The advent of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns across the country has had a lasting impact on the retail sector. What is heartening to note is that it was the neighborhood Kirana store that stepped up and offered the much-needed lifeline to the nation in supplying daily essentials and groceries, despite the risk to themselves, their families, and their staff.
Local retail has traditionally faced competition to keep pace with big supermarkets and e-commerce marketplaces that have the resources to reach customers in pin codes well outside their immediate ambit. In response to this, new hyper-local e-commerce platforms empower local retailers to sell online while retaining control of their brand and identity.
Local retailers win on every consumer consideration with their superior service, quality, product selection, value, credit, and delivery speed. Small businesses account for more than 40 percent of employment in our country, which makes local retail a core to our economy.
E-commerce in India: The Local Retailer’s Story
Studies indicate that the Indian e-commerce market will grow by as much as 84 percent in the next four years, accelerated in large part by the demand generated during the Covid-19 lockdown. The year 2020 saw an 8x increase in online searches for ‘shops near me’, a 60 percent growth in searches for home delivery, and a 60 percent increase in searches for ‘how to pay online', according to a Google search report.
For the first time ever, in 2020, the number of rural internet users in India surpassed urban internet users by 10 percent at 227 million, which was a huge marker that the entire country is moving online. Offline local stores saw up to a 50 percent increase in their business by simply going online during the Covid.
There is also a shift in the way customers transact, with digital wallets becoming the most popular payment method in 2020, followed by credit and debit cards. E-commerce has become the go-to option for brands of all kinds as in-store shopping remains on hold. Given increased internet penetration and smartphone use, the online buying trend will only pick up the pace in times to follow. Buyers in tier II & III cities resorted to online orders and forms of payments. Consumers across the board have become conscious of the need for contactless delivery to minimize the risk of infection.
Local retailers rely largely on longstanding local connections and customer familiarity to make their sales, rather than deliberate marketing as larger players do. Indian consumers have primarily bought groceries and essentials from their local neighborhood stores. The purchase ranges from small baskets of daily essentials to monthly groceries. While this format has sufficed in the past, growth for local shops has always fallen short in tapping into digital spending in a steadily growing online world.
The Way Forward
With increasing consciousness about supporting local businesses, the demand for locally sourced produce and dairy has gone up. This creates opportunities for e-commerce marketplaces and delivery services with last-mile fulfillment. For retailers, however, to retain control of their identity and customers, opting for traditional marketplace membership may not be ideal. Platforms that give individual store owners the scope to service customers and develop their own brand are more appropriate choices for local retail, particularly platforms like LoveLocal that do not take any commissions from the retailers and also assist them with matters such as customer service, promotions, and loyalty programs.
Retail is a tough, 24x7 business and a lot of retailers don’t have the time or luxury of learning technology. For instance, a big pain point for retailers going online is cataloging. As more products look to digitize local shops, they must empower them with easy-to-use tools that enable them to scale. Local shops will be inclined to utilize products that help them cut down on their time and effort and help manage their online shops seamlessly.
Features like supply scheduling, stock management, curbside pick-up, and home delivery, customer analytics, and marketing options like discounts and loyalty points give local store owners full control over their businesses. By leveraging hyperlocal e-commerce products, local stores can gain the power and respect they deserve as the backbone of India’s retail & bring in new customers to their online stores.
How Hyper-Local Platforms are Making a Difference for Local Retailers
As the economy continues to struggle under multiple lockdowns and uncertainty about the pandemic, retailers need a way to stay in business and customers need a way to keep shopping while minimizing their exposure to the outside world.
In this regard, LoveLocal’s comprehensive, the user-friendly platform makes it easy for small retailers to create a digital shop and start selling online within minutes. The platform is designed to promote local retailers to consumers, in their vicinity, while maintaining complete transparency. Retailers can use the platform to reach out to new-age digital customers. Offer them free, fast home delivery along with a superlative customer experience. They can also offer discounts and loyalty points to their customers, and gather analytical insights on sales and current trends and demands. The platform not only brings power back to the hands of small retailers but also helps customers benefit from fresh local goods and trustworthy sellers, as well as the speed and convenience of online selling.