There was a time when fashion retailers in India focussed on designing websites that looked good on desktops - bigger screens, higher resolutions and a huge product line.
These websites provided a reprieve for millions of shoppers who were strapped for time, wanted to avoid the traffic or the queue outside changing rooms or to those who did not have access to the latest in fashion at their place of residence.
Online shopping heralded an era that opened the eyes of the Indian youth and old alike to newer styles and fashion trends. However, a lot has changed since the e-commerce boom. Today, it is the mobile industry that is driving the digital adaptation and growth in India. At the rate of 3.5 new subscriptions per minute, more and more people in India are getting online via their handhelds - a surface which opens the windows to a world previously unbeknownst to them.
Today, 65% of the internet traffic is coming through mobiles - a clear sign that m-commerce in India is giving e-commerce some stiff competition. Understandably, retailers with desktop sites have started talking the mobile language, with focus on building mobile sites that are functional and creating apps that make mobile purchases hassle-free.
For the customers, the mobile revolution has been a great enabler - letting them buy stuff ranging from lingerie to a wedding lehenga, all from their handheld. Almost every m-commerce site and app is today giving irresistible deals to grab the mindshare of the customer in a bid to score a sale. As a result, 56% of the customers now prefer buying through channels that provide a voucher code, a discount or loyalty points instead of a showroom or a retailer website where they have to pay the full price.This has also sparked off an interesting trend labelled as ‘showrooming’ - buyers now visit showrooms, try a few outfits and zero in on what they want to buy. Once the decision is made, out comes the mobile phone and thanks to the boom of m-commerce in India, an instant price check is made to reveal much lower prices of the same product online. You know how the rest of the story goes.
This trend is bad news not just for multi-brand retailers, but even for standalone brands and luxury fashion houses. They are slowly waking up to revolution of m-commerce in India and are setting up their own mobile sites and apps so as to not lose out on their share of the m-commerce pie. The crux of the issue, namely the price, still needs to be addressed though, for price is what is foremost on the mind of the customer who wants maximum value for money.
The future of m-commerce in India looks bright for mobile is certainly not showing any signs of slowing down. Sale volumes from mobile will continue to grow and eat into the desktop revenues. If done right, the fashion industry stands to gain from this boom given that fashion shopping is a very personal activity that is best experienced through a mobile phone. What the industry needs is a two-pronged approach - one, to build a product that will make the shopping experience truly blissful on the mobile and second is to market the product through third party channels so as to reach every potential customer.
The product vision that we think will define the future of m-commerce in India will be data and insights driven, with a prime focus on personalising the shopping experience for each and every customer. If you are the kind that has been buying elegant and understated outfits from a particular website, then it should use that historical data and show you stuff that matches your taste, your size and your favourite brands. This bespoke shopping experience is what we think will be the definitive nail in the coffin for brick and mortar sales and will reinforce the future of m-commerce in India.
Once retailers have such an offering in place, it would do them good to leverage the right third party channels like search, price comparison tools and affiliate links to reach their target audience and attain maximum conversions. From the customer's’ point of view, it is a win-win - to get what they want directly from the brand at the best price.
With the number of mobile shoppers only increasing by the day, it would be foolish for retailers to turn their backs to the bright future of m-commerce in India. The need today is to build easy-to-navigate mobile sites and applications that will make shopping on the mobile a seamless experience and make the customer come back for more for the sheer convenience it offers. Tie that together with strategic warehousing and quick delivery, you have a winning proposition at hand.
All said and done, we should not discount the fact that shopping is still a social activity, a reason to get out and walk around the mall and spend time with friends. It will be quite the feat if retailers manage to bring the ‘touch and feel’ experience of the store while offering the convenience of shopping from the mobile. We’re thinking lookbooks, options to try and buy, virtual shopping assistants and providing the first look of all the newly launched styles which will make the customer first want to reach for the mobile while looking to shop. Throw in voucher codes in the email and loyalty discounts for repeat purchase and you are looking at m-commerce in India being the single largest channel driving sales in the fashion industry.
The internet being a great leveller is providing fantastic opportunities to both sellers and buyers. Being proponents of online shopping, we love this paradigm shift in the way the country is accessing fashion. Good times are in store for the fashion industry!
Image credit: appnova, rtbttracker