The Emerging Landscape of Hyperlocal Startups

By Niraj Hutheesing, Founder & Director, m1 Order

Headquartered in Ahmedabad, m1-Order’s innovative mobile & print commerce tools enable the B2C and B2B retailers/SMBs to have an online presence, reach out to their existing customers and promote their business on social media and print campaigns.

So it is not about the digital business, it is just busineSs. It’s not about e-Commerce, it is simply commerce! Over the last few years, the online shopping experience has amassed a graveyard of worries and sorts that failed to stay ahead of rapid changes in technology and consumer needs. Diversified Indian markets have provided a playground of opportunities from offering services via Website, mobile apps to mobile lite websites; e-tailers have done them all! The shifting retail landscape has spelled a doom in case of many, those who failed to keep pace with the ever competitive sector.

New technologies, changing shopping habits, volatile behaviors and the threat of disruptive competitors are the focus for many legacy retailers as they struggle to keep growing their businesses. With new challenges on the rise, businesses are on their toes constantly trying to keep consumers engaged and retain loyal ones. Every business from brick-n-mortar to online stores, are challenged today and it’s a ‘Winner takes it all’ scenario.

Zoom further into the e-tailers life-cycle; if recent stats are to be believed, Tracxn reveals over 300 million Indians access the internet through their mobile devices, and this number is growing each month. India has a total 400 million internet users as of now. To create the omnipresent Omni-channel solutions, e-tail will have to merge with the small time retailers as well! They are doing it well, but a thought provoking question: “How many consumers know the real you?”

Consumers today move around in the virtual world of shopping, window shopping for real deal discounts using coupon codes. The real hero; the retailer is usually the under-dog! The real hero never surfaces, he maybe the next door retailer from the friendly neighborhood stores. With influx of Venture capitalists, every new start-up can coolly pass-on discounts, coupon codes and freebies on every service. But the real question is for how long can you actually engage a real customer in the same fashion? Are those consumers the real ones?

‘Brand’ differentiates you from the rest. Consumers resonate to the sound of BRAND till date! Why? Tell me which was your favorite brand of cookie while in childhood? Was it only then or is it till date? The most important part of a brand is its emotional connection with its consumers. So when you speak of brand, customer loyalty, and the experience factor, how does a simple next door retailer stand out? What makes him so unique? What will force a consumer to return to the same neighborhood store to make his weekly purchases? Today, there will be many vague answers to these.

Addressing these concerns, Hyperlocal apps and services are the latest hullabaloo in the market. Hyperlocal is creating ripples in the entrepreneurial community and in its wake has also managed to unnerve the e-Commerce players in the market today. Hyperlocal concentrates on the well-defined connoted neighborhood community and plays on the logic of next-door delivery. They offer every single thing from daily household items, medicals, grocery, fruits & vegetables, food and much more along with faster delivery and shipping cost. Consumers are becoming more aware and relatively comfortable with this model, where-in they can easily place orders at their convenience via smartphones. But what if, you are travelling by that area and can pick up your parcel on way back home? What if you wish to order from THAT favorite neighborhood shop of yours?

Small time stores lack proper budget to invest in a personalized mobile app; god help those who shell out hefty commissions in name of advertisements and listings on so-called ‘E-tail websites or e-Commerce’! Adding more to their worries is the deals and discount coupon codes which they are forced to offer just to attract a buyer. Retailers have always been attuned to their customers’ needs. With improving economy, consumers are firm on their desires for discounts and sales, forcing retailers to compete on factors other than price, including merchandising and product quality. And the worst, after all this headache, retailers are not even recognized!

A total Gone with the Wind scenario. It’s a harsh reality; but big time e-Commerce websites eat into the small margin of profits made by stores. The last thing a consumer would want is standing in the billing queue! More to the point for brick-and-mortar, 75 percent of store shoppers use their mobile device in stores, updating status on social media, checking for deals from competitors, consulting with friends via text. Retailers have and will continue to make mobile shopping, offline and online, a priority by investing in mobile apps and in-app shopping capabilities, mobile payments in stores, and mobile advertisements. Omni-channel is the word which is not just an option for retailers anymore – it is livelihood! Seamless integration of the consumer shopping experience is a win-win situation.

Retailers and technology companies have created a pleasant change with regards to consumer behavior with onset of hyperlocal stores facilitating parcel pick-up services. If you focus on food industry for an example; imagine the number of calls he misses just because he is taking orders on other line! What if he had some way to tap in those orders? This is a similar scenario for major B2B retailers; from managing the daily orders, communicating further to teams, and coordinating for future orderings; its hell of a task for a single man!

Digital inventories are fast replacing the physical stocks with presence of virtual marketplaces. Retailers today are walking the extra-mile to attract new consumers and attend the loyal ones whilst maintaining the brand and carrying on the legacy with new age ordering applications. From assisting in re-ordering the same cart items to pick-up from nearby store branch, stores speak the colloquial lingo with social media and chat sharing of weekly discounts and offers, thus keeping consumers interested.

Bring in the convenience factor to your retailing and make it an Experience. Beware of self-annihilating options of the e-Commerce or the e-tailing ways and walk the retail way.

Read the article on startupcity – http://www.startupcity.com/startups-talk/the-emerging-landscape-of-hyperlocal-startups-nid-2753.html