Indian’ economy despite its high failure rate in India, will continue to see increased investment and interest in the future and will continue to grow. Indian e-tailing is expected to grow to USD 200 billion by 2026 up from USD 15 billion in 2016 (Morgan Stanley estimate) and account for 12% of India’s overall retail market.

Growth will be aided by several factors including rising internet penetration, drop in data access costs, shift to smart phones, flow of credit to consumers and micro enterprise increase in domestic consumption, affluent middle-class and rising income and aspiration levels in India’s tier II and III towns. Amidst all this – few other things will shape the E-commerce landscape of India and in turn aid growth & market expansion for the incumbent players. April 2018 exited with 1054 million users on telecom services reflects a true potential to e-commerce business. Private equity and venture capital investments in the e-commerce industry in India touched a record US$ 11.2 billion in the first half of 2017, a 41 per cent rise over last year. Currently, ecommerce has 1-1.5 million transactions daily. After 100% FDI under automatic route is permitted in marketplace model of e-commerce, while FDI is not permitted in inventory based model of e-commerce, Government has started  thinking of national ecommerce policy for legal framework to address the challenges of the sector.

Marketing will continue to be key to success as companies will need to continue their investments in acquiring customers and driving up their Gross Merchandising Volume (GMV). In-doing so they will need to invest in newer forms of marketing – Performance marketing being one. After-sales, services & customer care will continue to be critical – as a means to ensure customer retention and loyalty and it has to go hand-in-hand with the sales and marketing efforts. In a crowded market-place e-commerce companies cannot afford to have a dis-satisfied customer – given the likely fallout of the same on social media, which can dent the e-commerce brands image. Whilst big players are now investing into CRM and customer delight – all other players have to follow suit.

The future will also see increase leverage of technology. Live Chat bots and virtual assistants like - Siri, Google Voice, Alexa and Echo are fine examples of what 2018 will offer. It will likely help businesses handle real-time customer queries and offer product recommendations. Elsewhere, across the globe e-commerce and retail firms are increasingly leveraging data to get closer to their customers and influence their purchase decisions. In India too, we will see an uptake on Big-data as more and more companies will invest in the same and use predictive analytic tools & data models for improving sales and marketing effectiveness. This will also increase reliance on data service & data analytics provider and also e-commerce companies will look at hiring more Analytics & Big Data professionals on their rolls.

One of the key challenges for e-commerce players has been to bridge the digital-physical divide. Despite an uptick in e-commerce buyers – and plethora of products/services now being offered online – the ecommerce companies do struggle to achieve conversions. They will need to ensure that customers get to experience similar touch and feel that they would in a real-world and this is where Virtual Reality along with AI technology is increasingly becoming relevant. Already we have examples of e-commerce companies such as Carat lane and LensKart offering extensive virtual shopping experience to their customers – but we will see more of this in the time to come.

Along with all this, the e-commerce companies are beginning to look at actively expanding to tier II-III cities. Thanks to demonetisation, there is significant increase is usage of digital payments in the tier II-III towns, which makes it possible for e-commerce companies to aggressively tap these markets. Also most ecommerce companies have strengthened their delivery network and reach in these cities, so they are able to effectively service these markets and even offer Cash on Delivery option. The expansion to tier II-III markets will not only result in top line expansion for these companies but also help create sales & logistics related jobs in these markets – as there would be need for delivery boys & sales guys to do merchant acquisition. Logistics sector will also get benefited by ecommerce that will generate 1 million jobs by 2022 in last mile delivery.

E-commerce which is now ripe for consolidation – will see likely increase in M&A activities. Indian e-commerce market saw M&A deals worth $2.1 bn in 2017 and six transaction worth USD 226 million during January and April 2018 and the mother of all deals the Walmart- Flipkart deal pegged at $16 billion. This has important consequences for the India market.

 

 

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How AI is helping augment sales in retail
How AI is helping augment sales in retail
 

If you have ever wondered, “is this brand reading my mind”, when you received discount offers from the same brand you wanted to buy apparel, then maybe it is indeed ‘reading’ you. As artificial intelligence (AI) takes over multiple industries, retail too has not been left far behind. In fact, several reports suggest that by 2020, 85% of customer interaction in retail will be managed by AI and 30% of all companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes by the same time period, writes ShwethaSatyanarayan.

As you enter the website of Keva Ayurveda, a brand that specializes in authentic, affordable Ayurveda products, a chatbot welcomes you. Based on your preferences, the chatbot guides you through the Keva catalogue and recommends products that suit your skin, hair and combinations that work for your skin type. What more? It will also suggest the products you need to avoid.

If you think the chatbot knows more about your skin, than you do, well you are not all wrong. “Technology has changed the way people buy products online and thanks to AI, the number of queries we receive have increased to 30-40 per day from just 10 in a week,” says Krishna, founder of Keva Ayurveda.

It’s interesting how AI has taken over retail industry and is helping retailers augment sales. According to Gartner, by 2020, 85% of customer interaction in retail will be managed by AI and 30% of all companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes by the same time period. 

Commenting on why AI will rule the retail industry, e-commerce platform SaleBhaico-founder Vishwavijay Singh, says, “Artificial Intelligence is transforming almost every aspect of retail, be it providing intuitive navigation or automated customer support. By itself, AI is already being developed into assistive products for everyday life. Behind the scenes, there is a huge intricate and long computational process that entails a precise set of algorithms so as to provide an amazing experience to end users. This technology is going to rule the industry.”

So it’s no longer a secret that retailers collect big piles of consumer data, capture their shopping experiences and use AI to augment sales. Is all this data actually helping retailers? “Not really,” suggests Anjali Kumari, Sr. Director(Product)Capillary Technologies. She says that less than 10 per cent of consumer data is being used to increase sales in retail.

“To stay ahead of the curve in today’s cut-throat marketplace, Retailers are constantly exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence(AI). Although, everyone seems to be interested, adoption of AI -powered tech is still less than 10%. This is primarily because of lack of an integrated solution which can manage the complete customer journey using AI technologies,” she says.

How can AI help in conversions?

“Massive amounts of useful information are left unused, resulting in conversion rates of only 2 to 3 per cent overall. However, AI may change that for companies by using this data to take information and turn it into targeted shopping experiences, online chatbots that will easily answer questions and assist customers, and in-store intelligence to make the experience even more interactive,” says RohanMahedar, Product Head, Capillary Technologies.

Meanwhile, Singh says in India, AI is used mostly for customer service and backend development, but going forward, it will be used in customer services like a customer will get the exact product he’s looking for, as it saves time in navigation and search.

“Across the world, AI is already helping the retail industry by making the shopping experience more personalized -- search results, pages and product recommendations. Not just that, AI has even proved out to be a boon for the supply chain. The technology has optimized inventory management, distribution routes and allocations, as well as replenishment systems,” he says.


Enabling the offline

While online retailers have easy access to pre-transactional customer behavioural data which encompass the complete journey from visit to time spent on each product page to cart abandonment and the final purchase, offline retailers are less equipped than online players.

 

“Consumer insights enable online retailers to influence and tweak customers’ shopping behaviour in real-time and positively impact sales. We are leveraging the power of AI to offer similar strategic capabilities in an offline world. The AI powered devices enable the offline retailer to capture variety of data thus enhancing the per-purchase consumer experience. This helps in intelligently targeting the right customers at the right time with 1:1 personalised message and offers,” says Anjali.

The next wave in retail

“The next wave of AI adoption in retail industry will be engaging with potential customers in store and enhancing their pre-purchase experiences,” says Anjali. She suggests that using AI-powered devices, offline stores can be empowered to positively impact the conversion rates.

“Proactively personalizing customer journeys based on technology that would enable retailers to come up with recommendations using visual and demographic profiling and speech analysis with the ultimate aim of identifying the customer as they enter the store would be of great value to retailers,” she says.

 

 

 

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Single brand retail trade:Emergence over decades
Single brand retail trade:Emergence over decades
 

By Mr Abhishek Bansal, Head-Transaction and Forex Laws Advisory in Corporate Professionals

Emanated from World Trade Convention, wholesale and retail trading has been contracted among the member countries of World Trade Organization by entering in General Agreement on Trade in Services (‘GATS’) in the year 1995. India, being a signatory of GATS, has permitted Foreign Direct Investment (‘FDI’) in retail trade, which progressively liberalized over a period of time. These developments created an environment conducive for modern retailing and tend to attract foreign investors in our country.

 

Background of liberalization on FDI in the trading sector

The liberalization on FDI in the trading sector is chronologically represented as follows:

 

Year of liberalization

% of FDI permitted in the relevant sector

1991

Upto 51% - only in the trading companies, primarily engaged in export activities

1997

Upto 100% under approval route in trading companies including cash and carry wholesale trading

2006

Upto 100% under automatic route for undertaking cash and carry wholesale trading

Upto 51% under approval route for carrying single-brand retail trading

2011

Upto 100% under approval route for carrying single-brand retail trading

2013

Upto 49%  under automatic route and beyond 49% under approval route, for carrying single-brand retail trading

2018

Upto 100% under automatic route for carrying single-brand retail trading

 

Imposition of conditionalities on single brand retail trade

The stipulations may sometime create a major roadblock for the foreign investors desiring to invest in the Indian markets. However, the non-imposition of same may probably swipe the domestic players out of the picture, adversely affecting the unorganized and traditional retail sector which provide livelihood to a larger section of Indian society.

Thus, the Government continues to permit FDI in single-brand retail trading subject to certain conditions vide press note 1 (2018 series).

Analyzing each stipulation along with the possible rationale and/or issues thereof:

 

  1. The product proposed to be sold under this regime should pertain only to a single brand. This condition seeks to permit only serious market players which have an established brand so that people of India are able to avail the benefits of foreign brands within the home country. However, the Government is silent on the retailing of sub-brands under the ambit of a single brand and the benchmark to distinguish between a sub-brand and separate brand, thereby making it a grey area. For eg. Oriflame, in addition to selling its product, is also involved in selling its sub-brands, like The One, Optimals, etc.

 

  1. Only the products which are branded during manufacturing and has a global presence are permitted to be sold to the consumers directly and not the one which falsely depicts the characteristics of a particular brand.

 

  1. Entities infusing FDI beyond 51% are required to adhere to 30% sourcing norms from India. This condition shall attain the twin benefits, one to curb the fear of overtaking the Indian market by multinational players and second to promote the small sectors. In order to ensure check on the company, the quantum of domestic sourcing shall undergo certification by the company and verification by statutory auditor. Considering the capacity of the suppliers in India, the procurement requirement shall be relaxed in the manner to be met as an average of five years’ total value of the goods purchased, beginning from 1st April of the year of opening of first store and thereafter, it shall be met on annual basis (‘Average Rule’). The relaxation has been provided upon the concerns showed by the Apple Inc. upon rejection of its application for seeking exemption from the sourcing requirements.

 

  1. For the purpose of carrying retail trading through e-commerce, the entity is mandated to operate through brick and mortar stores. Considering the ease associated with interned and vast reach of e-commerce sector, the physical presence of the entity is required in the domestic market for de-jure control over the retail trading in India. However, since the no. and location of such stores has not been clarified, the object of this stipulation shall be required to be revisited.

 

  1. A new provision has been introduced which has permitted an entity engaged in single-brand retail trading to set off incremental sourcing of goods from India for global operations during the initial period of 5 years, which shall commence on 1st April of the year of the opening of the first store.

 

Recent ventures in the Indian Markets

During the period of past 6 months, approximately 25 proposals have been approved for undertaking single brand retail trade in India, which includes Amazon Retail India Pvt. Ltd, Grofers India Private Limited, Supermarket Grocery Supplies Private Limited, Urban Ladder Home Décor Solution Private Limited, Blueair India Private Limited, Bally International AG, Acer India Pvt. Ltd., MTR Foods Private Limited, etc. with an approximately FDI inflow of 1000 million USD.

The statistics representing the ingress of foreign players in Indian markets denote that our markets have immense potential.

 

FDI statistics

Considering the ‘Statement on sector-wise FDI equity inflows’ from April, 2000 to September, 2017, the retail trading sector received a total of USD 1098.81 million which contributes to 0.31% of the total FDI equity inflows and positioned at no. 37 in the sector-wise list. Further considering the liberalization of 100% percent FDI in single brand under automatic route, the FDI in the sector is anticipated to ascend drastically.

Conclusion

Though, there are various issues that need to be addressed, but the liberalization of FDI to the extent of 100% under the automatic route and permission to set off the incremental sourcing is a revolutionary step taken by the Government towards ease of doing business in India.

 

 

 

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Tips to learn how to grow ecommerce business in India
Tips to learn how to grow ecommerce business in India
 

The e-commerce businesses are blooming in India due to the advent of latest innovations and technologies that are making an online venture easier. The online marketing trends, distribution system, logistics, and other components are creating a stable platform for the online business venture. It is now easy to create an online business but hard to survive the competition.

