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NEW DELHI: A growing number of consumers in India took to shopping online in the last 12 months and now trust the medium, more than before, to order a variety of things in the wake of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by LocalCircles.

LocalCircles received 1,30,000 responses from 42,000 consumers across 358 districts of India. Of these, 48% were from tier-1 districts while 31% came from tier-2 districts, and 21% were from tier 3, tier 4 and rural districts.

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About 49% of those surveyed said they preferred e-commerce sites and apps, while 18% said they relied on their local retail stores to for home deliveries, and 31% visited malls, local retailers, markets to pick up home-related goods.

“If we are to look into reasons why consumers trusted e-commerce sites and apps in the last 12 months, more than before, 86% of the e-commerce shoppers said safe deliveries or no reason to step out, 50% said competitive prices, 48% said ease of return or return policy, 46% said expanded product selection, 45% said faster deliveries, and another 45% said increased product information and relatable reviews," according to the findings of the survey released Monday.

LocalCircles also looked at purchases made over the last 12 months, as consumers remained largely confined to indoors.

Responses from 10,530 responses in the poll indicate that shoppers used online sales platforms to buy everything from vegetables, festive supplies, home furnishings and laptops. “Alternatively, if we are to look into the percentage of categories of products consumers purchased via e-commerce sites and apps in the last 12 months, 69% purchased essentials and groceries, 54% bought medium-value items like electronic accessories, apparel, sporting goods etc., and 32% purchased high-value discretionary items like gadgets, white-goods, furniture etc," it said.

India moved to a strict lockdown last March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with the following months bringing about significant changes to consumer habits as consumers moved online and adopted more pronounced hygiene and health habits. Local neighbourhood stores as well as online platforms saw an uptick in demand as consumers preferred proximity and contactless deliveries.

As a result—adoption of e-commerce has been accelerated by at least three to five years in India.

Over 60% of those surveyed by LocalCircles said they shopped online due to personal safety and social distancing norms; meanwhile 61% said online shopping lent more convenience, while for 45% easy returns and refunds were the draw. Nearly 45% sought to shop online due to better value or price, and another 41% said fast deliveries and a wide assortment of goods were key.

“The findings indicated that personal safety and convenience, followed by ease of return or refund and better value were the top reasons why consumers made their purchases on e-commerce sites and apps in the last 12 months," according to findings of the survey.

As online shoppers have evolved, 64% said they always go through ratings and reviews before buying something online.

While 26% said they sometimes go through them, 7% said only check them for expensive or non-branded products, and 3% said look at reviews and ratings. The findings indicated that the majority of consumers rely on product reviews and ratings on e-commerce sites before buying a product, LocalCircles said in its findings.

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