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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