• What is Tata’s plan to stand out in the crowded e-commerce mart?

    What started as a close-door and ultra-ambitious project by the Indian major Tata group, nick-named ‘Tata Mall’ for nearly 18 months, was launched as TataCLiQ.com a few weeks back. The short answer to the ‘what’s TataCLiQ?’ question is the group’s version of a unique phygital ecommerce marketplace. For the longer answer, read on.

    Tata CLiQ is an amalgam of physical and digital or phygital a platform, where shoppers can order, collect, return and exchange products from anywhere, anytime, either online or at brand partners’ stores. The TG is a customer, conscious about brands and whose expectation in terms of convenience and service is slightly higher, informs Ashutosh Pandey, chief executive officer, Tata CLiQ.

    The brand has been benchmarked against global players like Alibaba-Tmall and John Lewis. Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India points out that the big differentiator for established firms entering e-commerce marketplaces would definitely be trust that customers have in these business houses. Which is where the Tata pedigree can hold the new entity in good stead. The service launches at a time when many of the assumptions about e-commerce are being re-examined. According to Srinivas Murthy, former SVP marketing at e-commerce major Snapdeal, being a late entrant has given TataCLiQ the chance to implement the category do’s and don’ts on Day 1.

    However, the challenge is to offer a differentiator versus competitors. On one end, there are the well-funded companies like Myntra, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong and Amazon: digital natives that have challenged the brick and mortar economy. And on the other, traditional players like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle and the Aditya Birla group.

    The euphoria around the great ecommerce marketing wars is settling and fundamental questions about business models and ROI are being asked. Flipkart recently crunched its return window from 30 days to 10 for most top selling products. Most players are feeling the heat on issues of profitability as well as customer service and experience. Adds Pandey, “We are entering at a time when the entire concept of everything on 70% discount is getting questioned.”

    In a market built on the pillar of discounting, the CLiQ model claims to be not just about rock bottom prices. It is about a few sellers and a lot of products from those sellers. As Pandey puts it, “Discounting is a legitimate lever but I do not want that to be the only lever for our business.”

    For now, he is not unduly worried about the upheaval in the market and puts it down to “growing up pangs”. The market will only expand over the next decade and discussions on whether brand A or brand B will survive are rather premature, in his view. Shoppers Stop for instance has embarked on its omnichannel journey last year and plans to link its multiple channels ie physical stores, web, social, mobile and marketplaces to provide a seamless and unified shopping experience to customers , shares Govind Shrikhande, customer care associate and managing director, Shoppers Stop.

    Unlike most other ecommerce players, Tata group’s foray appears cautious. Compared to the more cash-flush new age businesses, the brand has made its debut in a quieter avatar with a digital- only campaign for now. The splurge on mass media TV, print and outdoor will happen eventually. The current focus is on getting the delivery experience and onsite experience right, as well as adding new categories, says Pandey. For Subramanian Krishnan, chief strategy officer, TBWA India, the site, at least so far, feels conventional and does not deliver to this promise. He hopes the team will have the courage to live up to its strategy, and deliver a truly unique online retail experience. Matt Carpenter Womens Jersey

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