Less than 1% of total retail sales in India were made online in 2014, but the impact of the Web on offline sales is much greater. The emergence of smartphones and the mobile Internet is playing a much bigger role in influencing the purchase decisions of online users. Customers are using them to research products, even when they are shopping in physical stores; to compare prices with online retailers; to check specifications; and to read user reviews. This user behavior is making the Web a more powerful medium — one that retailers can no longer ignore. It is most influential in categories like computer hardware and software, media, footwear, apparel, and consumer electronics, as these contain a greater number of online-savvy retailers. We recently published the Forrester Research Web-Influenced Retail Sales Forecast, 2014 To 2019 (India), which reveals that:
$70 billion in offline sales in India will be influenced by the Web in 2019. This is more than twice the volume of total online retail sales in India, emphasizing the importance of the Web as a way for retailers to connect with customers.
Alibaba has an ambitious goal: becoming the first company to exceed $1 trillion in gross merchandise value in the next five years. To accomplish this, Alibaba is looking to expand in emerging markets, as developed markets like North America and Europe are mature and have high barriers to entry. Emerging markets with rapidly growing smartphone penetration, relatively poor offline retail experiences, challenging logistics environments, and limited online payment infrastructures are ideal targets for Alibaba’s expansion.
The mobile marketplace is a huge opportunity. Forrester expects mCommerce in India to top $19 billion by 2019— an attractive opportunity for players like Paytm, which currently counts more than 25 million users. Forrester expects that the number of online buyers in India will rise from 36 million in 2014 to 125 million by 2019.
On November 20, Google released a report on the findings from a survey it conducted in collaboration with Forrester on online shopping trends in India. The report highlights what’s driving the growth of eCommerce in India, including mobile commerce, female shoppers, and the growing number of people in tier two and tier three cities making purchases online. However, the report also noted some barriers to online retail in India, such as its poor showing regarding customer satisfaction and trust; to make further progress, eCommerce firms must work hard to improve in these areas. The report’s key findings involved:
Mobile shoppers. Mobile is driving the market, especially in tier two and tier three cities in India. Half of the online shoppers in tier three cities are already on mobile, compared with just one-third in tier one cities. The percentage of online buyers making shopping queries from a mobile device has grown from 24% in 2012 to 57% in 2014. Forrester forecasts that mCommerce in India will reach $19 billion by 2019.
Women. Women are far more active buyers than men in tier one cities. They outspend men online by two to one, and one-quarter of women in tier one cities make mobile purchases.
New buyers. More than 70% of people in tier one and tier two cities who do not currently make purchases online are expected to do so in the next 12 months.
New growth areas. Home furnishings, cosmetics, and baby care are the next areas of growth for online retail after the success of online retail in the consumer electronics segment.
Indian consumers are more likely to own a mobile phone and use it to access the Internet than own a PC or laptop and use a wired Internet connection. The stats speak for themselves: As of September 2014, India has more than 930 million wireless subscribers against just 27 million wireline subscribers. And while just 8% of these 957 million subscribers have a broadband connection (with download speeds of 512 kbps or better), fully 80% of them are mobile users.
This is leading to the mobile mind shift: the expectation that consumers can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. This trend is particularly evident in retail; today’s consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to accomplish a variety of shopping-related tasks online – from researching a product to buying it.
Forrester has developed a global retail segmentation framework to identify, assess, and compare the behaviors of shoppers in various countries. Five segments identify the most prevalent and regular shopper behaviors (see figure below). According to this framework, 6% of metro Indian online users fall into the Mobile Shoppers segment. In comparison, only 4% of online users in the US are Mobile Shoppers! Even the percentage of Super-Shoppers in India is more than twice that in the US.
Digital transformation will drive technology spending growth of 4.9%.Always-connected, technology-empowered customers are redefining sources of competitive advantage for AP organizations. In fact, 79% of business and technology decision-makers that Forrester surveyed indicated that improving the experience of technology-empowered customers will be a high or critical priority for their business in 2015. Similarly, 57% said that meeting consumers’ rising expectations was one of the reasons that they would spend more money on technology next year — the top reported reason for increased technology spending
India’s online retail market is on the radar of global investors and eCommerce players, which have announced investments topping $3.6 billion in the past three months, including $2 billion in Amazon, $1 billion in Flipkart, and potentially $650 million in Snapdeal. Growth in India’s online retail market is powered by its fast-growing smartphone penetration, as customers are increasingly using their mobile phones to buy products online. More than half of Snapdeal’s and Flipkart’s sales and nearly 35% of
2014 was a year of massive eCommerce investment in India. Flipkart raised $1 billion; Amazon announced it would invest $2 billion in its Indian subsidiary; and Snapdeal raised $234 million from private equity firms and an undisclosed additional sum from private investors. These three players are spending approximately 2 billion rupees ($33 million) this season on marketing — and a lot more on improving last-mile delivery and adding fulfillment centers to get a bigger piece of the sales pie.
Companies understand the urgency of ramping up their business technology (BT) capabilities to help the business innovate and grow. Increasingly, they realize that they cannot do this alone and firms will require partners that can help deliver agile services that bring fast and predictable outcomes to the business. For instance, Bharat Light and Power (BLP), one of the largest clean energy generation companies in India, signed in late 2013, a 10-year engagement with IBM to build a new business capability that aims at nothing short of transforming the utility sector in India. In a few words (more details are available in this report), BLP and IBM are creating an open energy service platform that will help BLP understand how to optimize the utilization of its wind turbines. The really interesting part for me lies in the way the company intends to leverage the information generated by this platform as the basis of its competitive advantage. The energy service platform will indeed act as an expertise repository that BLP can leverage to:
Increase the value of its own assets. As the company operates, grows, and optimizes its own asset efficiency, it learns how the climate, power grid, and wind turbines influence a vital business metric for a utility company: the plant load factor (PLF). This will allow the company to generate more revenues from its existing assets.
It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed since our last Summits for CIOs in Asia Pacific. Our team is ramping up preparations to this year’s CIO Summit series and I’m looking forward to meet you at the events which will kick off in Sydney on August 14, Singapore on August 19 and Mumbai on August 21. Themed “Beyond IT: Empower Digital Business in the Age of the Customer”, Forrester’s 2014 Summits will focus on the significant shift we’ve seen in CIO’s traditional focus from the design and deployment of internal systems focused on process control to digital products and services for their customers.
Of particular importance on the digital journey are three domains: customer experience, the mobile mind shift and the transformation of big data into actionable business insights. Each of these topics will feature prominently at the Summits with select analysts flown in to delve deeper into how CIOs can overcome some of these challenges through Forrester guidance.
My colleague Thomas Husson (Marketing Leadership) and I teamed up again to identify the most impactful and new mobile trends for 2014. (See the full report here.)
You might ask, "how does one decide what are going to be the big trends?" Good question. For me, there are several points of input. In 2013, I had the opportunity to interview close to 200 companies in the course of doing research for Forrester's next book, The Mobile Mind Shift, as well as for my own research. I spoke to some of the best and brightest enterprises (e.g., retailers, hotels), technology companies (e.g., sensors), and vendors in the United States, Europe, China, Australia, India, Japan, Korea, Canada, and beyond. I had the opportunity to do field research in China and Korea - to walk the streets, visit stores, observe consumers and interview executives about one of the most exciting mobile markets in the world. More than 40 of the interviews were in the exciting space of mobile health and wellness. Thomas and I surveyed several hundred mobile executives. I also collaborated with Thomas who has incredible breadth and depth of knowledge of Europe.