The daily life has become more engrossed with responsibilities. People do not get time for them to enjoy. The advent of e-commerce websites has made it possible for the common people to get what they want. Moreover, the percentage of disposable income has also increased with time. Simultaneously, it has also escalated the capability of the people to spend money on new things. Taking this opportunity, a lot of e-commerce portals are emerging, capturing the market and leaving less space for the new ventures. This is why it is very crucial to start an e-commerce business and fabricate a proper online strategy and learn how to grow ecommerce business in India. Here is the list of tips mentioned below that will help your e-commerce business to grow.

 

 

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This is how you can save big while shopping online
This is how you can save big while shopping online
 

The advent of new emerging technologies has enabled customers to reach their shopping experience from anywhere. Thanks to digitalization that has taken over even in small villages today, the e-commerce giants have entered into these huge and untapped markets. These e-commerce tech giants have helped connect the buyer and seller, thereby protecting some of the most ancient and even dying arts / tradition and products. All you need as a customer is a smart phone and glance through your various choices and once the choice is made, the online shopping helps you connect direct with the seller. Like any system, e-buying is a great experience after a careful scrutiny of some of the factors that have been synopsized for buying products of your choice.  

What do you need?

Identifying your need determines the platform to visit as each one of them may be specializing in their own strengths due to bulk discounts. Hence,the product prices differ from one site to another.  While buying a book, it’s always good to opt for Kindle or paperback in order to save as the price becomes half.

Know your seller

Do not buy from an unknown seller. This is the most important note.  Do a check on the agency that is selling the product and once proven to be authentic, then you may choose to proceed.  In cases where even if there is slight doubt, it is key to check again and again before buyouts. 

Compare & verify

Always compare the prices to retail.  Too high prices or too low prices may have some hidden agenda.  Either the prices have not been corrected at the backend when the prices tend to soar or could be the product has some catch eg the model is out of production.  In some cases, the product shows a different pricing as you move to cart and the same does not reflect as you make the payment towards the same. It is key to check the price at the time of your payments in all online purchases.

If you are not sure of the condition of the product try using “Open box option” in front of the delivery boy so that you can check before accepting the parcel.

Reach, Convenience & Cost

In case of a known and genuine ongoing discount, it may be a good idea to do your shopping that time.   For any heavy products, ensure they are delivered to your doorsteps.  Be watchful of the authenticity of the sale.  Do not get lured by any fake or unverified advertisements.

Product information & details

Compare the products from various sellers and then decide.  This is the best option available online.  Online products offer more product information and a detailed catalogue to read.  Compare and contrast the customer reviews given and if need be, you are even allowed to contact for more information.  Unless you are completely satisfied, it is good to seek more information.

Image, color, and design

It is a good idea to read the disclaimers given online, stating that the product could be slightly different in color, image etc.  In such cases, ask for more information like product catalogue.  If possible, visit the store nearby to check the color, size or any other dimension details.  It may be a good idea to check the price in the store as compared to online in few cases.  This is, of course, subject to the availability of time and provided we do not shop in the last minute.

Credibility, voice of the customer, market speak

It is key to understand the customer service facility through timely delivery from not only the speed perspective but also a diligent service.  Read the happenings of the online buy periodically to understand the financial worthiness and the customer focus they have to service their customers’ pipeline including their turnover, the big bang sale and the customer service during this time, the quantum of technology intervention that was planned and delivered for seamless customer delight.  Are there basic facilities like chat, call centres etc in case of any queries.

When buying expensive items it is wise to read the customer review in their portal and understand information that may be useful in your decision-making process.  Read the customer complaints zone carefully before you come to a decision.   If unsure, always ask for “Cash on Delivery” option and never go in for any other mode of payment.

Platform & technology

Innovative and unique trading tools offer various e-pay channels including tie-up with various banks.  In all payment gateways, it may be wise to enable pay through credit cards / Paytm than internet banking or debit card services.  Thereby preventing the loss of cash resource liquidity. Here you must ask few questions to yourself: -

1.       Do the online services give you the benefits of product tracking mechanism support and how effective is it?

2.       Is the product info right wrt pricing updated real time?

3.       Technology like Beacons enables a lot of customers’ preferences post the previous shopping experiences. Is the technology supporting your preferences? Is it able to meet your need?

4.       Facial recognition technology helps to protect your personal data and also analyses your spend in various online shopping experiences. Both the banks as well as few applications enable this.  Establish a strong data-based analysis on where and how much you spend periodically.  You may want to see where your money spent is being utilized maximum.

5.       Chatbots help you navigate to your interests.  Wherever chatbots are available make use of them to ensure your buy is the best or if they have any other offering for you.

6.       Smart mirrors are being enabled in many super speciality stores in the West.  While few tech giants in e-commerce are identifying ways to bring this up in the virtual platform too, this is yet another boon.  Through this feature, you can literally bring in a virtual changing room experience and check the clothes, accessories etc without changing.  These enable you to share your images with your friends either on social media or on WhatsApp where your loved ones can give you their preferences and even before you make your decision to buy.

Gateway security factors

Most of the scams occur during the payment gateway zones.  While it may show the images of the online buying brand, if you carefully examine the URL it may be different leading you to an illegal payment zone.  Always keep watching your link on the bar…  “Secure:https://……..”  This indicates that the gateway is authentic. Never share personal information in the portal or over phone. Do not look at any advertisements that appear “Only for you 99% discount”.  If you are not sure of any advertisements, do not click on them and move the emails to the spam folder.  Phishing is another fraud done with malicious intent.

Keep checking for affiliate marketing gateways so that you can get a small portion as price back.  These gateways get commissions from the e-commerce organizations and in turn share with their customers.

Service post sale

In case of refunds, check with the processing guideline in detail as to how the process would be initiated in case of product returns.  Look at refunds.  If you do not wish the possession, there must be a way in which the product could be either replaced or refunded completely.  Check this.  The recent heartburn in one of the online purchase that I had done was I only accumulated points that could be utilized for my future buy in the same portal thereby compelling me for future purchases from them.  This was never stated anywhere at the time of my pay.  Never add cash wallet unless it is paytm and not for any other reasons unless you have perpetual discounts or other benefits.

Take time to think

In case of deep desire to buy something expensive or even otherwise, it may be a wise idea to park that curiosity for a while.  Any decision making at the high or low end of the emotions may not be correct and always true.  There is an option.  Keep it in the cart for a while.  Keep saving for “Wish List”.   Keep checking if the price is constant or if the price is dropping.  Check if the product is offering any coupon discount or any bid.  If you are not in calm mind, ask yourself if you should park the decision.  There is yet another option to ask for notification.  Ask for not only product notification upon their availability but also for notifications that fetch data pertaining to the price drop.

It is your hard earned money and has every right to make your choice perfect.  During your next time, you wish to go online buy, maybe think of some of the above points.

Use coupon codes

Coupon codes are a great way to save money when shopping online. Many stores have a field for coupon or discount codes at their checkout. Before you complete the order, make sure to search for any discounts on Wethrift.com. Wethift is a popular coupon site that offers coupon codes for thousands of online retailers including many discounts that you won't find anywhere else. You can also install a convenient Wethrift browser extension that will let you know if the site you are on offers coupon codes.

 

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How E-commerce Industry is Evolving In India?
How E-commerce Industry is Evolving In India?
 

With an online population of 500 mn in 2017, India has one of the fastest growing Internet population in the world. We believe a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13% will take the number of online users to 720 mn, close to where China is currently. The CAGR of the Indian online user growth is nearly four times that of global rate. No wonder India currently has one of the largest pool of growing e-commerce startups.

 The key drivers of this growth are the growing online population and rapidly growing access to smartphones. Telecom providers like Jio have done a great job in bringing more and more people online by reducing the data price and providing good data connectivity. The consumer mindset is also changing; with higher disposable income more and more people have started to use smartphones.

Of the 500 mn online population nearly 50% are using social media platforms while about 40% use emails and google. It is only the 10% marker of 50 mn online users who are buying some kind of products online. With the growing habit of online usage, we feel there is huge headroom of growth for the e-commerce firms to increase the number of users in the near future.

The number of online shoppers which is currently pegged at 50 mn is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28% to reach the 120 mn marker by 2020. Of these 50 mn online shoppers, there are just 20 mn monthly active e-tailing users.

Growing internet and smartphone penetration has driven a steady growth of e-commerce users but India is still under-penetrated in comparison to other geographies. E-commerce users which are about 48% of internet users in the US and about 22% in China; are just 10% of the total internet users in India.

The Indian e-commerce has seen a steady growth over the years from 2014 and is currently pegged at $53 bn. We believe the growth of 25% would continue and the Indian e-commerce industry would cross $100 bn marker by 2020.

The various sectors of e-commerce can be categorized into four types basis the market size and online penetration.

*Category 1 – Proven Value – These are sectors which have grown to a good market size with decent online penetration. We have OTAs, online ticketing, online food delivery and online cabs in this category.

*Category 2 – Large Potential – These are sectors which have grown to a good market size but have very low online penetration. And hence there is huge growth expected here with growing online population. This category comprises online groceries, online fashion, and e-tailing.

*Category 3 – Emerging – These are the new upcoming sectors which have low market size very low online penetration. These are hence growing at a much faster rate than the other sectors. Hyperlocal and online medicine delivery are key sectors in this category

*Category 4 – Organic – These are sectors which have gained good online penetration and have achieved a good market size. And hence further growth in these can happen only organically. We have online matrimonial and online real estate classifieds in this category.

( The above mentioned information has been extracted from leading research agency RedSeer)

 

 

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How brick & click is winning retail world?
How brick & click is winning retail world?
 

If you ask a brick & mortar retailer who has worked in this industry since last 17 years, will never embrace or talk more about this e-com & m-com but rather stick to the same old style of retailing, which is a direct selling from the shop or outlet

BUT

Retail is changing now and if we don’t match with this current transformation, we all will become Radio Shack, Payless, Gymboree, etc. to name a few where few of their shops or outlets got closed already.

Reasons can be many but yes, of course, e-com and m-com are one of the reasons for sure.

My Brick Experience

My retail journey started in 2001 in India for few months and then within a couple of months, moved to Middle East where I joined Landmark Group and there I learned all the basics of retailing. Those were the golden days of retail in the Middle East in General and Dubai or UAE in particular as the industry was witnessing double digit growth year on year and every company was opening new shops, bringing new brands in the market, addition of new malls was happening and retail was one of the most happening sectors at that time.

Over the period of years, have worked in front end on the floor, back-end too in the capacity of buyer and then moved to sales and operations profile, where I was responsible for the complete region in terms of sales, daily operations, business development, new store addition and opening, P&L, NP, GP, top line and bottom line.

Retail is never a dull moment for any of us who enjoy this profession as I always believe that every second count on the floor and every customer who comes inside the store is a potential buyer and we all need to get the customer converted as a buyer and then he/she should leave the shop. Retail is more of a theatre where you get instant feedback on everything instantly on the floor rather a three hours movie which is a one-way show.

Click World

Now, the present retail is completely different where each and every customer is mobile and tech-savvy, don’t want to waste time, energy and lose more money in browsing or buying their respective stuff. In fact, customer compares the price inside the store only between retail shop and an online shop and if the deal is better online, they will order online from the store itself and then leave the store without buying anything. With the advent of smartphones and low-cost internet or data, all of us have become smarter and if retail is not changing as per the customer’s progress, the footfall inside the store will keep on declining and the store will show degrowth year on year.

We see very basics while designing a physical shop as it should be customer friendly in terms of walking, browsing, lighting, height of the shelf, etc. and same has to be applied while designing an app or a website where homepage has to be user friendly, placement of words or logo of the company on the page, ease of browsing the categories, etc., all have to be checked and scrutinized. Physical retail is always in detail and clicks retail is more of digital.

Retailtainment or fun while shopping is still valid but now it has to be backed with digital experience where the customers can shop online too from the same shop for the same brand and not from their mobile, rather keeping the tablet or a big screen TV which should be having a free access to all.

I strongly feel that if the shop is not upgrading themselves digitally and with full of entertainment and personalised attention, it will be a dead store soon and those retailers who follow this omnichannel strategy and seamless shopping experience, will survive in this digital evolution.

E-Com or M-Com?

Now, which is better? Online or Offline Shopping and what is the future of e-com and m-com in India?

As per data, India’s population is 1.3 billion, and by 2025, there will be 850 million online shoppers and by 2025, 30% - 35%, retail sales will be from online channels. By 2023, e-com & m-com market in India will be 56 million USD. So, there is a definitely big future of this medium and all retailers need to adapt to go ONLINE but at the same time, offline will never die but it has to be backed with digital experience to ensure good sales from within the store itself.

The article has been penned down by Amir Faizi, Retail Consultant, TRIFED, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. Amir is a  retail professional with 16 years of international work experience and worked in UAE, Oman & Qatar with big retailers like Landmark Group, Apparel Group, Sana Fashions and Pure Gold group. Worked in both front end and back end of retail and having a complete understanding of the Middle Eastern retail market. Came back to India last year, and presently associated with TRIFED, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi as a retail consultant and looking after sales, operations, e-commerce, publicity and social media marketing. A great enthusiast of eCom and m-com now and learning this new era of digital retail.

