E-commerce in India has been a hotbed of activity lately. Many e-commerce companies have seen multiple rounds of funding from top private equity firms and from prominent Indian business leaders.
What makes e-commerce in India so exciting is the spectacular growth that the industry is seeing with some of the companies having grown at least 10x in the last 3 years.
The entire consumer experience is seeing a major transformation through greater product choice, more transparent pricing and an unmatched convenience of shopping from the comforts of one’s home. The industry will continue taking giant strides with growing consumer confidence and an intensifying rate of internet adoption.
Buying online is fundamentally different from buying from a physical store as face-to-face interaction between seller and consumer is non-existent. On one hand, buying online offers great convenience, on the other, there is an absence of personalized assistance which one normally gets in a physical store.
Furthermore, e-commerce companies have goods stocked in decentralized locations with the consumer getting possession of the products typically only a few days later via a logistics provider. The ‘reach’ that ecommerce companies potentially have is truly enormous. So long as it’s a serviceable area for the logistics provider, the e-commerce company would consider it as their target market. Due to economies of scale, the online stores are also able to offer dynamic discounts across categories. And from the point of view of marketing in such an environment, it needs to be almost real time and very agile.
Cloud Communications can be an important enabler in helping e-com companies in ensuring there is personalized consumer engagement ‘throughout’ the purchase cycle and also in executing effective and near real-time marketing campaigns. Cloud Communications solutions which predominantly comprise of SMS, Voice and E-mail communication channels form an indispensable link between the ‘faceless’ seller and the consumer. Periodic and timely communication goes a long way in building consumer confidence and also giving him the much needed visibility in terms of order status.
With the ever growing usage of smart phones and personal computers with internet connections, e-commerce companies have been able to bridge these service gaps considerably by sending service updates and other communication. This is typically done via the company’s smart phone app, e-mail, SMS, automated voice calls, customer care centre etc.
Despite a steady rate of adoption of smart phones and computers with internet connections, it is interesting to note that a vast majority of users in India still do not have an active internet connection and the ones that do, only have an intermittent access to internet. And in some cases the connection may not be always reliable. Needless to say, the ubiquitous basic ‘feature phone’ has the highest user density amongst all the types of phones.
Communication through SMS and Voice channels is delivered directly to the end user without being filtered by spam filters as is commonly seen in the case of e-mail. These two modes are also not dependent on internet connectivity thus making them a near fool-proof way in ensuring that all the important communications from the e-commerce companies reach the consumer. There can be numerous use-cases of using Cloud Communications in e-commerce.
The moment a product is bought online, an SMS is sent to the customer, confirming the purchase. And when a first time buyer chooses the Cash on Delivery mode of payment, an automated voice call is made to the user where he is required to double confirm the order. This verification process greatly eliminates the processing of frivolous sales orders and hence helps companies in saving time and effort.
With up to 80% of the online buyers preferring COD, this becomes an invaluable tool in cutting costs that are incurred with processing of phony orders. When the product gets dispatched, another communication is sent to the buyer that the product has been dispatched. It has complete details on the consignment to enable them to track it effortlessly and also to cut their dependency on the customer care centre in knowing the consignment status.
When the product is about to be delivered, another update is sent informing about the date and the time-frame of delivery. This communication ensures that during the designated time the customer is available at the delivery address and doesn’t miss collecting the order. This saves everybody time, reduces the cost of delivery and also importantly reduces the cash collection cycle in case of a COD.
From the point of view of customer service, to track the overall customer satisfaction, either of SMS, interactive Automated Voice Call or e-mail is sent, where the user can readily and easily share the feedback. This communication serves a great purpose in customer engagement and also enabling positive end sales experience by taking feedback about the service. So with every purchase there are various kinds of communication that are sent out to the consumer to keep him fully updated and engaged and also to help the company cut numerous operational expenses.
E-commerce companies have also been increasingly using SMS, Voice and e-mail solutions for theirmarketing activities. Where the communication is intended to be succinct, just-in-time and also evoke a customer response; SMS or Voice could be the most appropriate mediums. An example of such a communication is informing the shoppers about a ‘deal of the day’ or undertaking a ‘flash sale’.
Communicating on SMS or Voice, to a targeted audience would perhaps get higher responses when compared to other modes of communication where the chances of the customer getting to read the message ‘after’ the deal is over, are more. As a business requirement, there might be a need to urgently liquidate a portion of the inventory. These solutions enable e-commerce companies to conceptualize and even roll-out a deal, all on the same day. This is possible because the lead-time for executing these campaigns using SMS and Voice modes is considerably shorter.
Also since compared with tradition mediums, the campaign costs on SMS and Voice are comparatively much lower; one can expect a ready ROI. The probability of non-delivery of the communication using these channels is extremely less and that’s one of the reasons why numerous enterprises continue to depend heavily on SMS and Automated Voice Calls for end-user communication.
As e-commerce continues to evolve, there would be newer learnings along the way and e-com companies would explore newer and more innovative ways to engage with their customers. Cloud Communications would be a critical enabler to this end. Customers becoming more tech savvy and with an easy access to affordable smartphones, will further the prospects of the e-commerce industry. E-commerce players will continue to leverage Cloud Communications both as a basic necessity of operation and as a seamless aid to enhance overall customer experience.
CEO – Unicel Technologies
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