Convergence of the message through any medium to the consumer is the key to growth for virtual retail, feels Sundeep Malhotra, CEO, Homeshop18. This is accomplished by both convergence of screens, by getting the Internet on the television or vice versa, or a convergence of the mediums, by getting TV promos to leverage online catalogues, he said in a conversation with exchange4media.
Many of the early challenges facing Homeshop18 were ones that all e-commerce ventures come up against as well – reaching the audience, getting brands on board, creating strong customer support and feedback mechanisms and creating an entire supply chain are common problems for e-commerce, but in fact hold true across any service which virtualises retail, whether through the Internet or television, as in the case of Homeshop18.
The company is now expanding quickly into the online space and by now reaches across to people from 450 different cities daily. It has benefitted greatly from the existing networks it created to serve its television channel.
Malhotra said, “The core areas that a virtual retail service has to address are the same, no matter what medium you are using to reach the customer. It could be a catalog, it could be radio, it could be TV and it could be the Internet. So, once we had the support system for television in place, we started to add more mediums.”
Homeshop18 has also recently started a social engagement campaign, which it will use for brand building, customer response and also engagement, by offering special Facebook Deals of the Day for fans of their page, as an example.
Malhotra said, “Our goal was to create new ways to shop, and working on the Internet is a natural part of that. The two reach very diverse, yet complementary audiences. TV reaches the household and allows a small window in which to demonstrate your product, but demonstrates it beautifully, while the Internet allows you reach people at a more individual level, and to put the entire inventory online. TV is like a shelf in a shop, but the Internet is an unlimited shelf. The time for access to each is different and the person is different, and so we cater deals and products to catch the attention accordingly.”
“But at the heart of it all, we work to create the infrastructure which will support any medium. Once that is in place, as long as there is an audience for a medium, you need to find out how to address them, and put them into the same value chain. Anyone who is doing online retail needs to first respond to these questions, and then they can decide how best to get the audience,” he concluded.