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.
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.
In 2012, the number of smartphone subscribers worldwide passed the 1 billion mark, primarily due to adoption in North America and Europe. But the focus of the smartphone market is now shifting toward Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (MEA), and Latin America. These three regions, which are home to 84% of the world’s population, will contribute a significant proportion of the next 2.5 billion subscribers, which Forrester believes will happen by 2019. According to our recently published Forrester Research World Mobile and Smartphone Adoption Forecast, 2014 to 2019 (Global), Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing region in terms of subscribers with a CAGR of 14%, followed by MEA, and Latin America. Some of the findings from the forecast:
Low-cost smartphones are turning feature phone subscribers into smartphone subscribers. Chinese companies such as iocean, JiaYu, Meizu, Xiaomi, and Zopo and Indian players like Karbon and Micromax are flooding the market with sub-$200 Android-based smartphones. Declining smartphone prices and shrinking feature phone product lines have contributed to a steep rise in smartphone subscriptions: More than 46% of mobile subscribers owned a smartphone in 2013, compared with 9% in 2009. By 2019, we expect that 85% of all mobile subscribers will have smartphones.
The focus is shifting to India. India is the fastest-growing market for smartphones; as such, it’s attracting most of the focus from vendors. Gionee, Huawei, Konka, Lenovo, Xiaomi, and ZTE have recently entered the market, and Google launched its Android One program in partnership with Indian companies to provide sub-$100 Android phones.