The Click Bait

In­dian con­sumers are in­creas­ingly favour­ing on­line shop­ping for their cloth­ing needs and turn­ing to in­ter­na­tional brands for their pur­chases. Chi­tra Bala­sub­ra­ma­niam analy­ses this e-phe­nom­e­non.

Apparel - - Contents -

Analysing the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of in­ter­na­tional e-com­merce brands


The in­ter­net has man­aged to cre­ate a space with­out any ge­o­graph­i­cal bar­ri­ers. Thanks to e-com­merce, phys­i­cal dis­tance is no longer an im­ped­i­ment to pur­chases. One has to still nav­i­gate through lo­gis­tics, cus­toms and du­ties, but it has pro­vided cus­tomers with ac­cess to hun­dreds and thou­sands of re­tail­ers on one plat­form. Sit­ting in the con­fines of one’s home, with­out mov­ing out, one has the lux­ury to flip through and see thou­sands of prod­ucts be­fore fi­nal­is­ing on one. There is also the ad­van­tage of com­pet­i­tive pric­ing. With ap­parel, there is a be­lief that peo­ple like to feel what they buy. Cus­tomers like to touch and wear what one is buy­ing to en­sure that it fits them and looks good. Others have opined that ap­parel can­not be bought on­line; taste is too in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic to be clubbed on a mass scale. How­ever, crowds and long queues at the trial rooms of stores at malls, lack of park­ing space, and long dis­tances make con­ven­tional shop­ping an in­con­ve­nient op­tion for many. Many pre­fer shop­ping from the com­forts of one’s home. An av­er­age work­ing cit­i­zen spends at least an hour each day to com­mute to their place of work. Trav­el­ling a sim­i­lar dis­tance on a day off to go shop­ping for some clothes is not con­sid­ered an ex­cit­ing op­tion. The big­gest plus for on­line por­tals is con­ve­nience.

This fur­ther re­it­er­ated by a re­port ti­tled ‘Dig­i­tal Retail 2020’ by Google and A T Kear­ney. It points out that, “On­line shop­ping has be­come a way of life for a num­ber of In­di­ans and the to­tal num­ber of on­line shop­pers is es­ti­mated to grow 3.5 times to touch 175 mil­lion by 2020, from 50 mil­lion in 2015. E-tail­ing will drive 25 per cent of the to­tal or­gan­ised retail sales of $240 bil­lion in In­dia by 2020 and will reach $60 bil­lion in gross mer­chan­dis­ing value.”


This re­port is not the first of its kind. Sev­eral mar­keters and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions have been try­ing to peg a value to on­line retail. They are also try­ing to de­ci­pher buy­ing pat­terns of in­di­vid­u­als. They are also prob­ing the de­mo­graphic of the buyer – age group, gen­der, ge­o­graph­i­cal area, in­come pro­file, etc. This re­port by Google and A T Kear­ney adds, “Of the 175 mil­lion on­line shop­pers in 2020, the top 60 mil­lion ‘high-value’

cus­tomers will con­trib­ute to 68 per cent of to­tal spend­ing. Cus­tomers from higher in­come classes who live in Met­ros and Tier-I cities are more likely to be high value and will ac­count for a sim­i­lar share of spend­ing.”

A ma­jor com­po­nent of the find­ing of this re­port is that on­line buy­ers do not mind pay­ing a premium for the value-added ser­vices. Th­ese value-added ser­vices take the form of faster de­liv­ery, has­sle-free re­turns and ex­tended war­ranty. Nearly 90 per cent of those in­ter­viewed were will­ing to pay for premium value added ser­vices. This is a huge num­ber, which shows that on­line sell­ing is here to stay. An­other ma­jor find­ing has been that, “The coun­try will see a growth of five times the cur­rent fig­ure for the num­ber of women shop­pers, by 2020. They will more than dou­ble their share of on­line spend. They are likely to spend more on life­style cat­e­gories, such as ap­parel and ac­ces­sories, and look for the lat­est trends and brands on­line. Women re­spon­dents said they would in­crease their spends of on­line shop­ping if they get more op­tions for flex­i­ble de­liv­ery time, more pick-up lo­ca­tions, so that they don’t have to di­vulge too many per­sonal de­tails.”

A sim­i­lar re­port by PayPal and mar­ket re­search firm Ip­sos em­pha­sises the same points. The e-com­merce revo­lu­tion is here to stay. The re­port has es­ti­mated that cross-bor­der spend­ing or on­line spends from do­mes­tic and cross bor­der shop­ping is pro­jected to touch R875,600 crore in 2018. This amounts to around 31 per cent year on year growth in 2017.


