It’s been barely 5 months since I shared my first article on n-Commerce (or neighbourhood commerce), a term I coined keeping in mind the changing market dynamics in the e-commerce space. But, in the little time ever since, the market already seems to have taken a quantum leap with new players making their foray to cash in on the big opportunity.
Several terms such as multi-channel retail, omni-channel retail, online to offline and hyper-local have been used for the concept thereafter, but n-Commerce, according to me best encapsulates what the opportunity is all about. It is about using e-Commerce platforms to empower the smaller players in the neighbourhood market (such as the drycleaner, electrician, stationery shop, milkman, departmental store, tailor etc.), so they too can ride the e-commerce wave and reap the benefits.
India’s retail industry is currently estimated to be worth approximately $600 Bn, which is dominated by roughly 12 Mn mom-and pop stores. Clearly, a vast majority of retailers still operate offline. N-commerce is all about tapping this market to ensure inclusive growth for all the players in the sector. It is about creating an online demand for the millions of offline stores in every nook and corner of the country, be it for grocery, fruits and vegetables, clothes & accessories, electronics, drycleaning services, stationery or just about any product or service you can think of, which is available in your neighbourhood market .
It was the smaller players who had to bear the brunt when e-commerce found favour with their customers owing to the convenience of shopping from home, that too at heavily discounted prices. With n-commerce, they have a reason to rejoice and be a part of the growth story. They now have the opportunity to multiply their business without having to chase customers. It will also help streamline their operations and offer better services to the customers. So it’s a win-win for everyone.
Players, both big and small, seem to have realized that the opportunity is no less than a goldmine waiting to be tapped and are on an overdrive to figure out a business model where small players in the neighbourhood can be roped in to offer customers the convenience of an online model withthe instant gratification of an offline model (through quick home-delivery of the order and the best service standards).
Some popular market players in this domain include Grofers, BigBasket, PepperTap, Localbanya and LazyLad. Some of these companies prefer to define themselves as ‘hyper-local’ players. Others like Snapdeal, who prefer to call it an omni-channel strategy and even an online-to-offine strategy, too recognize that though the e-commerce market is growing exponentially, a vast majority still prefers to shop offline owing to the ‘touch-and-feel factor’. The company is therefore developing an India-specific platform which will allow customers to look for a particular product or brand within a kilometer’s radius, whilst sitting at home. So rather than hunting around for the product, they can simply walk in to the store selling that product at the best rate. Snapdeal will also provide the necessary technology and logistics support to the retailers who want to be part of this n-commerce platform, boosting its own order fulfillment capability in the process, while delivering the maximum satisfaction to the customer.
Even globally, n-commerce seems to be getting popular. For instance, in Singapore, a company called Egalite Marketing Private Limited has launched a unique community project – OneBedok.Com – which is an online platform that heartland businesses in Bedok can leverage to sell their products and services. This way people in the vicinity get easy access to varied services such as health and beauty services, groceries, housewares and more from the convenience of their home while the shop owners are empowered to generate more business by helping them go online.
Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO Rakuten Inc., too propagates the use of ecommerce to ensure inclusive growth of communities, an essential element of which is encouraging sellers to directly interact with customers rather than having intermediaries take over and take away the sense of personal connect. So while he may not directly have used the term ‘n-Commerce’, he is talking about how it can empower communities to grow together.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for n-Commerce and there’s a lot that can be done to uplift all sections of the community using the platform. Right from that cobbler to the drycleaner to the milkman next door, everyone can benefit tremendously from n-Commerce. I certainly hope to see many more companies embrace the concept to keep the momentum going.