Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RETAIL BRANDING

A brand is basically defined as a niche area earned by a product in the market for which it is known among the consumers. It is something with which a consumer is able to identify himself with. Usually, it takes decades for a particular company to get the status of a brand. This is because the market is highly consumer driven. For creating a specific niche area for oneself in the market, the economic and cultural factors play a very important role. The segmentation, targeting as well as the positioning of a brand, or in short – the STP, plays a very important role. Branding offers customer loyalty which is easy to retain than finding new customers that requires a lot of initial investments and costs.


Although when it comes to branding in retail, mom and pop stores are a brand in itself. Nothing can match the services provided by them, since they are the oldest of all other mediums of retail. The main reason behind this is the flexibility that is being offered by these stores. However, giants such as Reliance, the Aditya Birla Group etc. are already a big name in the country, which gives them easy access to venture in to a new domain.


Also, in India, the retail industry is the largest with an ocean of employment opportunities for the youth in the country ( it contributes to the country's GDP generating more than ten percent of it) And these brands are already well – known and are also offering good deals and discounts.


Branding is also important due to the stiff competition in the industry. With branding comes an identification in the form of a logo or a punch line. These logos or the punch lines define the company and what it stands for. For instance, the retail venture of the Aditya Birla group is known as More, hence giving an impression that the consumer will always get more by purchasing from here.


Online shopping, the latest trend among shoppers, is also a victim to the fad of brand recognition. However, the fact to be remembered here is that trust does not come easily when it concerns the internet. Hence, online branding is of utmost importance. With brand building comes trust and loyalty and the assurance that the a particular e – store could be trusted upon with our money in return to the commodities we purchase. It is easy for a customer to identify himself with a brand, even though it is on the net. For instance, Amazon.com, Ebay or RetailsDirect etc.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Convenience Stores – The Next Level in the Indian Retail Industry

The retail industry has taken a new turn in the form of Convenience Stores or the C – stores. Many a times, we feel like grabbing a sandwich or buying an ice cream while travelling, but don't find a joint for miles, particularly on a highway. C-stores, or convenience stores, are the answer to this need. On a grass-root stage, a convenience store or a C – store can be defined as a small shop consisting of consumer durables or an eat out, which caters to certain basic essentials which are required by an individual while he is travelling. The purpose of these shops is to provide for instantaneous services. With the passage of time, it can be said that a demand has been created in the market for these stores.


Even though it was seen as a rather trivial concept at first, with the passage of time, it has been accepted with utmost enthusiasm, primarily due to its utility. The retail outlet 'In & Out' can be seen in almost every petrol pump in the city. Similarly, in bus terminals and railway stations, small cafes and restaurants are a common sight where in people either go and eat or pack some food for their journey. With such retail stores, customers do not have to search for food on the verge of missing their buses or trains. Further, it has also generated a higher number of employment opportunities and given a chance to retail brands to reach out to the people. Also, the revenue generated through these stores could be shared with the petrol pumps or the railway authorities etc. which are providing them with the space.


Basically, these stores have increased the number of options for the buyers. With people being loyal to certain retail brands, it also gives a chance to extend the brand loyalty through the word of mouth. A satisfied customer would spread positive vibes about a product which would lead to more customers who would want to shop from that particular store. Therefore, it can be said that these convenience stores provide an opportunity to all the established brands to extend their services to the community.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BLOGGING - AN AID TO THE ONLINE RETAIL INDUSTRY

The online retail industry in India has been booming for quite some time. This has been aided partly due to the blogging culture on the net. Today, blogging is definitely on a high with more and more people keeping their latest posted through their blogs. It can be considered as an aid to connect with people and collect information.

Industry blogs are a common platform for share views and opinions on a specific industry by many professionals belonging to a particular one. When it comes to the retail industry in India, blogs have been playing a major role in its growth. Updates such as the recent developments, latest trends, the growth chart, its impact on the economy etc., can be found. Also, corporate blogs are another feature which are specially posted by companies to give an update of the company status as well as a general overview.


Now, with almost every website having its own social networking community, blogging has become a common phenomenon which has led to the constant flow of information for those who are searching for a purpose and also for those, who want to keep themselves posted.


Today, with many online stores having their own set of blogs and other social communities, the feel of actual shopping is being brought about, since networking involves a lot of interaction and sharing of opinions, it can be considered as an alternative to actual shopping.


Also, many blogs help out with tips and measures to cater to a hassle free and safe online shopping. In addition to this, a visitor can also share his views and opinions on the products and services being offered by the online store or a particular website in general.


For instance, popular shopping portals such as Amazon, Ebay or other less common ones such as RetailsDirect provide a forum for the buyers to interact as well as share their viewpoints on a particular product which can be reviewed by a user. These can either be movie reviews or product reviews etc. which would give a general feel to a buyer before actually investing upon it.


An internal blog is another important aspect which provides information regarding the various commodities and the different genres of products available on a particular e – store. This can be considered as an easier way out instead of searching for information or browsing through the various pages of a site.


In other words, it can be said that blogging simply makes the task easier. Hence, it can be defined as a more user friendly interface on the web to get informed. This is especially important with shopping portals since it is one of the massively growing sectors in India.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Here mall, there mall, everywhere a mall mall -II

In my previous blog post, I talked about malls popping out everywhere. Today, let's analyse its impact.


Like I mentioned earlier, the two kilometre stretch near my house which was once barren now has three malls popping up. But the point to be noted here is that with the increase in the number of malls, the land prices are also escalating. The main reasons for the price hike are -


  • The increased popularity of the location, mainly because of the mall.

  • Selection of land by people near a swarming area to ensure safety.

  • Merely staying near a mall has its own set of benefits to enjoy. This would reduce the expenditure to be spent on driving all the way to the mall and the only expenses would be in the form of movie tickets and other eats and commodities bought in the mall. This in turn would also provide exercise to the body with the residents walking down the street for a change.


These can be considered as some of the more important reasons to buy land near a mall. A mall does bring profits to all its stores. However, it does a favour to all the property dealers as well. The nearby land or the properties become hot cakes on sale. Hence, it is the most profitable for a property dealer.


On the other hand, the price hike of properties hits badly on those who would want to buy within a specified budget. Prospective buyers from the middle and the lower strata have to search for other alternatives.


Another point to be noted regarding malls is that the rate at which they are springing up is not equivalent to the sales from its stores. This poses us with the major question of whether justice is being done with so many malls being popped up. On second thoughts, it is better to be happy with a few nice ones around instead of having one on each street.


It has to be remembered that whatever new is introduced in the society should be able to amalgamate in to the society maintaining a balance with everything. All in all, focussing on the urban India itself, a desired outcome is a must which should enhance the growth of a particular industry.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Here mall, there mall, everywhere a mall mall

Of late, malls have been the new buzz word in the country. This is one aspect in retail which has helped the industry grow tremendously in India. A mall can be defined as a multi purpose building which includes different branded retail products as well as services. It acts both as a utility as well as an important leisure joint for the consumers. Usually, a mall consists of retail stores, food joints, multiplexes etc.


The mall culture in India has grown tremendously and it continues to grow. The two kilometre stretch near my house which was once barren now has three malls in the making. The reason behind this can be partly due to the growing economy in the country because of which the boundaries of the middle class community are expanding at both the ends. Also, the concept of the mall culture, being adopted from the west can be considered as a step towards initialising the country's growth from all the aspects, retail being one.


On the other hand, it can be said that a niche has been created for the consumer to experience something new and better. The concept of window shopping has also been introduced in this genre. A mall symbolises leisure shopping and rejuvenation for an individual or the entire family together. These air conditioned malls cater to commodities for age groups making it the most opted hang out.


Malls are also catering to the lifestyle changes of the urban India. With the gen next believing more in experimentation as compared to their previous generations, it can said that the mall culture is walking in to the country at the right time.


