Massive online marketing campaigns and promotions by e-tailers suggest that retail has entered a new era where e-Commerce and technology bellwethers like Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have created a new ground for consumer expectations. The online retail market is on a growth trajectory due to the expansion of the internet with an increase in mobile connectivity.
Global Overview: Globally, the retail market has seen sharp progress with the advent of e-commerce, primarily due to the expansion of the internet with an increase in mobile connectivity. As per a recent study conducted by Digital e-commerce, total global e-commerce sales reached nearly USD 3.4 trillion in 2019.
India Overview: Online retail or e-tail is growing at a fast rate in India. The online consumer electronics and appliances market in India was valued at approximately INR 100Kcrore in FY2019 and the market is expected to register a CAGR of 24.5% from FY 2019 to FY 2025, as per a recent study conducted by Frost & Sullivan.
There are three models of online retailing in India:
Online retailing is primarily driven by internet proliferation in India, which is growing year-on-year. The global telecom industry body Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) expects that by 2025, the total number of internet users will reach 92 crore, creating an e-Commerce and m-Commerce boost. Also, due to increased penetration of electronic gadgets, digital payments in India are on the rise, which account for 80% of online transactions. Other key drivers include rising disposable income and an upsurge in the Gen Y population.
Online retailing is more convenient for consumers and sellers. Time to market, cost-savings and scale are the major advantages of online sales.
Some key trends are creating a paradigm shift in the online retailing market in India, including:
Technological advancements such as chatbots, video selling, picture search, shared cart, face recognition payments and image/voice search technologies have been part of the online shopping experience in India, with the country being an early adopter of global technological trends. The use of chatbots on company websites provides a more personalized shopping experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) assist with product recommendation engines and virtual assistants. Virtual reality (VR) enables an immersive shopping experience, both in-store and online. Also, the use of blockchain technology ensures data security and lowers transaction costs.
Online players need to adopt new technologies, such as VR and AR, to improve targeted marketing to consumers. Chatbots and video selling are an effective way of promoting a product. Suppliers should employ third-party experts for 3D modeling of products.
Traditionally, cash payments were the most preferred form of payment in India due to a lack of trust and security concerns of online payments. However, with a sizeable young population having access to smartphones, digital payments are rising and expected to form 80% of the transactions in India by 2025. As per ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry), the Indian market has been adopting digital eWallets faster than the US, the UK, and China. Transactions have also grown 10-fold since demonetization. In 2019, mobile wallet transactions in India were at about INR 1.84 Lakh crore. Improved payment infrastructure and telecom have encouraged the adoption of digital wallets in India. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is an inflection point in payment methods in India as consumers increasingly opt for contactless payment methods. With a pandemic threat looming large in the future, the demand for contactless payment through mobile wallets is expected to increase.
Providing easy financing options for online purchases such as secure payment gateways, payment through eWallets, EMIs, and cash on delivery will encourage online purchases. Spreading awareness about the cybersecurity measures in online payments to mitigate security breaches during transactions will help improve consumers’ trust in online payment methods.
Subscription services are an effective way to build a loyal customer base for e-commerce firms. It adds value by having prospective buyers close to their own website. The industry’s technology trends indicate that personalized subscription services will continue to take center stage in online shopping.
Online platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon have introduced loyalty programs by providing points, which can be converted to cash on future payments. Amazon’s monthly and annual subscriptions, called Prime, enhance the customer experience with additional features such as first preference for new product launches, quick and free delivery, and many more.
Subscription services within online retailing includes a wide plethora of appliances, building a loyal customer base with the help of strategic customer outreach programs, including contests, forums, social media engagement, and insightful content on portals.
In the current scenario, any player in the consumer electronics industry cannot afford to have a weak online presence. With the increasing penetration of internet connectivity, consumer electronics companies should not limit themselves to just brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers are following the “research online and buy offline” trend for home appliances by comparing prices online and reading through user comments, but then physically visiting the store to purchase the product. Also, consumers follow the “research offline and buy online” trend for certain other products where high online
discounts are available by looking at product details in open stores and ordering online. Companies should explore the possibility of a multi-channel strategy. New models such as “brick-and-click” can help gain customers while maintaining convenience.
Omnichannel convergence will become inevitable in the near future, helping OEMs convert customer engagements to sales. “Web-to-store” and “brick-and-click” models will become widely popular. With the rise of “research online, buy offline” and “research offline, buy online” trends, more vendors are expected to launch their exclusive web stores. Vendors will expand their online product portfolio and launch exclusive products to compete in the online space.
