From battling for the largest product catalogues to the lowest prices, the focus in online retail now seems to be shifting to fastest deliveries, after-sales services such as alterations, and reduction in the number of returns.
A case in point is that of India’s largest online fashion retailer, Myntra, which is set to launch 30 experience centres or kiosks across India by August, where customers can pick the products they ordered when convenient, return merchandise and get alterations done on the spot. Its first such centre in Bengaluru’s Manyata Tech Park, which is home to multinational companies such as Ikea, Philips and Nokia, has seen a reduction of 7% in returns since it was launched as a pilot in December.
“All of this is digitally tracked so we know what happened to the product, how the customer responded to our product delivery. If you take the lens of business view to it, there is an efficiency coming in. We are not doing multiple deliveries because the user was unavailable; our shipments are going to one kiosk and returns are faster," said Amar Nagaram, head, Myntra-Jabong in an interview.
It is also piloting what it has christened as the “try and buy open box" initiative. While several versions are being tested, Nagaram said under one such initiative, a customer is believed to have ordered three or four products. These products will come in a box for a customer to try them. A delivery agent will later come at a designated time to take away the box and a customer can chose to keep what they liked and return the others.
Industry insiders say fashion is a “touch-and-feel" category unlike books and mobile phones. Hence, it has become critical to provide as many options to customers as possible to make the shopping experience similar to that is offered by physical stores.
“They don’t have a choice. Some products require touch and feel—it’s an intrinsic part of the shopping experience. We cannot digitize everything. Hence, having a physical point is important," said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.
“In e-commerce, from processing order to delivery to returns, there are costs involved," he said.
In the meantime, Myntra is looking to enter the US market with both ethnic and western wear offerings. “We are looking at not just ethnic wear but also Western wear. We are strong in this category. There is a product market fit that is being studied right now. And we want to address the segment, through Walmart," said Nagaram.
In the meantime, acquiring new customers continues to be an area of focus for Myntra. The company believes with its sales event, called the End of Reason Sale, over 550,000 customers will shop on Myntra for the first time.