Ecommerce is very important to sustain the growth of Internet. The ecosystem just doesn’t complete without ecommerce. After all that’s where the real money exchange happens between users and businesses. All other revenue models and businesses are just supporting, they cannot stand on their own. For example, there cannot be much expansion in ad revenues, or revenues from affiliates unless customers are ready to buy stuff that businesses are trying to advertise in the first place. We know that it is going to happen. Today or tomorrow, ecommerce will take off. It has happened in travel, it has happened in matrimony, jobs. Online retail is the next important and the biggest sector. There’s already a good number of sites that have decent offerings, but something feels lacking in them. Some of them are better than others in some respects, but none of them seem to be really tailor-made for Indian infrastructure and audience. Here is a list of points that we have come up to make a site better suited for users in the Indian context.
People are not used to online payments. Forget online payments, people living outside of metros don’t even do a lot of credit card transactions. Customers need to be educated about this. They need to be given extra assurance that these transactions are safe. They should be given multiple payment options. Credit Card, Cash on Delivery, Cheque, Net Banking are just few of the days. Just today came across these two pieces of news, which talk about how BharatMatrimony (payment at local post office) and Yatra (payment at Web World) are using interesting ways of making payments easy for the users - quite neat.
Customer service is not a concept that a lot of Indian companies are associated with. (Isn’t it ironic that India considering that world’s leading companies have their call centers in India?) In any case, customers need to be assured that they will get top notch service. Phone numbers, live chat are some of the ways. Providing them assurance of smooth returns/exchanges will help quite a bit as well.
Shipping (delivery) assurance
Postal service is not exactly something that people in India count on. Of course most ecommerce companies use private courier companies for delivery, which are much more reliable. This needs to be spelled out explicitly on the site. Users need to be given guarantees about this.
We have written about this in details here. Having offline presence just gives a feeling that its all “real”. This can be a very important psychological factor for many users.
We have seen a lot of companies using interesting ways to promote their service using mobile as a medium. This needs to be continued. Shipping info, tracking, price alerts, there are so many things that can be done using mobile. One of the biggest things that will help is mobile payments, when that hits the mainstream.
All things said and done, there is no real compelling reason for people to buy online unless they get a real break in the price. And this should happen. Businesses avoid the cost of building and maintaining physical stores and hiring employees by selling stuff online. At least a part of these savings should be passed on to the customers. And again customers need to be given proofs that they are getting non-trivial savings because they are buying online. Schemes like price matching will also definitely help.
The largest circulated daily in India is not English. To reach the critical mass, Internet has to go local language in India. Ecommerce sites typically have very little content. Having options to see them in local languages can be a very useful value add.
Keep it simple. Lot of Internet users are new and will be new in this growth phase. Lot of them would be doing their shopping first time. There is no point having complicated Ajax site or having a site full of flashy ads or million options for customizing what users are buying. Remember that most of Internet users still use dial-up, so the simpler the site, the faster it will be and more reach it will have.
What do you think? Why would you buy online, or why do you NOT buy online today?