India may be slower to accrue digital sales, but don’t discount the impact of the Web on offline sales.
Yes, online sales made up less than 1 percent of total retail sales in India in 2014, but the “emergence of smartphones and the mobile Internet is playing a much bigger role in influencing the purchase decisions of online users.”
“Customers are using (online sites) to research products, even when they are shopping in physical stores; to compare prices with online retailers; to check specifications; and to read user reviews. This user behavior is making the Web a more powerful medium — one that retailers can no longer ignore,” according to recent Forrester research. “It is most influential in categories like computer hardware and software, media, footwear, apparel, and consumer electronics, as these contain a greater number of online-savvy retailers.”
The Forrester Research Web-Influenced Retail Sales Forecast, 2014 To 2019 for India suggests that “$70 billion in offline sales in India will be influenced by the Web in 2019. This is more than twice the volume of total online retail sales in India, emphasizing the importance of the Web as a way for retailers to connect with customers.”
How to measure the web’s influence? It depends what consumers are looking to buy.
“Retailers selling books, music, and mobile phones are struggling to survive due to the emergence of online retail,” notes Forrester. “This wave of change is also starting to affect consumer electronics, computer hardware, apparel, and footwear retailers. We expect the apparel and accessories category to see the largest web impact by 2019, followed by consumer electronics and grocery.”
Forrester believes brands and marketers need to take the ubiquity of smartphones seriously. It means, according to the research firm, that “customers are researching anywhere and at any time, and they expect a consistent experience across all channels.”