It was a Sunday afternoon when I was chatting with my 9-year-old niece on what she would want for her upcoming birthday. Without a blink of an eye, she said she wants Anna Elsa radium shoes which are #lit even in the dark. Upon asking her where we would get it, she responded quirkily that we will just have to search it on Google and order from any online retail site that can send the shoes the fastest. I nodded!
If you think about it, shopping is a very different idea to today’s generation completely in contrast to what my generation had in mind. According to a report by Morgan Stanley, India has 400 Mn millennials – defined as those born after 1982 – making up a third of the population and 46% of the country’s workforce. Millennials have already become the chief wage earners in most Indian households, with their income contributing to 70% of India’s total household income.
To make it easier to fathom, as the world’s sixth-largest economy we are all set to have the youngest population by 2020. In tandem with the population growth, consumer spending is on the rise in India, expected to grow to $3.6 Tn by next year – four times what it was a decade earlier, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation.
The retail ecosystem combined with the comfort of being at home, getting all customer choices delivered to the doorstep and frequent online season sales have turned the tables for the ecommerce sector quite significantly. Furthermore, with the increasing affordability of smartphones and cheaper data prices in the country, mobile is the most obvious choice of the channel when it comes to consumer outreach for ecommerce companies. To the millennial population, shopping is a total virtual experience as mobile has been ‘the medium’ with the selection of either online payment or cash on delivery option. I would say we are in the midst of a huge shopping revolution in India.
It is not just about the scale of ecommerce but also about the speed of adoption and aggregation of ecosystems in the country. Online movie sites, OTT solutions, social media platforms, aggressive influencer marketing campaigns, and vernacular content seeding has not only increased the adoption of internet devices in India but also helped in familiarisation of using online platforms for ordering products and services.
Read on as I list some of the key online trends in the ecommerce and retail sector for the coming year.
Technology and various platforms are evolving at a rapid pace, and so is the shopping behaviour of consumers. Almost 71% of internet users in the country will have purchased products online by the next year. With this, the crucial trick used by brands, and something that is sure to be used in the future too, is personalisation which is helping brands genuinely connect with the users and thus entice them to shop.
‘Personalisation’ is truly at the center stage be it with regards to personalised suggestions, individualised offers, reorder recommendation based on past purchase habits, etc. There are also a lot of brands who invest extra efforts for product innovation by leveraging consumer feedback for designing products with regards to its features, usability, etc so as to offer apt products to the customers.
We are seeing the same level of spontaneity from grocery shopping to checking travel plans to buying insurance products online. With personalisation at the heart of brand strategy, a lot of people in India from the varied sections of society are showing a desire to shift their purchase online.
With the integration of AI and virtual reality, traditional mirrors will be replaced by smart mirrors which will serve as virtual changing rooms. Customers will not just be able to try the new outfits without actually putting them on but will also be able to share their virtual image on social media to take suggestions from friends before buying a product.
Apart from these online shopping trends that I have already mentioned, we will also start observing massive changes in the traditional retail industry in the coming years. Shopping stores will be like websites and websites will be more like stores. A good example is Tesco Homeplus Virtual Subway Store in South Korea. Here, the brand introduced virtual stores at subway station and strategically created a new market based on the country’s lifestyle.
With the fundamentals of the stores already changing, emerging technology is affecting the overall shopping experience. For instance, as 5G comes into play, the use of beacon technology to provide suggestions and personalisation of in-store/outdoor shopping experiences will become common. Also, the introduction of robot shopping assistants like Spod, Budgee, etc will not be limited to just customer interaction but also take lead on the management of supply chain, check product stock, find pricing errors and lookout for misplaced products.
If an in-store customer has any question beyond a shopping assistant, the consumer can start video conferencing with a human assistant further deepening the human-machine partnership.
The current online marketplace in the country is driven by personalised advertisements, attractive discounts, quick delivery, return infrastructure and a high penetration rate of smartphones. With the pervasive trends of AI, VR and augmented reality supported with a high-tech 5G network infrastructure, the future Indian shopper will experience revolutionised experiences with ease of online shopping and tangible world of retail.