However, the prices offered at these malls are much higher than those offered by an ordinary retail store in a common market street for a particular product. This would make it difficult for each and every consumer to shop from such stores, although an individual can come exclusively for the food court or to catch a movie.


It is agreed that there are certain drawbacks, but then the concept does bring a freshness to it making people visit such places and have a good outing even if they cannot afford to buy anything from the mall. An ice cream cone or a cup of corn with a nice sight can do wonders at times.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

ORGANIZED RETAIL – DEVELOPMENT OR A THREAT – II


In my previous blog post, I tried to analyse the impact of the retail boom on the local vendors. Now lets try and look at the consumers. When it comes to the consumers in India, the level of variation is extremely high. It is obvious that the retail industry has developed beyond limits in India. But is it catering to each and every customer from all walks of life? As I view it, these stores aim only at the middle and the upper strata of the urban society. As pointe out by jc as a comment on my earlier blog post, I would like to explain the situation.

It is agreed that to some extent these air – conditioned super markets do offer a good amount of deals and discounts increasing the options for a consumer. But then, a customer from the lower strata of the society trying to walk in to one such store is immediately stopped and shooed away. Although such incidents are still rare purely due to the fact that such consumers do not opt to shop from such stores. This is clearly one aspect that is never given heed to. Such stores clearly showcase the unjust divide in the country. The basic division of the population into the upper, middle and the lower strata itself shows the discrimination between the country's people. A person earning daily wages can easily afford the prices offered by these stores to some extent. But this is not being realised by other sections of the society leading to the ill treatment of such people.
In addition to this, the major target for these retail stores has been the urban India. This caters to only a niche market. Instead, if these stores had been set up in both rural as well as the urban areas, there would have been an equilibrium in development bringing in people in to these stores from the traditional as well as the modern society to experience a new kind of shopping.Although this growth in the retail industry has led to better economic conditions in the country, rural India is still being neglected.
All in all, people from all sections of the society together define the country's identity. Hence, they should not be neglected when it comes to any form of development or an initiative.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Organized Retail – Development or a Threat?

The retail industry in India is growing leaps and bounds. With major conglomerates such as Reliance, Aditya Birla Group etc. entering the retail space, the scenario has changed dramatically when compared to maybe 4-5 years back. One's first reaction to such large-scale entrants in a market where opportunities were considered to be scarce would indeed be positive. But is this evolution really helpful?


On second thoughts, it might not be as it seems. With the opening of a big air conditioned super market in the neighbourhood, local vendors are clearly at a loss, since you would never opt to shop from them when given the option of a much more sophisticated environment and quality assurance as well. This way, organised retail is actually becoming one of the contributing factors for the country's poverty, which has always been one of the major obstacles in the country's growth.


Usually, in today's fast paced world, people do not find time for each other and with the rise of such stores, it is leading to the ultimate isolation. Although such stores do provide employment opportunities etc., but an ordinary shopkeeper who is already pulling strings to make ends meet is now homeless. This clearly shows the increase in the divide between the elite and the not so elite.


Although shopping is considered more of an experience than a necessity, certain key points have to be remembered, especially in a country like India. Being a developing nation, care has to be taken to ensure that each and every section of the society is being focussed upon in equilibrium. There are many niche areas to be focussed upon apart from retail for the big Indian conglomerates. For instance, cyber stores could be opened in rural India itself promoting the use of technology where in the local people could be trained as well employed later on.


The positive impact of these retail stores is being noticed. But it's never too late to understand the diversity of the country and make a U – turn to rethink the whole concept again. It is always better to have the major part of the outcome as positive than the negative influences. As time passes, so would the impact.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tips to Remain Safe While Shopping Online!


The online shopping industry is growing leaps and bounds despite a major concern over the insecure online transaction. This security issue looms large on the future prospect and expansion quotient of the sector. In order to reap maximum benefits out of your online shopping experience, you need to be careful in the selection of a secure and trusted online store and the payment methods opted by you. There are criminals on the lookout of your credit card number and other personal information at almost every site.

Some key tips to stay safe in the online stores:
- Avoid clicking on links and try to search for a website independently in the address bar. This will keep you safe from any malicious spam.
- Wait for the address bar to signal a green light which is an indication that the website you are visiting has passed sufficient security check and is safe to be visited.
- The ever-so reliable SSL padlock helps you in establishing the site's authenticity. It aids in the identification of the site's owner and SSL certificate issuing agency.
- It is advisable to avoid the use of a debit card while making your online payments as it helps criminals in directly fraud your account and in case of theft, money-back process is longer in case of debit card than credit card.
- Try to make maximum to most purchases from a single credit card so as to avoid the mixing up of credit card information and the daily purchase as well.
- It is considered secure to employ a separate email account while registering on the online shopping portals. The passwords used in these accounts should be different from other personal account details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unstable economy aids in online shopping boom


Recently, the world economy has been going through a lean patch, wherein a majority of the industries have been gravely affected by it. For most of us, there is a 'less-to-spend and more-to-buy' situation which has indirectly been benefiting a sector which has come out as a savior as well as a survivor in this economically slag phase, i.e., the online retail industry which has been progressing leaps and bounds even as other sectors are finding it hard to gain some ground in the constantly stumbling economy. Online consumers all around the world consider e-stores as the safest bet in getting the best deals for their hard-earned money.

Highlighting this fact, a recent Consumer Behavior Report by PriceGrabber.com proves that the tumbling economy has had a positive effect on the online retail industry. The report, aimed at exploring the effects of poor economy on purchase decisions, provided promising results that the consumer base has been shifting to the online domain in the quest for better deals to suit their pockets.

The survey included responses from a total of 7,170 online shoppers in which they were asked to give an account of their expenditure keeping in view the high growth in levied income tax and interest rates in almost every sector. This survey was aimed at getting an in-depth knowledge about consumer behavior and the effect of economical swings on it.

The survey found that online shopping has been continually helping the consumers in cutting back on their expenses even in the present state of the economy and growing inflation which has taken a toll on everyday consumer spending.

In this regard, there are many e-stores which remain committed in helping shoppers get fair deals and save their hard-earned money. Most of the shopping portals have come up with features like price comparison (ebay.in etc.), group bargains (Retailsdirect.com), special offers (Indiaplaza.com) and many others, for saving money and time for their consumers.

The survey is a clear indication of the booming online retail sector despite the sagging economy. It also shows that consumers continue to make “cutting back” a priority.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Features Your E-store Can't Do Without!


Now that you have added all the required features on your shopping portal, from the shopping cart to the wish-list, special offers to the group discounts and latest products to the social-networking facility, but are still lagging behind your counterparts. This could be in terms of both traffic and the overall sales. If yes, then I have some advice for you to step up your shopping portal, today!
In the e-commerce sector, it is vital that we keep a check on what is essential and what is desired by the consumers at the same time. Hence, revamping of your e-commerce site on a timely basis is important. Earlier, it was relatively easier to set-up an e-store, for the consumers which then led to the online retail growth did not want anything more than cheap prices and good quality. However, with the passagwe of time, there has been stiff competition among the retailers in the online domain. Therefore, fulfilling the consumers' expectations and their satisfaction is of utmost necessity today.
Some of the features your e-store can't without include:

- Interactive Online selling
Change is indispensable for the success of any business! You need to minus the 'monotony' factor and add a fresh lease of air every now and then. E-retailers should regularly revamp every aspect of the e-store every few days or at least every month. There are dozens of sections on the e-store which require a new look and a new set-up altogether.

- Use of Rich Media
Don't let it be so bland! Online stores have a serious drawback in the form of visual delight that a shopaholic gets from the physical proximity to the products he's about to buy. To lessen it's effect, the use of rich media like video, podcasts etc. are vital in bringing reality into the online shopping experience. Portals using high quality rich media also have a competitive edge over the more traditional and bland shopping portals.

- User-friendly tools
Adding comfort to your consumer's online shopping time! Ensure that your shopping portal is not difficult to navigate through and should have user-friendly shopping tools like no jarring during page transitions and or confusing error messages.

