India’s long term economic growth rate has led to the emergence of a very powerful new consumer group, the Indian women, the sheer size of the population of which no business can afford to ignore. Working women in dual income households have contributed to its size and increased affluence. Luxehues.com outlines the online purchasing behaviour and trends of the modern Indian women.
While the growth of traditional retail in the lifestyle space has been dominated by categories for men in the past, the scenario will be very different going forward in the context of the new age woman shopper coupled with the rise of digital India. She brings in a different attitude towards life than what marketers have so far been used to believe. Marketers can no more afford to just pitch in purely ‘lady of the house’ category products to her ranging from instant noodles and baby care for her kids or utilities and grocery for the kitchen to shampoos and soaps for a glowing look. She leads a life of multiple roles with confidence and self-assurance while bearing her own distinct personality. It is a mix of identity and emotions that make her a force to reckon with.
The new age Indian woman is surely time starved but wouldn’t like to compromise on the quality of life she leads. Thus she manages her life seamlessly using various coping mechanisms around her.
ANATOMY OF ‘HER’ ONLINE PURCHASES
While the Indian woman has adopted the online way completely to manage some of the basic commercial activities like banking, travel booking, grocery, booking cabs and movie tickets, there is still a sizeable one-third of the affluent women base that is yet to use online to shop for more of the lifestyle kind of purchases. With only two-third of the affluent Indian women opting to shop for premium lifestyle goods online, it is important to understand their online preferences for lifestyle consumption in order to sharpen both the product offerings and marketing communications.
The market comprises a vast variety of offers straddling utility products and services. It also offers high end luxury brands and services. Consumers buy brands and services online for the convenience and value it offers.
Currently basic utility products and services are dominant categories purchased frequently across income strata though a lot of high-end purchases are also made by the affluent households.
A Delhi based home maker said, “Sometimes I don’t know where to buy from and then the best option to look for. For instance I recently bought a JBL speaker of 20K from Amazon because I needed it and didn’t know where to look for.”
THE GENDER BIAS IN ONLINE PURCHASES
Study findings show that women rather more than men patronise online and a majority had clear agendas for shopping. Close to 70 percent of women online shoppers end up shopping for lifestyle goods atleast once in 3-4 months while 40 percent of them tend to shop at least once a month. While the younger women, especially daughters from affluent households or single working women tend to be bargain hunters with a tendency to impulse purchase, the women aged 30-45 years are more planned in their online shopping spree. Their focus is rather on value and getting the stuff out of their “to-do list” be it for their homes or family.
A Delhi based consumer said, “I know many of my friends who are working buy ethnic suits, sarees and even gifts for wedding online because they just don’t have the time.”
Many of the women in the latter group also confessed that they too were prone to impulse shop online given the tempting offers and variety about 3-4 years back when a lot of fashion e-commerce players entered the Indian market with frenzy but today these women shoppers are far more balanced in their online spends. They approach online shopping with a “been there, done that” attitude.
ONLINE PURCHASES: THE TEMPTATION
Women cited several advantages of shopping online. Online channel opened up opportunities to shop for anything and everything. The variety of products and brands available were immense. It was like having all the world’s shops at one’s disposal to both buy from and window shop or browse. Online choices were wider than in stores especially for some product categories e.g., furniture and kids wear.
A creative consultant for many companies based in Africa and SE Asia said, “I love the whole convenience. I don’t like a lot of crowd. So the fact that I can sit in my own house and order whatever I desire. It is a kind of liberating feeling for me.”
Online shopping was also attractive, when quality stores were not around or were too far away. One customer based in Chennai mentioned, “If I’ve to buy my choice of cosmetics like Forest Essential, Kiehl or Clinique, I have to drive all the way to Phoenix Mall in Velachery. But ever since my sister informed me about this site called Nykaa, I’ve stopped going to the mall to just buy this.”
THE ONLINE FAVOURITES
While clothing as a category has emerged as the favourite pick of Indian women shopping online, most of them shop for fashion clothing meant for regular wear. Buyers prefer not to experiment online with the expensive occasional and designer wear while they seem completely at ease buying familiar brands online that they have used in the past. The easy and prompt return policies of most e-commerce sites also have facilitated this kind of shopping to grow by leaps and bounds. While younger women primarily shop for their own wardrobe, women in their 30’s and early 40’s are far more selective while shopping for themselves online though they don’t mind splurging and doing a bit of impulse shopping for their kids.
Women from affluent families prefer a combination of online and store purchases for themselves when it came to clothes, shoes and bags. While the online offers did not excite them enough to check out these sites on a regular basis, their online shopping was more need based and straight forward. They shopped for home décor products including small furniture items while they preferred to visit a store for more expensive purchases like a sofa set or dining table set.
Affluent Indian women who are time starved seem to be using the internet to become aware of high-end things like designer clothes and accessories, home entertainment and furniture that they would like to purchase, thus using the medium more for discovery and research rather than just shop online.
