In an exclusive interview to Thinking Aloud, Mr. Alokedeep Singh, Head of e-Commerce Business, Titan, talks at length about the significance & rise of e-Tailing and the challenges faced by the e-Commerce sector today.
TA: Internet-habituated & aspirational consumer base has been significant in the rise of eTailing. According to you, what are the other factors driving the growth?
AS: I strongly believe that the whole investment process in the space has been very substantial. Obviously, the internet penetration and internet consumption base have grown over the years. But, these are not the only two significant areas. The large investment that has been provided to the startups has also played a significant role in the rise of e-Tailing. It has enabled the startups to successfully deliver large sized marketing campaigns. These developments have provided the new entrants with an opportunity to provide the consumers with a new way of shopping online. A customer does not shop online only for the convenience part of it. The factors that instigate a customer to shop online includes price, discounts, freebies and a lot more. I would say that other than the two factors that you have mentioned, the whole buildup on the startup ecosystem & the investment pouring in are definitely driving the growth in the sector.
TA: Order fulfillment and logistics are some of the challenges faced by the e-tailers. What are the other challenges?
AS: Rather than challenges, I would say that the process has become category-driven. Nowadays, there are a lot of categories like electronics, mobile, home products etc. that pose various challenges to the e-tailers. The customer does not buy everything online. The offline shopping space still holds a key to the customer. So, I would not say that it is a challenge. However, it will take some time for the customers being complete online buyers across a variety of products. And, the other major challenge I feel is the at the payments part of the process. Payment sector should come up with more holistic solutions. 50 to 55 percent of the e-commerce & e-Tailing business in India is driven by Cash on Delivery. Another challenge is that the acceptance apart from convenience of e-commerce is due to the pricing and discounts that are being offered. These discounts are something that may not remain forever. This poses as a challenge because every e-tailer today is burning cash. Be it on the Cash on Delivery purpose or the logistic end. These challenges must be addressed if the e-commerce & e-Tailing segment wants to be scalable and profitable in the future.
TA: Would brick and mortar businesses cease to exist in the near future?
AS: I strongly believe that both of the sectors will exist to help each other co-exist in the future. Obviously, e-Tailing is not going anywhere; it is a way of life for the people now. A common ground between both the segments will continue to exist as the customers don’t look at the online & offline shopping as e-tailers & retailers do. The customer is agnostic to the terminologies of offline and online. Both the segments will co-exist. Only, the boundaries will become thinner.
TA: What steps are you looking to take in terms of supporting consumer shopping across multiple devices?
AS: One thing that we have always maintained is that the best way to success is being where the customer is. The whole shift that is taking place with customers moving towards various devices like mobile, tablets and much more, we intend to provide the customers with a similar shopping experience across multiple platforms. We are continuously trying to create a sync between platforms to provide a proper assortment to the customers. This is something that we are looking forward to extending & expanding in the coming months. And, devices will be an integral part of the process.
TA: Essential buying has been around for a while. How big a role does impulsive buying play for the growth of e-Tailing in India?
AS: Essential buying is getting a bit older with each passing day. If you look at the customer target audience of the e-Tailing customers in India, 75 to 80 percent of the customers are in an age group of below 34. The rise in the disposable income and aspirations of the new-age customers have paved a way for impulsive buying in the market. The surge in e-Tailing marketing and spending by the e-Tailing portals on TV ads & OOH advertising also denote that impulsive buying plays a big role in the growth of the sector. The idea is to catch the pulse of the customer with providing a proposition so exciting, that the customer reaches out to his/her phone and goes on to order the product. People are not shying away to buy products by just acting on the Ads they see or by following their impulse with help of so many options in the market like EMIs, Loans, Finance and much more.
TA: Many companies are adapting the ‘App Only’ way. Does this leave the future of e-Commerce portals in a lurch?
AS: If you take a look at the numbers, obviously, mobile is one of the most profitable platforms available to the e-tailers & the retailers. Desktop has just bagged the 1/4th of the total base as compared to the huge results generated via the mobile platform. On the other hand, you can’t completely rely on the customers to arrive from Mobile apps. One needs to have a look at various things. 1) You are asking the customer to download an app & you are restricting him/her to a channel. Rather than building a convenient channel for everyone, you are indirectly telling the customer that he needs a smartphone to be your customer. 2) I feel that the market is not yet ready to adapt the app only process. If you take a look at the smartphone penetration in India, it has not passed the 40 percent hurdle. And, not many devices are capable of supporting the multiple apps. So, in the way you are losing out on a good measure of customers out while targeting the segmented customers. In simple words, you loss turns out to be someone else’s gain. As a customer, I would not always want to shop on my mobile. Maybe, I want to view products and its minute details on a larger screen! You cannot restrict your customers in such a way wherein eTailing is still expanding its horizons. India is not yet ready for the ‘Mobile App Only’ option. One must rather think ‘mobile first’ than ‘mobile only.’