Offline is the new online: the cycle of e-commerce comes full circle

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We’ve been played. That’s the simplest, surest way to put it.

Marketing services

Moneybags was equally excited.

Where is the primary focus?

“IDG Ventures India helps entrepreneurs build category-leading companies in India and globally. We believe Valyoo’s (Lenskart) focus on creating category leaders in product segments that offer disintermediation opportunities by leveraging supply chain inefficiencies and bring value to the customers is a big differentiator.”

And so they went together, hand-in-hand in pursuit of the dream. For a good three years, Lenskart toyed with every possible innovation to sell eyewear online; it toiled and spent money but its dream remained unrealized. So, in 2014, it threw in the towel.

Enough. Let’s do what our customer wants, it said. Let’s open a physical shop and go to the customer if the customer doesn’t want to come to us. Stroke of genius. The fortune Gods smiled. And today, Lenskart has grown to more than 200 retail outlets across India. Online took a backseat. Offline became the driver.

Now, even as all this was happening, other e-commerce players were watching.

What started as a whisper in the corridors of the search for a sustainable, scalable and profitable business model, took on a voice. Now, in 2017, it has become a rapturous cacophony. Everybody is on it. Flipkart. Myntra. Urban Ladder. Pepperfry. Yepme. Nykaa. Lenskart. Their chorus goes something like this: Being online is not enough. Touch and feel are extremely important to customers in India.

Mazel tov.

Urban Ladder is a good case in point.

When this Bengaluru-based company raised its first round of funding, its founders, Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa, spoke in effusive terms about their new venture. “We have an elegant and simple digital storefront, with deep product information.

The category suffers from a lack of standardization in product specs and insufficient information availability, leading to core issues in the consumer purchase process and post-purchase dissonance. We are striving to deliver a much better, informed buying experience to our customers,” explained Srivatsa, COO of Urban Ladder.

Now, fast forward five years, Urban Ladder seems to have realized its online dream wasn’t all that it was thought to be.

“In September last year, it became clear that we were going to be a brand,” says Srivatsa. “So as a brand we needed to distribute where the customer is. And the customer today is both on marketplaces and offline. And 99% of the customers are offline. Even in five years that 99% can probably be only 95%.”

It took Urban Ladder five years, many pivots and millions of dollars in funding to get here.

 

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