India's start-up unicorn list sees three e-commerce players marking their spot. They have played an important role in boosting the start-up ecosystem of the country. However, their growth stories are filled with twists and turns. Reports of losses even while they continue to grow, have had many experts question the journey of these start-ups.
The challenges faced by the Indian e-commerce industry are not new. Even then the segment caters to the second largest market in the world. As the players continue to grow, venturing into newer aspects and finding better avenues for customer acquisition, Entrepreneur India spoke to experts about how the sector plans to jump the hurdles that come its way in 2018.
E-commerce currently focuses on two major things for customer experience - offering the lowest prices and fastest shipping. However, factoring in both these elements also makes it difficult for e-commerce players to work towards profitability. Saahil Goel, CEO, and Co-founder, Kraftly, believes that while doing this, entrepreneurs often end up concentrating on a few thousand large distributors and manufacturers who eventually gain success or achieve their goals from online sales. He believes that in this rut, e-commerce players forget about the SMBs who hold an unique and diverse inventory. They could bring their entrepreneurial spirit to commerce and could offer a more direct and cordial customer experience. And that's where they need to focus on in 2018 - build e-commerce by enabling sellers from all available channels.
"There are new demand channels such as Facebook, Google, and Whatsapp that house the next 100M digitally enabled Indian consumers. By enabling long tail sellers to reach these new set of buyers, e-commerce players can create a new wave of trade that currently happens largely through traditional channels," said Goel.
Customer Acquisition With Unique Offerings
The Indian e-commerce users still prefer cash-on-delivery for most orders. But with demonetization and GST has come the increased drive for digital payments. More and more consumers from beyond Tier I and Tier II cities will look at digital transactions for their online orders. Sujayath Ali, CEO and Co-Founder Voonik.com, believes that 2018 will see a higher number of prepaid offers as compared to the previous years. "The overall increase in the prepaid percentage will improve the experience for the customer and will reduce a lot of wastage for ecommerce players. Now, all we need is to be prepared for the transition by providing smooth checkout processes and having better payment processes," said Ali.
But there's more to e-commerce than just the payments. The payment comes right at the end of the user's complete shopping experience, what the user also needs is an easier interface to shop online. Ali believes that they can make the experience better by making it language-agnostic. "A new customer from a rural area should be able to easily understand the offerings, compare the prices and place an order," he said.
Agreeing with Ali, Goel too believes that one of the biggest challenges of e-commerce business is ensuring customer loyalty and driving repeat purchases. Goel goes on to say that e-commerce companies should focus on creating unique experiences for their buyers and offering a core value proposition - either by way of unique inventory, a hyper-personalized buying experience, opening new categories, or by introducing whole new ways of shopping online. "While commoditized-need-based products have dominated a large share of GMV in the last few years, a huge unstructured lifestyle catalogue is yet to be discovered online and will set the trends for shopping in the years to come," he said.
Greater technology could come of use in this subject, believe most experts. Arup Das, Manager Ecommerce, RIVERSONG, said that the e-commerce segment will see more and effective use of Artificial Intelligence. This will help brands to reach out to a targeted audience, with lower bid prices.
Cross-border Business Will Grow
Given that India is the second largest market for e-commerce, globally renowned players have been making their way into the country. This has resulted in a higher competition between foreign players and the homegrown entities. Goel believes that there is also a benefit to this. "Companies can focus on creating a bridge between the massive supply available overseas and the sellers in India," he said. According to him, there are several areas such as logistics, imports, payments and multi-channel marketing that will create win-win opportunities for all stakeholders in inward cross-border trade.