Current industry efforts as well as government initiatives like Digital India are expanding the reach of Internet connectivity beyond urban and suburban centres
Considered revolutionary in India just a few years ago, e-commerce is now a regular part of the life of the digital consumer. The increasing penetration of smart devices, broadband and 3G/4G has led to an ever-increasing consumer base that enjoys the convenience of on-demand services at their fingertips. In fact, according to global research firm eMarketer, India is expected to overtake the US as the second largest market for smartphones in 2016, with over 200 million devices.
Relative to its large population, India’s Internet penetration is low (19% in 2014), but also very fast growing. Current industry efforts as well as government initiatives like Digital India are expanding the reach of Internet connectivity
beyond urban and suburban centres to include the Indian rural population, which offers its own market potential. In addition, three quarters of this demographic is of prime shopping age—between 15 to 34 years especially when combined with rising disposable incomes in India. All this paints a very bright picture for the Indian e-commerce scene.
Leading e-tailers are gearing up to take advantage of the enormous market potential indicated by these numbers in order to grow and consolidate their market shares, while the newer players are trying to use innovation and technology to make their mark.
Sources peg the e-commerce market at $22 billion for the fiscal year 2016, and this is expected to grow tenfold by the year 2030. Naturally, the competition is stiff for such a lucrative market, and the companies that leverage technology to the maximum are the ones that will come out ahead.
E-tailers are coming out with more and more sophisticated and customised apps designed to maximise the customer experience, which is the most compelling way to attract and retain the mobile customer. To support and sustain these apps, and the traffic they drive, e-tailers need an extremely robust and versatile IT platform that is
capable of handling varying degrees of load.
For example, during the holiday seasons, festive offers bring in large numbers of online shoppers looking for deep discounts. The e-commerce platform has to be able to support this load which taxes each link of the workflow. But soon after the holidays, the load is likely to drop steeply to a fraction of the peak time traffic.
In addition to the quantity of traffic, the platform also has to be able to support a variety of mobile end points and technologies. Companies like Flipkart are actively pushing their customer base to move to the app model by
offering app-only deals and discounts. And there are innovative gadgets being developed all the time, which could be leverage by e-commerce. For example, Google Glass could instantly convert someone on the street into a customer by identifying and locating an outfit that they spot on a passer-by. Cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) are also gaining acceptance and e-tailers have to be prepared to be able to support this form of commerce.
Understanding, adopting and maintaining constantly changing technology is a mammoth task for even tech companies. For e-tailers, it makes sense to partner with companies that offer comprehensive solution stacks that are developed to handle all aspects of commerce and technology.
The more successful and established e-commerce players are benefitting from leveraging cloud computing services. It allows them just-in-time capacity management to address surges in load without capex investments, specifically with pay-per-use plans that accommodate unpredictable workloads.
In addition to managing traffic in real time to ensure customers have a smooth purchasing experience, e-tailers must leverage and mine data so they can customise and target each customer’s shopping experience. Data analytics allows them to target electronic campaigns, search engine optimisation and marketing (SEO and SEM), and customise landing pages based on the profile provided by their business analytics. Data has to be aggregated and analysed across all business functions: sales, customer enquiries and support, customer search patterns, and post-sales.
This only underlines the importance of picking the right technology partner—one that can provide nose-to-tail solutions starting with infrastructure all the way up to business analytics for the best customer experience. A flexible and sustainable platform lowers ROI and costs and allows companies to focus on their business goals
without worrying about the supporting technology.
SHAILENDER KUMAR IS MANAGING DIRECTOR, ORACLE INDIA