More and more in­ter­net savvy In­di­ans are shop­ping from re­tail­ers in China, Korea and Malaysia for ap­parel. Th­ese por­tals have an edge over their In­dian coun­ter­parts in their abil­ity to of­fer great deals on prices as well as a trendy se­lec­tion of cloth­ing. The fash­ion on th­ese web­sites ob­serves the lat­est trends. Naysay­ers re­fer to them as ‘in­spi­ra­tions’ of orig­i­nals or ‘rip offs’, but the qual­ity is pretty de­cent and their prices are quite af­ford­able.

Aid­ing this growth is the the low cost of in­ter­net, free WiFi fa­cil­i­ties and the spike in smart phone us­age. The PayPal-Ip­sos re­port has an­a­lysed the ra­tio­nale be­hind the ‘Pre­ferred modes of pay­ment among on­line shop­pers and growth prospects for the In­dian e-com­merce sec­tor in 2018.’ It con­cludes that, with greater on­line pro­tec­tion, the num­ber of e-shop­pers have in­creased. Seller and buyer pro­tec­tion, re­funded re­turns, and pay­ment gate­ways like PayPal have helped bring down key bar­ri­ers of cross bor­der shop­ping like safety and se­cu­rity, re­turn pro­cesses and ship­ping is­sues.

The in­ter­net is full of web­sites to source ap­parel from. has a sep­a­rate site for ap­parel. They are af­ford­able and avail­able in a num­ber of colour and size op­tions. What sets th­ese web­sites apart is that they present a more stylised and af­ford­able range of ap­parel. Sev­eral items like hooded vests and coats are avail­able in phys­i­cal out­lets, but of­ten the cus­tomer needs to go to big malls or wait for sales of­fered by brand names to buy one suit­able to their pre­cise needs. On the other hand, items avail­able on­line are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and the has­sle-free re­turn pol­icy makes it a cheaper and more con­ve­nient source of pur­chase. Many of th­ese on­line ship­ping com­pa­nies de­liver to places in In­dia.


Apart from China, Korea also seems to be a favourite des­ti­na­tion for shop­pers. In an ar­ti­cle, www.joss­ charts the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Korean web­sites of­fer­ing the best of fash­ion, say­ing, “Think young, fresh and trend for­ward, and Korean fash­ion flashes to mind faster than you can say ‘street style’. From off-shoul­ders to sweatshirt dresses and plat­form sneak­ers, it’s spot on with nail­ing the coolest trends, some­times even be­fore they be­come world­wide phe­nom­e­non. But the best part? It’s su­per af­ford­able! – quickly sat­is­fy­ing our need for fast fash­ion.” Ex­am­ples of such web­sites in­clude www.hal­lyu­, www.kood­, www.on­lyurs, brands like Tidestore, Hi Korean Fash­ion and Yes Style.

A quick flip through any of th­ese web­sites re­veals the quan­tum of fash­ion styles avail­able and the vast va­ri­ety of ma­te­rial used. The prices are given in INR and are not ex­or­bi­tant. Above all, they are trans­par­ent and fair and don’t re­quire any bar­gain­ing.

The pop­u­lar cor­ri­dors for cross bor­der shop­ping on web­sites, as per the Paypal Ip­sos sur­vey were: US (14 per cent), Bri­tain (six per cent) and China (five per cent) dur­ing the last 12 months. Fur­ther, about 55 per cent of In­di­ans shop cross-bor­der more dur­ing Christ­mas, and 53 per cent shop more from other coun­tries for the Di­wali fes­ti­val.

Eco­nomic Times has fur­ther re­ported on how lux­ury items are be­ing bought on­line by In­di­ans. It says, “A seg­ment of In­dian lux­ury con­sumers seems to have switched to dis­counted lux­ury prod­ucts on on­line por­tals, post de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Por­tals such as Con­fi­den­tial Cou­ture and Dar­veys, which sell dis­counted lux­ury prod­ucts said sales have in­creased for cer­tain cat­e­gories and brands.”

The only de­ter­rent to this is the un­avail­abil­ity of the Cash on De­liv­ery op­tion, a pay­ment mode which is the norm on sev­eral In­dian web­sites. There is also the mi­nor el­e­ment of fear of us­ing cards on an in­ter­na­tional site, as In­dian card com­pa­nies do not au­then­ti­cate the pur­chases through an OTP, lead­ing to hack­ing con­cerns. Nev­er­the­less, th­ese are mi­nor chal­lenges in the larger pic­ture of ex­cit­ing new clothes and de­signs, bar­ring con­ven­tional mar­ket bar­ri­ers.

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