Authored by:- Mr. Sudhir Kumar, CEO, itel Mobile India
What tech-savvy India wants: How consumers are getting smarter about their smartphone purchase
Buying a smartphone, a few years back, was a time-consuming experience. One often ended up skimming through the newspapers, hoping to come across ads from retail outlets with attractive discounts on new mobile phones, or visiting multiple shops and outlets to check the specifications and prices on offer.But while the plethora of buying options often left the consumer spoilt for choice, it also required great effort and investment of time to choose the best option.
Entry of retail chains and the rise of e-commerce
This changed with the entry of major electronic retail chains.By providing consumers with a one-stop shop to meet all their electronic purchase requirements, these outlets eliminated the need to visit multiple shops by curating and presenting the best smartphone options beneath one consolidated roof. There was an additional benefit of having the key USPs of every product explained handily by an expert which aided the consumer with transparent information and helped them in making the most informed smartphone purchase decision.Convenient as it was, however, this channel of purchase also required customers to physically visit the outlet to confirm a purchase. They also end up paying more as the retail chains generally sell at a higher margin
All this changed dramatically with the rise of e-commerce within the Indian market.With the online medium gaining rapid adoption with the Indian consumer, the introduction of several e-commerce players meant that mobile phone manufacturers found a viable medium to market their products. Flash sales, exclusive launches and strategic tie-upswith online players became the norm. This delighted the consumers, who now had the convenience of shopping anytime, anywhere whilst also realizing immense savings in cost and time. Many perceived it to be the end of the traditional brick-and-mortar smartphone retailers. (The brands also found means of reaching the consumers at ease and in the process reducing dependence on the channel , enabling better pricing )
The hyperlocal approach: why offline emerged as the best bet for ‘smart’ smartphone purchase
While predicting the slow demise of the offline purchase channels, what most industry experts did not take into account was the ingrained purchase behavior of the Indian consumer as well as the diversity of the country’s consumer base.The online approach was gaining good traction, but it was largely restricted to young and tech-savvy buyers belonging to urban areas and tier-1 cities.Moreover, online shopping portals could not replicate the trust and the solidity of a physical outlet in the mind of the Indian consumer; while the online medium added great value to the decision-making process of a prospective smartphone shopper, the consumer was highly skeptical about what, how and where they spend. Other factors such as credit card frauds, delays in order fulfillment, complicated return policy and high shipping charges also served to act as a hurdle to e-commerce’s adoption as a viable tool to make smartphone purchase.Most e-commerce players also had poor service coverage in the rural and the semi-urban geographies.Considering how nearly two-thirds of the country’s consumer base hailed from these regions, this left a large scope of opportunity for players looking to meet this market gap.
This analysis of the Indian economy and the challenges faced by the online medium led to the introduction of the hyper local business model.This approach, which integrated the convenience and the anytime accessibility of online shopping with the trust factor and service fulfillment guarantee of the offline brick-and-mortar stores ,instantly gained a great response from both retailers and shoppers. Sale of mobile phones less than 10 K is on the rise and the mindset of the consumers from this segment consumers are driven more by Trust, Service and a local approach. Their dependence on a known retailer is of prime importance. A consumer could browse through the catalogues of nearby electronics stores from the comfort of their homes and select the smartphone option that best suited their requirement. They also had the benefit of checking out reviews for a particular product before confirming the purchase and had the comfort of getting their selected product delivered anytime, anywhere just like an online purchase. However, since the purchase was being made at a neighborhood store, they did not have to end up waiting for days for their products to arrive – instead, the order fulfillment was mostly instant. This also offered consumers a choice to touch and feel their preferred smartphone before making a purchase and guaranteed prompt redress of grievances in case they arose. In short, hyper local market places leveraged the online medium as a discovery and research tool, while the offline electronic retailers were utilized to fulfill the consumer’s smartphonepurchases.
The final verdict – hyperlocal and retail is the way to go!
There’s no denying the fact that we’re in the midst of a smartphone boom. Every other week, there is a news report about a new device hitting the market. With countless handsets getting launched every month, the Indian smartphone market is fiercely competitive. Retail and hyper local stores give you the option to see, experience and then buy a smartphone. The well-trained staff at a retail store can assist customers in identifying their requirements and selecting a smartphone model that is the best fit for them. Hyperlocal players also offer highly specific and local products to a set of targeted customers, which adds greater diversity of a consumer’s buying options and leads to better business opportunities for retailers.This transformation of physical stores into experience stores leads to a win-win situation for both the retailer and the customer, and is enhancing the end-user purchase experience by delivering end-to-end pre- and post-purchase solutions. So if you want to make a ‘smart’ smartphone purchase decision, offline stores is definitely the way to go!.