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India goes omnichannel

News, 15 September 2015

NEW DELHI: The boundaries between ecommerce and physical retail in India are becoming increasingly blurred as online retailers open bricks-and-mortar stores and manufacturers set up their own online portals.

Mahindra Group, for example, has just launched M2ALL.com, a portal where consumers will eventually be able to buy its full range of products.

To start with, however, the automotive and engineering conglomerate will be offering vehicles, real estate and power solutions and has already begun taking orders for the group's new compact SUV.

"The portal works on the click-and-brick model with the products being ordered online, and Mahindra's partners – its dealers, distributors and logistics teams – helping in delivery," explained VS Parthasarathy, Mahindra Group's chief financial officer.

Online players, meanwhile, are moving the other way, according to property consultant JLL India, which has observed a trend of pure e-tailers looking to lease physical space.

"The biggest nightmare for every online seller is to deal with a shopping cart abandonment rate of 70%-80%," said Anuj Puri, JLL India chairman and country head.

"The sweet spot is to be in a middle zone where online sellers connect with actual customers and also promote their products in multiple avenues," he told the Economic Times. "Expect this trend to continue in times ahead."

JLL pointed to Pepperfry, an online furniture marketplace, as one of the latest online players to go "hybrid", and while that may be a logical move in this category – big ticket items are more likely to be researched online but bought in store – not all online retailers will feel it necessary.

Technology is also enabling new options that may supersede the need to open a physical store. "We are investing in technology to solve many complex online furniture shopping problems in an innovative way," said Rajiv Srivatsa, COO & co-founder of Urban Ladder, a curated online furniture seller.

"One of our apps is built specifically to help users visualise our sofas in their home with augmented reality," he explained. "In future, we will work on many such solutions."

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff