In the wearisome vocabulary of corporate-speak, there’s a phrase many local Internet companies use for shopping sites—“e-commerce portal”.
It’s as humdrum as it is accurate. Outside of a few well-established examples, most online shopping sites here are unintuitive and frustrating. They’re either organized poorly or designed badly, and very few inspire enough trust to make you hand over your credit card details.
This makes newcomer www.bata.in, the “e-commerce portal” for Bata India Ltd, interesting for a number of reasons. It sells shoes, belts and handbags, which the company presumably feels is a large enough local online shopping market. It’s a single brand, which is still a rarity here. And it takes maximum advantage of an existing all-India retail network. So it’s like Dell, but for flip-flops.
Oh, and the site is a fantastic piece of design.
The good stuff
Everyone assumes that Bata is an Indian company, but the firm has its origins in the Czech Republic. It set up its India operations in 1931 under the leadership of Jan Antonín Bat’a, an enigmatic oligarch who built factories and industrial townships across three continents and 20 countries.
They’ve clearly had the time to understand buyers here, and the site seems to reflect some of that wisdom. There’s a constant ticker at the top, reassuring visitors that the company grew 42% in the last quarter and opened 108 stores. Helpline numbers and order-tracking options are clearly visible. Everything is automatically ordered by price, and the site lets you specify ranges. There’s no compulsion to sign up for an account, although that option exists. Offers and discounts are presented neatly, and everything is easy to find and navigate to. There doesn’t seem to be a mark-up over the retail price, and there’s a clever little system that tells you which Bata stores around the country have that specific shoe in stock. Payment options are generous, including the ability to mail in a cheque along with a printout of your order receipt or to pay in person at a Bata store and then have the shoe delivered to your house.
Bata’s collection isn’t very good, and the site doesn’t seem to try too hard to hard-sell it. Everything is “vibrant” or “trendy”, and the company’s choice of stock images is a bit scary sometimes. Many products have photos from only one angle, which makes a purchase decision difficult—3D views are the way to the future. Similarly, some of the item descriptions need more detail. Specimens in the men’s formal range were described helpfully as “SHOE”, which many people would probably have deduced by that point. The colour filters fail occasionally, propping up beige shoes when you want grey, or misleading shoppers into believing they actually have “gold”-coloured shoes for sale (they were all brown). Orders are shipped quite fast, within five working days, but cancellations are not allowed.
Shoes on Bata.in start from Rs149 and go up to Rs 4,999.