Online Shopping Portals: A Hit In the Present Era

With the advent of technology, Internet has become a part & parcel of our everyday life. Loads of information, statistics are available at one click. Not only information, the dot com boom also brought along with it a huge number of other services that, in the past, required us to spend a considerable amount of time – sending messages from one part of the world to the other, with e-mails this part of life has become a lot easier. It not only ensures quick delivery but also provides value added services like video conferencing. With time and the introduction of plastic money, the new trend of shopping has also changed from the ‘bazaars’ to ‘e-markets’. We call these e-stores, internet shops, web-shops, web-stores, e-web-stores, virtual stores and many more such terms that imply buying goods or services from a seller over the internet.
 
E-shopping is not only available for individual customers but also at intra-business level. This is known as B2B (Business to business) shopping. The popularity and demand for the e-shopping portals can be gauged by the fact that most of the retailers are now going online to make their presence felt & are offering online interfaces of their stores for the consumers.

Talking of e-shopping in Indian context, there are a plethora of e-shopping portals being visited regularly by an exponentially increasing number of people. There are portals that cater to consumer needs in all segments – food, fashion, supermarket and many more, delivering services at doorstep. Despite this huge boom of e-shopping, there are a few websites that stand out from others, partly for the kind of service they provide and partly for the kind of popularity they have gained over the years. Some of them have been mentioned below:
 
eBay: One of India’s leading marketplace. It is an online marketplace that allows customers to trade anything. There are more than 50,000 categories including collectibles, sports, photography, magazines, comics, art, glass, jewellery etc. in which people can trade.
FashionYou: It features the best international & Indian designer brands in luxury, hi-fashion and lifestyle experiences for men, women, children and your home.
Flipkart: It’s very popular amongst the youth. The website offers products in varied categories at discounted prices.
MyGrahak: India’s largest online supermarket. Attractive offers on a wide variety of products like FMCG, food, non-food, grocery, rice, gourmets & others are available.
Future Bazaar : It’s a part of the Future Group. And is one of the India’s largest online retailers. It offers a wide variety of products like cameras, consumer durables, mobile, home décor and many more.
Homeshop18: It is a virtual retailer opening in a multimedia environment that includes TV, web, catalogue and print, to sell high quality products & services directly to consumers across the country. A lot of products are available – lifestyle, electronics etc.
Myntra: It provides access to the latest varieties from some of the best brands in the apparel, footwear and lifestyle categories for men, women, kids.
Snapdeal: It offers 50-90% discount deals, vouchers for restaurants, food joints and other popular spots in major cities of the world.
LetsBuy: A portal that offers branded consumer electronics and IT products from more than 9,000 products from top international and domestic brands.
Mydala: It gets you deals you want in your city - 40-95% off on best restaurants, slaons, shopping in your city.
 
To get an insight on the prevalent trends of online shopping, the first and foremost fact to know is what the consumers intends to shop online. Then one of the other most important questions that arises in the context of e-shopping is whether the idea of stopping by a store to touch and see products beats online shopping.
 
Based on certain surveys available online, here is what we got:
What people buy online?
The internet and retail analysts at Morgan Stanley recently published a report on how the retail industry was changing and evolving. Mostly, it involves a shift from brick-and-mortar retail (in other words, in-store shopping) to e-commerce, which they estimate will grow to $1 trillion by 2016. Books and consumer electronics have the highest online penetration, while groceries and personal care are among the lowest. The following chart gives the online penetration rates for various goods.
 
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Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular these days. Its popularity can be credited to the fact that convenience is highly valued in the 21st century. Shopping online offers the opportunity to buy anything at any time. However, there are products for which making a trip to the store is still preferred to complete your purchases the old-fashioned way, because sometimes a little effort is necessary to save time and money, instead of sticking to your computer. Online shopping has the following benefits over in-store shopping:
-You don’t have to commute, find parking, deal with big crowds or wait in long queues. You won’t waste any gas. This is particularly appealing due to the skyrocketing fuel prices.
-You can ship gifts directly to your faraway friends or family, with many websites offering gift receipts and holiday wrapping. Many people prefer this over purchasing a gift at the store, taking a trip to the post office and spending top dollar to ship it from there.
-You can always count on thousands of reviews from past customers describing their experience with the company, the shipping process and the product. But, online shopping also has certain drawbacks, which are as follows:
 
-Online shoppers might run into shipping issues in spite of having spent money to have the products delivered. This could be due to numerous reasons e.g. weather delays, technical mishaps, confusion with the address and lost packages.
-Some things just don’t make sense to purchase on the web. For example, it makes a lot more sense to go to the store and smell the different scents before purchasing your new one.
-While online shopping wins for research and pricing, in-store shopping beats the e-    commerce experience across numerous customer service and relationship measures.
 
