Goswami, Forbes India
Bengaluru, 22 November 2016
a successful stint online, e-commerce companies in India are now
venturing into a world they thought they would drive into extinction:
the brick and mortar space. Lenskart (online eyewear shop), Zivame
(lingerie e-commerce player), and Pepperfry (online furniture company)
are among the players to have opened a physical store in India, a
country where e-commerce spend is still less than 2% of total retail
spending, according to a study by Deloitte.
This is at a time
when every industry is trying to make its presence felt online. And
e-tailers certainly enjoy some clear strengths. For instance, a web
store is always up and available, its reach unlimited by geography.
However, online firms have found it hard to grow beyond a certain
number in terms of customer acquisition, which is making it more and
more necessary to have a brick-and-mortar store along with online
A physical store is a great brand building exercise
since it has high recall value for a customer. “The brand experience
that one gets in a store is incomparable as there is a touch and feel
element to it. Also, stores are a good place to bring on board a
customer who has never shopped online,” says Ankur Bisen, senior vice
president at Technopak, a management consulting firm.
there are products that could be picked off a website with little
consideration to the retail environment, like a pair of headphones or
baby diapers. But some products such as clothing or jewelry have a
touch-feel element where a physical retail environment can complement
Case in point, online lingerie retailer Zivame
which so far has opened eight stores across the country and plans to
have 30 more by the end of March 2017. “Since we are in the lingerie
space, we know for a fact that most women in India wear ill-fitted
bras,” says Richa Kar, CEO of Zivame. “With only an online presence it
was difficult for us to guide them. We piloted the concept in our
office where many women walked in and expressed their concern
surrounding the lingerie issues they were facing. This probed us to
take the next step and establish Fit Studios across the country.” Kar
believes this has helped the company attract customers who would be
hesitant shopping online because of issues over fit.
online fashion portal Myntra has its own reasons to venture offline. It
is confident that this is an important step in strengthening the online
fashion segment. “Fashion is a touch and experience based category,”
says Ananth Narayanan, CEO at Myntra. “In order to initiate more
shoppers to try fashion online, we are looking at an omni channel
distribution approach that allows us to create multiple touch points
for customers.” The firm’s tech-enabled stores, which is expected to
open in the next two quarters, will have digital walls to help
customers navigate and browse products.
It’s a global phenomenon
trend is not unique to India. Globally, players like Amazon, Birchbox
and Bonobos in the U.S., Spartoo in France, Astley Clarke in the UK and
Alibaba in China are all expanding beyond just the online space.
Although Amazon is an established player in the global retail
e-commerce market which is expected to reach $2.5 trillion by 2018,
e-commerce still represents less than 10% of the global retail market.
Hence, even for these global players, offline presence is inevitable if
they wish to attract more customers.
Dutta of Third Eyesight, a consulting firm focused on the retail and
consumer products ecosystem, says online companies so far have
presented themselves dramatically different from offline players. He
sees this as a mistake. “I do not see online separate from offline.
Customers may want to interface a brand at different places and hence
it becomes imperative for them to provide a seamless experience.” For
instance, a customer might seek initial comparative information online,
step into a department store to try a product, pay for it online and
have the product delivered at home. Consequently, companies need to
make sure that the experience is uniform across channels.
and offline both are essentially aimed at expanding reach and engaging
with shoppers in more customized ways, thereby providing convenience.
This is an emerging trend which will play an important role for online
retailers in the days to come, for those who choose to embrace the