The Indian e-commerce space has been buzzing with consumers favoring convenience of online shopping over neighborhood vendors. Regardless, e-commerce still forms a small part of the overall retail industry. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been wary to step out from the safety of their homes. Online retailing is set to pick up significantly as social distancing becomes the #NewNormal while traditional retail loses appeal across hitherto experience heavy categories.
Before Covid-19, working individuals used to shop online post office hours in the evenings, but grocery shopping would usually happen at their trusted neighborhood grocery store or vendors. However, since the pandemic struck, and with a large section of people working from the safety of their homes, dependence on online shopping has increased manifold. The battle of online vs offline shopping seemed like a never ending affair. Today, online shopping seems to be the undisputed way forward, the #NewNormal.
As an increasing number of people practice social distancing, they are willingly opting to order online given the convenience of doorstep delivery, the promise of quality and hygiene, and new models of contactless delivery enabled by a robust digital payment ecosystem. Many professionals have been working-from-home since the Covid-19 lockdown ensued and are trying to balance their office and home responsibilities. In these tough times, agritech apps delivering groceries and essentials have emerged as a helping hand when time is becoming a scarce commodity.
The Agri-Tech sector has been gradually attracting consumers from traditional vegetables and fruits vendors since 2018, but given the current scenario, a paradigm shift in shopping behavior is shining the light on such platforms. These startups, regardless of the challenges they’re facing, are ensuring delivery of fresh vegetables and fruits directly procured from farms to ensure quality and hygiene for their customers. Moreover, schemes and offers such as express delivery, contactless delivery, and digitally integrated payments are designed to ensure customers feel safe while transacting and consuming these products.
‘Hygiene’ and ‘safety’ are a top priority of consumers while ordering online, and this is where Agri-Tech apps delivering groceries are providing, not just the products, but also a trust-factor. With brands providing innovative and alluring offers to consumers with ‘contactless-doorstep-delivery’ and maintaining necessary safety measures — it is hard to not get influenced.
The current pandemic has made brands think outside-the-box and make their presence digitally more prominent than ever before. Consumers are increasingly opting for the convenience that online platforms offer. Today, a large number of brands have come up in the grocery space and are jostling for a share of the consumers’ wallet. Paralelly, small and middle-sized Kirana stores are also moving forward in the race to service consumers and are partnering with prominent hyper-local delivery platforms as a means to fight and survive the current scenario. Talking about the business aspect, the token size for essentials, especially groceries online has increased to over 70% during the lockdown. Another notable feature here is an increase in digital payments against the cash-on-delivery option.
Call it convenience, smart-shopping, or making-the-most-of-your time; grocery shopping through online mediums has become a preferred and viable option for those working-from-home. For as long as #WFH continues, the trend of buying groceries online, is likely to stay. We need to work towards adopting this #NewNormal and integrating it as a part of business strategy, which shall strengthen over the foreseeable future.
India’s retail industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation driven by technological disruptions, evolving consumer behavior and new innovations redefining the retail experience. As Deloitte’s ‘Future of Retail’ report observes, these pivotal forces have set the stage for online retail to surge 5X over the next 7 years. With projections indicating e-commerce growing at 25 percent annually until 2030 compared to offline retail’s 10 percent, digital channels are primed to dominate India’s $1.5 trillion retail market in the years ahead.
Decoding the Underlying Market Drivers
As per the latest retail industry data, India’s Tier II and III cities have begun overshadowing metros as the next e-commerce frontier. In 2022, order volumes from Tier III cities witnessed 65 percent year-on-year growth, and Tier II cities saw 50 percent expansion. In contrast, Tier I cities clocked a modest 10 percent increase over the same period. Given this divergence, industry projections indicate Tier II and III cities will continue dramatically outpacing their Tier I counterparts in online order growth rates over the next decade.
Attractive value propositions like wider product choices, discounted offerings, convenience, and personalized engagement are driving smaller cities to warm up much faster to e-commerce adoption even within an inflationary climate. For retailers chasing the next wave of growth, the writing is clear – India’s underpenetrated towns and cities housing over 900 million people hold the key to market leadership.
Rising Data Analytics Creating Asymmetric Advantages
As consumer interactions increasingly shift online, data is creating radical differentiation between legacy retailers and digital-first brands leading tech-driven transformation-commerce majors are setting new benchmarks in leveraging analytics across areas – from inventory planning aligned to local consumption patterns to predictive demand forecasting models minimizing stock-out situations.
Delivering Relevant and Personalized Experiences
Hyper-personalization represents the new battleground as customers expect communications, recommendations, and experiences to reflect their individual preferences. Indian shoppers are willing to spend more with retailers who can effectively tap into the power of data to tailor offerings aligning with their needs and interests. Brands leveraging AI and ML to deduce insights from purchase journeys and browsing behavior hold an edge in continually customizing engagement across channels.
The Way Forward: A Roadmap for Retailers
Adopt Omnichannel Strategies Aligned with Evolving Consumption: As smaller cities drive more than 60 percent of e-commerce volumes, retailers need a presence across online and offline channels with a hyperlocal outreach to tap into growth opportunities beyond metros. Localization, vernacular interfaces, and experiential stores are key.
Build Intelligent Supply Chains Resilient to Disruptions: Invest in data integration across the value chain to obtain end-to-end visibility. Leverage analytics for demand planning, inventory optimization, and predictive maintenance. This can minimize stock-outs, and ensure faster deliveries while improving supply chain profitability.
Deliver Personalization through Customer Analytics: Capture every customer interaction and apply analytics to discern behavioral patterns. Offer contextually relevant recommendations via multiple channels. Personalize communication and marketing content based on purchase history and search trends.
The Pivot to Experience-First Retail Powered by Technology
As the Indian shopper gets more evolved and demanding, customer experience across retail journeys is emerging as the biggest differentiator for both customer acquisition and retention. Retailers unlocking the power of analytics and technology to elevate personalized engagement, and minimize friction while tailoring experiences to align with local preferences will lead to market dominance in the future. The secret sauce for success lies in using data and innovation to blend online convenience with offline experiential retail - a trend that will further accelerate as India ascends into a trillion-dollar consumer market.
Prerna Kalra, Co-founder & CEO of Daalchini Technologies
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