A survey, conducted by Dimensional Research in December 2012, identified several shopping-related activities and asked respondents whether they thought those experiences were better in-store or online. The survey had 1027 consumers as participants, all of whom live in the United States and use a mobile device for shopping. 62% of respondents are female and 40% are aged 36-50. According to the results of the survey of consumers, who have used their mobile devices to shop, respondents more often chose the in-store option for measures such as a great customer service (40% v/s 16%), having their questions answered (50% v/s 13%), and establishing a relationship with the merchant (51% v/s 12%). The biggest gap in favorability, however, was for the ease of making a return (64% in-store v/s 12% online). Frustrations with the return experience certainly appear to plague online shoppers with about 7 in 10 online shoppers feeling that returning items purchased online is a complicated process. Also, 81% of the respondents said they are not likely to make additional purchases from websites that charge shipping on returns.
 
The online shopping experience on the other hand, was overwhelmingly favored for the immense amount of information available about purchases (71% v/s 12%), the ease of finding a specific item (59% v/s 14%), and getting the best price (57% v/s 11%), among others.
 
The other findings of the survey included:
-Among factors that contribute to a positive experience when shopping in-store, respondents named the absence of shipping charges (64% citing it as ‘very important’), the ease of making a return (60%), the ability to physically touch, smell, and see the item to be purchased (55%), and getting the item immediately (55%) as the most important.
-To get the best out of their online shopping experience, respondents named the ability to compare prices from a broad range of sources (63% citing it as ‘very important’), the depth of information to research purchases (59%), and the ability to stay at home to shop (54%) as the most important.
-In November 2012, Google India conducted a study about online shopping in India. The report was compiled by combining data from Google Trends and online research conducted by TNS Australia with a sample size of 800 respondents on behalf of Google India in November 2012.
 
The demographic profile of respondents is as follows-
Gender: Male (63%), Female (37%), age group (18 to 50) with 71% respondents in the age group of (18 to 35). 89% users were heavy users of the Internet with 67% users having access to their own money and 33% having access to someone else’s money. The sample size had a monthly average household income of INR 55,051/-.The respondents were spread across Delhi (22%), Mumbai (24%), Kolkata (9%), Bangalore (17%), Ahmedabad (6%), Hyderabad (12%), Pune (7%) & others (2%)
This survey helps to get a purview of the current e-shopping trends vis-à-vis the past few years. In 2010-11, the growth in consumer interest was only 40% as compared to the growth in the year 2011-12 which is 128%. There has been a growth of 100% in niche product categories as compared to electronics, baby products, home & furnishing, & health care. They were also the fast growing category in terms of query volume on Google search. With the booming mobile sector, online shopping through mobiles in has also seen a surge. There has been a 100% increase in the number of queries from mobile phones in 2011-12.
 
Presently, approximately one third of all the shopping queries come from mobile phones. The current trend in terms of buying intention is that around 90% of the online shoppers have the intention of buying more products online. Now what motivates shoppers to buy online are cash back guarantee, ability to give cash on delivery, fast delivery, great deals and access to branded products. The consumers also highlighted some barriers that deter them from shopping online.
 
The most prominent factors were inability to touch and try the goods before purchase, fear of faulty products, fear of posting their personal and financial details online and the inability to bargain.But these barriers hardly seem to have any major impact on the growing e-shopping trend. Here are a few headline excerpts taken from one of the popular newspapers –
-Online Retail Industry to touch 7,000 crores by 2015…
-More discounts and less hassle makes sites a hit…
-IRCTC forays into online shopping…
-Online shopping boom…
-Raksha Bandhan: Online Rakhi shopping picks up…
-Online shopping gaining currency…
-Online shopping sites a big hit in Hyderabad…
Based on all the facts & figures stated above, we can conclude
‘’ The dot com boom and e-shopping industry are going to revolutionise the way India shops!’’
 
[The article has been written by Nikita Jain & Mansi Goel. They have completed their PGP-HRM from MDI, Gurgaon]
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Online Shopping Portals: A Hit In the Present Era

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