Google on Thursday launched a detailed study on the massive growth of e-retail industry in India. The study said the online commerce will become a whopping $15 billion market by 2016. While e-commerce is evidently growing, traditional brick and mortar retailers and wholesalers have taken a huge hit. The offline retailers confirmed a significant dip in sale during the recent festival season. Apparently, retailers are finding it tough to compete with the heavy discounts offered by the online stores.
Despite multiple challenges, offline retailers shouldn't give up hopes on competing with the e-commerce websites. However, they need to innovate, expand and most importantly go aggressive on areas where online retailers are still struggling. Offline retailers have already the infrastructure for ensuring enough stock and advantage of face to face interactions. While they can continue to focus on these areas, here are some suggestions on how they can beat or at least compete with online retailers:
Contrary to the notion, offline retailer can very well take advantage of the ongoing online boom. One of the options that's being widely considered is Omni-channel Retailing under which they can provide seamless customer experience via multiple channels, and target today's well educated and informed consumers.
One of the dimensions of the omni-channel retailing is a deeper integration between web and store so that a customer buys any thing online gets customer support at store, and vice versa. Under the Device2Web model, customer can access the web store through various Internet-connected touch points such as mobile phones, kiosks, tablet etc. Learn more about omni channel retailing here.
“They (offline retailers) need to adopt omni channel retailing, where they integrate these touchpoints to provide shoppers a 'buy anytime, anywhere' experience. Eg. Shoppers can try in store & buy online , buy from a store & place a return/exchange request online,” says Mr Mehul Jobanputra-CEO and Cofounder of DesiDime.com.
“Offline retail needs to accept and adopt online. They should offer the customers a seamless experience across all their channels,” says Mr. Ashish Jhalani Founder,eTailing India & ISeB (Indian school of e-Business).
Improved customer service
As per Google study, a lot of online shoppers aren't satisfied. According to the study, about 62% not satisfied with previous shopping experience, the percentage grows in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. About 58 percent in tier 1 were unsatisfied, while 70% in Tier 2 and 59% in tier 3.
A lot of customers have complained about the complicated return process. About 67% said return process is too complicated and expensive. Trust is another major issue for non-buyers as 55 per cent of them do not trust the quality of the product online, says the Google study. Slow internet has also been pointed out as a major hurdle for online shoppers.
A recent India’s E-Tailing Industry –Seller’s Perspective’ 2014 study by Spire Research and Consulting also said lack of robust payment mechanisms; Cash On Delivery (COD) options were prone to risks as well as payment delays and difficulties in logistics and order placements were some of the key obstructions faced by sellers/respondents in the etailing space. .
The studies clearly states customers are very unsatisfied with services part offered by e-commerce stores. This is why offline retailers should step up their customer service, further simplify lodging complaint and return process.
“ At the current level of transactions, the customer service & delivery levels in online retail look promising. Some level of customer dissatisfaction is there in every industry. This year a major hue & cry was raised by customers during the big sale days. The online retailers just need to be better prepared to handle huge demands during such annual sale events,” says Mr Mehul Jobanputra.
Competitive discounts, Cheaper extended warranties
Offline retailers should also consider giving deeper discounts and cheaper extended warranties along with a personalised shopping experience. In our brands versus e-commerce analysis, we had pointed it out brands are reluctant to let their products sell through sites such as Flipkart and Snapdeal.
“Offline retailers need to play on the personal touch. They need to ensure their staff are highly trained and are able to guide customers to what they want to buy. Online shopping while convenient is impersonal. Offline retail inherently requires personal interaction so offline retailers need to find a way to use that their advantage. Offline retailers can look at giving deeper discounts, cheaper extended warranties and a highly customised, highly personal shopping experience,” says a CouponDunia official.
Offline retailers should extensively promote the benefits of warranty, easier to access after sales support and assurance from brands. Like the online sites, they can also go for an exclusive partnership for a product.
How else do you think offline retailers can make comeback? What other factors should they focus on? Let us know your views in the comments section below: