E-commerce players betting big on offline presence

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New Delhi, Sep 13: Many e-commerce players have started foraying into physical retail space and the trend is going to become more prominent in future as it provides an opportunity to reinforce the online brand and gauge the market, experts say.

In order to differentiate their brand from the clutter of online brands, some e-tailers are setting up shops offline. According to property consultant JLL India, Pepperfry is the latest to go 'hybrid'.

Flipkart

The furniture portal recently leased a 1,800 sq ft space at Linking Road, Santacruz. Moreover, Lenskart, an Indian eyewear brand that started online, has lately opened up stores in retail malls.

Besides, online travel firm MakeMyTrip has opened over a dozen stores.

"The biggest nightmare for every online seller is to deal with a shopping cart abandonment rate of 70-80 per cent. The sweet spot is to be in a middle zone where, online sellers connect with actual customers and also promote their products in multiple avenues. Expect this trend to continue in times ahead," JLL India Chairman and Country Head Anuj Puri said.

According to experts, companies are realising that for a lot of product segments like apparel, spectacles and jewelry, customer acquisition can increase with a physical store.

Moreover, it also helps in creating more brand awareness.

"The reality is e-commerce is still a fraction of overall retail and is going to be this way for quite some time. That's why companies getting into it want to ensure that they increase their reach by setting up physical retail outlets as well," said Divyan Gupta, Founder & CEO of Artanddecors.com, a luxury e-commerce brand for decors and lifestyle products.

Having a physical outlet separates a brand from the competition and allows consumers to get a real feel. Besides, it increases reach and distribution, experts believe.

"A significant share of our customers still prefer to buy offline and consider online website as a research tool. The bigger ticket items are generally bought offline.

"Therefore, in the race to provide a complete solution, such phenomenon of online players going offline should stay," said Vikas Bhasin, CFO, Pine Labs, an integrated payment solutions company.

"A larger portion of the Indian society is middle class dominated. This clientele is very skeptical about what, how and where they spend. For this strong bastion of middle class milieu, offline models like retailer shops have mushroomed all over," said R P Yadav, CMD, Genius Consultants.

Meanwhile, some experts believe that the 'hybrid model' will sustain itself while pureplay online retail will continue to stay.

"We can neither call this trend a passing fad nor conclude by saying that it is something that is here to stay as there is a huge gap between the online and offline models of e-commerce," said Dinesh Gulati, Director, IndiaMART.

According to Tripti Lochan, CEO of VML, a leading digital marketing agency, "pureplay online retail will continue to live as not every e-commerce player has either the need or the appetite to get into traditional retail."

"We are investing in technology to solve many complex online furniture shopping problems in an innovate way. One of our apps is built specifically to help users visualise our sofas in their home with augment reality.

"In future, we will work on many such solutions," said Rajiv Srivatsa, COO & Co-founder, Urban Ladder.

PTI

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