Can offline retail stores give e-commerce players a run for their money? Perhaps yes.

E-commerce has taken retailing to a whole new level in a rapidly growing consumer market like India. Though a boom in online retail has made things difficult for physical stores, it’s not all over for brick and mortar outlets (BMOs). Here’s why:
  • ‘Touch & try’ preferenceIn a vast majority of situations, most Indians prefer to touch and try products before buying them. This is particularly true in cases involving clothes, perishable items, and consumer durables.
  • Shopping as a hobbyFor some individuals, the ‘feel-good’ factor associated with window shopping through BMOs is unparalleled. Social interactions among friends and retailer-customer relationships are fostered through store visits, too.
  • Limited reach of e-commerceDigital platforms, despite gaining noticeable headway in regions other than the cities, have not been able to replicate the same degree of success in all parts of the country evenly.
  • Banking channels: Even if e-commerce portals possess the capabilities to cater to rural areas the ‘cash on delivery’ payment option is unavailable in most situations. Banking networks aren’t optimally developed in these geographies, thus making the use of debit and credit cards unviable for most people.
  • Resistance to change by eldersOne of the key drivers for digital platforms has been their growing use by young buyers, who are not only familiar with but also inclined towards purchasing products online. However, the middle-aged and older generation of India’s population remain followers of BMOs.
  • Possibility of online fraud: Digital platforms strive hard to strengthen their information systems in a bid to reassure fund transfer safety, a negative bias against online channels in the minds of some customers is almost impossible to eliminate. The prejudice clearly works in favour of BMOs.
It’s interesting to see that while BMOs have been focusing their attention on setting up their own omni-channels, digital platforms, on the other hand, are gradually and simultaneously laying emphasis on launching physical stores to gauge the buyers’ preferences better. Clearly, a blend of both appears to work well.


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