Snapdeal is one of the leading e-commerce platforms in India today, boasting a wide assortment of over 35 million products across more than 800 diverse categories. This includes an incredible collection of over 125,000 regional, national, as well as international brands and retailers.
With millions of users and over 300,000 sellers, Snapdeal is the shopping destination for internet users across India, delivering to over 6000 cities and towns!
To further power its influence and growth in the market, Snapdeal is moving towards building an omnichannel ecosystem in India through new initiatives and acquisitions. Called Janus after the Roman God of beginnings, transitions, gates, doors and doorways, the omnichannel ecosystem blurring the distinction between online and offline. Snapdeal’s customers now benefit from the online discovery of products and same day hyper-local fulfillment with value added services.
Innovation is everywhere interviewd Badal Malick, the Vice President – Head of Omnichannel, Snapdeal for further insights on Snapdeal’s key to success.
As an overall business leader, he led the design and implementation of a first-of-its-kind “hybridized commerce” ecosystem to enable online-offline transactions in India.
Innovation is Everywhere (“IIEV”): In your talk, you mentioned that 99% of shopping is still offline in India, has that powered Snapdeal’s decision to launch the first omnichannel platform in India?
Badal Malick: Yes indeed. India has certain contextual factors that are important to be understood in crafting the right e-commerce strategy. First, there’s a significant trust deficit when it comes to arm’s length transactions, which has in turn shaped buyer behavior.
Second, retail is still a very local experience, as reflected in the highly fragmented retailer landscape (more than 96% are mom & pop shops without any online presence). Third, it’s not a DIY culture, but very service-centric one.
When considered alongside a survey that we did, we discovered that while 1/3 of our own visitors saw price as the main determining factor in purchasing decisions, another 1/3 were more service-centric, interested in faster delivery, easier returns, the ability to touch & feel, or other value added services. The last 1/3 were more mystifying and could lean either way. Hence, the strategy adopted by our omnichannel platform has sought to address these customer needs by offering a comprehensive and engaging customer experience.
IIEV: How have these drivers factored into your omnichannel strategy then? Do you have any examples?
Badal Malick: Mobile phones were one of the first categories we selected to roll out this platform. This has been achieved through our partnership with The Mobile Store, a pan-national retail chain. We noticed that for products like mobile phones, a large majority of customers actually follows up their online purchase with an in-store visit to access related services such as data transfer, SIM resizing, screen guard installation, etc.
We wanted to provide all of this as part of a single, seamless shopping journey. Now, in 70 cities across India, customers have the option to purchase a phone on Snapdeal, and pick it up or get it delivered from the nearest TMS store within 2 hours with expert services. Tying it back to the context of India, despite the lack of a DIY culture, Snapdeal has seen a 20% share of pickups versus deliveries for its Mobile Store Model, suggesting that the omnichannel approach has managed to fulfill (distinct) customer needs.
IIEV: Very interesting! But how do you ensure availability of inventory and proper fulfillment so customers get the right experience?
Badal Malick: Our platform is integrated with our partner retailer operations — either through APIs or through the cloud. We pass the order details to partners after checking for availability and serviceability, and even then continue to closely monitor fulfillment service-level agreements (“SLAs”). We’re still very much learning and improving, but our true north is to create a frictionless experience for both buyers and sellers.
IIEV: So what would be your advice for success within this space?
Badal Malick: Three aspects are integral: the right partnerships to build businesses, the right tech-and-ops to enable, and the right policies & processes to govern.
The company should not only be focused on finding the right partners but also in aligning strategic objectives and clarifying roles & responsibilities up front. This is a long road and requires the right foundations to weather the challenges inherent.
One also needs to be hard-nosed on how to deliver value. A cookie-cutter approach will not work, as one needs to tailor solutions to address category dynamics and seller capabilities. A seamless product experience is essential. Customers need to understand the new value proposition and how to avail it intuitively. For sellers too, this needs to enhance and not disrupt their existing work flows as well as business models.
Lastly, since the customer-seller interface is dis-intermediated under this model, we need well-defined rules, tools and processes to manage it. These range from fulfillment SLAs to seller training & due diligence in product & behavior analytics.
IIEV: Do you have any thoughts on how India’s e-commerce landscape will evolve in the near future?
Badal Malick: The last phase was about gaining a stronghold in the market, and I think 3-4 players have distinguished themselves as credible players. I suspect the next phase will be about developing sustainable business models and value propositions that will drive more customer loyalty. Omnichannel is one of a few large bets placed on the future of retail & payments.