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Revolutionising ecommerce: How technology is stepping up in the game

More real-life experiences to drive in the future of ecommerce

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NEW DELHI: Ecommerce businesses are having a field time, reaping the benefits of an otherwise massive calamity. More and more people are getting online for shopping everything from grocery to apparel, to automobile, to precious jewellery resulting in a massive jump in their numbers. However, it has also paved the way for the requirement of modifying their business models, amplifying the user experiences, and marrying the offline experiences with online shopping. 

In a recent panel discussion on “Enhancing the Virtual shopping experience in the New Normal" organised by AnimationXpress.com in association with Autodesk, Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari discussed with the leading industry experts their experiences and strategies for ushering in the new era of e-commerce and online shopping that has customer interest at the centre of it and is driven by life-like experiences. Sitting on the panel were Jio VP - advertising and innovations Mohit Kapoor, Future Group group CMO (marketing, digital, and e-commerce) Pawan Sarda, CarDekho, Gaadi & Zigwheels CMO Gaurav Mehta, Vedant Fashions Pvt.Ltd. (Manyavar) head - global ecommerce Prateek Kumar, mirrAR byStyleDotMe co-founder and CEO Meghna Saraogi, Prorigo Software Pvt. Ltd (Jewelfie) founder-CEO Surendra Karandikar, and Autodesk India sr.technical sales specialist, M&E Samit Shetty. 

The Whole New World of Opportunities

All the panellists were delighted to agree that Covid-2019 has created a very positive atmosphere for the online retailers and associated businesses who are helping them in curating exciting virtual experiences. 

Read more news on e-commerce 

Kumar shared that he was surprised to witness a 350-400 per cent jump in Manyavar’s online sales during the lockdown. “If I talk about pre-covid times, we were already recording a 200 per cent y.o.y growth on our brands. To my surprise, when the lockdown ensued in March and in the following months, we recorded a 400 per cent jump in our online sales. And it was all for pre-paid orders. So it was quite interesting for me to see that people are buying online during the pandemic too.” 

And this growth in online retailing and shopping isn’t only limited to tier1 cities and metros but goes deep down within the nooks and corners of the country. 

Saraogi noted, “We are working with around 225 jewellers across the country and I am not only talking about the big brands. There are jewellers who are sitting in tier 3-tier 4 cities, where an aeroplane won’t land, but they are digitising their shopping experience.” 

Creating Immersive Experiences 

All the categories which are selling online are now busy in evolving their businesses to offer immersive, real-like experiences to customers online. They agree that the fear associated with the virus is not going away anytime soon and more people are going to explore and buy products online, therefore they are trying to offer as advanced as possible AI, VR, and MR shopping experience to the consumers. Here are the few top trends that the panel highlighted: 

Digitising Trials 

Mehta quipped, “While auto-buying and car-buying was already a very digitised function, which we have been noticing for the past few years, in the last six months we have witnessed a number of new users coming on-board. They are looking for as real and as close to natural look and feel of a product as they can get. So, we are investing a lot of time and effort in sharing 360-degree views of the car, along with more raw experiences like how the door opens, how the engine sounds, etc. Whatever can be digitized is being digitized.”

He added that a lot of focus is put on personalisation of the vehicles for the consumers too, so one can put in place the filters regarding various aspects and functionalities of the sort of vehicle they are looking for and see in options only the relevant results. 3D imaging is also playing a big role.  

Sarogi pointed out that they personally observed 3D imagery creating a lot of problems for them in terms of offering a smooth user experience, therefore for the time being they have moved to 2D images of products. However, a great emphasis is on facial recognition technology that puts the jewellery right in place and a person can experience it how they will look like wearing it in real life. “We are creating exciting co-shopping experiences too, where you can get on a video call, do screen sharing and show others what the jewellery is looking like on you.”

Kumar highlighted, “We launched our own app a few weeks ago. Apart from that, we are offering WhatsApp video call options to our customers who can get assistance for shopping just like they get into physical stories. Another thing that we tried was getting chatbots on our sites. And we are seeing around 2000 people interacting with those bots on a daily basis. In fact, 90 per cent of our queries come from those chatbots.” 

WhatsApp to the rescue 

While WhatsApp might be dealing with its own shares of problems when it comes to the privacy of chats, it has surely turned out to be one of the favourite tools for online businesses. Not just Manyavar, but other brands have also invested in WhatsApp video calling options and other shopping tools to ease out the process for customers. 

Kapoor noted, “India has around 60-62 million SMEs and around 30-32 million Kirana stores. When we talk about real-life experiences or 3D imaging, etc., these models won’t work for them. You do not need to see the 3D image of your grocery. They require a whole different model of ecommerce. “We (Jio) have one model, in which we are working with Facebook right now; opening up shopping within WhatsApp and getting on board the small merchants.”

He added that the firm is working on a number of direct-to-consumer models wherein the focus on simplifying the experience as much as possible. “You can share a handwritten list of your grocery with us in a photo, and we will get it delivered.” 

Reshaping Offline Stores

The whole going online business will not necessarily mean that offline brick-and-mortar shops will go irrelevant and non-existent. In fact, the idea is to turn them into exhibition centres for experiences and then the purchases can be made online. 

Kapoor shared his personal experience of shopping a bicycle from Decathalon wherein he was allowed to test the bicycles in physical stores, but he eventually had to place the order online. 

Sarda elaborated, “I think stores can really up their capacity in terms of doing businesses if we put another layer of digital on top of it. We can see stores typically as exhibition centres. It will have to be constrained in terms of the number of people who can go inside but I see it as a large opportunity.”

How Technolgy Firms Are Helping

There is as much as backend work required to create seamless online shopping experience as much as you see online. Therefore, technical firms and partners are surely playing a key role in assisting online businesses in making shopping a truly immersive and gratifying experience for consumers. 

Shetty noted, “When it comes to 3D experiences, the smallest of factors like lighting impact the overall experience of a consumer. When it comes to the artist who is working on it, rendering is a big issue; it takes a lot of time. Therefore, the creator might lose patience and just give up on the project and might not try more variants. We are working on specific pain-points like that. We now have GPU rendering, which is an integral part of Autodesk that makes the job simpler, cutting the time significantly.”

It is also allowing them to make 3D models more real with more apt textures, colours, and backgrounds. 

Apart from that, they are working hard on collaborative technologies like Shotgun that allows various stakeholders to interact easily on creative projects that can accelerate the approval processes as well. “All this delivers a good ROI to not just us but also to businesses.” 

Karandikar added that going ahead, there is a lot of constant innovation happening in the technology industry and tools like voice are going to be the next big thing. He suggested that apparel brands can also innovate on aspects like creating life-size mannequins based on a customer’s measurement to give them a real feel of how the product will actually look on them. 

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