- Easy navigation and search
Help your consumer to dig through your products easily! There are the two major factors working in favor of the e-stores in comparison to their physical counterparts, It is both time-saving and economical. It helps one find the products easily at a single click. Both search engines on shopping portal can end up in showing up irrelevant search results at most times. Advanced search and navigation technologies including the likes of visual search and color search are needed for providing easy-to-use interface to the online buyers.

- Social Commerce
Remember, shopping has been primarily a social activity? We are habitual in taking the advice of our friends and family before making a purchase and are also in the habit of sharing the same with them. Shopping, being a social activity calls for a social environment in the online medium as well. The experience of shopping is seclusion can never satisfy a true shopaholic. Therefore, being a Web-medium, community-based shopping can use the social networking tools to connect countless millions of people worldwide, sharing same interests and interests.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

There Is More To E-stores Than Just Shopping!

In a bid to encourage the online shopping culture in India, I have been highlighting its importance as well as benefits to any regular shopper. Whether you are a ready-to-go shopper or someone who chooses shopping as a regular hangout option with friends, you need to know why the world around you is choosing the online format over its traditional counterpart.

In my last blog post, I mentioned to you about the incorporation of social networking into the shopping portals, to enhance the online buying experience. But there is more to these e-stores than just the number of products to choose from at a click of a button or making friends with shoppers. Today, e-stores are a collection of possibly everything and anything you need to know about a product, before and after its purchase.

Some of the many distinctive features of e-stores for the use of an avid shopper include:

- Expert product review sites
These sites serve as your shopping guide and offer opinions from experts. These sites are the review sites where there is an ordered collection of product and brand assessments. They compare products and identify the best for you.

- Consumer review sites
These sites offer real-world evaluations of a specific product. There are consumers or online shoppers who have actually purchased a particular item or have had enough online shopping experience to be shared with their fellow shoppers.

- Shopping bots:
These provide a detailed account of the available products across the e-commerce domain and provide price comparisons to the buyers for assisting them in finalizing the best deal for them

- Ratings sites
These are the ultimate sites for you to identify the best products in the online market and also rank your favorites for other shoppers. The rankings are given to the sellers based on consumer satisfaction.

- Browser Cookies
They aid the customers in avoiding filling out information every time they sign up on a website. They store your personal data for future use.

- Digital wallet:
It stores your purchasing information (including credit card numbers) and feeds it to online forms at your command.

Therefore, online shopping, unlike its offline version, is not all about fun and get-together. The idea of bringing the many facets of shopping and product knowledge together on a common platform is the basis of online shopping. The more serious and directional approach to the selection and purchase of an item is primarily accomplished through this medium which is far more compact and easier than shop - hopping.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Indian online stores getting hooked to e-community culture



More often than not, it's being argued that online shopping is convenient but yet an isolated activity. This format of easy-to-order-easy-to-deliver has been catching up with the tech-savvy buyers but it has always been looked upon as option out of necessity and not pleasure. In order to break this monotony, the concept of e-socializing was introduced to the online buying experience.

Apart from a few established online stores, most of new entrants and the upcoming e-retail ventures are banking heavily on the rising popularity of social networking within the online shopping domain. There are a number of major international e-stores who initiated the coupling of online shopping with social networking. Online giants like e-bay started their buyers' “Community” which was then followed by arch-rival Amazon's popular “Daily Blog” section.

The e-community trend has now moved-in to the Indian shopping terrain as well. Most of the upcoming Indian online stores and the Indian counterparts of the already established inter-nation e-retail brands are reaping in the benefits of shoppers' community and the latest Web 2.0 technology to create a loyal consumer base out of their readily generated user traffic on the sites.

Some of the popular community-based Indian shopping portals for your reference include:

- ebay India:
The global retail giant's Indian venture has a shoppers' community dedicated to registered users willing to chat, discuss, ask questions, leave messages and even leave feedback for the portal.

- Retailsdirect:
This site is arguable India's first interactive store ever. If you have anything to share, discuss, ask or answer on any issue/subject including shopping, this site has it. It also has video conferencing, (or Video-Voice Text-Chat facility, as they term it) and is based on Web 2.0 technology.

- Hindustanlink:
A site where you can do a lot more than shopping, including activities like Forum discussions, Blogging and Questions-Answers section as well.

All in all, Indian shopping portals need to take a leaf out of their international counterparts' online strategies. After the emergence and expansion of global shopping portals like eBay, Kaboodle, Zebo etc., there many e-stores of Indian origin which need to incorporate the concept of social networking to add that 'zing' lacking in them. Until then, the aforesaid e-stores are there to bring in your friends and favorite brands while you choose to laze around at home!!! (no offense intended)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't look further to buy your favorite cellphone!

This blog is dedicated to the all the cell phone lovers and to the readers who are eager to buy one in the near future, whether it be a swanky Nokia cellphone or an affordable and efficient Spice mobile handset. You will get all the information right here, friends!

With the ever-increasing consumer demand of cell phones coupled with the stupendous rise in the online retail industry in India, its selection and purchase has shifted to the online domain greatly.

Most of the e-commerce websites in India are eying the mobile industry and providing a wide assortment to the consumers through the many shopping portals cluttering the online retail scene.

Indian e-commerce websites are well-versed with the immense popularity of cellphones- both the pocket-friendly ones as well as their more expensive and lavish brethren. The main advantae of shopping for your fav cellphone online is the discounted prices that are available. Since these dealers are basically dealing in bulk, they act as virtual wholesalers to the prospective customer.

While a majority would either sell common and reliable market leaders like Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson etc., some others also include brands that are market entrants such as the likes of Spice, Fly etc. in order to cash in on the first mover advantage for unexplored territories.

Following is a brief analysis of the mobile section on some of the popular Indian e-commerce sites:

- Futurebazaar: Special gifts and offers, featured mobile sections, affordable mobiles in the budget mobile section and also lists the top 5 mobiles for its users.

- Indiaplaza: Brands – From the most famous to the lesser known brands are featured here. Combo offers with accessories and listing of the latest mobile phones. Lists the top seller phones along with the latest mobiles launched in the market.

- Retailsdirect: An online platform-cum-shopping portal where users can discuss among themselves before and after purchasing a product. From the cheapest to the most expensive handsets, available at discounted prices.

- Storeguru: It features 'hot deals' on the branded products with discounts and special offers. The only drawback is that very few brands are listed in the mobile section.

The aforesaid is a clear indication of the amount of stress which is being laid on the mobile industry and its usage in the targeting of the diverse consumer section through the wide assortment available at almost all the e-stores. Now, it's up to you to decide which special offer or deal suits you best to buy your favorite mobile handset at the most affordable price from the comfort of your home itself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why not to shop at the malls again!!

Before I start off with my blog, I would like to ask you as to when was the last time you went shopping to your nearest shopping mall? A week ago, a month back, and some would probably say that they have these virtual stores to shop for them and deliver goods like a trained pet, right? Hence, the question arises that with so much that an online store has to offer, do we really need shopping malls at all?

As the famous saying goes, “There is nothing permanent in this world except change”, it can be easily applied to the ever-changing trends in the retail industry. The whole 'sale and purchase' idea got a new meaning with the advent of online version of shopping. Today, it would not be advisable for any educated online shopper to hop back to shopping at the malls.

The big players in the online retail scene in India are trying every trick in their bags to convert online users into traffic and then converting it into visitors, then into buyers and finally, into a loyal consumer base. For this, the focus has shifted from merely providing products online to social communities and special offers which can only be availed at these virtual stores.

With the prospects of becoming a long-term successful industry, major e-stores like Indiamart, Futurebazaar, Retailsdirect and Indiaplaza are relying heavily on the online retail boom. They are leaving no stone unturned in accelerating the conversion rate of its user traffic. The most bankable factor for drawing in consumers from the offline domain is the 'convenience' factor of online shopping.

