Thursday, March 27, 2014

Online Shopping Woes & Upsides (India)

I don't recall the first time that I shopped online but I faintly recall doing it to buy books off Flipkart. The thought of discovering and owning original books at reasonable prices lured me to start shopping from Flipkart. I think it's an amazing concept till date. Next, I had purchased a domain online for one of my friends as a gift on her birthday. A lot of domain & hosting purchases followed. Shortly after that, I started shopping for jewellery online and had a very bad experience with when they did not replace my damaged earrings.

And it's only been a few months since I started shopping for clothes online. What stopped me from doing so earlier was the fact that you couldn't try the clothes on, and it was hard to tell what would look good on you just by looking at the clothes online, not to mention the difference in colour. But when ecommerce retailers came up with this amazing return policy, where you could return the outfit within 30 days if you didn't like it / if it didn't fit you, or you could try it on and return on-the-spot, things got a lot easier and I safely ordered about 4-5 dresses for my birthday, 2 of which I liked best and the rest, I returned with the money refunded to me in no time.

Just last week, dad was checking out grocery stores online and was discussing it with mom on whether we should give it a shot. It would surely reduce trips to the market, thus saving time. Plus, with the number of cashback & payback offers with almost every other product that is bought online these days, it was also saving us some money.

A lot of Indians are still skeptical about shopping online. At first, it was because of the stigma associated with online transactions, whether it is safe to deal with money online. I have been a victim of credit card fraud and though I wasn't charged for the amount after I filed a complaint, I haven't activated my replaced credit card since. I do shop online a lot though- for recharging my phone, to renew domain names and I use my debit card in a lot of places offline too. But my mom almost never uses hers. The online frauds that show up in the papers are enough to scare her. The ecommerce retailers came up with a solution for this - Cash On Delivery. I'd think online sales have doubled ever since they came up with that.

But there was another problem to deal with - trust, personal touch. Wouldn't we like to buy from people we know? Don't we like to feel the products we are buying - whether they are mobile phones or clothes? Return policies served the purpose but that still wasn't enough to push people to give online shopping a try.

So now, we have discount coupons, cashbacks and free items (for instance, a free pair of sunglasses with a camera or a watch free with a mobile phone).

That's right - online shopping didn't serve one major Indian shopping habit - bargain. Freebies and discounts compensate for it totally.

Also, after ecommerce have started attacking social networking sites, they are forced to better their services to maintain brand reputation.

This November 2013 infographic tells us how much online shopping has grown in the recent years in India:

e-commerce(Retail) in India

But online shopping still has one major concern - return policies can have loopholes and customer care can be non-responsive or careless. I am still waiting to hear from YepMe on what they have to say about my damaged earrings. Returning a product at an offline shop is much faster & easier. Customer care is almost never required.

Shopping in the comfort of your home may have these downsides but if this also means you can shop for anything under the sun with just an internet connection, I guess the risk is worth it. Saves you so much time and often, money.

I have slowly learnt to strike a bargain between the two. A lot of times, especially when buying electronics, I usually look for online reviews, look for the best price available and then walk into an offline store to test the product out. If the product is offered for the same price, I buy it offline and if there is a lot of difference in price, I buy the same product online if I have liked it after testing it.

So, I get the best of both worlds. And even though I've had a couple of bad experiences, I can say I am a happy shopper.

This post is a part of the Shop, only to Save More! Activity by in association with

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