 

 

 

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How Retail Malls Are Gearing Up To Compete against E-commerce?
How Retail Malls Are Gearing Up To Compete against E-commerce?
 

Shopping centres are undergoing a major evolution at the moment because there is a strong shift how the people are shopping. E-commerce is spreading its wings also forcing shopping centres to expand their presence beyond brick and mortar. As malls are going omnichannel, there has been constant debate about whether or not, shopping malls should let the retail tenants to also promote their e-commerce businesses. Speaking on same, Mahim Singh, Mall Head, Gardens Galleria & The Great India Place, said, “E-commerce market is still under 10% in India. So the brick and mortar retail store is still very strong.”

Going further he stressed the limitations of e-commerce such as last mile delivery issues, returns, size mismatch, colour mismatch etc., which are too common in nature. So, the question arises what shopping malls should do so the e-commerce does not get the higher share of consumer expanding. Let’s shed light upon few strategies that top malls of the country are engaged with.

Click and Collect

Innovative ideas such as click & collect should actually work in the long run if you see it from the customer's perspective. It can often make the shopping journey more convenient for consumers: making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, and trial / collecting the item whenever is most convenient for them, instead of paying for shipping and not being in to take delivery of the item, or waiting for their delivery to arrive. “However, the only point of consideration will be to ensure that stores embrace Click and Collect as a cultural change rather than see it as a hindrance. We are exploring various avenues on these lines and very soon will come out with our exclusive offering for customers,” said Mahim Singh.

Cohesive Experience

Shopping malls are no longer a place purely for shopping, but a one-stop experience provider for shopping, lifestyle and social. Hence, the in-store shopping experience still remains dominant when it comes to the retail market. Shopping malls are no longer a place purely for shopping, but a one-stop experience provider for shopping, lifestyle and social. “Shopping centres are undergoing a major evolution at the moment. Yes, e-commerce offers a sense of ease when it comes to shopping, however malls offer an experiential element to retail which is hard to replicate in the digital world,” Abhsihek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific India.

Data Analytics

As malls are going omnichannel they are heavily relying on technology to map customers’ data and strategizing marketing initiatives accordingly. “We are constantly analysing customer data and gathering feedback from the brands. We have also created an app that is currently in the beta testing stage,” Informed Bansal.

 This app will enable the mall to connect with its customers as well as help them get all the information that they desire at one place. “We are in the process of connecting it with our social platforms as well and it will be the centre point of all important announcements, loyalty programs, campaigns and contests that we do from time to time,” informed Abhsihek

. The app has all the attributes that will help him engage more fruitfully with the customer backed by data analytics, Artificial intelligence and intelligent computing. “We want to ensure that customers have a seamless experience and the app will be launched once it is fully tested and complies with our high standards.As a part of the strategy we are also creating curated platforms and niche campaigns like segmented Facebook communication, Mall loyalty programs etc so that the customer gets a cohesive experience at every touchpoint. In order to be competitive in 2018, retailers have to think seriously about Omnichannel strategies that will bridge the divide between in-store and online retail,” he said.

Online-offline Intregation

Shopping centres are undergoing a major evolution at the moment. Yes, e-commerce offers a sense of ease when it comes to shopping, however malls offer an experiential element to retail which is hard to replicate in the digital world. As the popularity of online shopping has grown over the past decade, e-commerce has become more than just a buzzword for progressive retailers. It’s a viable addition to the traditional brick-and-mortar setup. Whereas it was something unique and innovative for a physical retailer to have an online presence a few years ago, it’s now highly unusual for a major retailer not to have an internet storefront. In order to be competitive in 2018, retailers have to think seriously about Omnichannel strategies that bridge the divide between in-store and online commerce.

How online-offline can co-exist?

The benefits that physical spaces provide make up three of the top reasons why online retailers are setting up shop, including: multisensory consumer experiences, better logistics and consumer service offerings and strong, lasting brand relationships.

The rise of omni-channel retail strategies in which mobile, online and in-store experiences complement, rather than compete with, one another has ushered in a new era for online retailers. Consumers prefer to shop in-store and they spend six times more in-store than online. As Abhsihek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific India following could be the pro active approach to compete with e-commerce.

Multisensory Consumer Experiences 

Nothing beats holding a product in your hand, feeling the fabric and seeing the minute details – something that can’t be done online. We have noticed that consumers want to try on or touch merchandise before they make a purchase. Physical shopping centers allow consumers to do just this — interact with a range of products to make informed decisions about what they’re buying.

Furthermore, physical stores have been busy retrofitting their spaces with technological advancements that make the in-store customer experience more efficient, which effectively eliminates the guessing games encountered online.

Better Logistics and Consumer Service Offerings

Today, retailers that started out only online are using physical storefronts not merely as showrooms, but also as storage and shipping centers to support their online businesses. Instead of one single warehouse to fulfill online orders, storefronts across the country help these once pure e-tailers reduce shipping times and costs – a benefit to both consumers and bottom lines.

Retailers are also trying to better meet hectic consumer schedules and changing needs. A study found that flexible pick-up and return options at physical stores drive incremental sales.

Strong, Lasting Brand Relationships

As we move from an age of transaction-based retailing to one of relationship-based retailing, Indian shoppers are looking for more than just products to buy. They’re looking to connect and establish a rapport with companies they give their business to. But it is not an easy task for online retailers to provide unique brand experiences to consumers when their main interaction is conducted through a computer screen or smartphone. This is why online retailers are looking to the physical store as an avenue to meaningfully engage customers and build strong, trusted and lasting relationships.

Online and mobile channels are now being recognized as an enhancement to brick-and-mortar stores, and not a detractor. Today’s consumer wants to shop when, where and how they want, and physical stores will no doubt continue to evolve and enhance the consumer experience and continue to fortify themselves as the preeminent retail channel.

 

 

 

 

 

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How Online And Offline Retail Can Work Together?
How Online And Offline Retail Can Work Together?
 

Today the world is moving towards online. In such scenario, traditional retail seems to have started struggling in order to stay relevant to tech savvy customers in the era of e-commerce. However, as per the industry insiders there is no hindrance in establishing the synergy between online and offline.  In fact, today the customers are looking for shopping experience which encompasses a seamless integration of brick-and-mortar with online platforms.

Sharing the personal experience, Amit Chaudhary, Co- founder, Lenkart said, “When we had started the business we had no intend to go offline. However, today we realized the offline offers better engagement with the brand also the cost of digital acquisition of customers is also no less. However, we wish to remain at all channels where the customer is.”  Chaudhary was speaking at Indian retail and retail congress(IReC) 2018.

According to Chaudhary, Lenskart, which earns 65 per cent of its revenue from its offline stores, 30 per cent from e-commerce and 5 per cent from its home catering business, is investing Rs 50-60 crore every year on technology development. The brand is touted to sell 300,000 spectacles in a month and roughly 10,000 spectacles on a single day.

Impact of Internet

Online and Offline might be the two different words in the dictionary. But, Internet penetration has really blurred the difference between these two.  Sharing the effect of Internet of retail sales, Vishal Kapil, IT Director, Emerging Markets- India, adidas India Marketing Pvt.Ltd said, “Internet has disruptive whole likes and dislikes even on colors, styles and many factors tremendously for many companies and adidas is one of those.”

Vishal shared an example of the collection that was launched in 2016 during May- June. The collection was made using thick linings and was not meant for tropical regions. The collection got sold out on same day in Dubai as it hits social media platform Instagram.  Vishal Kapil was also a one of the panelists at IReC 2018.

Speaking on omni-channel experience he said, “It is really not about going online and placing order and then collect it. Click and collection is just one part of entire shopping experience.  The real push should be on creating the lines which is relevant to audience as per their thought and design.”

At last, it would not be an exaggeration to state that Internet has affected the retailers worldwide far beyond from their physical space. And, that is the reason  many fast fashion retailers such Zara, H&M and Forever 21 are harnessing the power of internet-based technology to drive growth.

 

 

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Omnichannel - The Future of Retail
Omnichannel - The Future of Retail
 

Both customers and retailers across the world, just as in India, have evolved rapidly over the past few years. For instance, retailers in India are realising that customers do not think about channels separately but rather look at the overall brand, and expect the same consistency in terms of a seamless experience that omnichannel could provide. The discovery of products and services now occur across multiple channels and final transactions could happen through a completely different set of channels. For example, a customer may want to buy something online but should be able to return it to the store. Or customers may want to touch and feel something in the store, but purchase the colour that’s out of stock on their phone while standing amid the racks.

Long-Term Strategies

In today’s world, e-commerce is simply commerce. The digital experience is simply the customer’s experience. And an omnichannel customer strategy should simply be part of the overall business strategy. Focusing on a single conversion and expecting it out of every channel is short-sighted, but unfortunately, this seems to be how we define omnichannel. Retailers should focus on what customers need at any particular touch point, whether it’s information, inspiration, customer support or community engagement, and optimize toward that goal.

Brands and retailers have widely embarked on an omnichannel voyage in India. The players who will be successful are the ones who build their shopping experience around how their set of customers behave and not following a cookie-cutter model replicating a strategy someone else has already implemented.

The real value is in long-term engagement, built across the entire customer journey. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Successful brands gain retention by understanding their customers’ needs, building relationships with them outside of the purchase funnel as well as within it and shaping their business around serving those relationships. Ultimately, that’s what fosters loyalty and helps you stay competitive.

- This article is authored by Tony Navin, Head of growth - Emerging Markets, Narvar

 

 

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Here are 4 retail habits being adopted by the new age consumers
Here are 4 retail habits being adopted by the new age consumers
 

With shopping shifting from malls to mobiles, digital disruption in the last few years has changed the way new age consumers buy. As most of the routine purchase patterns collapse, the millennial buyers have also acquired new age consumer habits. In its recent study ‘Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018’, PwC has highlighted that there have been numerous changes in the new age consumer habits and in order to attract these customers, brands have to be tech-ready. While the survey has pointed out the old age retail routine like visiting a brick-and-mortar store is still a preferred choice of buying, it also suggests that brands have to pay more attention to smartphone dynamics and investment in AI and store experiences—especially in emerging markets, as there has been a major transition in consumer habits. According to the survey, some of the most radical changes in the new age habits are:

Brick-and-mortar still a favourite
Though retailers have come to understand that the era belongs to an omnichannel presence and while they devise their marketing strategies accordingly, the statistics of the survey are rather interesting. It shows that a majority of consumers have remained loyal to brick-and-mortar stores and it is still a preferred destination for shopping. To escape the mundane rituals of store shopping like standing in long queues for billing, the new age customers have switched over to ‘order online and pick up in store’ services which may have also contributed to the physical stores’ continued popularity.Anindita Kumar, co-founder of Yoga Bars, explains why brick-and-mortar is still a favourite among young buyers. She says, “Millennials thrive on convenience and time factor, and visiting a nearby store will always be a preferred choice for buying unless it is not a planned purchase. The touch-and-feel factor also plays a big role which is why retailers have taken the route to the omnichannel presence and ensure a brand is available both online and offline.”

Rise in mobile payments
The journey towards cashless India resulted in the historical rise of digital transactions, an overwhelming impact being on the use of mobile payments. While a majority of the respondents in the survey said that they preferred mobile payments over other modes of transaction, they have revealed that they even use smartphones to complete payment at brick-and-mortar stores, either through customized orders in advance, in-store apps or a mobile payment platform at checkout. Commenting on how digital payments play a crucial role to determine the buying behaviour of consumers, K.T.Prasad, country head, Zendesk India, says, “Digital payments, especially e-wallets, become extremely important as they capture customer preferences. Retailers can understand the spending behavior of customers and when value is added to e-wallets, it only means more sales. This is a positive trend and will only enable more easy business.”

Delivery speed plays a key role
“Consumers are shifting their shopping to instant gratification- as soon as they want something, they want to order it, rather than think about it until their next shopping excursion. They don’t even need to open their device; they can simply tell their digital assistants, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, to make the purchase. That’s happening even for groceries, the last bastion of physical retail,” the survey says.It highlights, “Many consumers said they would pay an extra charge for same-day delivery. Similarly, consumers are willing to accept delivery by drone, at least for low-value products.”

The new influencers
The study warns that the expectations of new age consumers are different from the older generations and it is important to them to know what their peers think. The study finds out that social media plays a key role in helping a brand connect with millennial consumers, while emails from brands or retailers doesn’t resonate much with consumers as they reject intrusive sales pitches. Commenting on this trend, Shopmatic CMO Shenaz Bapooji, says, “Ever since social media came into existence it has been an influencer as people were constantly looking for reference points and social media was that huge influencer. With the liberation of communication, it is no surprise that new age customers look towards social media for guidance. Now, retailers have to adopt strategies to enter this market without being too much of interference.” She suggests that retailers have to find a marketing model which will get the attention of consumers, while they still hold a relevant place with meaningful and purposeful campaigns. “Only when this is achieved can the brand and consumer connect,” Shenaz opines. 

