Customers look for value in every transaction that they have whether online or offline. Whether e-Commerce is driving value for customers came up for some deliberation at the National Conference on Digital Commerce, held in Delhi on November 27, 2009. Some of the questions that were raised included whether digital commerce companies were a making a difference to online Indians, and whether they were creating enough trust among customers.
The panel discussion on ‘Is e-Commerce driving value for the customer today’ was moderated by B Muralikrishnan, Director – Categories and Product, eBay India. The panelists included Sulekha.com’s Vijay Anand; K Vaitheeswaran, Co-founder & COO, Indiaplaza; Pranay Chulet, CEO, Quikr; and Rahul Sethi, President – eCommerce, ibibo.
Commencing the discussion, Muralikrishnan noted that there were a few factors that enhanced value for the customers coming online. According to him, these included price, variety/ range, hard to find articles and convenience.
Carrying the discussions further Pranay Chulet said that technology too played a significant role in delivering value to customers. He observed, “User base in expanding in India and users are becoming more sophisticated today. We need to be careful about how sophisticated an experience we offer. We need to keep in mind whether the proverbial Mrs Chaddha in Karol Bagh finds the online experience useful.”
According to Vaitheeswaran, “Not enough people were shopping online.” He noted that the usage was more of a pyramid structure, wherein the large base still shopped offline with just the top of the pyramid witnessing online shopping.
He further noted, “People’s first interaction with the web is free usage – accessing news, information, etc., without having to pay anything for it. It takes a lot of work to make people adopt the paid mode. e-Commerce competes with this free nature that one is used to.”
According to him, “e-Commerce in India has a uniqueness in the sense that it brings in new layers of intermediaries, whereas elsewhere the opposite is true. Worldwide, e-Commerce allows brands and products to directly interact with consumers. This apart, the tax structure is still in favour of primary retailers.”
“Still, there are retailers who are building values. In the travel sector, all people involved in the e-Commerce process have created value for customers. Processing of digital information will lead to more adoption of e-Commerce,” Vaitheeswaran added.
For Rahul Sethi, e-Commerce was more inducive, and not just transaction and mirrored the offline process. According to him, “e-Commerce is about awareness, providing information, helping in decision making and about action.”
Echoing Sethi’s views, Vijay Anand said that the biggest value was in re-sale. Citing an example, Anand said that if someone wanted to sell a low-value product, it made sense for him to sell it online, as to advertise it in offline media like print would cost him more money. He stressed on the ‘Fremium’ model of digital commerce and said that power of free was huge.