Why 15 years of online shopping is making me see red

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I still freshly remember my first e-commerce transaction on bazee.com in the year 2000. I had bought a remote control wrist watch for Rs. 425. I paid through a cheque deposited in the bank directly into the seller’s account. I was very excited to buy it. However, I never received the product. But the disappointment didn’t discourage me to buy online.

A lot has changed in last 15 years in the e-commerce space. It feels like a whole new eco-system is being built around the e-commerce business. Faster internet speed, matured supplier base, lots of technology companies, eager investors, many logistics companies, and the most important are the curious and informed buyers.

Let me share my part of story as a buyer. I have been making purchases from almost all the popular e-commerce portals in India. A lot has changed in my behavior as a buyer.

I have become a bargain seeker: It used to take less than 10 minutes earlier for me to make a buying decision. I have even bought a laptop and expensive mobile handsets in quick time. Now I do not make any purchase unless I am sure that I am getting a good bargain. I take time to browse through multiple websites and sometimes even visit physical stores to compare the prices.

I don’t trust etailers’ service and product quality anymore: I have almost stopped buying expensive products online. Based on my personal experience, I think there is 30-40% probability of getting poor quality product if bought online. And then it takes quite some time and efforts to get it replaced. The service levels have gone from bad to worse. E-commerce companies conveniently put two to three weeks of delivery time period unless you subscribe to their premier delivery services. If I place my order today I am not sure when it will come?

Yet, poor and unreliable service hasn’t discouraged me to shop online. Now I buy only low value, not-so-urgently required products online and that too through Cash on Delivery (COD) option. COD gives me the flexibility to change my mind if I don’t get the ordered products in the reasonable time without worrying about the wire refunds status.

I use e-commerce portals more for knowledge gathering: Due to bad experience on product quality and service, I now buy expensive products at physical stores only. E-commerce portals help in identifying various product options and prevalent prices in the market. I have become a much more informed buyer now when I go to physical stores.

I have stopped buying unnecessary items: I think this has come with experience of buying for many years now. E-commerce is an enticing thing. It prompts people to buy things which are not required. I have almost 50% of books in my personal library which I haven’t even started reading so far.

Let me also tell you the possible reasons for the change in my buying habit or what we can call, the drivers of behavioral changes:

Lots of buying options: There are hundreds of e-commerce sites selling same products at different price points and service offerings.

Quality is second priority for etailers: Most etailers are under revenue pressure from their investors so their primary focus is on selling. Quality of products and services (delivery time, after-sales) are second priority for them.

Physical stores are ramping up: Physical stores have finally woken up to realize etailers are a big threat to their existence. Physical stores are matching prices offered by etailers and are offering the products with superior services.

Whatever the reason for change in my buying behavior on e-commerce sites, I am still a firm believer of the e-commerce business model. I am sure that etailers will take note of these changes and will take steps to reach the next level of maturity.

 

About the author

Haresh Panjavani is a Management Consultant with a leading multinational company in Mumbai. He can be found on twitter @linkharesh and reached at haresh.panjavani@gmail.com

 

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