The industry experts agree with the survey that concludes companies should respond to the new consumer habits by shifting their focus and investments accordingly. New business practices to support these investments can help companies go with the flow of new consumer behaviours, rather than fight the current.

 

 

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How online commerce is getting bigger beyond E-Retail?
How online commerce is getting bigger beyond E-Retail?
 

The consumers of the present day world enjoy huge comfort in ordering their favorite stuff online with a click and getting it delivered right to their doorsteps at zero cost. Therefore, more and more businesses are taking due care to make all the arrangements to pamper their tech-savvy customers in a digitally smart way so as to earn their patronage for a longer period of time. This trend is seeing an extension in the B2B domain as well with a scope that is interesting to explore and understand in good detail.    

Today, the term e-retail in India, unlike the past few decades, is seen expanding its wings to meet the expectations of every buyer and seller who is not just from the B2C but B2B domain as well.

In the yesteryears, the business persons were restricted for the choices and required to put in the extra effort to arrange for the smooth execution of the business processes such as buying the essential products, transporting them to the destination and paying for the same. With the advent of e-distribution platforms, it has now become much easier for them to perform all these mundane tasks with least cost and higher comfort quotient.

No doubt that the B2B segment involved in buying and selling of goods and services is leveraging the expansion of online commerce to reduce its business cost in addition to the other precious resources i.e., time and energy that can be well-utilised in several other important tasks.  

New concepts making way for a better experience

Given to the growth of online commerce, these days, new concepts like Experience Zones are also evolving fast to attract more bulk buyers in the B2B domain. In fact, the e-distribution platform for bulk buying, selling for brands, retailers, wholesalers and corporate companies—B2BAdda.com, has been regarded as the pioneer of the concept in the Indian market.

These Experience Zones proffer an opportunity to its customers to experience the real products before buying them so as to mitigate all their doubts about the product they are interested in. What more? These Zones even possess the ability to empower manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and customers who are otherwise fragmented in the diversified physical market and bring them under one technology platform to conduct transactions more efficiently than conventional systems.

Thus, it goes without saying that with the development and implementation of such concepts in the market that is bustled with plethora types of customers with specific requirements, it will definitely become less tedious to decipher the coded behavior of the buyers out there.

To conclude

There is no doubt that online commerce is growing beyond e-retail processes in multiple ways. The former is adapting itself well to enable the bulk consumers in the B2B sector to buy and sell the quality stuff in a digitally smart, safe and convenient way. No doubt that the B2B e-commerce platforms are providing seamless omnichannel capabilities, excellent customer experiences, higher-quality service, rich personalisation and ease of doing business to its customers. 

However, at a time when B2B e-commerce market is gradually maturing across the world, the trend is still at a nascent stage in India. But this is presenting an opportunity in disguise as there is still huge scope for growth for the segment.

 

The article has been penned down by Yogesh Bhatia, Founder, B2BAdda.com

 

 

 

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How to Ensure FoolProof Omni-Channel Transformation?
How to Ensure FoolProof Omni-Channel Transformation?
 

In this digitally advanced era, Omni - channel transformation requires adopting a view, that breaking down boundaries is a necessity. It's not just an event; instead, it's a journey. The retail industry is widely flourishing with the introduction of the Omni Channel Providers. Today’s customer may start an interaction on the web, continue on to mobile and finish his/her transaction in-store or out-store. In fact, customers are looking for multiple channels simultaneously, gaining an omni-channel buying experience and making easy payments. 

The world of omni-channel payments sounds wonderful; making seamless, multiple-channel payment options, but the norm requires all of the payments industry stakeholders to bring some vital up-gradation. The tech solutions offered by the Omni Channel Providers, make payment a easy task by making the payments through mobile, e-commerce and in-store POS.  Usually, the retail merchants make use of numerous contrast payment processors: one for POS, another for e-commerce, and yet another for mobile.

In today’s retail environment too often there is a disconnection between customer expectations and merchant capabilities, ending up merchants facing a number of pain points.  A digital/omni-channel strategy is a must for retailers.

Fortunately, the emergence of digital advancement in technologies and mobile devices has embarked some of the significant changes in the retail environment, providing opportunities for the retailers to reshape their marketing strategies. Nowadays, customers tend to be looking for information in the physical store and at the same time they are getting additional information from their mobile devices. Extraordinary features, like easy return policy, size charts and same-day delivery, have boosted ecommerce and promoted omni-channel shopping.

However, if you accept payments in multiple ways then you will have two options: work with processors and obtain merchant accounts separately for each acceptance method or work with a processor that can offer an all-in-one payment processing solution. Essentially, an omni-channel payment processing solution provides the ability to accept payments in multiple ways through a single processing company. 

However, some businesses looks for a particular POS system with more advanced features. Here, you can often use the POS system of your choice having different processors, but you may have two different points of contact – one for your credit card processing or payment needs, and another for assistance and installation with your POS system itself.

Omni-Channel Providers offering tech solutions to the retail industries make payments easy through various ways:-

1. Release the infinite Aisle, improvising shopper experience

The Infinite Aisle is the concept that a shopper is able to purchase whatever they want, without restrictions on time, location, channel, or even what is available in store. This is achieved by easy and short payment process.

2. Reduce finance and operations costs

Before, the emergence of the tech solution from omni channel providers, the international merchants needed a terminal provider, an integrator and a payment partner in each country of operation, for each sales channel. This lead to a huge investment in multiple contracts, managing reports and monetary flows.

However, the recent tech solutions enables businesses to accept and process payments across multiple markets, helping the retailers to simplify these processes and cut down on the human and financial investments.

3. Raise sales across social media and other channels

In terms of payments, is usually considered to be a sweet link between mobile app and sites, e-commerce, and in-store. So, by using the high end technology retailers can employ social media payment strategies, achieving significant amount of revenue through the Omni Channel Providers.

In a store environment, sometimes a retailer wants a different color shirt to what is currently in stock. With an technical approach, they can go to the in-store tablet, that carries the entire web-based inventory, choose the color they want, make the payment easily on the site, and get it delivered to the address as per their choice. A foreign company, called Adyen allows retailers to accept chip & pin payments for these type of orders in store with the Adyen mobile point-of-sale (mPos) solution. 

File tax compliance

The blend of traditional and online sales strategies gives great opportunity to retailers,  creating opportunities in the world of taxation. The omni-channel transformations can affect a company's treatment of sales tax. Sales tax automation delivers many benefits, including:

 1. Consistency: It gives the confidence that the retailer stays in compliance with all taxes in all jurisdictions.

 2. Cost-effective compliance: The highest level of compliance is reached at a much reduced cost as compared to manual approaches.

 3. Reduced audit exposure: It also gives lower audit exposure and a reduced need to maintain higher cash reserves to cover class-action lawsuits or penalties.

 4. Simplified consolidation: A compatibility with any e-commerce, point-of-sale and other back-office systems ensuring tax management consolidation throughout the entire enterprise is achieved.

 5.  More time: It saves time of the tax function, as it is liberated from time-consuming data-collection tasks to focus on higher-value tax-planning tasks. 

The strategy of an omni-channel providers offering tech solutions to the retail industries focuses on the customer, not the company and recognizes that tech solutions have enabled customers to  to make payments easily, meeting file tax compliance too.

The article has been penned down by Prabhu Ram, Group CEO & MD, PAYSWIFF SOLUTIONS PVT LTD 

 

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Why conversational commerce will be the new voice of shopping
Why conversational commerce will be the new voice of shopping
 

Earlier, from being restricted to just chatbots accessed via apps to replacing assistants at physical stores, the definition of conversational commerce has significantly expanded with the arrival of voice-based personal assistants. Not only do voice assistants enhance customer satisfaction, but even yield better profits for retailers.

As voice assistants are on the cusp of transforming commerce, three years from now, voice assistants will become a dominant mode of consumer interaction across the globe. In its bid to understand why voice assistants are about to revolutionize commerceand analyze why consumers love voice assistants, digital giant Capegemini has conducted a cross-country survey and released the report – ‘Conversational Commerce: Why consumers are embracing voice assistants in their lives’.

According to the report, which ascertains the concrete benefits of voice-driven conversational commerce, voice assistants will become a dominant mode of consumer interaction. “As much as 40 per cent of consumers will use voice assistants rather than websites or apps, while 31 per cent of consumers will use voice assistants instead of visiting a shop or a branch,” the report highlighted.

Interestingly, it pointed out that among the already existing users of conversational commerce, 35 per cent were dependent to buy groceries, home care and clothes, while 34 per cent ordered meals using Alexa, among other voice assistants. Also, 28% consumers made payments and booked taxis with the help of voice assistants.  With international brands like Sephora, Starbucks, Ocado and Walmart already leading the way, more brands are expected to jump into the bandwagon.

Further, the report, said, “Over 1 in three consumers would be willing to replace customer support or shop sales support with a personalized voice assistant in order to enhance their in-store experience.” Among various reasons for choosing voice assistants over stores, apps and websites were the convenience, speed and the multi-tasking ability of conversational commerce.

Voice assistants will yield concrete benefits for retailers and brands
Brands which provide good voice assistant experiences will generate more business and positive word-of-mouth communication. The report found that 37 per cent of voice assistant users would share a positive experience with friends and family, and even 28 per cent of current non-users would want to transact more frequently with a brand following a positive experience. This equates to serious potential financial gain, as consumers are willing to spend 5 per cent more with a brand following a good experience with a voice assistant.

Mark Taylor, Chief Experience Officer, (Digital Customer Experience) Capgemini, said, “Voice assistants will completely revolutionize how brands and consumers interact with each other. What makes voice assistants so exciting is that they are woven into the fabric of our lives, offering simplicity and richness of interaction that consumers have never experienced before. Brands those are able to capitalize on the huge consumer appetite around voice assistants will not only build closer relationships with their customers, but will create significant growth opportunities for themselves.”

 

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Making the retail experience seamless through omni-channel retailing
Making the retail experience seamless through omni-channel retailing
 

From digital to brick and mortar to phygital, last year saw many big brands integrate online with offline in their bid to be omni-present. With studies now showing that omni-channel strategy builds a strong loyal customer base, it’s time that retailers unify their online and physical presence and build convenient payment options to reap the benefits of a wider market.

“Shopping starts from the mobile screens at home and ends in a mall or vice-versa. You got to be everywhere, if you want to stay updated,” says Vasanth Kumar, Executive Director (Landmark Group, India), as he scrolls through the store catalogue on a LED screen at the smart kiosk of a Max store.

Integrating offline with online is not a new trend, but with consumers increasingly switching between retail stores, brand websites and even mobile apps, it only makes sense that brands capitalize on being omni-present and adopt an omni-channel strategy. And it's no surprise that various reports have shown that being omni-present is the only way to connect with consumers and build a strong loyal customer base.

For instance, the American IT company Aspect Software has recently stated that brands which adopt omni-channel strategy have a 91 per cent YoY retention when compared to brands that are not present on various platforms. Likewise, another MNC has highlighted that companies which strongly focus on customer engagement retain have at least 89 per cent of loyal customers.  

“Omni-channel presence provides flexibility, improves shopping experience and customer satisfaction. As physical and online retailing begins to converge, we have to look at innovative ways to enhance shopping experience along with making even payments more seamless,” Kumar said.

Choosing Omni-channel payment for better ecosystem
Just like having an omni-channel retail model, the report suggested, having multiple payment systems is critical for an improved retail experience. From online fund transfers to digital wallets, there are multiple payment methods and integrating payments on a single platform completes customer experience, the report has noted.

Suggesting that omni-channel payment platform consolidates consumer data and gives insights to customer behaviour, buying patterns and payment preferences, the researchers have stressed that omni-channel payments can be a great enabler of efficiencies.

“With these payment solutions, payment methods can be simplified, while consumers can get the benefit of using their preferred payment mode. This improves the shopping experience and consequently customer loyalty and retention,” he said.

While omni-channel payment mode plays a key role along with omni-channel presence to retain loyal customers, the future for digital payments is equally lucrative says, Brijaraj Vaghani, founder, Ridlr, the app which has partnered with Amazon Pay.

“Across the globe, digital payments rule the roost and in India, predictions are that digital payments will be the future by 2022. Although digital payments started slow, it will take off in the coming months. Integrating UPI and digital wallets will be another boost to attract more customers. With omni-channel and digital payments, retail industry is sure to reap benefits,” he said.

 

 

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How e-commerce is helping local artists in building their own brand?
How e-commerce is helping local artists in building their own brand?
 

For the longest time, art found a home only in the galleries and museums of the world. That, and the private collections of connoisseurs. But with e-commerce gaining wider acceptance all over, the world of art has undergone a sea change along with it.

No longer is art meant only for a select few. In fact, it has never been more accessible. Instagram is the new gallery. Art from every corner is only a click away. And artists are more approachable than ever. Here’s a look at some of the ways in which artists and art lovers are leveraging the power of e-commerce.

