How brands and manufacturers are tapping e-Commerce to enhance distribution came under the scanner at the National Conference on Digital Commerce. The Conference was organised by IAMAI in the Capital on November 27, 2009.
The panel, moderated by Kashyap Vadapalli, Director, Marketing & Operations, eBay India, probed issues like what opportunities does eCommerce present to brands and OEMs and tried to decipher how big brands are behaving with digital commerce – are they averse to it or are they making space for it?
The panelists included Mohit Hira, President, Training.com, NIIT; Peshwa Acharya, VP & Head, Marketing & Consumer Experience, Reliance Retail; Gaurav Gupta, Regional Manager Asia Pacific, Retail Operations, General Motors; Gurmukh Singh Malhotra, Head, Business Marketing, Intel South Asia; Rahul Narvekar, Co-founder & Director, Brand Sourcing, Fashion and You; and Jeetendra Joshi, Head, eCommerce, Gitanjali Group.
The was kicked off with moderator Vadapalli asking the panel whether there were buyers and, more importantly, were there a good number of sellers in the e-Commerce space and what were the barriers and enablers for this domain.
To answer this each panelist presented their own experiences and brand insights when it came to e-Commerce. Joshi of the Gitanjali Group came up with an interesting model that the brand is considering seriously. According to him, a study suggested that consumers searched and did their research on products online, but when it came to buying, they would rather prefer the offline mode. “It is at this step that we are losing out the consumer and haven’t really done enough to retain him,” he said.
For this, Gitanjali is considering blending offline and online models by replicating physical franchisees online as well as localising content and inventory to reduce the barrier of couriers and shipping.
Acharya of Reliance Retail stressed that the scenario needed to be approached from a framework that was formed out of the consumer, the supplier and the technological aspects that included platforms, finances, etc. “I strongly believe that the marketer has to provide value and an experience to get the consumer online. A good example of that in our country has been the e-ticketing model of IRCTC,” he said.
The conflict between offline or the typical brick and mortar players who believe that online market isn’t big enough and the online players who aren’t transparent enough as they do not reveal figures like footfalls was brought up by Mohit Hira of NIIT. According to him, there were four players in this domain – the government, the brand, consumers and the dealers. A practitioner of e-Learning, he maintained, “This category has a huge potential, but since we all have been receiving education offline, not many are adopting this platform,” he said, adding that one of the biggest challenges to this platform was the traditional affinity of Indians to the human interface, be buying oranges or education.
Gurumukh Singh Malhotra of Intel also echoed similar sentiments and suggested that yet another barrier to e-Commerce in India was that of language. He maintained that when most players were reducing their spends on the Internet, Intel had doubled it. But that made sense especially for the brand as almost all transactions and processes of Intel happened online, he said.
Narvekar of Fashion and You, however, strongly believed that for some brands, the offline experience was so convenient that online would hardly work for them. “There needs to be a compelling reason for the consumer to go online,” he stressed.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Gupta of General Motors, for whom selling cars online had proved to be a stupendous task. To simplify things, he gave the example of buying a wedding venue online, which he thought the consumer would hardly go for as this was something he would personally like to go see, touch and feel.
“Similarly, cars need to be touched and felt. That’s why a test drive works wonders to sell a car,” he said. Another interesting point that he brought forward was that transacting a huge sum of money online wasn’t that big a hindrance for a consumer interested in buying a car as was the lack of shopping experience. This is in contradiction to the myth that consumers are still wary about transacting online.