Easy does it. Preeti Desai*, explains why Indians are increasingly shopping on the net.
Home delivery, 24x7 access, ease of use and lower prices are drawing an increasing number of online shoppers.
Why do people buy over the internet? If you were asked this question a couple of years ago, you might have said novelty. After all, what young professional could resist the temptation of using a high-tech medium to buy stuff? But if you still think that today, you're hopelessly passé. Today the buzzword is convenience. Buying online is no longer restricted to the tech-savvy youngsters: housewives, busy executives, college professors, even grandmothers are buying things over the net.
Perhaps one of the best things about the internet is the amazing convenience it's brought into our lives. Take for instance online shopping. You can shop for any product from online stores across the world without leaving your living room. A couple of clicks on the mouse, and you have what you want delivered right to your doorstep. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India ( IAMAI ) online shopping crossed from Rs430 crore to Rs570 crore in 2004-05 with the turnover further expected to increase to Rs1,180 crore in 2005-06.
So, what makes online shopping so convenient? Here are some of the ways in which Internet shopping makes life simpler for a whole lot of people.
Home delivery: This is obviously is a big advantage. What can be more convenient than finding a product on an online shopping site, ordering it with a click of the mouse and having it delivered to your doorstep? An online survey by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Cross Tab of the shopping habits of Internet users (done in March-April 2005) found that 70 per cent of the respondents liked shopping online precisely for this reason)
What shoppers like about online shopping
Saves time: A fast-paced lifestyle, easily available online shopping options and extension of the same brand promise across all channels leads many first time buyers online. Having transacted once the consumers realize the huge "time saving" contribution the online channel delivers and continue shopping online. According to the survey, 62 per cent of respondents used the nternet to save time on shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
24x7 access: The best part of an online store is that there are no closing hours and shoppers can access it all the time from anywhere. The survey found that 60 per cent of online users found this a big advantage.
Ease of use: As people begin to get more comfortable with technology, they find online shopping much easier and convenient. 45 per cent of the respondents in the survey cited this as one of the reasons for shopping online.
There are other advantages as well. For instance, it's much easier to compare products and prices within and across web sites than doing it offline. A few other reasons would include avoiding the crowds (especially during the holiday seasons), off station delivery and the nuance of the net allows you to buy products that aren't available locally. Since online shopping sites don't have to spend on expensive real estate and an army of staff to service customers, their overheads are much lower and they can offer good bargains to shoppers.
If you look at the bewildering array of products and services that are being offered on online shopping sites, you can get an idea of how popular it's becoming. For shoppers, the Net offers the equivalent of several malls just a clicking distance away. For retailers, the growing popularity of online shopping is an opportunity to win new customers, reach new geographies and increase product sales.
*The author is president of the Internet & Mobile Association of India