Art, now more accessible than ever

Online Galleries and Auction Houses

From the biggest names in the business to brand new ones, having an online presence is now a must for galleries and auction houses. With data showing that more and more people are discovering new art online –millennials being the trendsetters – it just makes business sense to be where the next generation of art lovers and buyers are. In fact, a lot of new-age galleries and auction houses have ditched the traditional brick-and-mortar model and have chosen to go the online-only way.

Artist stores

The beauty of e-commerce is that it can offer even an individual artist the means to sell her work to art lovers all over the world. Artists can now set up their own online stores within a matter of days (or even hours!). The reason why some of them prefer going down this route rather thanpartnering an online platform is because of the degree of freedom that comes with it. Not only can artists control the look, feel and features of the store but also work as per their schedules rather than third-party considerations. However, the flipside is that in case of such stores, artists themselves have to look into the proper functioning of the website as well as devise promotional and marketing activities – things which might not be every artist’s cup of tea.

Instagram

As far as social media goes, Instagram has taken over the mantle from Facebook and Twitter of being the go-to platform for discovering new art. This has allowed artists an effective way of using it as a sales channel. A lot of them have taken to revealing the first look of their latest work on Instagram. This not only creates the much needed initial buzz but also catches the eye of potential buyers who can message the artist directly on the platform and finalise a deal right away.

But challenges remain…

The question of physical inspection

One of the biggest factors that drive consumers away from e-commerce is the lack of physical inspection before purchasing a product. For some, this step is simply non-negotiable. And the same applies to art too. Considering the fact that quality art calls for significant investment, a lot of people might feel uncomfortable about spending on an artwork they haven’t seen for real yet. Questions like ‘What if it looks different from how it is on the website?’ or ‘What if it doesn’t feel right when I finally have it in front of me?’ are here to stay. What artists and art-based e-commerce enterprises can do to alleviate such worries is ensure that customers get what they see. Having ahassle-free return policy also goes a long way in allaying the fears of concerned buyers. 

Presentation is, well, everything

In the absence of physical inspection, what really matters when it’s about convincing the consumer is how you present the artwork. No matter how good the work of art, a poor quality preview photo might put it out of consideration for good. Similarly, insufficient information about the artist, a cluttered inventory as well as incorrect taggingand categorisation of the artwork just makes matters worse.  

So much for accessibility. What about affordability?

While e-commerce in general has taken care of discovery or accessibility when it comes to art, the question of affordability still remains. Quality art calls for a significant initial investment. On top of that, a lot of buyers have concerns about growing out of a piece of art as time passes and tastes evolve and then be stuck with it. For such consumers, the subscription model holds a lot of promise. With the focus on experiencing multiple works of art over a period of time by paying a small recurring subscription amount, art lovers can be freed from the burden of ownership and just focus on experiencing works of art that they love – no bulk investment involved. 

Conclusion

While the legacy art establishments are gradually warming up to e-commerce and reaching out to more art lovers and enthusiasts, innovations like the subscription model are opening art up to a whole new audience set. Sounds like a win-win for art. And that’s great news.

The article has been penned down by Rahul Singh Yadav, Co-founder of Floating Canvas Company. 

 

 

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What made digital transactions cross the big billion mark
What made digital transactions cross the big billion mark
 

It’s been a little over a year since demonetization came into effect and it looks like digital transactions are not only steadily gaining popularity among spenders, but is here for keeps. According to RBI, transactions through digital means rose to 1.06 billion last month from 997.1 million in November (2017). Interestingly, this is the first time that the transaction volume has crossed the 1 billion mark.

While digital transaction volumes have been steadily increasing since September 2017, the RBI in its report  ‘Trends and Progress of Banking in India (2016- 2017)’ has highlighted that nearly 89% of the non-cash retail payments in terms of volume and 63% in value were made through cards and electronic modes.

With the government pushing to popularize digital payments, it may not be too far before it achieves its aim to grow India’s digital economy to $1 trillion by 2022. 

In fact, some of the recent programs announced by the state government, including the merchant discount rate (MDR) applicable on transactions made through debit cards, BHIM UPI and Aadhaar-enabled payments system (AEPS) up to and including a value of Rs 2,000 which will be borne by the government for a period of two years are all right steps in the direction towards going cashless.

Further, the RBI, in its report, said, “The withdrawal of high-denomination SBNs (specified bank notes) provided a boost to the objective of a less-cash society as people shifted to card-based transactions and various modes of electronic payments.”

It highlighted that the volume of transactions through prepaid instruments (PPI), which includes PPI cards (mobile prepaid instruments, gift cards, social benefit cards, foreign travel cards and corporate cards), and mobile wallets jumped over two-fold in FY17 compared to FY16.

While the volume of PPIs grew to 1,964 million last financial year, the unified payments interface (UPI), saw 17.9 million transactions worth ₹6,950 crore.

Momentum to continue
As mobile banking transactions significantly increase, usage of PPIs such as mobile wallets also have peaked in terms of both volume and value.While the volume of PPI transactions in December was 99.1 million, Rs35.1 billion worth of transactions were recorded in December.Among many reasons for the spike in digital transactions, it is said that the growing understanding of the public about the benefits of digital payments and increasingly easier modes of payments like BHIM and Bharat QR have helped more people accept it. 

 

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How Digital Assurance is key to E-comm Success?
How Digital Assurance is key to E-comm Success?
 

During the last one decade, e-commerce has emerged as a strong sales channel for all consumer-targeted brands. According to eMarketer, global consumer e-commerce sales will reach $4.479 trillion by 2021, controlling more than 16 percent of total retail sales. The picture is not different in India. As per a Morgan Stanley report, the e-commerce sales in India will touch $200 billion by 2026, growing by a whopping 1,200% annually. This will amount to nearly 12 percent of total retail sales in the country by then. This explosive growth indicates the enthusiastic adoption of e-commerce by consumers has been on the rise.

Need for digital assurance

Digital assurance testing that ensures smooth functioning of software platforms has gained prominence in the e-commerce space due to the business-critical nature of these platforms. Besides the core application, even the e-commerce mobile apps require digital assurance given the growth in mobile commerce (m-commerce). Underlining the importance of mobile apps in e-commerce, Research and Markets estimates that the global m-commerce market will be valued at $467.3 billion in 2019. By 2021, nearly 50 percent of all e-commerce will be m-commerce, the firm states.

Glitch-free functioning and great user experience of e-commerce platforms have a strong bearing on the success of e-commerce players. When Walmart, the global retail giant, improved its e-commerce website’s performance, it discovered that a one-second reduction in load-time led to a two percent increase to its online conversion rate. Another e-commerce player, Shopzilla, slashed down its average page load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds only to witness a massive, 12 percent increase in revenues.

The converse is equally true. If an e-commerce platform experiences downtime or dips in user-experience, it adversely impacts the company’s financials—in addition to reputation damage. During the Christmas of 2014, a bug in Amazon UK’s price comparison module caused listing of several expensive products for ‘one penny’ only, resulting in instant sales. The e-commerce giant had to cough up nearly $100,000 to compensate for the losses of its vendor partners.

Scope of digital assurance

Digital assurance is a vast discipline that covers four broad areas with each area serving a specific essential purpose. The four collectively ensure an obstruction-free functioning of an e-commerce platform rendering it ready to deliver speckless user experience. With some overlaps in the aspects they cover, these areas include functional assurance, performance assurance, compatibility assurance, and usability assurance. Let’s explore each of these areas briefly.

Functional assurance

Starting from wire-frame analysis and workflow validations, functional assurance covers aspects such as negative testing—to check the e-commerce platform’s (and mobile app’s) response to invalid data sets, destructive testing—to check the transaction load-bearing limits of the system (nearly with the intention of breaking it) and its response to exception handling. Rule-based testing checks whether every e-commerce feature functions according to what it is supposed to do under various circumstances. This covers functions such as login, register, search, product filters, sorting, product comparisons, shopping cart, invoicing, and acknowledgements.

Integration testing is another important area in this context. An e-commerce platform is integrated with several third-party systems such as Billdesk, mobile wallets, courier dispatch, and ERP systems of product vendors. Integration tests ensure that all third party systems along with the backend enterprise systems work in harmony with the core e-commerce engine without glitches.

Performance assurance

This area covers the aspects such as network simulation—checking the response of the platform (and app) under various network conditions, and response time analysis—to ensure speedy response of the site and the app to every customer-action. As a preventive measure, performance assurance involves monitoring the platform for symptoms that may potentially lead to a crash, besides carrying out a constant regression analysis. In case of an e-commerce mobile app, performance assurance aims at optimising it for low resource usage—such as battery, memory, CPU, and mobile data.

Compatibility assurance

In October last year, the e-commerce platform of the Australian sneakers brand, Converse was hacked with its customers payment info being compromised. The cyber-security intelligence firm, RiskIQ warned consumers last month (November 2017) that it has identified and blacklisted 32,000 apps and 1,451 URLs that impersonate top five most popular e-commerce sites. Given such threat perception, validating an e-commerce platform’s ruggedness to withstand attack-attempts through authentication and permission checks and security vulnerability tests has emerged as an important component of compatibility assurance efforts.

In case of e-commerce mobile apps, compatibility assurance also covers testing the app across operating systems (and versions), screen sizes, resolution, network speeds and browsers.

Usability assurance

Even if an e-commerce platform is technologically advanced, it’s the user experience that makes or breaks the deal. Usability assurance covers all facets including information architecture, wire-frame, click-testing to check interactivity experience, branding correctness, content, colours, typography, orientation, and gesture.

The secret sauce

Digital assurance provides an e-commerce player with the peace of mind it needs by ensuring smooth functioning and seamless user experience. These efforts to truly fructify, however, need to go hand in hand with customer-friendly marketing policies and programmes.

The article has been penned down by Maneesh Jhawar, Founder & CEO, QualityKiosk

 

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Online vis-a-vis Offline retail format
Online vis-a-vis Offline retail format
 

I remember an interesting discussion with some of my friends and colleagues I had a few years ago on the merits of selling clothes online. While some argued for it, the general consensus was that selling clothes through a website does not make any sense. Clothes, they said, are inherently personal items and people are used to touch, feel and try any clothing item before making a purchase decision. Which side of the fence was I? Well, let me keep that to myself.

I think of that evening often and wonder at how far as an industry we have come. That evening the naysayers may well have drowned out the voices of the believers, but we all know today who is having the last laugh, don't we?

Today, the online medium as a sales channel has emerged to be a force to reckon with, giving the traditional brick and mortar stores a serious run for their monies. The Indian retail market is a complex market owing to the size and population of India.  Different consumptions patterns exist across the country owing to diverse influences, seasonal and other cultural factors.

Traditionally the offline model has been prevalent in the Indian market where you had traditional mom and pop stores which we call MBOs – multi brand outlets - which are serviced by a large dealer network across India.  These 5000 plus dealers are in turn serviced by large distributors, who are typically appointed region wise or state wise.  This model still is very much prevalent in the Indian market as consumers at times favour convenience over distance - for example one may not want to go to a mall or a high street for a brand exclusive store and rather visit the closest neighbourhood MBO for the purchase.

EBO’s – exclusive brand outlets - both in malls and high streets have also become very popular over the years as an exclusive store allows a brand to shows its distinct positioning to the consumer as well as offer the complete range of its products.    EBO’s also contribute to brand building and brands are able to make exclusive offers and previews to its customer base.

The third element of offline is large format stores like Shoppers Stop, Central, Globus, etc.  This retail format also attracts high number of footfalls owing to their size and diversity of overall product offerings. 

But as we all know, e-commerce has truly emerged as a disruptive force to the offline model as e-commerce allows penetration to the remotest part of the country as well as the convenience of making purchases at a click of few buttons.  Online also allows brands huge scalability as they need not invest in traditional and expensive bricks and mortar stores.  Finally, the explosion in penetration of smartphones in Indian market has also fuelled the rise of the online business.

Today, at Alcis, for us to be able to effectively penetrate and reach our target group in 15-35 years old, we are making our products available at both offline and in online platforms. When we started, we made a conscious decision to bifurcate our go-to market strategy in three phases. We started off with the online channel in the beginning, then moved on to large format stores and finally have embarked on opening our exclusive brand stores.

Currently, we are present in large format stores such as Shoppers Stop, Central, Globus and Emerge.  We are present in most states through the dealer network of MBO’s as well as in organised retail chains such as Sports Station.  We are also opening our exclusive brand stores.  We have opened our first EBO in Lulu Mall, Kochi and are opening two more next week in Mumbai and Guwahati, soon to be followed by Bengaluru and Mysore.  Overall, we have plans to open 30 stores in 2018.

Talking about online, we are present at all the leading e-commerce platforms likeJabong, Myntra, Flipkart and Amazon.

The essential element here is that there is no fixed formula or recipe regarding the optimum way to make your product reach your customer. Both the online and offline retail are relevant and important and come with their own pros and cons. In my view, it would be foolhardy to ignore one medium at the cost of other. But at the end of the day, it solely depends on your product and your target audience on which medium to choose and at what level.