The most effective strategies of the major Indian e-stores are as follows:

- Indiamart:
It is a common platform for the online buyers and sellers, i.e., a B2B marketplace.
Highlights – Upcoming trade shows, divergent industry updates, international trade leads, tender notice via emails etc.

- Futurebazaar:
The finest brands online, user-friendly and simple design.
Highlights – Clearance sales, buying in bulk offers

- Retailsdirect:
India's first interactive store with a Video-Voice-Text-Chat facility.
Highlights- Group Bargains (Savings of upto 33% on products by creating groups to bargain), Cafe Retail (Earn redeemable RD coins, upload videos and photos)

- Indiaplaza:
US based shopping portal meant for trading and shipping to India and worldwide.
Highlights – Airtel gift certificates, Gifts to India.

The above strategies are a clear indication that the trend of online shopping is not merely restricted to the selection and buying process. One can use the wide reach and accessibility of the internet and various social media tools to develop interest and loyalty among the customers. So the next time you feel like shopping, chuck out shopping at the over-crowded malls and rather catch up with friends online and relax while you shop for your favourite products.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It is NOT so difficult to set up your own e-commerce website

If you think setting up an online store is a difficult task and that you have no patience or time for it, then you can think again! All you ever wanted to know about e-commerce is right here but let us first discuss whether online retail is necessary at all for your business.

Whether it is a small-time retailer or a major retail business owner, online presence is vital to give the right direction to any business of any size. In order to reach a wider audience composition, online media and its marketing techniques are inevitable for the brick and motor retailers as well.

In a recent study conducted by Forrester Research, online retail sales are estimated to reach $204 billion this year which a 17% increase over 2007. This is a clear indication that online retail is growing considerably every year, despite heavy competition from the sagging economy. Therefore, in order to provide free-shipping deals to save time and avoid burning gas and also add competitive edge to a small or medium-sized business, one needs to be online and visibly 'heard' and 'visited'.
Here are some of quick and easy steps of setting up an efficient e-commerce websites. Get started:

- Switch from dial-up to broadband for your personal connection: It greatly saves time and instant uploading of pictures, emailing, processing sales, etc can be done. Getting a server is always on the cards in case you really want to hit big time right from the start with an online sales & marketing team.

- Domain name registration is not a bad idea: You can register one even if you are in no immediate hurry to use it. This also helps in gaining credibility through a business specific email address.

- Use local business directories: Get listed in the major online local business directories of the likes of Yelp!, CitySearch, Yahoo Local, Google Local, MSN Live etc.

- Go slow and steady: Liquidating your services and products is helpful in the long run. It helps in emptying your piled up stock. This will help you in experiencing and learning the nuances of online selling before taking the final plunge.

- Current inventory system is also handy: Don't start off with a flashy inventory system right from the word 'go'. One can also use its existing inventory system in the initial stages. Then in the longer run, an upgraded POS can be used to handle your e-commerce sales more efficiently.

- Stick to your loyal employees: Being in the retail sector, one is bound to have their own workforce who can later take over the data entry work and support in your online sales endeavor.

The aforesaid steps play a key role in developing a profitable online presence and brand management of a product or a business. In the future, if you plan to give a major push to your business, opt for the online domain, as constructing an e-commerce website is not that difficult after all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

E-commerce Sites Ensuring Secure Shopping Experience



With the ever-sinking economy, retail, especially online retail, is the only industry on its upward trail. The e-commerce sector has been on an ascending curve but the growth has been slow in comparison than the expected trend. But why could online retail be lagging behind the online marketeers' expectations? There is only one word answer to this, INSECURITY.

One of the biggest drawbacks of shopping with the online medium is the amount of risk involved in the money transaction process. There are occasions where one can get his identity or credit card information stolen online itself. How? This could simply be done through hackers or someone who is involved wit h the inner workings of the customer payment section of the e-commerce websites as they have open accessibility to customer account details and related databases.

What is worse in this case is that you might actually land a victim of cyber crime in a bid to save some time, fuel and money. Today, e-commerce websites are trying to carefully maintain and sustain their consumer-base through their own online security strategies, realizing customer aloofness due to the occurrence of such scams in the past. Particularly in India, more than the inaccessibility of the internet at most places, it is the 'trust' factor keeps buyers off the shopping portals.

To combat this factor, major shopping portals like Indiamart, Futurebazaar, Retailsdirect and Indiaplaza have come up with special security strategies and safer online transaction methods to protect personal information of their consumers.

Some of the valuable methods employed by these virtual stores for protecting user account information include:

- Usage of softwares which enable changing one's credit card number, name, bank account, login information, and email ID
- Protection of the customer email ID against fraud, spam, viruses, and phishing (defrauding online account and financial information) is being ensured
- Usage of online accounts like Paypal which come loaded with a bunch of features ensuring one-time entry of your credit card numbers to avoid hacking etc.
- Provision of using e-generated credit card umbers instead of actual credit card numbers on some e-commerce websites
- Most shopping portals also use secure web servers to avoid peeping third parties
SSL certification and contact details are mentioned to instill trust in the consumers' mind

Overall, the online medium is a convenient way of buying you-name-it-and-you have-it items on the Internet. But the convenience and easy access has resulted in a number of loopholes in the inter-connected system exploited by cyber criminals. Therefore, ensuring a secure online store is of utmost importance. The security of a medium can only lead to its growth and expansion even in the remotest of areas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Time to improvise on your e-commerce sites


Time to improvise on your e-commerce sites

Is your online shopping portal lacking a good influx of traffic? Are you wondering how to pool in reader-base to your e-commerce site? If your answer to all these questions is yes, then it's high time for you to re-consider some online sales' strategies and work towards adding zing into them.

For many of the online retailers who are willing to revamp the look and structure of their portals along with other minute and major details, here is some sound advice on this issue. Through this blog, I wish to highlight some of the tips to serve the readers satisfactorily enough. Some of the key tips to remember for running a successful e-commerce website include:

- Detailed product information is the key
- Should be high up there in the search listings
- Promote the website link at every possible networking channel and other possible medium
- Added testimonials for authentications on the various merchants available with the site
- Offer free shipping facility to the consumers
- Add relevant landing pages for reference and assistance
- Use of multiple images is always helpful and attention retaining
- Site visitors should have access to user ratings and reviews

E-commerce is one of the most flourishing businesses both for the retail industry as well as the online domain in India. Due to the growing access to the Internet and increasing demand of variety and affordable prices, it has become a major tool in the hands of the retailers. And lastly, it's a known fact that a strong online presence is a deciding factor for the success and reach of a retailer across a large domestic section and even all around the globe.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wondering how to sell online?

Firstly, the question that strikes our minds is whether online promotion is a necessary step in the product marketing or not? The answer is simple – Yes! If you're planning to globally sell products on a wide scale, then offline tools of marketing are not adequate to reach a considerably large consumer-base or boost up the overall sales of the products, besides being overtly expensive.

Generally, first-time online sellers are apprehensive of the methods of selling on the internet and indulge in ad-hoc ways of selling their products. However, they negate the possibility of reaching a wider audience base and getting a better positioning of their products for very minimal investment.
Coming back to the point, when one has decided to enter the online arena for his products, it is required that one takes the necessary measures on the online platform while planning to build up an online brand image and to reach the maximum audience composition,

The key aspects to be considered for online selling are as follows :

- Choose the products appropriate for online promotion – The appropriate selection of products for online marketing is also very essential in the initial stages. Some of the products like apparels, accessories and cosmetics are not instantly ordered online by the consumers. They prefer in testing the products and trying out different options before making a purchase.

- Online branding of the product – Building e-commerce sites, either on a small or major scale requires in-house expertise or an efficient website developing company.

- Selection of the payment mode – The mode of payment of e-stores ranges from credit card transactions to direct bank transfer. The provision of merchant accounts with secure web stores should be ensured.

- Aggressive promotion of the e-commerce site – There are various online tools employed for online promotion of shopping portals. These include search engine submissions, addition of site to different online directories, opt-in email campaigning, link exchange, banner and link ads.

