In recent interaction Iamwire.com has talked to Vivek Mathur, Vice President – Corporate Planning & e-commerce at Shopper’s Stop Ltd. Mathur revealed various online activities initiated by Shopper Stop and also pointed out that online retail in India still is small but its potential and future is great in times to come. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
So far the experience is very good and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Retail is exciting field and from last three years I have been involved in ecommerce initiative of Shopper Stop which is very challenging as it is yet a new concept in India.
2. Shopper stop started its online store in 2008 led by you. What are the initial challenges you have faced as an entrant on online platform?
Already we have very strong physical presence, so our challenges were unlike start-ups. There was availability of management, vendor base and large assortment of products etc. Our primary challenge was technology selection—choosing and managing technology in terms of understanding. In fact our business model is also different from other retailers; we are the first to have multi channel retailing. So from that perspective our challenges were different from others.
3. At present you are leading the new initiative for Shopper stop, under this capacity you have initiated online version of Shopper stop. So far how is the online performance of Shopper stop in terms of sales, traffic and traction you are getting?
We are growing significantly in terms of traffic, sales and traction .we are achieving all our objectives which we have set for Shopper Stop. Our website offers user experience which is probably among one of the best in India. We get fair amount of traffic and around 400,000 people are visiting Shopper Stop website every month. On sales front our performance is in compliance with our target but I cannot share the exact figures.
4. How do you see the shift of urban customers (including tier 2 and 3 cities) from offline to online medium and what is the potential of the shift at present and in future?
As far as online retail is concerned it is catching up with urban customers although online retail in India is still in early stage. However there are reasons for slow shift of it viz low PC and internet penetration. As of now broadband access is expensive and not great. The second reason is less number of people using credit cards and internet banking enabled debit card. The condition is similar to somewhat malls had faced in their early stage, at that time people were quite apprehensive about it, however now it fit and gel well with same people who have denounced it once. The shift would definitely happen in time to come as online shopping has lot of advantages like convenience, cost effective and time saving. Look at China overall e-tail market size, it is expected to be neck to neck with US in next 2 to 3 years, similarly it will also grow in India.
5. Now a days online medium has been largely seen as platform for promoting and enhancing brand image by retailers not for sales. Do you think this as right strategy and why?
It is definitely happening. At this stage Indian market and consumers are not yet ready for online retail. However people are using online medium to select the products as it offers wide range of options with chance to compare the merchandises provided by different retailers in same product category. I do not think it is a strategy from retailer’s point of view. A website has great impact on offline businesses, customers access brands and their products at websites and then buy it from brand’s brick and mortar outlets.
6. There are lot of complaints from customers shopping at your site. What are you doing to address this issue?
At first we do get complaints but number is not large and in contrast of other retailers its proportion is far less. The first step towards it is an acknowledgment of getting complaints in itself; nevertheless it is our priority to respond to customer’s complaints in shortest possible time through our state of art customer support system. Apart from it we have a return policy of merchandises where unsatisfied customers replace it or take their money back. As far as shipment of goods is concerned we hardly suffer as we have our own stock of every merchandises that Shopper Stop showcase on its website. Meanwhile if you look at overall logistic scenario for online retail in India, undoubtedly there is room for development.
7. You are leading the corporate strategy of Shopper stop; tell us what is the future planning of Shopper stop through online medium?
Our main focus is to build a multi channel capacity. So far I have said earlier online retail in India is small, consequently our main effort is to build a linkage between offline and online models. There are lots of exercise is going on in that direction. Customers need is changing fast and we need to recognise this change and align our capabilities accordingly. For example a buyer has seen something at Shopper Stop offline store but later if he/she wants to purchase it through online, so we must have proper channel to facilitate this customer desire.
8. According to you what is the most difficult part of running an online store at present?
Let’s think this from retailer’s point of view— it is very difficult to know customer’s behavior. However Shopper Stop is using different analytics to understand the changing customer’s behavior. By using this analytics we have been able to track and monitor the activities and changing purchasing pattern of consumers. Beside this retailers should stress towards weaving different channels in to a single thread especially if they have multi channel business model