The article has been penned down by Roshan Baid, Managing Director, Alcis Sports

 

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Flexible digital trade distribution aiding global commerce operations
Flexible digital trade distribution aiding global commerce operations
 

E-commerce as a channel is fast changing both buying and selling experience. Although much has been said about buying convenience, there is a paradigm shift in for resellers who have adopted e-commerce distribution. We can take this in two part one reseller selling in global markets second technology changing the way product is offered to a customer. Today a reseller sitting in any part of India can sell his product globally without getting into complexities of exports documentation and process. In e-commerce, it is called cross-border trade or CBT. There is the advantage of this business as a reseller you are selling to the customer directly. This helps in understanding the customer buying behavior and it is a cost-effective way of selling. The third biggest advantage is profitability for the reseller. E-commerce enables the reseller to sell directly to customer hence eliminating middleman leading to better product pricing and also higher margins for the reseller.

So, global e-commerce helps in reducing inventory risk, ensure payments, helps in knowing the customer better and increases profitability. In India, you can use E-bay and Amazon platforms to sell globally. Apart from this, platform like Amazon gives warehousing facility to store your goods in their warehouse abroad and sell from there. This reduces delivery lead time but increases inventory management risk. This model is adopted by resellers who have been selling on CBT mode and understand what kind of product assortment would work in which country. This reduces the risk of inventory obsolescence.

Technology is changing the way reseller can display merchandise. The new way to sell is through Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The reseller would be able to set up and digital shop with product been projected through VR. This would help in getting closer to physical look and feel of the product. The digital commerce is changing the face of product experience, making it more predictable and reliable for the customer, so, that they can make an informed decision. It will increase the credibility of product and will lead to higher conversion rate. This would be very effective in selling fashion, home furnishing and gadgets.

Setting up a digital virtual shop and selling globally is very cost effective. For a customer, he can buy the product from hundreds of digitally set up virtual shops. The use case of the product can be given by augmented reality, this is not very far-fetched as India would see Flipkart and Amazon moving to same in next few quarters.  Another cost-effective way to showcase product is demo videos. Today on most of the evolved platforms reseller can put videos making product demo and pitch clear to end users. 

Digital commerce is giving the flexibility to operate from remote locations. These platforms are flexible to the extent that seller can have a global shop with effective product display and full control of the sellers. The digital marketplace is making seller sell across the globe in simplified manner and technology reduces the complexity involving traditional export.

This article has been authored by Vivek Paliwal, Co-founder & CEO, 99yrs Network LLP

 

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Is e-commerce killing the fundamentals of its establishment?
Is e-commerce killing the fundamentals of its establishment?
 

What’s with e-commerce these days you may ask? Apart from rolling out massive discounts or attractive offers every other month, tens of hundreds of unknown brands are making inroads in the e-commerce space leaving buyers spoilt for choice. With the battle between e-commerce players getting fiercer day by day, a change in strategy, i.e. looking beyond discounts and offers have become the need of the hour. That’s how e-commerce firms came up with the idea of launching private labels to offer customers an umbrella of products under one platform. Large e-commerce players with huge funding had earlier capitalized on small-and-big scale businesses and their inventories to build a strong customer base. The e-commerce players made brands believe that technology adoption and use of devices such as smartphones and tablets along with improved internet connectivity have made customers shift their shopping preferences online. While brands that are over a decade old have established its brand value and positioning, e-commerce players portrayed themselves as a platform to extend their reach digitally. In fear of losing out in the market, brands embraced e-commerce to drive sales and to make customers avail their products online as well as offline. However, that is not the story anymore!

E-commerce firms are now looking beyond brands to launch their own private labels and are pushing them to their ever-growing customer base. By offering competitive pricing or selling subsidized products, conducting aggressive promotions, offering superior quality products and more, several e-commerce companies are stepping into the market with their own private labels. Top players like Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra have already launched their in-house brands to outsmart their competitors, make their brand names stronger and enjoy larger margin structures. These companies have intensified their push on private labels by tying up with manufacturers as well. The question here is will these private labels emerge as a threat to the existing big and small brands

Private labels versus brands
While the purpose of e-commerce firms was to cater to the customers by offering a wide array of categories ranging from fashion, electronics, beauty, furniture, etc at various price points as per the quality of brands, a lot of gaps existed in the e-commerce space, especially with respect to price range, aesthetics, looks and feel. E-commerce platforms felt the need to bridge certain gaps existing in the market, but in a direct competition with the brands they sell. The e-commerce firms are already at an advantage as they are able to generate a massive amount of data regarding the hottest selling products, the latest trends, consumers’ buying behaviour, etc. With these humongous data, the e-commerce firms are now able to identify the existing gaps, find out consumer trends, such as best selling fashion and categories beyond what brands can see themselves.

E-retailers are utilising the existing data to develop their own private label brands and compete with brands they partnered with in the first place. After making their presence felt online, these platforms are working in favour of their own brands by giving them more visibility through favourable product placements as well as top rankings on internal search result pages. By understanding the market potential, they are now making use of the traffic coming to their sites to promote their in-house brands. E-commerce firms which are launching in-house brands are looking at satisfying the customers by providing almost a similar kind of value proposition as that of brands but, at a lower price. Price promotions often tend to hurt the brand, as consumers become conditioned to buy products only during the offer period. They focus more on price over quality and are likely to switch between brands in case of higher discounts. A brand is forced to continuously sell its product at a lower price and offer steeper discounts to gain back consumers from the competition. The continued discounting has a tendency to eat into the margins and eventually bring down the shareholder value. While there are companies that set a minimum benchmark value to their product below to which the product cannot be sold, not all the fashion brands are able to abide by the same set of rules. In a survey conducted by Lab42, it was seen that 7 out of 10 respondents shop online to avail promotional offers while 2 out of 3 respondents shopped online because of low prices on goods. While customers have an eye for quality, they turn price-conscious during the offer period. For brands, price promotions are essential to drive short-term sales, to overlook the long-term negative impact to the brand’s value and bring back the financial returns to the firm.

Clearly, private labels are grabbing the market share, especially when it comes to apparel and footwear categories. The price differential with respect to in-house brands is in the range of 20 to 25 percent. Private labels are able to make a good proposition for an already captive audience and boost sales. However,this monopolistic behaviour is not just disputably against The Competition Act, 2002 but against the fundamentals of the establishment of an e-commerce industry as well. If taken together, all these trends may seem intimidating to manufacturers of brands. This development is inching towards a closed loop, where large e-commerce players are killing other small players with deep discounting and low price points, in a way making the customers eventually stick to private labels, as the other options will soon cease to exist due to lack of profits. While private labels might seem like the way forward for sustainable e-commerce in India, what is required of brands is to build on a dedicated management to thrive. Brands need to take a stand in maintaining their price regulations and build their offline market simultaneously. To sustain in the long run, brands should look for solutions that integrate well with their offline and online space, instead of venturing out as separate entities.

This article has been authored by Harsh Shah, Co-Founder, Fynd

 

 

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How successful are digital payments amid limited internet access
How successful are digital payments amid limited internet access
 

It may have been over a year since the Modi government envisaged a digital India, but the actual availability of digital payment options is still low among many retailers, especially kirana store owners.

The push for cashless India has been phenomenally high ever since the note ban was enforced. However, even after a year, retailers and consumers are finding problems in digital transactions due to limited internet, a recent survey has concluded. The survey ‘Going Cashless’ was carried out by Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) in association with Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI). According to the findings of the survey, post demonetization, ownership of mobile phones was substantially high among consumers and retailers. As much as 94% retailers and 85% consumers, including in urban and rural areas, were found to possess mobile phones. Despite such high penetration of mobile phones, lack of infrastructure for digital payments deterred consumers and retailers from using mobile payments, the survey said. 

Observing that mobile phone payments are playing a key role in digital payment platform, CDFI executive director, Krishnan Dharmarajan, in his report, writes, “Innovations in digital payments space predominantly uses mobile phone. Digital payment options using mobile phones today have become so common that even traditional players such as card technology and payment service providers have been forced to rethink their digital payment instruments to accommodate mobile phones.”

He further said that there was a huge untapped potential for mobile payments at unorganized kirana stores, where most Indians go to fulfill their daily needs.

“As much as 94% of shopkeepers have mobile phones, of which only 41% have access to smartphones. The recent influx of low cost smartphones bundled with internet should further push the surging interest in digital payments across both rural and urban India,” he suggested.

The survey found that mobile phone penetration was highly widespread in locations with both sizeable and moderate consumption levels in urban and rural areas.

The survey highlighted that post demonetization despite the intent amongst retailers to adopt cashless transactions, actual availability of digital payments options were low due to lack of infrastructure, non-availability of POS devices, procedures for obtaining a POS device, documentation, lead times, digital and financial literacy which made the process a little difficult and far-fetched.

 D.Krishna Sundar, chairman, Digital Innovation Lab, IIM-B, said: "To get closer to a cashless economy, it is important that the number of digital transactions increases across the country amongst all segments and through a variety of payment options. Since one of the main contributors to the cash-based economy is the unorganized retail sector, this is a segment which cannot be ignored in the cashless journey.”

 

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Conversational commerce: Dawn of the new technology
Conversational commerce: Dawn of the new technology
 

From tiresome download process to multiple registering rounds, consumers are seeking a paradigm shift in the app ecosystem. With many big and small players now shifting to conversational commerce, the AI technology is redefining how brands engage consumers, writes ShwethaSatyanarayan

From paying bills to booking a cab, or simply suggesting your favourite meal or finding a doctor near you, there’s practically an app for everything and conversational commerce is slowly but steadily entering the lives of tech consumers. While chatting robots or chatbots have taken over the role of a personal assistant in the lives of its users, there a host of other ventures that are emerging to make life easier for its users.

What is Conversational Commerce?
The intersection of messaging apps and online shopping which allows businesses to utilize apps such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp, or even voice technology like Amazon Echo. Customers can chat with an AI robot and ask questions, receive customer commands and personalized recommendations or purchase products all within one channel. In conversational commerce, customers can interact with human representatives, chatbots, or both. 

Conversational commerce is not only exclusive to messenger chatbots, but even company representatives. For businesses, the e-commerce chatbots can be used to automate customer service messages and send information regarding their orders, (such as shipping and delivery notifications) resolve any issues and interact with customers in real-time.

Commenting about how customer behavior was changing and technology was rapidly changing to keep up with the demands of the millennials, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd Chief Information Officer Piyush Kumar Chowhan, said, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way we interact with technologies across multiple industries. Machines are telling us what to do and there are self-learning machines which will talk like humans. A lot of intelligence is being built in machines and algorithms are being made to differentiate one customer from another, and understand each customer individually. The platform is working towards digital transformation.” 

Further, from understanding a customer requirement to providing alternatives and receiving feedback, chatbots can be personalized and can talk to users at every stage of a purchase process.

“Technology is making our lives simpler and transforming the way we live and work. Artificial intelligence will usher in a better world and with chatbots, brands can make sales in a more customized manner, catering to the needs of the consumers. Having a bot strategy for brands in India holds importance due to the growing population of smartphone users, which stands over 250 million and is the second biggest smartphone market after China,” says Sachin Kelkar, Head (Partner Program), Intel.

According to experts, chatbots will lead the way because of its convenient options like:

1)    Enables two-way communication

2)    Reduces human dependency

3)    Helps generate more sales

4)    Encourages customer engagement

5)    Helps track user behaviour

Some of the major chatbots from India

Aisha by Micromax
A ‘desi’ version of Siri, Aisha can perform tasks like initiate Google search, make calls, give movie reviews, read news among other tasks. It is one of the most popular bots in India.

Gupshup
One of the most advanced bots and messaging platforms, it enables developers to quickly and easily build, test, deploy and manage chatbots across all messaging channels. Its software programs can interact with each other for all the popular messaging platforms, including SMS, Facebook Messenger, Slack and Telegram.

MagicX
MagicXhelps you with your day-to-day tasks like bill payments, food order, travel bookings, among other daily chores. It learns from human interaction, giving a sense of more human like responses, but highly scalable at the same time. MagicX can be found in more than 20 e-commerce platforms.

Niki.ai
Two years ago, Niki.ai started by responding to requests for services such as cab,  food delivery and phone credit top-ups.This fully automated chatbotnow works up on the concept of artificial intelligence with no human intervention. It has so far served over 50 million interactions.

Engati
Engati is a chatbot platform that allows you to build, manage, integrate, train, analyse and publish your personalized bot in a matter of minutes. It presently supports eight major messaging platforms including Messenger, Telegram, Line, Viber, Skype, Slack and Webchat with a focus on customer engagement, conversational commerce, and customer service and fulfillments.

