FMCG giant Hindustan Unilever Limited in planning to venture into eCommerce with a pilot testing on FMCG products to be sold online. The firm is using its presence in over 3 million physical shops online to provide products directly to its customer’s doorsteps.

HUL has recognized eCommerce as an important factor in sales of products in the country with the increasing adoption of internet enabled devices in the country. Also the government is already acting on it to provide common warehouses in rural areas and to enable data connectivity in such areas for eCommerce to grow across the country.

With HUL being in the game, FMCG goods will be sold online. As the name suggests, Fast Moving Consumer Goods mean that the sale and purchase of such products will happen quite frequently and so offline integration is an essential component in such a process. Providing kiranawala stores as pickup points for goods are a great idea. Also, in India, most eCommerce transactions are Cash-On-Delivery and people would prefer to visit a brick and mortar store to purchase goods. Combining these two would assure people the trust that they have on the products.

Also, yesterday, when Croma was added on Snapdeal’s list of associated brands, there was a mention that Croma stores would be pickup and drop off points for their customers. This seems like HUL and Tata have adopted the same strategy to create that image of physical store being available along with the convenience of online sale.

Issues of online sales prices by many eCommerce portals dropping much below the limit permitted by manufacturers have always put offline vendors in trouble. Earlier in March 2014, there were discussions held between vendors and sellers to discuss the so called “unethical practices by online players”.

From what has happened in the West, it seems that the right combination of Online and Offline is what works for people. A major chunk of customers want the touch and feel of their product before they order for it. Shops that provide this very facility have sprung open much earlier in the West. Customers get a good look at the product and there are provisions to order with a QR code and online transaction and the product is delivered to the buyer’s doorstep.

Research show that 49.5% of retail stores in the US are impacted by the web. People have started to express their opinions about products and services openly on the web and submit reviews that are accessible to people world over. Hence the quality of service and the need to reach the buyer’s expectations have to be fulfilled. When that is done, there is huge brand loyalty that it creates and this in turn leads to payments and business conversions.

In the case of Croma and HUL, if the online service can provide the user with seamless data of what product will be available in-stock and at which delivery shop or pickup point, the service will have a huge impact on the user experience. A user can check the available stock of products and select according to his/her needs and request a delivery to his doorstep from the nearest shop.

eCommerce has a long way to go and user experience around physical shops are changing by the day. AN integration of digital into the physical shopping experience would make a whole lot of difference to the buyer and the store. Only, both parties need to accept the channel agnostic model of commerce and we will see a lot of offline retails adjusting to eCommerce ecosystem.

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