Therefore, for initiating a larger consumer base for the products in the online medium, the generation of the traffic to the web stores is critical. In this regard, both online and offline modes of promotion should be considered for providing better visibility to the web stores.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How digital marketing has boosted the Indian book publishing industry?


The Book publishing industry of India(worth 80-billion) is growing at a rapid pace of 15 percent every year. With innovative online marketing strategies being employed in the promotional activities, the industry is among the most flourishing and lucrative sectors in India.

It caters to a divergent literary and academic pool. The Indian books are published in 24 recognised languages out of which 18 are more prominent including English. Each language has its own readership and author-following. Moreover, India is the third largest English publisher, next only to the UK and the USA. It has a huge readership of Hindi (20,000 books published annually) followed by English, Tamil, Bangla and Marathi. Despite these staggering facts, the Indian book publishing industry has been facing issues related to the distribution and postal rates for the carriage of books.

Its solution came in the form of the online formats of promotional strategies in all aspects of the book-selling. Now, the publishers have been using blog discussions, e-mails to readers to promote newly launched titles and for previewing booklets.

What would the blogs for these books provide us with?

- Post-search tool for finding publications
- RSS subscription for visitors
- Information on latest and popular books
- Lead generation with readers' information on the site
- Fast indexing by search engines
- Instant feedback for new book titles
- Book reviews by experts,users

Why e-mail marketing for reaching the readers?

- Global reach as e-mailing is the most practised online activity
- Is cost effective as it reaches maximum audience at minimal expense
- Is interactive, with two-way communication
- Highly personalized
- Gives round-the-clock marketing
- Provides targeted marketing
- Offers Opt-in or unsubscribe options
- Gives fastest response

All in all, with the application of the online marketing techniques, the Indians books are getting more visibility and reaching a wider audience composition. Now the Indians books stand safe alongside the hard international competitors which earlier swept the market through the virtual book stores.

Changing Buying Culture of Online Shoppers!

What does the Indian customer's shopping basket consist of? Durables? Jewelry? Music? Electronics or Grocery? Is he looking out for a one-stop shopping destination? How is he paying for his purchases? Does he wait for promotions and markdowns? Do customers living in different metros have similar likes?

Such questions certainly tend to loom large upon any business which is trying to establish its roots in the online circuit. Getting an answer to each of these, thus becomes imperative if you, as an entrepreneur intend to address the fast-changing needs of today's Indian Consumer.

Multiple income households
Exposure to international lifestyles and media
Easier Financial Credit
Upbeat Economy

These are some factors which have given consumer aspirations and consumption a real high! Now let's see how are these driving this new breed of consumers to dive into the ever-evolving world of the web.

Latest consumer studies reveal that people today buy more clothes than computer hardware on net, demonstrating that customers have reached a new level of comfort buying merchandise over the web.

Internet is increasingly competing with other media as it is now drawing away more and more of consumer's time otherwise taken by other media.

Growing broadband penetration has made access to richer sites, easier and more efficient.

The trend of user-generated content is increasingly taking control over the traditional media. From dwelling in a world where few people rule our thought process, we are now moving towards collective wisdom of the crowds. Thus social networking is one of the fastest growing categories, which is indeed having many interesting implications on the potential (online) consumers as well.

People have discovered the convenience of buying and selling shares, paying bills, booking travel online, even connecting with their friends through video calls to ease their efforts and save time too.

Businesses on net going local, i.e. their strategy to address the unmet needs of their local consumers, have greatly boosted the buying spirit of the small-town shopper as well.

With the Internet spreading its wings by the day, Indian entrepreneurs can highly benefit from establishing their presence online.

For all those who think that luring offline shoppers is tougher, it is time to re-think. Online shoppers are smarter as their knowledge banks are richer and approach more progressive.

His shopping basket consists primarily consists of electronic gadgets, travel booking followed by accessories and apparel.

He is always in search of a one-stop destination which can answer all his buying needs.

Most shoppers (65%) find debit cards more comfortable followed by credit cards (35%).

They make maximum purchases during discounts and combo deal offers.

And customers in every city spell a different story of demand. Mumbai leads in all categories except jewelry which tops the Delhi purchases. Kolkata scores highest on music sales.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is community-based shopping changing the online buying behavior?

What if a giant like Google tells you to buy an LG flat screen TV instead of Samsung? What if your friends on networking sites like Orkut and Myspace advise you on buying a particular product only because they own it? Will the 'Google' tag or your Orkut friends' circle be convincing enough to change your buying behavior? Not really, right?

To change an online consumer's buying behavior, over a period of time, it will need the combined force of the data-crunching ability of Google, coupled with the networking ability of the community portals. Today, community-based shopping is the latest trend in the e-retail industry. The incorporation of user communities has added a 'social' touch to e-shopping. Now, there is a bunch of fellow shoppers, sharing your curiosity and interest, eager to help you in making a good purchase decision.

Its concept depends on the addition of a little bit of social side to our online shopping experience. Once you're on a shopping portal, the confusion in product comparison due to the variety available, can be dealt at a more human level. It also provides a platform for the retailers, industry experts and the common e-shoppers to reach the consumers and place their reviews and opinion on the e-shopping communities respectively.

The word-of-mouth marketing is also a popular way of brand promotion. But, the community-based shopping portals use it in a more structured and easily accessible format for influencing the purchase decision. They help in building a loyal customer base with increased number of repeat customers.

All in all, e-communities are a great asset in the hands of the retail industry in reaching a wide consumer audience and filling up the social void created by the online experience.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why are Indians apprehensive to online shopping?

The Internet provides a progressive dimension to most of the industries on global platform. The retail industry has also benefited from its online version which has resulted in the growth and expansion of the sector worldwide.

In India, e-commerce has been on a slow track in comparison to other parts of the world. There has been a visible growth in the e-retail sector yet the industry is being seen in its incipient stage. Earlier, the reasons cited for the weak response towards online shopping was blamed on the lack of Internet facilities and inadequate online transaction facilities available in the market.

Since then, there has been technological boom in India. Now, the Internet is easily accessible to urban India and even rural pockets are getting Internet accessibility at select places. Growth in the credit card industry and other online transaction methods has also been a boon for e-shopping. Despite the recent developments, response to online trading and transaction has been feeble in this part of the world.

Some of the reasons which potentially work against the industry in India include:


- Bargaining is not possible
- Product trial is generally unavailable
- Insecurity surrounding the credibility of a shopping portal
- Delays in product delivery
- Lack in the variety of products
- Social networking is restricted
- Preference to real-time shopping for get-togethers

The above mentioned reasons clearly indicate that apart from online activities like travel ticket booking and online broking, e-commerce still has a long way to go before earning the faith of the consumers. More innovative and tangible options are still awaited before the shopaholic appetite of the quintessential Indian is satisfied by these virtual stores.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Customer Feedback matters in E-retailing!

The success of a communication process is directly proportional to the amount and nature of feedback generated from the target audience. Online retailing is a similar process, targeted at the online consumers to persuade and influence their buying behavior.

Customer feedback is the essence of the e-retail industry. Any business, online or offline, is targeted at existing as well as potential customers. Therefore, their opinion and suggestions need consideration and an outlet as well. It is not only vital in providing customer satisfaction but also improves the company's performance manifold.

There are various modes employed by the online retailers to facilitate the generation of a valuable customer feedback. Questionnaires, emails and online surveys are some of the popular means to generate customer feedback about their products and services. Further, customer care services are also crucial in feedback generation through tools such as live text/video chat.

Why do we need Customer feedback?

- Identifies weak areas in operations and poor performing products and services
- Helps in fulfilling consumer demands
- Improves the product quality
- Guides and assists in making positive changes in the performance output
- Reduces the number of dissatisfied consumers
- Increases customer loyalty to establish long-term relationships

Therefore, a centralized and integrated customer feedback management can develop a loyal customer base for an online business and is beneficial in a long run. It also stands as the basic difference between repeat business and a lost consumer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

IF YOU'RE NOT AN E-SHOPPER...