 

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E-Commerce Paving Its Way Further into the Hinterlands of India
E-Commerce Paving Its Way Further into the Hinterlands of India
 

The past few years have seen a sort of revolution in India in the online shopping market. Increasing e-commerce penetration into India’s hinterlands has spawned unique expansion opportunities for the industry. Many big retail businesses have for long been operating in a restricted territory by offering services to only the urban areas. It’s only now that powerhouses like Amazon, ShopClues, Flipkart, etc. has penetrated the rural and confined corners of the country for an expanded business.

Dividing rural internet users in India into five categories, Boston Consulting Group had pointed out the potential of two large segments: ambitious users and next-wave users, estimated at 33 percent and 36 percent of rural users, respectively. While the typical ambitious user is young male graduate from less affluent household and nurturing aspirations to move to a city for work, the next-wave user is usually young female homemaker from an affluent household who has just started going online.

Why the hinterlands?
According to Census 2011, about 68.84 percent of India’s population lives in villages while the rest of 31.16 percent in towns and urban agglomerations, so it can only be imagined the kind of impact India’s economy will experience when rural e-commerce will gather serious momentum.

In order to tap this immense market, Amazon has initiated its pilot project ‘Udaan’ which integrates skill development and self-employment with assisted shopping and in some cases, even Amazon Pickup, thus enabling customers to benefit from the emerging digital commerce opportunity. “Since launch, Udaan has expanded to 21 states and union territories, having over 12,000 stores covering ~1,700 pin codes across India with partners like Storeking, Vakrangee, and small entrepreneurs like Linq, Indiabuys apart from hundreds of mom and pop stores who have signed up directly with Amazon,” informs Kishore Thota, Director - Customer Experience and Consumer Marketing, Amazon India.

Similarly, another e-commerce giant ShopClues which is present across all the states and over 31,500 pin codes in the country understands the potential of “Real Bharat”. Radhika Aggarwal, Co-Founder, ShopClues, believes that the real India lies in Bharat (tier –II, -III, -IV regions and beyond) and that this part of the country has been under-represented, under-serviced and under-recognised over the years. “Through its extensive market research and insight mining along with Artificial Intelligence (AI) based customer experience, ShopClues understands the needs of ‘Bharat’ where price points and value play a pivotal role in shopping experience,” maintains Aggarwal.

Not only these e-commerce giants, but Chinese mobile player like Xiaomi is also hitting the non-urban trail. It has rolled out 200 exclusive stores in rural Karnataka by StoreKing. RedBus, India’s largest inter-city online ticketing platform which boasts a network of 2,000 bus operators covering over 100,000 routes, owned by MakeMyTrip, too is busy making rural inroads.

For Amazon, non- metros continue to be the driver of new user growth, with share of new customers in non-metros moving past 75 percent, as on 2017. Amazon remains very clear about the idea of expanding the concept of online shopping to the hinterlands of the country. “We are an extremely customer centric company and our goal is to provide the widest selection to the maximum number of customers. Our measure of success is when we are able to deliver exotic tea or designer wear to a customer residing in the far corner of India,” says Kishore Thota.

Consumer Shopping Pattern in Rural India
Who wouldn’t want shopping at the comfort of one’s home, buying that perfect set of products by just one click on the smartphone. But is it that easy for our fellow countrymen in the hinterlands where either internet connectivity is weak or delivery options are scarce. To top all these technical issues, there also exist ignorance and trust issues among the village dwellers. But the e-commerce giants have found ways to build a better connect and the rural consumers too have been appreciative of the same.

“Customers everywhere are looking for a great shopping experience, with vast selection of products, competitive pricing and fast and reliable delivery. Customers from the hinterlands are just as enthusiastic in their purchase of products across categories. With the expansion of our selection to over 160 million products, we have witnessed phenomenal demand coming in - with tier -II and -III cities and towns contributing to over 65 percent of all orders received on Amazon,” asserts Kishore Thota.

Talking about the shopping patterns, Kishore Thota apprises, “Smartphones continue to be a favourite among customers across all geographical backgrounds. We have witnessed a surging demand for exclusives in the category, across our Udaan points clearly indicating the purchase aspiration in these geographies.” Radhika Aggarwal agrees, “During the first four days of Diwali sales, 80 percent orders were in feature phones category from tier -III, -IV and beyond as offerings are specifically created keeping Bharat’s needs in mind.

Amazon has also witnessed growing demand in aspirational products like shampoos, diapers and beauty products and consumables among the rural consumers, over the last 3 months. There also has been an increase in grocery shopping from Amazon’s Udaan points which is a strong indication that the consumers are getting more comfortable purchasing products in bulk from the e-commerce marketplace. Amazon Fashion is another fast growing category for tier -II and -III cities and towns.

In terms of response to the Diwali sale, for ShopClues the focus remained on the Re-New Gadgets category. “The Re-New category has tripled in growth this season, as compared to our overall marketplace growth of 2.5X,” says Radhika Aggarwal. While Amazon maintained that the company registered phenomenal growth in new customer acquisition through Udaan stores, as compared to last year.

Challenges & Way Ahead
Indians have traditionally been “touch and feel” shoppers and e-commerce was a new paradigm for majority consumers in India. While we see strong adoption in the urban consumers, changing this behaviour was a challenge for consumers outside of the top tier cities. “By partnering with existing store owners, we are leveraging the trust that they have built within their communities and taking their help in reaching out to this new consumer base. With a physical presence, we also give a physical manifestation to the online shopping presence that helps create accessibility and gives a sense of comfort for these new consumers,” says  Kishore Thota from Amazon.

Another hurdle being logistics in these geographies. While urban areas are easily accessible, delivery to remote areas costs much higher that either drive down the margins or drive away the customers. For many of these companies working hard to penetrate the rural Indian market, the Indian postal service has come to the rescue. It is important to note that a whopping 89.7 percent of post offices in India are situated in rural India which gives e-commerce companies a vast infrastructural network to work with. “We also have third party carriers to enhance our last mile delivery experience. The ‘I Have Space’ program has reached a milestone of 180 cities with over 12,500 pickup points. Service Partner program is one of the last mile models by Amazon logistics in India to provide best in class delivery experience to our customers in remote areas. This program now covers more than 250 satellite cities and tier -II and tier -III towns and villages,” prides Kishore Thota. Meanwhile, ShopClues too is working in its full potential in order to overcome challenges that may come in the process of its rural penetration. Radhika Aggarwal shares, “E-commerce is the way ahead and rural India is very well adopting the channel. We have launched an exclusive label MEIA, designed for the hinterlands, which speaks for trust and dependability and more importantly, value for money.”

To sum up, it is not all a lost cause as far as rural Indian e-commerce penetration is concerned, and lot more is still slated to happen in the sector with many more companies going deeper into this market.

 

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How e-tailing is booming in this festive season?
How e-tailing is booming in this festive season?
 

Driven by a very strong e-tailing festive sales in Sep’17, with USD 1.5 Bn of sales generated over 5 days, e-tailers are likely to see 45% y-o-y growth in Q3 CY17. Which should put industry on track to grow 20% y-o-y for the whole of CY17- a marked improved from the slowdown recorded in CY16.

Online Grocery

Indian market is on track to reach USD 1 Bn in sales in CY17- driven by strong growth in transactions and steady AOV increase. After a challenging 2016 year, 2017 is on track to be a robust year for E-FMCG/Grocery market with 60% y-o-y growth likely. Sales have been driven largely by volume growth- which points to growing acceptance and penetration of online grocery amongst consumers. Additionally, AOV growth has also been significant, driven by increased share of cosmetics and other premium products in shopping basket.

Online Mobility

Autorickshaw category has grown to become a crucial part of online commute booking market. While the online autorickshaw market has historically operated in stops and starts, the crippling driver strikes at the beginning of 2017 provided the right tipping point for this nascent category to evolve. Further enabled by lucrative offers (e.g. INR 29 fare for < 4km travel distance), this category has grown 3.5x in the last one year.

Online Healthcare(ePharmacy)

Despite regulatory hurdles, the ePharmacy market has been growing rapidly for the last four years. The ePharmacy market in India is thriving with players aggressively expanding and innovating to drive mass adoption of these services. However, industry needs to solve its unique challenges e.g. the high cases of order loss by platforms due to prescription errors (>12%) to attain the next level of growth.

Hotel Aggregators:

Compared to other global tourist hubs, Metros in India have a much lower online % of budget hotel bookings - indicating the high growth potential

In spite of the rapid recent growth, the online hotels market in India continues to remain underpenetrated compared to other leading tourist capitals in Asia/Europe. This indicates the still strong potential for online hotel platforms to digitize both supply and demand so that unorganized hotels in India can fully unlock the value of their inventory.

(The above mentioned report has been extracted from a reserach conducted by RedSeer consulting)

 

 

 

 

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Is alternative mode of payment a game changer in ecommerce
Is alternative mode of payment a game changer in ecommerce
 

The recent Global Retail Development Index 2017 report suggests that mobile shopping grew by 121% in India last year, and mobile and online shopping have become synonymous. Although the penetration of smartphones has crossedeven the boundaries of tier II and tier III cities, there’s a long way for hassle-free online transactions. Even with estimates that online retail project will grow by 30% annually and reach $48 bn by 2020, the ecommerce websites have been plagued by some of the most common issues like cart abandonment and functional challenges with cash on delivery.

While the festive sales mean more users are transacting online, it also highlights the fact that this can either bring more revenue for the ecommerce channels or can turn to be a pain point if the payments’ framework is broken.

According to industry experts although ecommerce has been dependent on Cash on Delivery (COD) for a long time, post demonetization the numbers have dropped and there has been loss of revenue during change transactions. However, customers still choose the option in a bid to avoid cumbersome online payment options and sometimes the inability to complete an online transaction.

Likewise, cart abandonment, which is nearly 60-70% is said to be a major challenge for ecommerce marketers. As per sources, only 30 out of 100 customers intending to buy a product actually end up buying it. The reasons for cart abandonment vary from gateway not supporting a certain bank to multi-step verification or broken transaction and failure at the payment gateway.

Pallav Jain, Head – Consumer Business, PayU India, says, this is where the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ platforms fill the gap. He says, “The rise of these platforms can be a gamechanger for ecommerce transactions. Not only do they offer microcredit for buyers, but offers even a tap and go checkout experience, making it easier to complete a transaction and purchase a product. Such offers not only allow customers to access payments services, but also increase participation in economy.”  

PayU India’s latest deferred payment offer is enabling a number of its customers to purchase a product or a service and pay for it later. “Quick adoption of LazyPay and the rise of customers opting for deferred payment while completing their transactions means immense opportunity for ecommerce portals,” he says.

Hence, with ecommerce portals offering buy now pay later options, the merchants and consumers both are set to gain.

 

 

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How digital innovations are easing the omni-channel journey?
How digital innovations are easing the omni-channel journey?
 

Shoppers of these days are going across the channels to make purchases; hence, making it mandatory for retailers to be present everywhere. Once the retailers go omnichannel, creating a seamless experience is one of the biggest tasks for them. Technology has a very big role in making entire omni-channel journey seamless. Retailers across the world including Indian are striving hard to find a solution so the customers don’t differentiate difference channels. Let’s shed light on few tech innovations and challenges that few big retailers are facing these days..

Choosing the right channel..

Not all products can be placed everywhere. Speaking on Omni-channel journey Vipin Bhandari, CEO, Spencer’s, “For any particular category, whether to go pure play online, click collect or physical store, everything depends on certain variables. All that matters is customers’ requisitions which could be related to timings, distance, category to shop, frequency to visit the store. So depending on these factors we choose whether to go online or offline.”

Addressing the challenges associated with creating seamless express Vipin Said, “Oflline and online has very different KPIs. Merging these two is a very challenging task. And, we are constantly making efforts to creating uniform experience across the channels.” 

He also informed that homogeneous product such as Maggi Noodle or any electronic products see the higher traction in online channel.  However, when it comes to fresh and staple people tends to visit offline store to get touch and feel of the product. “Vegetables see higher penetration in online channel comparing fruits because vegetables fall in homogenous category; however, with fruits the ‘ripe’ factor is very important, informed Bhandri.

The company has not started click and collect model yet. However, the company offers free home delivery for in- store shoppers.  The company tends to get higher wallet share in online channel as he informed.

Managing the orders from different channels

Recently, leading footwear chain Metro Shoes Ltd was facing challenges in managing orders coming from multiple online platforms. Hence, the company upgraded to IBM solutions to create seamless experience. Earlier the same task was handled by unreliable software, leading to lack of visibility of real-time data of sales, inventory location and returns. In addition to its inventory management challenges, Metro Shoes Ltd needed to improve online presence for some of their popular internal brands which were getting low visibility impacting overall sales. 

 Speaking on same, Alisha Malik, Vice President, Digital, Metro Shoes. “With IBM’s knowledge in the omni-channel commerce and retail space, we are confident that these changes will not only help accelerate the execution of our strategy, but also give us an edge over competition. At Metro Shoes, we strongly believe that the new solution will enhance the overall user experience, thereby increasing revisits, traffic and loyalty.”

