From the early days of IndiaPlaza to the heady growth and funding days of Flipkart, Snapdeal, and other startups, to the buyout of Flipkart by Walmart for a mammoth $16 billion, ecommerce in India has come full circle. Still, this is only the beginning for organized retail in general and ecommerce in particular. There is a long journey of growth and consolidation ahead. As per IBEF, the retail sector is expected to increase by 60 percent to reach $1 trillion by 2020.1 Further, Indian ecommerce sector is expected to surpass the US to become the second largest market in the world, by reaching $64 billion by 2020 from the $38.5 billion in 2017.2
From the basic expectation of discovering, ordering, and getting a trusted, high-quality product, consumers have evolved to having high expectations from ecommerce players in India. This evolution has been fueled by huge investments by incumbents in educating the consumer. They have also set up the infrastructure to support these expectations. In the coming years, the industry has to evolve rapidly to stay ahead of the expectation curve of the consumers, by leveraging technology, data, and operational efficiencies. Here are some trends that we foresee in this space in the coming year.
personalize, but protect my privacy
Customers want a highly personalized experience for themselves when they embark on the journey of making an online purchase, but without violation of their privacy. Ecommerce companies have to tread a fine line while balancing permission, marketing, privacy, and business outcomes in their quest to deliver customer delight. This will also imply effective usage of customer data and leveraging it to deliver great product search, seamless delivery experience, and rapid fulfillment.
deliver quickly and correctly
Irrespective of the nature of the product—bulky or light, fashion or utility, standardized or customized—customers are impatient to receive their product. There is an expectation (and rightly so) that the product will be delivered quickly and they can start using it. This requires investment in creating fulfillment centers close to customer hubs, data analytics to guide the right kind of inventory stocking, and also exceptional quality processes in order management.
help me try it out first
Customers have come to expect world-class trial policies in India as they become more comfortable shopping online, and also have higher exposure to global policies and trends. Trials could fall anywhere in the spectrum—simple low-tech solutions such as an in-home trial for a period after purchase, to a complex tech-enabled augmented reality visualization to see how a product looks or behaves. But trials will become more advanced and more prevalent across different product categories.
I have seen horizontal, give me vertical
If the first wave of ecommerce saw the emergence of horizontal ecommerce behemoths that sell everything from salt to washing machines, the next wave will see the emergence of vertical ecommerce companies that will specialize and sell in specific categories. These are going to be in product categories where there is no powerful online brand, products which are not standardized, and which are experiential. Here, customers would like to talk to experts. Horizontal players, who lack focus, will be unsuited for these categories and hence, be shunned by this group of customers.