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Online or offline, ecomm cos aren’t shy of tapping new options

Raveena Singh

Shoppers who are used to buying online won’t perhaps bother checking out a retail store in their neighbourhood. There have been two main factors driving this online craze: discounts and convenience. 

But with funds hard to come by and weaker margins from low discount offers, online marketplaces might be discovering that having a retail store also makes business sense. Having a presence in more than one channel is also a good hedge against slowing profits from any one medium.

Omnichannel typically includes applications, softwares and websites under an online presence and physical stores under offline.

The selling point here, as Alan Steele, Sr Manager Software Development, Amazon Payment Products says, is you as a customer are never confined to buying from just one channel. “People are connected to all these channels most of the time: walking on the street you are in front of a store, on a road that [a truck] connects you to every warehouse around you; carrying a mobile device connects you to everyone on the internet,” Steele tells

On top of selling books from a store, Amazon also hawks its wares from a mobile truck. 

“It only makes sense to cater to the customers through all the channels, so one can choose the experience that suits him/her the best,” Steele added. The company is hopeful of seeing average monthly footfalls ranging from 600 to 3000 visitors in physical stores across the world.

Closer home, omnichannel play is crucial for garment retailer Zivame, which has its own Fitting Lounge — a store that lets customer try out lingerie. “The larger the number of points of sale, the larger is the visibility matrix and thereby higher possibility of customer engagement,” said Richa Kar, Co-Founder and CEO, Zivame.

Kar adds the e-commerce portal has strategically set up stores across key small cities and towns, where customers can go and experience the products.

After the success of its flagship store in Bangalore, Zivame recently launched stores in Pune, Delhi and Jaipur. While from offline stores, the company manages almost 80 percent of walk-in conversions, its e-doppelgänger sells 4 bras per minute and has 3.5 million visits every month.

Niche startups have also begun to see the point of retail stores. For instance, Pepperfry has Studio Pepperfry which offers a curated range of furniture at designated stores.

Lens and eyeware major Lenskart has set offline stores where customers can try spectacle frames and can even get their eyesight checked. Lenskart’s stores have a small collection of lens and frames operated by a retailer.

Another trend is catching on: Buy Online, Pick-up In Stores (BOPIS). As it makes it clear, you pay online, but you take physical delivery of your product. Steele says in the last two years it has seen a lot of customers opting to pick up their products at the company’s designated pick-up locations.

Recently, Aditya Birla Group-owned online fashion portal tied up with IBM to introduce a 3D virtual trial-room for a personalised shopping experience. This was largely to target millennial shoppers. 

However, while some are going omnichannel only to make their presence felt across platforms and increase visibility, some are sticking to traditional retail norms.

Kishore Biyani-led Future Group has decided to shutter the chain’s online venture Big Bazaar Direct. For him, the online ventue was turning unviable which prompted him to close it, and focus on his old-fashioned offline model. 

Whether it is offline or online, companies are still exploring which is the best option that suits them the most.