The year 2020 has been disconcerting for e-commerce in India. It is no secret that consumers are increasingly utilizing e-commerce. During the initial phases of the lockdown, all through the tough first wave of Covid-19, transportation and logistics had taken a hit that reverberated across industries; e-commerce being one of the first ones.
However, seldom has the metaphor of a phoenix rising from its ashes been personified with such accuracy, then when the lockdowns eventually began to ease and e-commerce platforms were allowed to sell non-essentials. With everyone glued to their smartphones through the lockdown, taking up social media challenges, audiences truly pushed India towards a new era expanding into the horizons of ‘Digital India.’
This trend, however, has not been all about social media challenges and one-pot lockdown meals. It brought about a revolution where we saw our parents pick up their smartphones, get hooked to the grocery sections of e-commerce apps, and take comfort in ordering things online – be it food grains, ice creams, or vegan cheese.
What most do not realize is that when we speak of e-commerce, we usually mean Amazon, Flipkart, or any of the unicorns in the business of delivering products. We tend to forget that even booking our flight tickets on our phones, falls under the e-commerce umbrella. People are becoming more accustomed to doing more of their daily activities such as banking, schooling, work meetings, and even social interactions online. They have grown more accepting of online shopping and choose to forego the physical interaction of the in-store experience. Perhaps the most significant factor in shoppers changing preferences is the convenience of having goods delivered while staying in the safety of their homes.
With algorithms for targeted ads, analytics, and the power of data, targeting the right customer, especially when they are primed to make a purchase, is a superpower that this industry is leveraging to deliver value to their audiences. You see a pair of sneakers on your way to work and the thought of owning them crosses your mind, and often, you would see an ad on your smartphone for a shoe, eventually. The power of collecting data from hundreds of points such as daily route of commute, past purchases, purchasing power, the gym you go to, enables algorithms to accurately display those sneakers to you.
Targeted ads are simply the gateway to a whole new world of possibilities that technology can open for your business. Virtual reality and augmented reality are other such pearl from the perennial river of technology. Most people are averse to shopping for fashion products online, mostly fearing a misfit, fear of receiving the wrong product, dissonance, or simply not being able to tell their own body size as per the size charts. With the apparent smartness of smartphones, potential customers can now know what they’d look like in that dress or shoe that they liked. This not just reassures customers but is also beneficial to e-commerce platforms in that it can reduce the number of returns and exchanges that happen due to fits and product descriptions.
Some might remember the time when their ordered product would reach them in fourteen days. In no time, did that change to 7 – 2 days. Soon enough, next-day delivery is a common option for most products purchased online. People expect their deliveries to happen at the speed with which they are consuming content, lest they miss out on something important. Hyperlocal deliveries, being supported by multiple factors such as motorbike deliveries, a huge expansive network of the hub and spoke model across multiple pin codes, and better supply chain distribution by leveraging data are making this transformation possible.
Drone deliveries are not ‘futuristic’ anymore, and if the e-commerce industry keeps growing at the pace that it has been over the past few years, it would not be the biggest surprise if people could simply ‘will’ products into existence in front of their eyes, with a snap of their fingers. If not with outright magic, this industry possesses the power to accelerate a business to proportions that might seem magical.
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