E-commerce is picking up in India. In 2012, it boasted revenues of $14 billion up from $6.3 billion in 2011, with revenues expected to reach $34.5 billion in 2015.
Footwear and branded apparel were the most-searched items and showed a year-over-year growth of 71 percent and 56 percent respectively, according to the Internet Economy Watch Report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI).
As if on cue, e-tailers were quick to organize India's version of the US marketing gimmick, Cyber Monday. On December 12, 2012, more than 50 e-commerce sites offered discounts up to 70 percent on apparel, electronic gadgets, and travel destinations at a global online shopping festival.
Much of that online shopping is being done with mobile devices. IMAI predicts that India will have 130.6 million mobile Internet users by March 2014. In December 2012, the country had 87.1 million mobile Internet users. In October, there were 78.7 million mobile users who had accessed the Internet in the past month.
Google Trends, a study of search strings through 2012, revealed that "on-line shopping" was the most searched term in Karnataka, in addition to "online recharge" and Flipkart, a Bangalore-headquartered company e-tailer. States with fewer offline retail outlets like Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Orissa, and Pondicherry also searched for "online shopping" most.
To cash in on this nascent market, CIOs of online retail need to track and understand how a customer makes purchases. But that is easier said than done. Consumers use a variety of devices to research, compare prices, make inquiries, and finally make a purchase. For instance, the search for a tablet may begin on a smartphone, price comparisons might be done on an office laptop, a friend's tablet may be employed to read reviews, and the final purchase may be done at home on a PC. Isn't it imperative then to sync online shopping portals across multiple devices?
Not long ago, people were researching products online only to make the final purchase at a shop. Now, they research on mobile devices and choose to make the final decision through a home PC/laptop. Just as retailers realized the importance of online presence then, e-commerce companies are waking up to the need to align mobile apps to the portal.
Retail CIOs should realize that if there is no synchronization across devices, they may lose customers because:
- A customer who returns to the site through an office computer, after surfing on his smartphone, may be put off if he has to repeat the login and search process.
- A login prompt will help e-tailers track the customer and avoid repeat collection of credit card details.
- Often, shoppers add products onto a shopping cart and leave midway, only to return a few hours later -- often through another device. A site that is synchronized to multiple devices will present the customer the same page where he/she left, thus hastening the decision-making process.
- Identifying the customer early on will help retailers facilitate a purchase where customers are unsure or procrastinating. An email alerting them to an offer, giving the status of the stock (if it is being sold out), or simply reminding them of a pending decision will go a long way to effect a purchase.
- If a browsing pattern and purchase history is established, retailers can work on personalized offers for returning customers.
Global e-tailers like Amazon and Target are already doing all of the above. It is definitely not too early for e-commerce companies in India to do the same. In fact, it is just about the right time to synchronize portals to cater to multiple device users.