Only half a decade ago online shopping seemed like a choice of the elite. People who had the extra money to afford technology and patience to try something new would make purchases online for books or mobile phone accessories. Today, that story seems like a haze. It feels as if, in India, online shopping was a part of our culture. As if, getting your groceries delivered to your doorstep while you cozily laze on the living room couch had always been an option. For some, it’s as common as walking up to your local kirana store.
So, what brought this rapid change? In short, it was the rapid advent of online marketplaces that made it possible to sell online. Which in turn allowed customers from across the country to buy almost everything they needed, at nearly the same time as it would take for them to go and pick it up from a store, sometimes even faster.
As demand grew, more businesses began to show interest. It was unique new channel that so many different businesses – sellers, distributers, manufacturers, resellers, budding entrepreneurs and large scale businesses – began to use. They also realized there were certain advantages that came with this new medium. There was no haggling. Without a need for a prime-location physical storefront, the investment involved was significantly lower.
To encourage more participation, online marketplaces try to make it easy to set up an online store. If we were to break down the process, an online seller needs to go through 5 simple steps (irrespective of marketplace):
Step 1: Register To Sell Online
You’ll commonly find every online marketplace has a dedicated selling website with a link to register. In truth, all one needs is some of their basic business documents like GSTN, business email ID, etc. to start selling online. E.g. Amazon makes it easier for potential online sellers to start out with their Start Selling Guide. You’ll find more and more businesses are becoming open to the idea of selling online – many even basing their entire business models around it.
Step 2: Catalogue Your Products
A seller needs to display his entire catalog of products online, full of all the details and images a customer might consider before making a purchase. It’s a one-time effort that pays dividends in terms of customer reach – E.g. Amazon reported upto 99.3% of India’s pincodes can order a product listed on their website. And thanks to the growing demand of online selling, there’s a wide variety of service providers to whom this task can be outsourced.
Step 3: Pick Your Shipping Option
An offline seller might consider the product delivery to be the toughest task, but e-commerce websites have put in a lot of effort to make this easier. While a seller can choose to do everything on his own, ecommerce marketplaces will give him/her solutions that range from product storage (warehousing), packing, shipping and handling customer support.
Step 4: Link Your Bank Account For Payments
Offline selling businesses tend to be credit-based systems. Depending on where a seller is in the supply chain, they might end up regularly chasing people for payments. This makes the regular payment cycles of online selling a big bonus. Once the bank account is linked, the net income from sales are electronically deposited to a seller’s bank account on a regular basis (commonly 7-days), even for those that were cash on delivery. This tremendously reduces the hassles of money management and gives the seller a lot more time to focus on business growth.
Step 5: Manage The Business Via A Smartphone App
While this is optional – it makes business management convenient. Being able to access live numbers relating to how your business is doing from anywhere via smartphone can be a huge advantage, even more so when you can do some basic business actions remotely. The utility of it is also evident in the adoption of selling apps. E.g. more than half the sellers on Amazon now use their Seller App and with improvement statistics such as a 30% faster response rate to customer inquiries, one can guess why such apps are so popular.
More and more businesses are taking interests in online selling. With growing demand and major players investing heavily in it, it would be interesting to watch how this space grows over the coming years.
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