A Chennai based entrepreneur said, “I usually look for designs from the runway shows and then get my clothes made at a boutique by
showing them what exactly I want.”
Most women were not comfortable buying expensive jewellery online and prefer to buy these from a known store.
ONLINE TRADE-OFFS: BRAND VS PRICE
Affluent Indian women who shop online are brand conscious and while they may not be overtly price conscious, still opt for value buys online. The millennial shopped online purely driven by value while the matured women shopped for what they really wanted irrespective of the price. If there was already an offer on what they were looking for it was considered an added bonus.
Surprisingly, only a handful of premium lifestyle brand names enjoy top of the mind recall amongst online affluent shoppers. Gucci, Guess, Da Milano, Calvin Klein, Dior, Fabindia, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara, Forever 21, Forest Essential and Good Earth are few of the popular brands that are bought online. Thus while the universe of affluent Indian households is pegged somewhere at about three million who can be considered as potential consumers, the number of premium lifestyle brand names that these consumers are familiar with are too few. Given the conservatism of women to shop for expensive things online, there is much work to be done on the supply side to provide enough options and avenues to the buyers to choose from.
A young company director said, “I know I fit into a medium of Zara perfectly because they come with standard sizes these days. So suddenly if there is an online store of Zara offering some discount on the same dress because they don’t offer discount at the store, then I would buy online. Those kinds of things where you are sure of the size can happen online”.
MOST PREFERRED SHOPPING DESTINATIONS
Indian women shop for a variety of things online from groceries and home utilities to more expensive things like furniture, electronics and fashion wear. They prefer to shop online given their busy schedule and the traffic congestions in most metros and cities.
While there are preferred sites within a vertical like Big Basket for grocery, Urban Ladder and Fab Furnish for furniture, Nykka for cosmetics and Myntra for fashion wear, the most preferred site cutting across all categories seems to be Amazon. The site enjoys tremendous trust amongst all kinds of users.
While a few of them do browse the sites and discover things they need or might need in near future, how well and how quickly a site manages to fulfill the need via site navigation and search decides the percentage of returning visitors.
While the on-site experience matters a lot in closing the deal, return policies and timely refund, quick reverse pick-ups and most importantly the quality of the product received decide site popularity, returning visitors and of course a positive word-of-mouth for the site.
There are various reasons why some sites have emerged as preferred leaders. Most consumers find the variety of choice, ease of navigation, overall site interface and most importantly trust as the primary factors for choosing one site over another.
HOW MUCH DO WOMEN SPEND ONLINE?
Online consumers shopping for premium lifestyle segments usually start out small and keep going back to the same site over a period of time if they like the end-to-end of shopping experience on the site including post sales service aspects. Except for furniture purchase where the ticket size is much higher than other categories like clothing, fashion accessories, kids clothing and toys, most premium segment consumers tend to shop anywhere between 5-10K on an average. There are times when they end up shopping for more than `10,000 but this is owing to the number of items in the cart rather than individual items exceed the psychological threshold of `10,000.
One consumer said, “I mostly shop t-shirts and tops from Jabong but I would never buy an expensive dress online because I want to see how the dress looks on me, how good is the fitting and I want to see it before buying. But sometimes we do buy expensive things online. For instance, we have also bought a lot of expensive items for the house online. We bought a painting worth house was around 75K.
Most consumers buy items on a regular basis and the kind of merchandise they prefer seems to be in the range of `3,000-10,000. Given that nearly two- third of the online premium lifestyle segment shops for under `10,000 quite frequently, it becomes crucial for online players and brands to collaborate and bring in catalogues that are specially designed and priced for the online channel.
BARRIERS TO SHOP ONLINE
While there are plenty of e-stores offering nearly everything that is available at a retail brand store or multi-brand outlet, the question remains to be answered as to why are consumers selective in the kind of merchandise they prefer to shop online.
While the younger generation was quite adept at shopping online, this lot mostly splurged on value fashion wear. On the other hand, the slightly mature consumer preferred to opt for the touch-and-feel experience at the store when shopping was related to very personal items like occasional wear, expensive jewellery, high end bags and shoes or big furniture items for the house.
NEED FOR CREATING BRAND AWARENESS FOR THE NICHE AND THE NEW
There is no doubt that online and digital media can help expand the market by reaching out to various target groups in the future. There is a clear need to educate consumers about a brand, its heritage and quality. Thus brands have to consciously invest in content that can be easily disseminated via the digital medium to create the initial awareness and the desire.
AUTHENTICITY OF ONLINE PURCHASES
Online purchase is still perceived as somewhat risky and cumbersome especially if high value items need to be returned and unlike stores, this creates a trust deficit.
It will become crucial to provide for home trials and some kinds of certification from the brands guaranteeing authenticity. E-stores will have to closely collaborate with premium brands in terms of marketing visibility efforts and content creation to drive home the fact that they are working directly with brands to deliver ‘authentic’ products to consumers.