The entire online buying experience has been more or less monotonous (read unemotional) for millions in India for years who select the product, fill in some details, pay and forget. According to a top Apple executive, the first India online exclusive Store Online — the companys 38th worldwide — is set to transform how Indians purchase products.
In a post-Covid world, the tech companies are going to witness more sales across categories happening online and via e-commerce.
Owing to the new wave of customers and changed dynamics, the five-day first wave of festive sales by Amazon and Flipkart are expected to grow 50 per cent (year-on-year) to $4 billion over the calendar year 2019, Bengaluru-based market research firm Redseer predicted last week.
Based on the expected strong festive sales performance, RedSeer expects ecommerce to grow and reach $38 billion in sales this year — upto 40 per cent growth (year-on-year).
The Apple Store Online arrives in India just at the right time when the Covid-19 pandemic has led to innovative online business models being emerged.
"We love the passion Indians have for our products and supporting them has been our passion too. The Online Store will ensure seamless, safe and contactless delivery of our products in these Covid times as safety of staff and customers is our topmost priority," Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's senior vice president of Retail + People, told IANS.
"People make retail happen. For us, India is a key market and Apple fans here will have the same, consistent experience that our customer base enjoys the world over," said Deirdre, a 30-year Apple veteran who reports directly to the company CEO Tim Cook.
Since these are Covid times and India is reporting a surge in caseloads, she is confident that Apple, with its global Covid-related stringent safety norms in place, will make the whole order-to-delivery journey completely safe.
"From delivering a highly personalized experience to ensuring safe delivery of our full range of products at doorsteps, we think our customers in India will love the overall journey. Just in time for the festive season, signature gift wrap and personalised engraving will be available for select products in the country," she stressed.
Engraving of emojis or text in English, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu will be available for AirPods, and English engraving will be available for iPad and Apple Pencil.
When it comes to online shopping, in contrast to Europe and the US, the smartphone is the preferred device for online buyers in India.
According to Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India and South Asia, while Apple still depends a lot on offline due to its premium pricing, the company needs to do better online.
"Apple needs to ensure showcasing and availability of a full range of Apple products and accessories, which a partner might not be able to or willing to carry," Singh told IANS.
Controlling the consumer experience is another big challenge.
"In absence of physical retail, this can be a big factor. Anyway, Apple is known for shopping experience so maybe, they can provide some of that online as well like tutorials, tips and troubleshooting support, etc," he added.
"Preferential offers for consumers coming on Apple online like finance tie ups, buybacks, EMI offers etc can certainly help Apple in getting a great mindshare in India".
This is exactly Deirdre has on top of her mind.
"We have seen more and more customers now shifting to online buying in these times and our job is to provide them full digital support, personal sessions with trained Apple executives and a seamless navigation till they receive our products," she stressed.
The Apple retail philosophy — be it online or offline — has been not to sell products but rather solve customers' queries on their purchase journey, delighting them with captivating open spaces, indoor trees, uniquely-designed sitting areas and large screens for marketing as well as developers and community events.
"The customer truly is at the centre of everything that we do. Thanks to our passionate team, there really is no better place to see this in action than in our stores. We'd love to share two ways we're making the experience even better — personalisation and trade-ins," Deirdre said.
According to Counterpoint Research, online Channels held a 43 per cent share in Q2 (June quarter) 2020 in the India online smartphone market.
The increase in online channels share was "due to a shift in consumer behaviour who are now preferring contact-less shopping experience and practicing social distancing".
Come September 23 and Apple's first exclusive branded online store in India, offering a full range of products, support and premium experience to consumers, is set to change the way Indians buy tech products online..