Consumer expectations, Behaviour. Loyalties and nature
Retail is no longer about malls ,supermarkets and stores to sell goods . There is a whole new POC called as online retail where the whole store or a salesman is no longer required to make a sale, big or small. The store has now become a virtual reality, where one can simply login to a website/app and start shopping. All one sees is the product’s image , description , seller’s name and the price .At the onset it looked like a fad where it would die out eventually and traditional retailing would gain the upper edge with its heavy infrastructure
But as they say about technology, if there’s something to predict it probably has to be “you cant predict it”. The source of online retailing would ideally be traced to Ebay and Amazon.com in the US which started selling books and slowly emerged to be the world’s biggest online retailer. It didn’t take much time for the folks in India to create something of their own , thanks to a heavy venture funding by venture capitalists. So started the4 big online sites namely Flipkart, Snapdeal, EBay and Amazon.in. It took them merely an overnight Diwali Big Billion sale to blow things out of proportion. Sales took off in a never before seen way and some analysts predicted it touched the 600 crore mark in a day or two
With the attractive offers provided by the online sites, the retailers began facing the heat. Almost all the players offered a “no questions 10-30 return policy, huge cashbacks and a variety of thousand + brands that was earlier not accessible by people living in non metros and smaller towns. When they began seeing their most favourite products at prices nearly 2000-5000rs cheaper than their nearest retailer, they began asking “Why not?”. Afterall they had a simple return policy which they could utilize if they weren’t satisfied with the product.
This was a dream come true for all consumers as they began getting to feel the benefits as opposed to being suppressed and forced to buy only among a few choices all these years. They no longer had to stand in queues or wait patiently for the salesman to attend to them and bother explaining what the product was all about. All one had to do was swipe left or right in their mobile phones and they could sift through thousands of variety of products. This was a game where there was no going back. Customers began feeling that comfort zone which the brick and mortar stores couldn’t provide them all along
These customer reviews for everything that was bought online slowly helped other buyers to buy from a certain seller while avoiding another. The sites made it even more easier by offering free or cheap shipment charges and Cash on Delivery option with no extra fee.
This acted as a huge boon to people who didn’t use credit or debit cards and always preferred to pay by cashThere were two types of customers in the online segment. One was a bargain hunter. Irrespective of which site it was , as long as the deal was genuine, offered some really good cashbacks/discounts and some they didn’t think twice before hitting the buy button. Their loyalties were stuck to nowhere. They changed the sites in a flash of a second and all that mattered to them was the lowest price they could get.
The second kind was the researching kind, which took time in their research , understood the pros and cons of each product, read their product reviews in detail and then eventually bought it in one of the top 3 sites only like showing a mini loyalty.
None of the e-commerce sites though, on a surprising note has started offering loyalty discounts or membership points to any of its customers. All they cared about is the total revenue they made through sales and that was the end of it. Sites like Flipkart even offered “premium service” called the Flipkart First Advantage to its buyers to avail more privileges for a nominal fee.
On a sharp contrasting note,brick and mortar stores always welcomed their repeat customers with welcome heart, gave them some special discounts all the time and gave more preference to them. Many fashion retail stores like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Globus etc offer exclusive free membership reward schemes and gave loyalty bonus
The reason as to why all online sites collectively have refrained from offering loyalty discounts is still a mystery. Given the fact that they already have the infrastructure to enable it, possess the complete buyer behaviour and purchasing history one has to wonder why this hasn’t been done yet. Maybe they don’t care or probably some other reason is preventing them
One simply has to wait and watch this interesting battle.