In-store innovations

Moreover, new technologies supporting the omni-channel offer retail marketers powerful solutions for developing more effective, highly targeted, and measurable promotions for improved sales. Speaking on in store innovation, Vinu Sunderresan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, vMobo  Inc informed, “There is a lot of things happening is the technology side to make the entire experience seamless. Our endeavour is to replicate the digital experience in the offline store.”

The company is working on some fantastic technologies to improve in the store experience. The company is just come up with an innovative solution called ‘Interactive Display’ which is largely meant for fashion retailers. Unlike to online shopping, checking the availability of your ‘size’ in entire repository of store could a cumbersome task for any shopper, especially during peak hours when on floor sales staff could be busy in entertaining other customers.  Interactive Display can be placed different areas and customers can browse entire catalogue on digital screen.

Equipping the staff

While deploying any tech innovation it is equally imperative  to value employees’ perspective  as most of the brands only put customers’ view paramount. The change that the brand wishes to bring forth should also go well with your employees. Speaking on same, Avni Davda, MD, Godrej Natures Basket Pvt Ltd said,” Embracing to technology is very important to stay relevant. In our case tracking the inventory and making sure it reflects the same in online and offline channel, we have a huge tech transformation going on along with people transformation as well.”

Sharing her experience she said, “Inventory management used to such pain point for us and matching that with online just add the chaos. Now we barcode the new stock using simple devices. When we made the inventory live it really took us long not because people did not adept to it, we also made efforts employees to adept it.

Clearly, as the brands go on multiple channels  the role of technology becomes extremely important in making the entire omni-channel journey seamless.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Content Marketing Tips for Retail Business
5 Content Marketing Tips for Retail Business
 

Amid a fierce competition and tussle in the business world, it has become very vital for healthcare brands to utilise best ideas to succeed.

The Indian retail industry accounts for over 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and around 8 per cent of the employment. India is the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space.

India’s retail market is expected to nearly double to US$ 1 trillion by 2020 from US$ 600 billion in 2015, driven by income growth, urbanisation and attitudinal shifts. While the overall retail market is expected to grow at 12 per cent per annum, modern trade would expand twice as fast at 20 per cent per annum and traditional trade at 10 per cent.

India’s Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce market is expected to reach US$ 700 billion by 2020.

Here are a few content marketing tips to help retail brands to rise above all.

1. Thread of Connection

The retail brand needs to tell the customer about the company, how it works, how it started and everything about the company, so that the customers feel connected. Through this connection thread the customers will be able to place its first brick of trust and will be able to knot other people in the same thread.

For example, the brief will help the customers to understand about the company, so that he/she can recommend or at least suggest his family and friends to pay a visit and get helped.

2. Human touch

Sometimes a pinch of emotion or a human angle can do wonders. It is easy to connect through some human centric angles. It will give a boost to the confidence of the people to trust on the company to get cured.

If a couple of human stories, who were benefitted by the brand and of people, who are directly or indirectly associated with the brand, were displayed on the website, people will get confidence to rest their trust upon the brand.

Study has revealed that 41% people take friendly suggestions references about hospitals, doctors from relatives, friends and colleagues.

3. Engaging Videos

Some audiences are too lazy to go through all the written details, so if informational videos are inserted in between paragraphs, it will keep the audience engaged for quite some time. Some useful video is placed at the end or beginning then it will give an immediate knowledge about the company.

These days a lot of brands are making a human interest advertisement, which helps the audience feel connected with the brand.

4. Socialise

The advertisements and important information can be circulated to large mass through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. If the brand is renowned, everybody must know about it but if it is a startup then not many people will be aware of the brand.

Thus pushing the advertisements, videos and stories on various social media portals will help people to know about the brand.

As per study reports, 87% teenagers look up on internet to solve their teenage problems such as acne, pimples, anxiety and facial hair problems.

5. Time-to-time updated

It is very important to keep the brand’s page fresh always. Stale information is a big turn-of. If new information about some new drug, cure for some disease or any information, related to the healthcare sector will encourage the audience to always come back to the site for information.

It will also reflect the sincerity of the brand. And other brands will also be happy to get associated with the brand

Research says that 77% of people turn to Google for their healthcare awareness, recent development on cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and obesity drugs.

It is just not the idea of business but also these small details, which will help in boosting the brand’s market value.

 

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10 Ways to Grow Your Business
10 Ways to Grow Your Business
 

The welcome business moves of PM Narendra Modi are 'Make in India' and FDI, which proofs that India is on its way to become the global hub for businessmen, entrepreneurs and startups.

The technological revolution, which has started a couple of years back, has given a solid push to the business industry of India.

Startups, entrepreneurs and businessmen are having the time of their life, the credit goes to the people, who have embraced the change whole heartedly and are taking part equally in being a part of the change.

For all the budding entrepreneurs, businessmen, who have tasted the fruit of their hard work and juice of success in their first attempt or finally succeed after facing multiple failures, here are 10 ways to grow your business:

1. Participate in trade shows:

It is possible that even though you have managed to see the lights of success in your business, you might have left some crucial customers or clients. Trade shows narrow down the specific consumers, who only either deal with or only interested in products, you transact.

2. Branch out:

Now that you have successfully made your customer base strong enough, it is necessary to attract more customers. Thus you have to open another branch of your company in another market, where you can fetch new customers.

3. Offer business opportunity:

Being omni present is impossible but making your product or brand present elsewhere is possible if you offer business opportunity to the other businessmen in different market, where they are well known, they will help you in earning profit and growing your business.

4. Form alliance:

‘A bird in hand is better than two in the bushes’

Here bush is the market where numerous brands exist and rise above all the ordinary level, you got to act smart and form alliance with big brands or with another successful brand, if not for entire life but for a year or two, thus you become one bird in hand.

5. Innovate new products:

If you see that your one product is doing well in the market, you can take feedbacks from the customers about their choice or expectations and work on it. To be in the top list of the existing customers, keep them pleased or surprised. Surprise them with a new addition or offer them gift coupons and introduce a new range for them.

6. Chuck the loser:

Not all your products must be doing equally well in the market, if they do you are luck. But in most cases some products do exceedingly well whereas some are failure since the beginning, so it is time to chuck them off the shelves and experiment with new products till it becomes the winner product. There is always room for improvements and innovations.

7. Expand in international market:

The international market is your playground and it will never turn you down unless, you take it for granted. Introduction of FDI in Indian market is a boon for businessmen, then why not take the advantage of it and make an international mark.

8. Adapt the change:

The market is forever evolving, unless you adapt the change, you will fade away. Hence it is important to keep a track of trends and a plan in hand to immediately work according if at all the market scenario changes. For example the sudden announcement of demonetization has turned the market upside down overnight.

9. Invest in yourself:

See, study and understand the way market functions. Invest in yourself and your staff; keep sending them for trainings, competitions and provide them higher education, if they are interested in or encourage them to move forwards so that they will carry the company on their shoulder and move together. Keeping the staff happy is one of the fundamentals of keeping the business ahead of others.

10. Register your website:

Make a website, detailing every service, products, you offer or achievements, you have earned and register it on the relevant directory. It will be easy to prove your authenticity and building trust factor in costumers.

The list will go on but these are some of the secret ways to grow your business, but one can pick either one of two from the list and gradually move to the others.

 

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Flipkart rules the fast growing non metro market, Amazon has a slight lead in Metros : Study
Flipkart rules the fast growing non metro market, Amazon has a slight lead in Metros : Study
 

RedSeer has released its quarterly e-tailing leadership index for the April-June Quarter. The index is a view on how customers perceive the e-tailing platform and does not represent the market share dynamics.

As per the study, Amazon and Flipkart have emerged as the joint leader in the ELI of Q2 CY 17. This is the second consecutive quarter when they have tied on the top spot. Amazon’s rise from last few quarters is attributed to a better top of the mind recall which is a direct outcome of the heavy marketing effort put by Amazon, an area where Flipkart has been significantly conservative.

 On Trusted brand metrics Flipkart still has a one-point lead over Amazon, this lead is much higher in smaller cities when compared to Metros. An area where Flipkart has slipped one point behind Amazon is the “great Experience”. Amazon has outperformed Flipkart on the web and app experience for the first time. It’s a measure of how customers rate their experience of using the app/web for shopping. This in conjunction with the impact of “Prime” has led to Amazon’s better score. But on a crucial area of post delivery experience, Flipkart still maintains the lead which is one of the most important levers for the first time buyers.

The other parameters like delivery speed has been rated equally well for both the players. Another key parameter has been the, Best Value, an indicator of value for money and meaningful assortment. On overall basis this parameter also ties for both the players, but Flipkart has a slight lead on the price competitiveness.

e-tailing consumer base: city mix is shifting

 In last 2 quarters there has been a slow but consistent shift in the customer base. The share of transactions coming from non metros has been consistently increasing. As per RedSeer now the non metros have considerably higher transactions compared to the metros. Amazon through its prime offering has been able to capture the leadership in the metros, while Flipkart has been leading in the non metros.

 Reliance-Jio seems to have played a considerable role in the increase in number of transactions from the smaller cities. Cost of creating a Brand: Shopclues is most efficient followed by Flipkart In their pursuit to lead the market and create a higher GMV standing all the players have been burning a significant amount of cash. But how does this unit economics stack up and which players are more efficient then the others. To demystify this the report analyzes the unit economics of the market.

e-tailing consumer base: city mix is shifting In last 2 quarters there has been a slow but consistent shift in the customer base. The share of transactions coming from non metros has been consistently increasing. As per RedSeer now the non metros have considerably higher transactions compared to the metros. Amazon through its prime offering has been able to capture the leadership in the metros, while Flipkart has been leading in the non metros. Reliance-Jio seems to have played a considerable role in the increase in number of transactions from the smaller cities.

Cost of creating a Brand: Shopclues is most efficient followed by Flipkart

 In their pursuit to lead the market and create a higher GMV standing all the players have been burning a significant amount of cash. But how does this unit economics stack up and which players are more efficient then the others.

 

 

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Important Tips for the First-time Retailers
Important Tips for the First-time Retailers
 

There is always a first time for anything you do in life and the feeling of the first time remains etched in heart and mind forever. After one gains consciousness and understands the life puzzle, it becomes more nauseating and nervous energy flows throughout the body. 

Same goes with the first time retailers, getting cold feet is a common phenomenon.

Retail industry in India is expected to grow to US$ 1.3 trillion by 2020, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.7 per cent over 2015-20.

Increasing participation from foreign and private players has given a boost to Indian retail industry. India’s price competitiveness attracts large retail players to use it as a sourcing base.

The Government of India has introduced reforms to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail industry. The government has approved 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and increased FDI limit to 100 per cent (from 51 per cent) in single brand retail, and plans to allow 100 per cent FDI in e-commerce, under the arrangement that the products sold must be manufactured in India to gain from the liberalised regime.

Thus to overcome the cold feet and nervous phase, here are some tips for the first time retailers:

Unbreakable Commitment:

For opening a retail store is back breaking and head bursting with eight hours of non-stop walking work. One has to arrange things and help the customers as well as check the stock and up-to-date in time.

Coordinating with supplier, arranging the stock on shelves, receive the stock and shift it to the go down or storeroom along with handling the customers’ need and requirements is very important. This entire one has to do alone, because as you have just started the retail store, it will take time to hire helping members.

One cannot deny the fact that the retail brand’s reputation rests on his shoulders alone. Nothing comes easy in life anyway.

Practice What You Advertise:

There is no room for backing out of your responsibilities because the brand owner would not let you. Moreover you have to stick to whatever the advertisement says.

Even if the crowd is less or it is a dull day, one has to open the store in the mentioned time and close in the mentioned time as well.

If the customer happens to come to the store during closing time, help the customer first because that is the kind of dedication, which attracts more customers and helps in building reputation in front of others.

Keep a check of fresh stock, remove the expired products, even if you face the wrath of loss, you just cannot keep the expired materials on the shelves.  Maintain cleanliness in the store, which is an important aspect for you as well as your customers.

Pay Your Taxes on Time:

Whether your business is doing well or not, you will spend a lot of time assessing, collecting, and paying taxes. Check with your state the types of taxes that you need to pay. You may be required to collect and pay sales tax, which the retail point-of-purchase tax is paid by the customer. Other taxes include real estate tax, retailers use tax, retailers occupation tax, payroll tax, quarterly tax, local taxes, value added tax (for some countries/areas), and on and on.

 Hire an accountant to take care of all the taxes and make sure to personally keep a track of paying the taxes on time and being taken care of well.

Bonding with Supplier:

It is very important to keep a good bonding with the supplier. Before finalizing the supplier, make sure to select the smart one among the many.

Do not fall for the leading supplier as he would already have enough on his plate to munch, also do not fall for the cheapest supplier, there are high chances of getting adulterated or cheap items to end up at your storage, burning a big hole in your pocket.

That is why it is advised to choose a smart one out of all the suppliers available in the market and form a good bond with him, so that you get your supplies fresh and on time. He should have bonds with you such that he is just a phone call away to meet the demands of the customers and keep your business running smooth.

 

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