The rural Indian and semi-urban market is like an unexplored territory that e-commerce businesses are trying to explore. This market carries an unseen potential that can benefit the e-commerce sector to a great extent. With robust marketing strategies, we can see some significant changes in the rural and semi-urban sectors.
Introduction to e-Commerce
India is embracing e-commerce trends more rapidly and is setting a benchmark for the development and progress of urban and rural economies with increasing internet penetration, evolving customer behavior, and improvising digital payment infrastructure. It is likewise expected that the e-commerce market in India will grow manifold by 2021. This is due to a significant rise in online shopping culture, localization of services and products, extensive use of smartphones, and widespread internet use across the country’s rural and semi-urban segments.
It has also been observed that semi-urban and rural markets are giving e-commerce a boost to expand, grow, and nurture in these areas.
As per the current situation, Indian e-commerce site sales are overwhelmed by baby supplies, footwear, clothing, jewelry, watches, toys, cosmetics, health products, educational services, and mobile phones. Other important factors, such as digital payments, hyper-logistics, and analytics-driven customer engagement, are critical factors for India’s e-commerce sector’s growth.
Recent Trends that Impact E-Commerce in India
The Enhanced Mobile Shopping Experience
It is known that the traffic generated on online shopping sites from mobile phones is ten times greater than that on desktops. The number of mobile shoppers has significantly increased, and if they experience the slightest glitch, they will not hesitate to purchase from the competition. To make it a more seamless effort, visual content should be utilized, such as infographics, and videos should be preferred over lengthy texts.
Augmented reality is the new and more enhanced way consumers can see and feel a product. By improving the customer experience with the help of technologies, the customer can make better purchase decisions. This will boost the sale revenue and will also allow customers to explore other features of the products.
Secure Payment Gateway
To provide a better shopping experience, it is vital to provide a comfortable and hassle-free payment network. Electronic payment has grown tremendously over the last decade to offer secure online payment transactions. Options like pay on delivery encourage customers to swipe the cards, and it is gaining momentum.
India displays a multicultural economy, and so it is quintessential to understand what works where. Through personalization, customers can be easily segmented and categorized as per their buying patterns. These days, customers expect e-commerce companies to predict their buying patterns and suggest other products.
This gives a huge opportunity as well as a potential for customized marketing and advertising. The website translation can also serve as a boon for the rural economy. MoxVeda is one such platform that gives you an option to add multiple languages to your website.
Similarly, Process9 Technologies is a software company that is an expert in language localization technology. In this way, they can connect better to the non-English speaking population. MoxWave also provides cloud-based translation solutions and is supported by 9 Indian languages.
Known Hidden Markets
On account of the internet and mobile phones, the semi-urban communities and the rural areas are progressively turning into web-based business goliaths. This can be because of the rising family unit wages prompting an expansion in the utilization of new items, consumption, and broadened income sources from non-rural activities, positive agricultural outlook, and increment in internet penetration alongside a rising family number units in rural India.
Scope of E-Commerce in Rural & Urban Geographies
The e-commerce sector in rural areas can help the small industries explore new opportunities by assisting them in getting their products online and paving a flourishing path for their business. Due to the widespread use of the internet, Indian rural territories have made many products accessible. It has also created a substantial scope for rural consumers to adapt to a better way of living.
The growth of Indian postal and transportation services has connected areas’ remotest to reach the desired people. The establishment of logistics channels has made it easier and faster for the supply network to flourish. Since most internet users are youth, e-commerce has dramatically altered their lifestyle and is generating brand new opportunities.
These days, a large number of post offices in remote rural areas and semi-urban areas are well connected to expedite the delivery of a large number of goods to the designated customers, despite the far-fetched locations. E-commerce is increasingly getting involved in establishing a strong network to make our country digital through a distribution channel. The different e-commerce sites and stores may even use third-party services or can use the option of establishing their network of delivery for these locations.
E-commerce Channelizing Growth in Rural & Semi-urban India
Numerous e-commerce business giants, for example, Amazon, Shopclues, Flipkart, Myntra, and innumerable others, are getting an outstanding share of the revenue from the rural areas. The rural population is picking up advantages from the online conveyance framework. With the entrance of services like the internet and cell phones, most rural people utilize versatile applications and PCs to purchase their goods. The essential merchandise in demand are utensils, hardware, child items, etc.
An exciting fact about different orders from far off areas is that there are fewer odds of returning the products because people order just the most basic essential items. This, in a way, is saving expenses on the delivery network for the organization because people are less invested in taking the ordered products back.
Specific organizations are turning out effectively for rural areas. They have likewise evolved creative website design and work, taking into account the rural regions’ expectations of the consumers and internet connectivity issues.
The extent of internet business has ascended for the country and semi-urban area as online shopping has become a significant pattern in the previous few years. A great many people are currently disposed to exploit different administrations from online stages. The longing shift in individuals’ lifestyle in rural areas has led to the diversified scope of online markets in rural areas.
