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Online customers had last laugh in 2014

Arpita Mukherjee     December 24, 2014

2014 was a year full of many firsts in the e-commerce sector. Incidentally, it also coincided with a first for the 22-year-old Sneha Sharan, an art student in Mumbai. Till 2014, who had never shopped online. But after knowing about the heavy discounts and deals on the offing, she started shopping online.

So far she has already spent Rs 20,000 shopping online at Jabong and Myntra. Sharan has also experimented with e-tailers like Limeroad and Stylista for select clothing and accessories.

Ditto the case with another first-timer Shekhar Chettri, an engineering student in Nagpur. He checked out almost all the online stores for a pair of sports shoes and finally bought one of Puma for Rs 5,500 from Myntra.

There are many first-timers like Sharan and Chettri who were drawn to the online world of products ranging from electronics and apparel to house, insurance and even automobiles.

Online commerce consultants, e-Tailing India, estimates that more than 25 million people, both new and repeat customers, have bought products online in 2014.

From being flooded with deals such as Big Billion Day by Flipkart, to GOSF organised by Google, consumers were pampered with choices, including daily deals and discounts by e-commerce companies.

In the later part of the year, e-commerce companies also rushed in to win customers who use their smartphones to buy products as they offered discounts for those who downloaded and transacted on mobile phones.

The relatively nascent e-commerce industry is estimated have about 100 million online shoppers by 2016. It is also likely to become a $15-billion market by 2016, according to a study by Forrester Consulting and Google.

However, all of this has come at a cost that was borne by e-retailers themselves or by their investors.

Billions were pooled by e-commerce players to bring in more customers expecting greater stickiness. According to e-Tailing India, investments in the e-commerce sector have been about Rs 20,000 crore, which is four times compared to the 2013 figures.

While e-commerce companies are leveraging themselves, consumers continue to enjoy discounted rates along with good purchase experience, thanks to the cash-on-delivery and easy return policies.

"Given that the overall shopping experience in India is not so nice whether in terms of reach, crowd or options, it has been a fantastic year for the online consumer," says Harminder Sahni, Managing Director of consultancy Wazir Advisors.

Oblivious to the regulatory questions being raised on the e-commerce companies, consumers feel that their only shopping party should not be spoilt. "If somebody goes and asks the consumer, they will say, let the party go on," says Sahni.

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