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“No one said this would be easy, and despite their behaving like magnets where like poles repel one another, content and commerce are destined to come together in a conflicted truce” CMSwire.com

Amid various challenges, ecommerce in India is still thriving and is absolutely bound to grow even bigger in the coming times. With all the action happening in the digital world, there is a fundamental shift taking place. Quite a few commerce brands are seeing their margins shrink further due to deep discounting while their acquisition costs are skyrocketing. While the future of ecommerce is changing, there is an emerging trend where customers are looking for a deep engaging user experience. The competitive prices, quick delivery and choice of products offered by commerce platforms is increasingly becoming a hygiene factor and no longer serves as a core differentiator. Whether consumers buy online or offline, they are largely driven by an engaging user experience that influences what they purchase.

To win in this competitive market, it is becoming increasingly important to strike a balance between content and commerce as they are completely interdependent. The right combination and integration of credible content and commerce can create a winning difference to build the audience and create a unique experience for the end users. Content establishes trust and our social interaction with the people we trust for recommendations greatly influences what we buy.

It is becoming increasingly important to connect with the consumers through a content centric approach. A large majority of consumers who buy offline make their buying decisions online and a key driver influencing their purchase is consumption of credible content alongwith a community centric experience which eventually leads to a purchase.

As per the figures from Quietly, in 2016 approximately 80 percent of the U.S.A population of ages 15 and above prefers online shopping, of which more than two-thirds look out for a smooth and integrated online purchase experience. This implies that the millennial consumers show a strong preference for content to be positioned at the forefront of e-commerce. According to the study, 90 percent of consumers believe that relevant and quality content helps in making useful purchasing decisions and consumers are further willing to and are incentivised to pay even more with the assurance of having an enhanced customer experience.

A well-known beauty brand, Violet Grey describes itself as: “a discerning curation of beauty products, tips and inspiration deemed essential by the industry experts who know best”. The brand has been interviewing Hollywood insiders about their go-to beauty products, and the products can be purchased through Violet Grey. To consider another example, that of a Famous smoke shop, which is known to be a secure e-retailer of famous cigars, relies on interactive content in order to combine e-commerce and content while retailing cigars. These websites help understand the immense importance and respect the brand content holds and how it majorly influences the e-commerce transaction. The thought has also been absorbed and imbibed by both multinational and multichannel players in travel industry. “One of the things we’re trying to figure out strategically is how to tap into consumers earlier in the inspiration or planning phase,” Expedia.

Leaving the west aside, If you were to analyse a regular buying experience, usually the first step involved is ‘research’ about what to buy followed by where to buy it from. This is true for most types of our purchases whether we want to buy the latest dress-in-trend for the next party or changing the décor of the house. Consuming the right type of content plays a pivotal role in the buying process. Every potential consumer consumes some information before he/she makes a purchase. This usually is followed by the choice of place where we want to buy it from.

This becomes even more relevant in the category of gadgets where most of the important purchases are driven by recommendations and reviews. A gadget purchase is usually not driven out of impulse; a consumer likes to buy a phone or a laptop which resonates with their needs and preferences not just because there is a discount. You buy if you like what you are buying, if you have researched the basics. Additionally, if you are getting a good value for money deal on the chosen product, you are further inclined to buy. Discounting therefore becomes a secondary factor most of the times, rather than a primary factor.

Content and commerce are decisively inter-dependent and the quality of content also becomes an especially important component in the gadgets sector. Content therefore plays an influential role for hybrid business models that are looking to build credibility in the digital world. The beauty of content lies in the fact that it is oriented to an unbiased opinion on the use, functionality and features of a product.

The e-commerce space is exploding with new players entering the segment with great frequency. The future of e-commerce is therefore changing and it is imperative to focus on the entire customer journey through a hybrid approach from the opinion building to product discovery to transaction. From a long-term perspective of sustaining stability, brands must start analyzing and understanding the customer needs through active engagements and customize their offerings to be able match up to their expectations.

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Bhawna Agarwal serves as the CEO for the tech e-commerce venture Gadgets 360. Being a woman techie in a field dominated by men, Bhawna has truly carved a niche for herself. With over 17 years of experience in leading start-ups of the country, Bhawna is an award winning digital leader and entrepreneur, who was instrumental in creating India’s first online travel portal – IndiaTimes Travel, that proved to be the precursor to the launch of the online travel industry. Since then, Bhawna has been instrumental in setting and scaling up leading brands such as Yatra.com, Seventymm among others, and is also on the advisory boards of OYO Rooms and VentureFund. She is very active across the start-up ecosystem in India and is a member of various forums, where she is involved in mentoring digital start-ups and nurturing entrepreneurship. In addition to consulting, Bhawna is a guest lecturer at leading B-schools in the country, a keynote speaker at industry conferences on digital and e-commerce, and is on the advisory board of a few ventures helping accelerate their journey to commercial success.

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