While there are some challenges in terms of lack of awareness and trust, there is immense potential as the next wave of internet users will come from the rural areas.

Why e-commerce companies should tap rural customers for next wave of growth
Atom E-commerce Friday, April 05, 2019 - 17:55

By Jitender Singh

While there are many factors which govern the success of an e-commerce business, technology is the frontrunner. The world is moving forward in leaps and bounds, especially when it comes to technological and digital innovations. It is no surprise, thus, that rural India too, is joining the fray. With greater adoption of the digital way of life, the potential of the development of rural e-commerce is steadily improving. In fact, the next wave of internet users will come from the rural areas. Fortunately for small players in the e-commerce industry, the rural sector is yet to be tapped to by e-commerce giants. So, there is still an opportunity for them to create a strong and loyal customer base.

Some Challenges

The major challenge with the rural e-commerce sector is that it is largely unorganized. Apart from this there are multiple challenges which need to be overcome as well.

Firstly, the supply chain in the e-commerce industry needs to be strengthened and made more process oriented. For companies to be managed in an organized manner, processes have to be smooth and hindrance-free.

Secondly, rural audience is yet to trust e-commerce brands. For them, unless they can touch and feel the material and gauge the price accordingly, they are not enthusiastic about buying a product. Brands thus need to find ways in which they can build a sustainable relationship with rural customers, to convert them into loyal buyers.

Thirdly, due to lack of awareness regarding different brands, rural consumers are often dissuaded from buying just looking at the sheer number of options which are available online. Often what ends up happening is that the consumer either pays a lower sum and does not receive a product of their liking in terms of quality, or else, they pay an exorbitant amount for something which could have been cheaper. Unless this shift of trust takes place – from the physical shops to online stores – e-commerce companies will find it difficult to succeed in rural India.

How can one tackle the challenges?

In terms of how the platform can make buying online more lucrative, the design and User Interface (UI) should be user-friendly. Showcasing relevant products, based on the latest trends, the area in which they are being displayed, etc., can have a major impact on the buyers’ decision.

Creating content in regional languages also plays an important role, as almost 88% of the Indian population is non-English speaking. Customized applications, which allow interaction with consumers in their vernacular tongue, via a call center or an app, will help improve customers loyalty for a brand, while encouraging more and more customers to make transactions online.

In order to serve this market to the fullest, an omni-channel strategy is needed which not only takes care of the offline marketing activities for the brand, but also ensures that each product category is targeted in an appropriate manner. This is because companies cannot provide physical assurance for each product, or even a single one of them. E-commerce works on the basic premise of providing the products you need online. As a result, there are several initiatives which need to be taken by companies to build trust, generate loyal customers and in general simply make rural India more comfortable with buying products online.

One of the major technological breakthroughs, which will be of great help to e-commerce businesses looking to explore rural sectors is the advent of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Both of these are used to track audience behavior and put forth only those things which are lucrative to an individual. Big Data helps with data storage and analysis and has been deployed by many corporations to predict trends.

With technological advances like these and the provisions for a booming market, there is nothing which can stop e-commerce companies from exploring the rural market. With proper education, right marketing strategies and a good user-friendly technology, rural consumers are set to become significant market for e-commerce brands in the future.

Views expressed are author's own

Jitender Singh is the Founder and CEO of MiniDukan, which he founded in 2018. MiniDukan aims to revolutionize the e-commerce business in rural India by empowering customers to buy a wide range of products at the click of a finger.

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