The Diwali shopping season has just got over and we’ve heard complaints and reports that online retailers and courier companies have been caught on the wrong foot by the extremely high amount of shopping done by Indians on sites like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal.
While earlier, when someone asked: What is better, Flipkart, Snapdeal or Infibeam, they were usually referring to two factors – trust (are the goods original and will my item arrive), and price.
Today, the trust factor is less of a worry for most sophisticated users. Of course, trust continues to be an area of concern for new users who are not used to the e-commerce model.
With the entry of Amazon a year ago, the service levels and customer expectations have changed, and with it, the question of what ‘better’ actually means in the e-commerce sector.
When Amazon entered India a year ago, it put a lot of emphasis on quick delivery. Even today, for ‘free delivery’, Amazon continues to have a reputation for fast delivery, especially for “Amazon fullfilled” items. In big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, items usually arrive the next day.
In comparison, a year ago, the average delivery time used to be around 3 days to a week, even in the cities.
However, over the last six months, Flipkart, Amazon’s biggest competitor in India, ramped up its service levels. It too has started dispatching its items quickly, and often on the same day as the order. In other words, the difference has largely been nullified, even as Amazon continues to offer consistently fast deliveries.
Snapdeal, meanwhile, does not have a Snapdeal fulfilled category, or a WS Retail kind of a core partner. It continues to depend on retailers spread far and wide across the country. eBay too incentivizes its sellers to ship items as fast as possible.
Today, as proven by the Diwali experience, the key to whether you are better or not is how fast your delivery is. Dispatching an item three days after the order is more and more unacceptable for buyers, who are more used to same delivery dispatch.
Of course, part of the blame for delays must go to the courier companies. Some courier companies often take 4-5 days to deliver an item sent by a place like Ahmedabad to a city like Mumbai, while others, like FedEx, often deliver a Delhi-Mumbai package in less than 18 hours, even in the ‘free delivery’ category.
In an attempt to keep costs down, some e-commerce players have started relying on low-cost courier companies that specialize in e-commerce business, with the result that deliveries often take as long as 5 days.
Another factor is returns and refunds. While in the beginning, customers often had to courier their return items themselves, today most Indian ecommerce companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal often arrange their own pick-ups.
In some cases, the cash is returned within a matter of three days. Don’t forget to vote in our poll.