Benefits of E-Commerce in Rural & Semi-urban Sectors
In the past few years, there has been a colossal growth in the digital India program. Most of the villages are united via optical fibre, driving the internet’s presence in almost every village. Due to the ubiquitous fact of the internet, rural people are gaining the substantial advantage of online services, which has dramatically transformed their lifestyle and generated employment opportunities.
Areas Where E-Commerce is Shining
- Household sector
Due to the progress of the e-commerce sector in the rural parts of India, many people are now getting household goods at their doors, and due to this, there is an increasing shift in their lifestyle. This has added tremendous value for small-town consumers. Since the process of return is less in rural areas, the logistics cost is also less than the urban parts of the country.
- Handicrafts sector
The handicrafts sector is the source of revenue for many individuals in rural regions. Many rural populations, particularly ladies, produce different sorts of handicrafts materials and goods by using varied agro-based materials and generating income simultaneously. These things are likewise accessible online and make a mass client base for individuals staying in rural territories and marginalized communities. This gives a promotional lift to their intangible and rich cultural heritage. They, likewise, get equal opportunities to market their productivity among all the networks.
Today, online business is going about as the most potent mechanism for the handicraft market. It additionally empowers rural artisans by making market linkages and creating trustworthy supply network organizations for them.
- Agro-based products
There has been a significant shift in rural business style due to the increasing online presence of agricultural products. Different types of seeds, fertilizers, crops, etc., are available online and have, in a way, simplified things for the rural farmers.
Challenges Faced by E-Commerce in Rural & Semi-Urban Areas
- Inefficient internet services
Due to the unsatisfactory internet services in many rural regions, the e-commerce business can’t prosper smoothly. Since just a fundamentally lower population has access to a stable internet connection, the e-commerce business can’t work how it does in metropolitan territories. This is influencing the endurance of e-commerce in rural areas.
- Trust Issues
Individuals living in rural areas find it challenging to trust items that are sold online because they feel the items might be damaged, or they might face trouble returning them. In this way, the online business area should be trust-based before fixing its underlying foundations in rural areas.
- Inadequate transport infrastructure & connectivity issues
This is another challenge in rural areas of the country. Products dispensed in urban areas can take a few days to reach, but the timeline can be longer for rural areas. However, the e-commerce companies and the government are working together to understand the rural Indian demographics and are actively working with the local communities to grasp this market share.
- Modes of payment
Cash or pay on delivery is not available in all rural areas, so the e-commerce sector has to build awareness about online transactions.
- Lack of awareness
In rural areas of the country, many people are not aware of the process of an online purchase, which makes it challenging and difficult for the business to flourish. Therefore, there has to be a process for generating awareness for the purchase of online goods.
It is undeniably the most crucial task for the suppliers in our country because, in India’s developing economy, many people in India still prefer retail stores to check the product before purchasing physically. The retail shops or stores also add a more humane touch, which is considered finicky to replace with the online selling experience.
Steps Taken by E-Commerce to Tap the Untapped Market
- Robust e-commerce strategy
It is crucial to devise a robust e-commerce strategy in rural and semi-urban India. The rural customers are becoming more aspirational, particular about the brands, seeking value, and are well-connected.
More than 50% of the population is willing to use digital channels. The only barriers that can stop them from converting to e-commerce are the logistics problem and reliability issues. If these issues are addressed and provided with a competitive price, e-commerce can be well expanded in the rural market.
- Using ATL market activities
Several ATL marketing activities, such as television and radio advertisements in regional languages, need to be emphasized as the customers in these segments rely only on these mediums for any information. There is also a need to invest in digital marketing as with the easy affordability of smartphones and internet connectivity, the rural market is gradually stepping into the digital world. The multilingual content can also help in this context.
- A categorization of rural consumption
The three-dimensional categorization of rural consumption behavior is an aspiration, connection, and value-seeking action. If product segments meet these factors, they generally tend to build trust among the rural masses, which is one of the significant factors driving consumption growth during online shopping.
- Earning the trust of customers
The customers from rural areas are quite price-sensitive and have relatively low disposable income. One should emphasize an omnichannel strategy in such places as then the customers can touch and feel the product at the nearest physical store before purchasing it at a discount from an online store. This will also help in resolving logistics and supply chain issues in rural marketing.
- Understanding the local culture
Offering special discounts and prices during local festivals will drive sales and create a customer-centric approach for e-commerce sites. The e-commerce sites can also send a gratitude letter in regional language for a more personalized touch. Furthermore, consumer grievances addressing cells in regional languages will also help establish e-commerce websites more customer-friendly.
It is high time for the retailers to achieve high profit in their online business by tapping the rural population. However, there is also a strong need to understand the challenges of selling to consumers who lack tech-savviness and are not comfortable with online payment mode. This scenario’s approach focuses on the parameters such as easy and straightforward design, secure payment method, intuitive navigation, and providing seamless, uninterrupted experience irrespective of the connectivity-related challenges. Additionally, the e-commerce industries should also work on strengthening the operational aspects of the business.