Could it be true? Is the convenience of summoning things home with a few clicks seducing Indian women to shed their try-it-before-you-buy-it mindsets?
According to eMarketer, Indian online sales are estimated to rise from $16.32 million in 2013 to $30.31 million in 2016. Our question is... how much of this money is being spent by the 60 million Indian women who are reportedly online?
Almost 50% and Tilting the other Way?
Conversations with Manu Kumar Jain, co-founder and Managing Director of Jabong and Ganesh Subramanian, chief merchandising officer at Myntra revealed that almost one in two online purchases in the fashion and lifestyle segments are made by a woman, and that sales to women are increasing almost 25 per cent faster pace than sales to men. The scales may eventually tilt in favour of women as "women are more influential, even in men`s fashion", remarks Ganesh. So what are the factors that are encouraging e-tail shopping sprees?
Convenience! Convenience! Convenience!
"Who would want to go out in this rain?", "I`m lazy!!!", "It saves time, energy and petrol"... are just a few of the reasons women are opting to shop online. Distill the reasons and you`ll be left with a single word... convenience. This is the one word that echoed through our chats with women of all ages, body types and purse sizes. Of course, the return and exchange deals, cash on delivery, open-box-deliveries and discounts that websites offer, sweeten the deal.
Variety, Availability & Exclusivity
About 3 in 4 affluent women (as defined by TGI 2013, SEC AB women) are online. While convenience may be the reason women in big cities shop online, e-tailers say it`s likely that women in Tier II and Tier III cities (who are accounting for an increasing share of sales) shop online for the sheer variety of products that are not available in their local stores.
When it comes to intimates, “the limited sizes available offline (J cups have never been available in India), the poor experiences provided by inadequate consultation, and the social discomfort of dealing with disapproving sales girls and even worse, sales men, seem to be driving women to opt for online purchases,” reveals Richa Kar, CEO of Zivame, India`s first online lingerie store.
Exclusivity is another reason women shop online. "I don`t want the same thing that everyone on the street is wearing," explains Meher Mirza, a freelance writer, who is perennially discovering new websites. And, it`s not just clothes that come with the “exclusive” tag, the Web is a good place to hunt for unusual gifts, knick-knacks and anything else you could possibly want.
Pricing & Discounts
"Who doesn`t love a good discount?", we certainly do. And there seem to be a lot of discount codes in all price ranges floating around the internet. So why settle, when you have the option to compare and contrast before you make a purchase?
Rama Sreekanth, a writer with a leading media house, who`s online purchases include groceries, home decor, kitchen ware, brick-a-brac, books, and quirky/handmade products that do not retail offline, is not yet "brave enough to shop for clothes online." However, others like Anisha, who works with Kingfisher Airlines, have no such qualms. Anisha recently ordered a tiara for her upcoming wedding from a Chinese website, and opted for "free shipping", which generally translates to "no tracking", and "no timeline or guarantee of delivery". "It`s a risk you take," she says. Of course, her crossed fingers must have helped, because her tiara did show up at her doorstep, eventually.
Facts, Figures and Great Customer Service
Precise measurements, elaborate product descriptions, colour availability and multiple images of a product support the decision-making process, while return policies, open-box deliveries and cash-on-delivery options bolster consumer confidence in placing an online order. "The customer service people are always helpful, right from tracking deliveries all the way to exchanges and returns. If I came across a website with a rude or dismissive customer service person, I probably wouldn`t go back," emphasizes Anisha, bringing us to the softer side of digital sales.
Quality customer service is high on websites` list of priorities. According to Google`s Women on the Web Survey, one in four shoppers share their experience online... And these are the true promoters of online shopping... the "bought it and loved it" brigade of fashion-forward women who go on to recommend the sites that they have tried to others.
Some Things Never Change
"Women exhibit the same shopping patterns online as they do offline," mentions Manu. They prefer variety and browse through endless pages, both branded and non-branded, exploring at leisure before they make a purchase. Men on the other hand, display a more targetted approach to online shopping, filtering for brands they are familiar with and have tried before. Rarely, if ever, do they explore unbranded products or experiment with brands.
Could shopping be addictive? Definitely. Can you imagine the damage Sophie Kinsella`s Rebecca Bloomwood could do if we gave her a credit card and set her loose online? In a generation that is perpetually plugged in, ecommerce can be as addictive as gaming and intoxicants. More so, if you`re using a credit card and it`s just imaginary figures moving from one account to another, minimizing the immediate impact on your wallet size.
Despite the burgeoning variety of products online, everything you want is not always available on Indian websites, and purchases from foreign websites have serious cost implications.
What do women really want?
As websites expand their product ranges and even acquire other websites in attempts to increase the diversity of their offerings, going out of their way to grab a female glances and wallets with advertisements, discounts, free deliveries and exceptional customer service... one thing is certain, women are spoilt for choice; which is probably exactly how it ought to be.
According to an AC Neilson survey (http://www.nielsen.com/in/en/consumer-ranking.html) the top e-tailing sites in India are:
Signs that you are an e-shopaholic:
a) You log on to buy one thing, and end up buying five
b) You find yourself buying things for your neighbours, friends, in-laws, in-laws neighbours... just for the high of the buy
c) You know which website offers the best discounts in which product category, even before you log on
d) The search bar on your smart phone auto-finishes the names of your favourite e-tail websites
e) You have more online discount number-codes than you know what to do with