Author: Ravi Pahuja, Co-founder and CEO of VeggyKart.com, Gurgaon (India)
As with any business move or expansion, considering an online presence can raise a sometimes dizzying list of questions for an entrepreneur. Exactly what must be put in place to make it happen? How does an online presence change the market for the business? What are competitors doing? How will people shop? What kind of security is required? How will customers pay online?
Today’s consumers live multi-dimensional, multi-platform lives –and their buying behaviors reflect that same complex dynamic. They lead busy lives and shopping takes time and often it is a task.
Consumers find researching and shopping on the web far more convenient than brick-and-mortar visits. Although in-store excursions can still be fun, in many ways shopping online or via a mobile device offers a better overall experience, whether from the couch after the kids are in bed, on a mobile phone during a quiet moment at lunch, or on the go.
To tap this huge customer base, what is required is a continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer or business customer across multiple retail, wholesale, mobile, direct and indirect sales, call center, and digital sales channels.
According to Gartner, Inc., the India eCommerce market will reach $6 billion in 2015 a 70 percent increase over 2014 revenue of $3.5 billion. This growth also means that, like those in other developed markets, Indian customers will look for specialized offerings. From the giants of Indian online retail, to numerous online grocery stores/startups that are experimenting with different business and delivery models. As consumers get used to the convenience of ordering something online and receiving it the same day, grocery eCommerce will benefit too, with people more likely to buy food they know they will get quickly.
The fruits and vegetables industry in India is currently valued at Rs 4 lakh crore and there are 10-20% consumers in every geography, who would want the convenience of getting these products delivered at their doorsteps. According to retail consultancy Technopak, the online grocery retail market is growing at 25 to 30 percent in the metros and other large cities in the country.
E-retailers who understand their customers, leverage technology to evolve the customer experience, and focus on their differentiators and assets have the opportunity to thrive. The most amazing aspect of eCommerce is its ability to impact sales and marketing efforts immediately. By going online, suddenly a neighborhood bakery or a home based consulting service expands its reach to a national or even international base of potential customers. Web-based sales know no international boundaries.
There are two resounding traits that help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges of starting a business. Just like opening a physical store, setting up shop online takes passion and demands a high level of optimism. The passion is the desire on the part of the entrepreneur to find something he or she loves to do and make a career out of it. Positive thinking allows a person to stay focused in the face of cynicism from banks, peers and competitors.
If there are already businesses in this space, it is important to differentiate. Perhaps offer a more comprehensive set of products or services. Maybe the business will have a customer service or technology advantage, or consider tailoring the product to a niche market.
Online information capture is more detailed and frequent. Click stream data provides details on the way a consumer shops, while virtual shopping carts play the role of loyalty cards that capture consumers’ purchase habits. As a result, e-tailers can increase sales by targeting repeat buys based on personalized content for each shopper. More importantly, e-tailers can mine consumer behavior data to turn switching decisions or abandoned shopping baskets into operational indicators of how to stock merchandise and serve consumers.
The key to developing an effective online store is making it easy for customers to find what they want. This requires organizing the online store in a logical manner and including the appropriate amount of information about each product. Business owners must anticipate product-related questions that customers may ask and arrange product information in a manner that answers these questions in the order that they occur:
- Leverage data so you know your customers
- Track your progress
- Analyze your results
Every small-business owner needs a well-thought plan. The internet is the best place to find information, learn from peers and effectively manage resources to formulate a plan that is perfect for a particular business and its owner. Successful marketing is well-planned marketing. Good planning requires optimizing a mix of online and offline tactics.
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