If you're not an e- shopper...

...then you're wasting quite a lot! A lot of money, time and yes...energy for sure! How does it feel standing in the long queues at the billing counter of your nearest retail store... tiring? Or for that matter seeing your friend get the latest mobile handset at a much cheaper price than you... frustrating? And it surely doesn't feel good to hear 'out of stock' and 'no variety' from your retailer when you are in grave need of a product.

A word of advice for you... just relax and go e-shopping!

Today, online retailing has given a new dimension to the sale and purchase of a product. In India, the Internet is expected to grow exponentially from the previously reported active internet user base of 46 million to cover 120 million of the population by the end of 2008, according to an ASSOCHAM report. Out of this, a very small number actually buy products from an online store. The rest prefer to face the real-life adversaries rather than trusting these virtual stores. The question is: Where does this lack of trust stem from?

A Majority of today's well-equipped shopping portals have in- built secure and safe methods of protecting customer information and the money transaction details. Your security actually depends upon the site or portal that you choose to buy from and how careful you are during any such transaction and correspondence. Like I just said, regardless of the many apprehensions, millions still buy online and are satisfied customers.

Here are some tips to check how secure a particular e-store is:

1. Does the e-store have proper security seals for customer information? Check if the information is sealed and secure from the reach of hackers.
2. Evaluate the authenticity of testimonials attached to it, if there are any. An open platform to voice opinions builds up significant credibility. This will certainly prove the credibility of the website.
3. Does the e-store provide follow-up information regarding the shipping and delivery of the purchased item? How detailed is the information? Can you contact them for any further assistance? It is important to be able to get in touch with the portal, in case of any shipping/ delivery or other problems.
4. Also check whether transaction history can be accessed from time to time during the course of shipping of the purchased item.
If you have more tips to share with the better half of the Indian population who are still unaware of the advantages of online shoppers, and also know a few more safety tips, feel free to add to this post.

Happy e-Shopping!!!

Online Shopping Store

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will the Indian villages login to shop?

What if your maid sends you an email from her hometown? How about village and small town artisans selling their creations to the global cities like New York, London etc? These will no longer remain a distant dream as the Internet is slowly making in-roads into the far-flung villages and remote sections of rural India.

There were questions been put up as to how can rural India gain from the current e-shopping boom? And the answer is simple: through dedicated and collaborative work of the public and private sectors. For a developing country like ours, the government authorities play an essential part along with the private sector for the technological growth of the rural area.

At present, rural India is already advancing towards the Net-age with wi—fi enabled services being introduced at many villages. Initiative in this regard was taken up by a Noida-based company, Drishtee, headed by Satyan Mishra. Seven years back, Drishtee was launched to connect the rural villages of India. As a result, 6000 villages have already been connected till date with a future estimate of touching 10,000 villages by the next 2 years. In 2006-07, a similar project was started by a Massachusetts-based company, United Villages, which brought the concept of DakNet and Kiosks to the backward villages in Orissa. The startling aspect of consumerism, visible in the project was the amount of requests being made by the villagers to learn about e-shopping. These kiosks, transported from village to village to provide the Internet facility, are equipped with a computer, web-cam, wi-fi antenna and other paraphernalia.

According to a report by the National Council of Applied Economics Research (NCAER), rural consumers are more than half of the total consumers in India. Shocking? And more importantly the rural regions are being seen as an important avenue for the essential goods and services market. Therefore, the introduction of e-commerce in rural India is being considered as a vital step.

And lastly, the million dollar question is can e-shopping actually enter in the rural belt of our country? In my opinion, it can enter with the support of government services like Citizen Service Kiosks and portable computers which can be carried to the rural pockets of India and in collaboration with the highly advanced technologies of the West.

Considering the present circumstances, it can surely be said that our quintessential rustic Indian bhaiya is going to get techie very soon!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hail Customers!

Hail customers! Hail Customers! Hail Customers! – Thus goes the legendary saying ages after ages. How to truly win your customer’s heart and rightfully fulfill their expectation is known to very few though.

Creating a presence in the customers’ mind which is already saturated with unlimited brands and products makes the job for businesses slightly tough. Consumer mindsets are like imaginary bubbles. They take shape of what they desire or harbour in their dreams. Underlining every desire though, is the value that every consumer seeks from a transaction, be it online or offline.

Maximum Value = Customer Retention

Just that one has to do it creatively. Times change. People change- every change is marked by the power of creative thought. Just like the genius of one generation is the common sense on the one succeeding it, emerging businesses in changing times, have to think innovation at every step.

An Example:

Creating contests to lure the customers is cliché. A contest may not always follow one’s whim and fantasy. Rewarding points to have your customers participate in contests is innovation. To ensure that you, as an enterprise value people’s most treasured currency, be it time or money will never let you down in the eyes of your audiences. They’ll value you for valuing it.

The above mentioned example is a unique strategy employed by an e-store called Retails Direct, in its newly born community feature called Café Retail. The idea is time-worn but this concept is the newest wrinkle ever introduced in the history of e-commerce.

Thus, the idea is to make your customers, your collaborative partners so that each one benefits from the mind pool created by both. Having inputs coming straight from the consumer themselves or rewarding them with points (to save their almighty money) to join hands with you is a well-thought out strategy to keep moving ahead with high tides.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How are online shoppers converted to in-shop buyers within a jiffy?

New York, January 29, 2008. Press Trust of India on Hindustan Time’s website reads that, ‘Indians are among the most online shopping savvy people (84 percent) when it comes to using credit cards. They stand second only to Turkish shoppers who topped global rankings for credit card usage (91 percent). The icing on the cake is IAMAI’s latest e-commerce report which says that the Indian e-commerce industry has reached a 9000 Crore growth figure in 2007-08.

Well, that’s some news but my point to state the mentioned facts is to bring to light the innovations which players (online retailers) are employing to make it big in this ever-expanding industry. That Internet is convenient, time-saving, effort-saving, provides better deals and comparisons, not to mention the immediate variety it offers is known to all of us. What’s new on the horizon? How are newbies able to immediately draw customer’s attention? How are online shoppers converted to in-shop buyers within a jiffy? You may call the answer a cliché but that’s what it is – UNDERSTAND YOUR CONSUMER NEEDS AND WANTS!

Changing times have changed people’s fancies too. All you have to do is catch them.

My latest study on internet about how are new players catching up with the rising currents reveals that entrepreneurs are keeping it simple but smart. You whip all that your customer desires and serve it with your USP’s garnished as toppings.

Here’s an example for you!

A new kid on the block, I have been reading extensively about is Retails Direct. It is a rising web portal, increasingly integrating features on its site which will bring to the customers everything they dream of, under one roof. An exclusive corner for bloggers, shoppers’groups, voice/video/text chat, contests, option to create and choose bargains, photo gallery and forum to discuss products and brands . What’s interesting is Retails Direct will reward its members to participate in all of these. The concept is to integrate a social networking medium with a shopping portal to give people a platform to shop and connect, at the same time.

Therefore the need of the hour is to think beyond traditional monotones. The new mantra is to connect with your audiences is to facilitate them get connected with themselves. The world, in present times is in need of some real talk. Give it to them and they make you a king of their heart. Time now climb No. 1 slot on the victory stand. Lets get geared!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NO more to Purchase Anxiety for your customers

The ‘new media’ has broken all shackles that traditional mediums laid. From being the information super highway, it is now turning into a dynamic marketplace facilitating people to not just transact but to actively interact as well. However, it has its lapses too.

In my last blog, I addressed the apprehensions that most shoppers confront while buying products online - security, cost and post delivery services being the primary parameters. In an industry which is spreading its wings by the second, there is certainly no space for anomalies like these to impede businesses from growing at the same rate. Or perhaps even higher!

