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Online retail, offline collaboration

09-December-2010
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Online retail, offline collaboration

Rajiv Prakash, CEO of Future Bazaar, firmly believes that online retail of goods and services is the key to grow e-commerce in India. A sector thoroughly dominated by domestic air travel, online retail still looks like a risky proposition outside of rail and air tickets. Prakash though, said, “People are spending a lot of time online. We believe they are not worried about buying things online either, because enough people are buying railway tickets and air tickets online. What’s important right now is that we retailers start to see online as an opportunity. It’s not going to eat into our stores, but we need to supplement them, which means we also can’t see it as a secondary opportunity.”

The key, according to Prakash, who was speaking at the 5th India Digital Summit in Delhi, was to offer a significant value proposition to online buyers. “If people come to a store, they don’t worry about their credit card information, they can look at a product and handle it, and browse easily. So, unless the online store offers value, why should people use it? This can be done by price, through easy access, through speedy delivery and also through good customer support,” he said. “We learned early on to separate the medium from the message. e-Commerce isn’t just about the Internet. We supplement that with phone communication, voice, etc. The conversion rates are higher on voice calls, and people feel more comfortable talking to someone and getting their feedback as well when buying high value items,” he added.

By implementing plans which cross-linked online and offline campaigns, by setting up kiosks where people can be guided to use the site during big sales, and most of all, by offering robust customer support and strong phone services, Future Bazaar has seen large gains, and Prakash said, “… Around 40 per cent of our sales close on the phone”.

Amarinder Dhaliwal, Vice President & Business Head – Auto (Zigwheels.com) & eCommerce (Indiatimes Shopping), Times Internet Ltd, also felt there was a lot of scope for growth in India. He said, “Traditionally, selling has been based around search, but today, in the US, around 25 per cent of buyers come from social networks, and 41 per cent use their mobiles as part of the buying process.” However, he felt that until the government took a few steps, obstacles would remain. According to him, “Creating a data highway is necessary for the growth of mobile and online markets. The government is the only body with the capacity to make this infrastructure investment, and until this happens, the market will remain tiny.”

The key though remains in providing value, either online or offline. Ashish Kashyap, CEO, Ibibo, said, “If I have to wait three weeks to get my product, then I had better get some value out of it. Some book retailers are doing this very well in India. Social networks, SEO and better marketing can help you catch the existing market. But if you want to increase the size of the market, then you need to add value in some way.”

Weighing in from the biggest retail player in the air travel sector, Yatra Co-Founder, Dhruv Shringi, said, “Around 2.5 lakh people buy rail tickets online, and as many buy domestic air tickets. That’s because these services offer people value over having to go and buy air tickets or rail tickets from the travel provider. We give convenience, simplify choices, and help them find the best deals. Other sellers do very well when they demonstrate value.”

 

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