The War between Online & Offline Retailers may Witness eCommerce Emerge as a Winner

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Offline businesses have never been about the customer, they’re always about the product. That tends to be the major difference between the two parties.
It can be defined as a process of differentiating the niche and norm. The question of one of the parties being a dominant channel has always remained unanswered. Both the platforms have its own advantages. In a way, Offline retail has several advantages – like understanding of customer habits, bigger spaces for displaying a large range of products and placing outlets and shops in the areas of customer preferences. The offline retail space has several big players that have been doing business for a very long time. Despite so many advantages, I feel that online businesses and eCommerce are definitely gaining an upper hand in the battle between them. So, let us focus on some key areas that act like the differentiator between the two segments.

The Data and the Intelligence Practice:

As a retailer, one needs to focus on the key areas and key events throughout the year. Being a huge football fan myself, I have been witnessing this trend since couple of years now. Major multi-brand retailers like Shoppers’ Stop or sports product manufacturers like Nike, Adidas and Puma have been targeting several events perfectly. However, during the process of Offline shopping, they fail to store vital information about me. In case of the eCommerce portals like Myntra and Jabong, they store all the information while I click my way to a range of products. This can be simply termed as an intelligence practice. They easily identify my interests and preferences to smartly retarget me with those products. These companies ask me to log in through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Then, they can access my public profile and my public conversations. They not only know that I am a football fan, they also know that I love watching movies and discussing politics. They are storing big data to make sure that they have all the information about me in place.

How does it help the eCommerce Portals?

For an example, the ISL (Indian Super League) is just 3-4 months away. But with the transfers going on and players already switching teams, this is the best time to target the ISL loyalists. Or, the best example will be the Barclays English Premier League, starting from August 8. It is one of the most followed football league across 180 countries. And, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets for the Premier League merchandise. Using my information and the process of retargeting, Myntra or Jabong can directly help me by providing an option to quickly buy the latest & my favorite team’s jersey. They can also invite me to chat sessions or call me to participate in their campaigns, contests and polls to create a better interaction. I agree that the sports gear manufacturers may be indirectly selling their stuff. However, they tend to lose customer loyalty and the chance to be the leader in the customers’ mind. That spot has been grabbed by Myntra and Jabong. As I mentioned before, offline businesses are always about the product. Offline companies have intelligence about a certain product, color preference in mass, running fashion trends and more. But they have no idea about individual customers. This is the same reason why the offline retailers prefer TV, radio and newspaper ads and spend very less on social/digital. However, the trend witnessing a swift change. Retailers are now identifying the importance of digital and the need for a presence on these platforms.

The eCommerce players are making sure that they understand the customer preferences on an individual level. They are not following the traditional sale-centric marketing blindly. These eCommerce companies have good analytics and storage of big data to understand the customer preferences and convert them into sales. So, if you witness an Offline company going out of business, you can predict that it might be a result of failure to drive useful insights for highly-targeted campaigns. It can be termed as the most pivotal process that is providing those brownie points to the eCommerce segment in the battle between Online and Offline retailers.


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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.

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