But exist they do. And is also clogging potential buyers to shop online in scores (millions to be precise).

In this blog, I have tried to outline some remedies which, if employed by site owners can considerably help reduce purchase anxiety that online shoppers often undergo now a days. I thought to explain it best with an active example presently employing these measures. I have once again picked Retails Direct because of the following reasons:

Data security:

Telling your customer that you initiate all the stages of the purchase transactions through a secured server is the first step towards winning his heart. Incorporating security seals to protect your site from the hackers is therefore, a mandate.

Include personalized remarks:

Retails Direct has a unique feature of making its consumers rate as well as write their personal comments about any product purchased by them. This feature greatly eases the buying decision of other customers.

Include your source:

Retails Direct (RD) is seen to have a very transparent approach. If a customer seeks to get the details of a desired transaction, it can easily be acquired from the RD help desk. The customer care services are worth mentioning. Prospects should try this.


Contact Information:

Mentioning an e-mail id for contacting your business is not enough. My post purchase queries were very politely put to rest by their customer care executives. Talking to them over the phone was a big relief.

Inclusion of reputed certifications:

Retails Direct, though a newbie in the industry, already has 40 brand tie-ups to its credit. When asked about the authentication of the same, they sent me scanned copies of MOUs, seeing which all my doubts immediately vanished.

Be your consumer's friend:

People whether on net or offline, like to buy from someone i.e. a living entity and not from 'something' which gives them no real experience. Retails Direct has an active blogging site where you get to not only read what others have to say about it, but you also get to read messages from their business head and organization head in their official PRs at regular intervals.

Following –up, a mandate!

Purchase anxiety certainly doesn't end with the purchase. I just bought a Moto Rokr E6 from Retails Direct a week back and the post-purchase follow-up I received is one of the best I've got so far from any site. I was informed about every stage of delivery until it finally reached my hands.

The reason behind incorporating all these elements is not only to let your customer shop with ease but smartly as well. We are dwelling in a world where time is the new currency and if people have to spend more to save this new moolah, they will!

Friday, March 21, 2008

How Do I begin E- branding?

No surprises here- let me jump in: How to build an E- brand?
Let’s start with the basics:

Get your goal right!

The first thing is to decide your reason of choosing the internet as a medium.

If you already have a presence offline i.e. in the 'real market', then having people to identify you makes it easy. In that case you can be called as a brand on the internet.

If you intend to generate sales from your business on the web (for eg. affiliate marketing, e-store, Search engine marketing etc.), then things may take time to shape up. You'll be required to carry out an extensive competitive research about the global market trends in your industry vertical.

Strike the cupid at the first glance!

Visitors dislike scrolling. So even before they see your homepage, which i'm sure may be inviting, relevant and cognate, their eye balls will on the topmost banner on your site. Only if they find something lucrative enough on that banner, will they stay to look around furthermore. That banner should be a snap shot of what your company does and the benefits it offers to the consumers. This will make the consumers wanting to know more.

The list of tools is a long one and I believe that curiosity is a virtue that should often be exercised. So until I put the rest of my experience in words, soak in all that is said and be ready to meet me right here again tomorrow.

Is your portal the next Wal Mart in the making??

Its time to move from continental cuisines of sophisticated 5 Star hotels to street-side 'dhabawalas'. This indeed is the new regimen of the world today. “Go Local!” is the buzz word.

In order to survive in an industry which changes by the second, constant innovation is the only key to breathe easy and perform optimally. Online Retail Industry- this business vertical is meandering in an arena, the population of which is estimated to reach a stupendous 120 million by 2008, says the ASSOCHAM Report. Therefore for entrepreneurs dreaming to become future Wal Marts of the world, reading this is a must.

That people in metros divulge in spending more than their sub-urban counterparts is now a cliché. Consumer Insight reports reveal that times are ripe to reach to this new community of consumers because it is this segment which now bears a massive potential to bolster the revenue pay offs targeted by these online entrepreneurs. So what do we do? Well, the need of the hour is to ‘localise’ the businesses to address the buying instincts of this ‘small town shopper’.



For example, there is an upcoming portal whose speculation is catching pace in present times- Retails Direct. This newbie has not only made its presence felt in the leading metros but also smaller towns PAN India. “We’re launching promotions on upbeat as well as local web sites to reach our local customers more effectively. Succeeding locally depends on how effectively you get the word out to your customers, asserts the Co-founder and Director, Rupinder Khurana, retailsdirect.com .

Consumer, like the advertising gurus say, is the ‘king’. But these kings are no longer confined to the sky scraper laden urban environs. The ones in bucolic pavilions are now as well-heeled and demand ‘personalized’ patronage if at all entrepreneurs seek to exploit their cache. Hope this article would serve fruitful for these businesses who are seeking new interfaces to reach their customers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

E-branding your way to success!

Which brand do I choose?
“Which brand do I choose?” I have lost count of how many times have I asked this question to myself. Everything time I decide upon a gadget, I visit sites and rumble-tumble goes my head. Every brand has a little extra than the other to offer and a little less than the previous one. Before your consumer gets lost in this frenzy, it’s time to define some e-branding tools.

Well, does that term seem new to you?? If yes, then very soon from now, this is the only term you’ll have marketing professionals talking about.

What is E-branding?

The web is on for a transformation spree. Internet in India is expected to have 120 million users by 2008. So if demand is on a rise, will supply be far behind? Certainly not!! Therefore we see a swarm of e-businesses seeding on this dynamic medium every single day, the largest being the Online Retail Industry. What are these businesses doing to make themselves known? Do they know that if they don’t make their customers ‘STICK AROUND’, their competitors are just a click away. Just a single click!!

Do you have friends? I’m sure you do! Doesn’t it feel great when your friend holds your hand when in trouble? Customers are also just like any of us, they thrive on relationships. In a world characterized by stress and clutter, if you understand their needs, guide them and show them you care, they'll trust you like no other. That is called BRAND LOYALTY. And when your consumer starts identifying you, among millions of similar players with similar faces too, without having to put in any extra efforts, THAT my friends, is called E-BRANDING!

Some examples are as follows:

Coke - Genuine, Family-oriented
Pepsi – Spirited, Young, Outgoing
Wall Street Journal - Accomplished, Competent
Mercedes, Lexus - Sophistication
Nike (versus LA gear) – Ambition

If you able to render this identity to your brand, rest assured, your customer will never and I mean NEVER elude you. Now the question is: How Do We Do it?
Watch out for my next blog as I unravel the mysteries!

What’s Your Brand Personality?

Consumers now view these brands as a ‘living entity’
How would you differentiate Nike's 'Just do it' from Reebok's 'I am what I am'? Both sell the same products, at almost the same prices and hold the same target audience. Still Nike's 'Sweat and Beauty' sells more than Reebok's 'We know you suck'.

Needless to say that in such markets people don’t turn to these brands for their offerings but because of the attitude these brands represent. These brands no longer offer mere products now, they are living experiences and identities in the minds of the consumers. Consumers now view these brands as a ‘living entity’ – an entity that speaks its mind, reflects its attitude and acts as an aide in acknowledging their eccentricities and whims. That is what we call– BRAND PERSONALITY!


The catch for this new generation of consumers is ' Be their friend'. The clutter and pressures of today's lifestyle has left the consumer flustered and beclouded. Loneliness is another hazard. However, the good news is people cling on to where they find value and stay where they find comfort. Therefore without infusing a feeling of security, accountability and ‘liking’ in the mind of the consumer, brand loyalties are difficult to achieve.

How to render a personality to your online brand??

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?

If your goal is to generate sales through your venture then the first step will be to initiate an exhaustive research about your domestic as well the world market, determine SEO strategies, optimize shopping cart and navigation functionalities along with other e-paths.

IS YOUR HOMEPAGE YOUR CONSUMER'S HOME?

Your homepage is your first interface with the visitor. Ensure that it makes him to stick to it by giving him what he wants, there itself. Banners displaying your core product or benefits for your consumer will act as a bait to hook him into reading more about it. Colorful pictures, layouts, interactive templates follow suit.