The future of retailing is heavily dependent on online platforms. Apart from the metros in the urban market, Tier II and Tier III cities have the maximum penetration potential for online consumer products. The total online retailing market is dominated by the consumer electronics and appliances segment. More users are expected to participate in online shopping in the coming years, especially in this segment. After-sales service is considered to be a key differentiator for online sales in India. Companies should provide easy and safe financing options for online purchases through secure payment gateways, payment through eWallets, EMIs, and cash on delivery, which will encourage online purchases. Companies must focus on targeted and personalized digital and social media marketing to acquire new and repeat customers by integrating the seller’s mobile application with the consumer’s social media profile.
In 2017, The Organic World (TOW), sprouted as the green heart of Nimida Group in Bengaluru, sowing the seeds of sustainability to cultivate positive change in our way of life. Founded by Gaurav Manchanda, Director, The Organic World, this unique brand strives to offer a holistic range of organic and natural products. From pesticide-free fruits and vegetables to chemical-free homecare products, TOW provides consumers with over 3000 choices to embrace a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable lifestyle.
Gaurav, during his return to India from the United States in 2016, identified a gap in the market for healthy and organic food options. Motivated by a personal quest for such products and a desire to offer the same to a wider audience, The Organic World was born in 2017. Starting with the launch of its first store in JP Nagar, Bengaluru, TOW quickly expanded. Today it has 15 stores across Bengaluru, and is exploring the franchise model and the plan is to steadily expand TOW’s footprint across South India.
“Our journey is only getting started. We plan to expand up to 100 stores over the next 18 months, and exploring cities like Chennai, Pune, and more,” he says.
TOW positions itself as a multi-brand retailer, hosting products that are not only organic but also differentiated, providing better value to customers as they journey towards a healthier lifestyle. The stores boasts a comprehensive product range, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, staples, personal care items, and home care products. The presentation of these stores is world-class, ensuring a unique and engaging shopping experience.
Gaurav sheds light on TOW's commitment to responsible retailing, focusing on three core pillars: authenticity, accessibility, and affordability. The company enforces a rigorous vetting process for products, maintaining transparency by publicly listing 25 blacklisted ingredients and chemicals not allowed on their shelves. This disruptive approach challenges the industry to prioritize healthier and sustainable products. TOW has created a strict ‘Not In Our Aisle’ list – a list of chemicals and harmful ingredients that do not find a spot on its store shelves, despite their industry popularity. This includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener, found in soda, juice, candy, breakfast cereals and packaged snacks; artificial flavorings/colors found in most packaged foods; Tertiary Butylhydroquinine (TBHQ), an antioxidant found in biscuits, microwave popcorn, butter substitutes and chicken nuggets; parabens, sulfates and phthalates found in personal and beauty care products; and a range of acids and toxins found in home cleaning essentials, to name some.
“When you step into our store, it's an interesting and world-class experience. We strive to be a full basket retailer, so you can complete your shopping journey within our stores. Now we have about 3000 SKUs on our shelves, and we continue to introduce interesting categories and products,” explains Gaurav.
The brand’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond its product offerings. It has introduced a zero-waste section in select stores, encouraging customers to bring their own containers for grains and nuts. The company is conscious of consumer preferences, with a dedicated vegan category accounting for a significant portion of sales. TOW's initiatives have not only resonated with environmentally conscious consumers but also positively impacted its revenue.
The Organic World has embraced a tech-driven approach to bridge the online and offline shopping experience seamlessly. Initially partnering with tech enablers, TOW later developed its in-house tech stack, comprising apps, websites, and delivery mechanisms. This move provides the company with more control over data, enabling better insights into consumer behavior.
Acknowledging the challenges in the grocery and organic sector, Gaurav emphasizes the importance of trust in the brand and scale to stay competitive. The company strives to deliver within a two to four-hour time slot, and in a bid to make its last-mile delivery sustainable, TOW is exploring the use of electric vehicles.
In a market flooded with products labeled as organic, The Organic World sets itself apart through a combination of the 3As. The brand's strong category play, especially in emerging trends like veganism, further distinguishes it from competitors. The company's commitment to scale, transparent pricing, and a variety of unique products solidifies its position as a leading player in the organic and healthy foods sector.
“We work closely with farmers and a network of farmers under the brand Happy Harvest Farms. They are certified and organic. Additionally, we do our own checks internally, and based on these checks we believe that we are able to provide an authentic experience to the discerning consumer,” Gaurav asserts.
He is optimistic about the future, fueled by the growing awareness of health-conscious consumers. With plans to expand its store network and franchise model, TOW aims to be a dominant player in the Indian organic market. The brand envisions not only leading in the organic sector but also influencing responsible retailing practices across the broader retail industry.
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