Kart to Cart

Read an interesting article today on how ecommerce retailers are opening physical stores to augment online sales.

I think it’s a brilliant idea though I have a different approach for tackling it, especially in India.

An online retailer, say Flipkart, should open one store in each of their major markets. These stores – called Flipkart Bestsellers – feature only items with purchases of over 10,000 in last 6 months for each category - electronics, clothing, home, baby products etc.

This approach has several advantages:
  • The Right fit - It makes it easier for customers to find the right product fit especially for clothing. If a new design of shirt is a best seller but I am between standard sizes its more convenient for me to go for a trial rather than ordering 2 sizes and going through the return loop.
  • A Custom experience – Like the best selling shirt but wish it had blue stripes instead of red? Ask the store to create this. Promotions around "just customized"can then run online, the shoppers vote up the customization they like. And others can order it. Once the custom products reach a sales milestone, the manufacturer can produce more of these best sellers.  This category can then be added to the online catalog.
  • Instant gratification – A major advantage of e-commerce is its ability to transcend boundaries. This is why it’s a blessing for people living in remote areas where retail stores are scarce. But recent studies have shown that when the stores do open in those areas there is a drop in online purchases for high frequency purchase items. A best seller qualifies for this purchase.  I don’t want to wait even an hour for the next harry potter book, I want to step in the store and buy it now. Opening best seller stores addresses this impulse.

I see this synergy between online & offline becoming even more prominent in future. Even though online is enhancing the customer experience rapidly, a viable alternative for the good old trial room is still the stuff of sci-fi - especially for long tail or niche customers who want to customize even the best sellers.  

Bestseller stores offering the advantage of customization and  “shopping feel” - might be the next logical step for online shopping.

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