THE HUMAN TOUCH!

The most important element in building a brand, online as well as offline is 'trust'. The more real your conversations are with your consumers, the more accountable your business becomes in their mind. Internet is still in its nascence as far as this interactivity is concerned. If feasible, allow your consumers to raise requests and receive relevant suggestions based on those requests.

HIT THE BULL’S EYE IN THE FIRST GO!

Your site content should be presented to your customers almost immediately. Content segregation in the form of bullets points, captions and brief paragraphs work best. Most importantly, visual presentations of messages are very helpful in creating an impression in the mind of the consumers.

CREATING HYPE - A BIG NO, NO!

Internet provides you with a flood of information in a no-pressure environment, with reigns solely in the hands of the users. Therefore traditional monotones of creating hype lose their credibility in this medium, where consumer behavior is regulated by product/price comparisons, variety and features.

As mentioned above, people associate a brand with the experience it gives to its customers. In e-commerce environment, there is no space or time for frustration. Information should be easily digested. Ordering should be quick and smooth and loading time almost instantaneous.

The idea is to catch the whim of the consumer and make him feel 'special' and 'cared for'. That's when a brand attains its own personality and becomes the consumer's friend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time to say NO to Purchase Anxiety

The other day, a friend of mine wanted to shop for I-mate JASJAM mobile so we browsed through some major online retail outlets, seeking to get the best deal possible. And just when he was about to carry out the financials, what I witnessed still holds my memory like fresh paint. With sweaty palms and shivers all over the body, he just couldn’t get himself to type in a single digit of his credit card number. My friend had an Anxiety Attack.

Since then my only motive has been to gauge the fears confronted by such shoppers and its reasons of course. I am dedicating this blog to specifically address some common apprehensions:

Security: Owing to the growing curve of identity thefts, even avid shoppers get cold feet when they do not see any assured signs of data safety on their favorite online store.

Price: The possibility of there being a cheaper alternate to the same product.

Product Quality: The angst that the product may not be of the highest quality.

Location: The product could have been attained closer to home.
The product was made by an unknown source overseas.

Compatibility: Whether the product will be of the right shape, size or color or not.

Personal Taste: The product may/may not match the individual's exact specifications.

Delivery Service: Most sites do not mention any phone numbers for the customers to confirm the delivery status after the product is dispatched. This leaves no option for the consumer to immediately seek any information in the post-purchase phase.

While most of these apprehensions may seem trivial to an entrepreneur, it has held back a large percentage of potential shoppers, out of the entire online shopping community of 46 million.(According to Indian online retail figures) There are however, some players which have been constantly trying to address the varied needs of the consumers.

I was quite impressed by this online store- RetailsDirect.com, a new player on board perhaps. What helped me to stay (longer than usual) on their site, was the mention of a security feature called '256- BIT Encryption' employed to protect the data information of the visitor.

I just happened to read its press release on India PR wire and thought of giving it a glance. And what I found here did make me 'stick around'. For people who thrive on electronics, this site is a must see. I found some deals to be pretty sparing in other product categories too. And yes! They only speak brands, which is good news.


Wish we could find this store when my friend was hunting for I-mate JASJAM. I found it here at a better bargain.

However, my next blog will entail the solutions that’ll help e-shop owners to dissolve all the apprehensions faced by the customers and make their buying experience devoid of any sweats and shivers. Stay on till then and shop smart!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Time to bid goodbye to ‘Purchase Anxiety’!

Internet today is a home to hundreds of thousands of medium and large online shopping stores. India is already witnessing an active e-consumer base of a stupendous 46 million presently, out of the Indian web population of 120 million. The irony however is, there are still a good 9 million potential buyers who do visit these e-stores but move away without purchasing any products. The simple reason is Purchase Anxiety!

Buying products from virtual shelves of this virtual media is what gives these potential customers cold feet, for every 1 user out of 10 suffers from the fear of the uncertainties involved in transacting online.

Certainly not pleasant news for the established as well as budding online entrepreneurs. However, to better the customers’ e-shopping experience, listed below are some guidelines that will reassure your customers that you are a reputable enterprise, valuing their privacy along with the quality of product.

Site Security Seals:
TNS Market Research showcases that identity and credit card thefts are the two greatest qualms that limit e-shoppers from buying online. Therefore every site should distinctly include information talking about various security seals employed to save purchase data from the hackers. This would give more transparency to the site.

Attach Testimonials:
Attaching testimonials to your site are a great way to build the trust factor with your customers. This gives people direct access to what other customers think and feel about their experience with you.

Get your facts right:
Whenever you state facts about a particular transaction, always be very specific. For example: If you want to talk about your sales, never talk about the projected score. Talk real! That's what makes you more credible.

Follows ups are a must:
Purchase anxiety does not end with the purchase itself. It should be in the best interest of the enterprise to keep updating the customers with the post-purchase processes till the product finally reaches in their hands. Informing the shopper about the following can be of great help:

• The order confirmation page
• Confirmation e-mails
• Shipping information and receipts


Incorporating these elements in your website will invariably add immense value to your site as well as your customers shopping experience. Once you value-add your portal with the said features, talk about each of them in the form of press releases or blogs to inform your customers about your initiatives.

Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don't.

What’s first on your consumer’s wish list this season??

Before I list the products that consumers are aiming for this season, let me share with you something rather astounding: By the end of this year, E-commerce shopping in Indian metros is likely to jump over double! Though I am an avid shop-a-holic myself, this boggles my head as much as acoustics in ‘THE MATRIX’ did. Population of online shoppers is rising in scores. Let’s see what’s driving this new generation of consumers to swarm in such large numbers.

Here’s a list:

Online books sale
• Accessories
• Electronic gadgets
Hotel Bookings
• Railway Transportation
Music and Movies
• Gift Products

Whoa! It’s almost like, you name it, and they have it. Won’t it be an exaggeration to call these businesses a boggart that take shape of anything you desire? For me personally, these stores are the best innovation, technology has come up with.

• Home Delivery saves time
• ’24 * 7’ hours of shopping renders ease
• Brand tie-ups ensure availability
• Product comparison features makes my shopping experience more valuable

What's more interesting to know is the rage for shopping online to amass time, is not only restricted to the metros alone. The 'smaller cities and towns' we often hear with regards to entering the e-commerce phenomena are places like Ranchi, Bareilly, Meerut, Ajmer Rajkot, Tirur...and the list goes on and on. So buddies, with the net turning Web 2.0 and e-business models becoming more consolidated, its time to shed your scruples and zoom into a new world of e-malls and plazas.

The rise and rise of Online Retail!

The globe is finally at your fingertips. Human numbers may be expanding by the second but distances have finally shrunk. Investing money is a tradition. Investing time is the newest wrinkle. People don’t mind spending the almighty rupiyah for a pair of Levi’s Red Loop jeans if buying the same from an online store takes just a few minutes. Else driving an hour to reach the high street to buy it seems nothing less than a sluggish idea. Time and time alone stands as the new age currency today. And taking this as an opportune pedestal to climb higher, entrepreneurs have finally entered the new arena of Online Retail.

Say, you had already seen your favourite digital camera at a store in a mall. What say if you found the same product at a much better price in the comfort of your home- on the web, at half the time you spent shopping offline?? Well, the web is serving all this and more to its online customers. According to the NASSCOM Report, India expects a massive mass of internet users. Even the big brands have already found their space on web. Whether it is the Luxury Retail, Kids Retail, Mobile Telephony or other Consumer Electronics, the high street e-stores are on a roll.

The challenge however is to engage that portion of the mob, which visit the sites but go away without spending any bucks. The reason? Their distrust. This section of online turf is not comfortable transacting on the net because of their fear of e-stores mishandling their precious information. This population is almost half of the total online populace. If online retail portals begin to instill a security factor in the minds of their consumer base, half their battles will be won!