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Online Retail Industry: A Platform of Innovations
By Mrinal Chatterjee, Corporate VP- Technology & Founding Team Member, Shopclues
All the work that goes into an e-commerce website is governed by a sole issue; to make the website more user-friendly, in turn earning customer’s trust and reducing his/her anxiety. Rise and fall of any company stands on this one point alone, and the rise in the number of online e-commerce website has made this an uphill task. It’s not only the customer’s confidence that has to be quickly gained but earning trust and confidence of merchants’ is also of major concern. And the only means to achieve this feat is to bring transparency into the process. A customer or merchant, at any point, should not be disconnected from their orders and should be able to constantly monitor it. One fault from the online retailers and they might lose the customer and/or merchant forever. Mistakes like these might snowball and affect the existence of the company.
While shopping, customers should be able to easily compare the price of a product across the market and decide any merchant of their desire. Apart from the obvious necessity for the product to be genuine, for a customer to indulge into a transaction with an online retailer, he/she expects rather demands the payment gateway to be up-to-date and most importantly secure. A bridge of trust should be built between customers and the e-commerce website so as to eliminate any doubt or hesitation in the customer’s mind while buying products.
Also the level of transparency at the merchant’s side should be such that, they should be able to assess the performance of their products, derive statistics and analyze them, thus allowing improving the sales. Keeping the trust of customers and merchants intact is essential for the survival of a company in the market.
With the competition increasing in the e-commerce space, the industry is constantly striving for new innovations and better technology.
Technologies like integrated automation systems have begun to replace the elaborate and tedious manual procedures, bringing down the percentage of errors, involved during manual process, to almost null. Since the automation systems work round the clock without any need of human intervention, they are generally preferred, wherever possible. One of the recent innovations in the use of automation system in the e-commerce industry is the ability for a system to track an order and report the status to a caller based on the phone number from which it is called, without any human buffer. Innovations such as these reduce enormous amount of human resources and manual errors, subsequently allowing the resource to be used effectively where it is essentially required.
Technology: an Enabler for Merchants
The entry of online market into the retail industry has divided the market into 3 segments: Merchants who sell goods exclusively online; Merchants who sell goods both online and offline; and Merchants who sell goods offline. Another sub-segment of online merchants are those who sell goods either through their own portal and/or through a third party e-commerce website. For merchants to sell online, a robust inventory management system is required, in order to keep all the systems up-to-date; efficient management systems are backbone of any online store. These factors have compelled a merchant to focus on the technological infrastructures provided by an e-commerce company before considering associating with it. A merchant expects the technology provided to handle critical facets like fraud detection systems, supply chain management and several other aspects of the business. Also the merchant should be informed as soon as the order is placed so they can begin to dispatch the product at the earliest.
Another challenge faced by the merchants in the online space is the lack of understanding of customer needs. While in an offline store it is fairly easy to track the performance of the products by studying the customers’ behavior. However the process is not easy in the online world, simply because of its enormous structures and depth. Since a customer can login from anywhere in India, at anytime, it becomes very hard for the merchants to understand their customers. And hence it is of critical importance to deduce web-analytics, transactional analytics, and behavior analytics in order to understand the online customer, but analyzing these big data sets becomes impossible to track records without any specific tools for it. And providing with such tools, merchants can now assess their performance and decide the quantity of products to be stocked preventing any over-sale or under-sale.
An industry that has evolved and seen innovation with the online market entering the space is the courier service companies. Many have upgraded their platform, transforming it to a more reliable, efficient and fast means of service. A recent value added feature in their services is the ability to track reverse delivery along with the existing normal delivery tracking.
So basically the online industry though has revolutionized the market and also has forced other industries to evolve but the fact remains that this is just the beginning and still there is a long way to go. With the competition in the market being so fierce, there is a need for new innovations to be brought in frequently and constantly onto this platform. A majority of innovation obviously revolves around customers since the core of any business will always remain the same: Customer is the King!