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Cloud Computing and Ecommerce in India

Its time that Indian Ecommerce companies started getting up and about on cloud computing. And when I say its time, I mean yes there are a few companies that dabble in it, but I’m talking about something like 25 – 40% of the Ecommerce companies in India using cloud computing in some capacity.

Who is it ideal for?

1. Smaller companies, hungry for growth.  And which is serious about spiking their traffic.

2. Large Ecommerce companies who have built up comprehensive platforms need to start pushing some of their applications on the cloud. Predominantly to get comfortable with it.

Why aren’t more people using it?

A couple of reasons mainly

1. Inexperience amongst the developer community with implementing cloud solutions. They’re still comfortable hosting applications on shared / dedicated servers and are afraid to experiment.

2. Online businesses are confused about the total cost of ownership of a complete cloud based solution. (CPU cycles / data download and upload pricing / pricing with and without CDNs, etc)

Way Forward

Okay, despite last week’s outage of services at Amazon’s Cloud, I believe that Cloud computing is where all of Ecommerce is headed. I believe that there is a huge Mobile commerce play that will consume the Indian market. And all those mobiles would need to interact with a lot of data sitting in servers. And that traffic’s unpredictability will be huge.

Cloud computing for Ecommerce makes too much sense and saves too much money to be ignored. And with Ecommerce at infliction point in India, its more important now than ever that our developer community / Online business heads wake up to this reality.

Why Retailers should be part of Shopping Portals

Whats different between DLF Mall and Rediff.com? Obvious answer: One’s brick-n-mortar, the other is purely online. And thats where the differences end. Both house a huge number of brands, provide lots of choice to their visitors and are major retail destinations today, involving huge amounts of high value daily transactions.

Like with the case of malls across the country, there have been a surge of virtual malls in the country. Some of the better ones are rediff.com, indiatimes.com, ebay.in, naaptol.com, indiaplaza.in, infibeam.com, indiavarta.com, and homeshop18.com.

So why should a retailer care about competing in these shopping portals? For the same reason he decides to rent a store in a mall. Attract customers. Brand awareness. High sales. Here are a few advantages.

1. Brand Awareness - Put your brand out there online. Gain brand recognition and be known by the online customer as a choice.

2. Attract Traffic to your brand – With the Shopping portals, you have a lot of traffic coming to the sites. Get noticed by putting out great offers, discounts to the visitors. Entice them with offers. Wow them with the experience. Dazzle them with the service. And rule a portion of their wallets for a lifetime.

3.  Acquire visitors in Shopping Portals and then get them to your own site – Shopping portals are great places for customer acquisition. It lets people from all over the country to know your brand (not just in the cities you are present in) and test you out. If they like your products and service, they will look you up directly, come to your store and increase your direct traffic to your own dot com.

4.  Learn online strategies at the marketplace - As a vendor at these shopping portals, life isn’t easy. You need to compete with aggressive pricing on the popular items. You need to provide great service, quick response times to customer issues, ensure good post sale service to have good vendor ratings on these shopping portals. So in effect you can constantly view what your competition is upto on the same platform. And thats great learning for you. You get battle ready to take on your competition directly with your dot com.

5. Focus on the business, leave the rest to the Shopping Portals - One huge advantage for smaller retailers is that they  often don’t have the resources to worry about technical stuff and thats where the portals come in so useful for their online strategies. Coz they can forget about technology, logistic, driving traffic, payment gateways but instead focus on the core of what they do.

Next Blog post: How to setup an E-store at a Shopping Portal

Checklist for your E-commerce store

If you’re the owner of a retail business and are taking your business online, here is a quick checklist:

1. Business Plan – Set the budget, make the goals, treat this as a different business.

2. Get the processes in place – Take the time to invest in this, as effort here will result in lesser troubles

3. The bigger the dream, the more important the team – Recruit a person who knows the online space and is passionate to take the responsibility of taking your business online.

4. Platform – Select the right technology platform. There is a lot of choice. Find technology partners who know the ecommerce space, have a good mix of experience and passion. Make sure the platform is optimized for Search Engines.

5. Order Management Systems – Ensure that the orders you receive are turned around in no time.

6. Right packaging for your orders – The importance of this cannot be overstated.

7. Payment Gateway - Pick the partner that makes it easy for your customers to pay, and for your business to afford.

8. Logistics partner – Very important. Pick a company that takes customer service very seriously. Bad experiences for your customers with courier companies will reflect directly on you.

9. Marketing Plan - Must include a plan to get and stay on top of search engine rankings. Set aside budgets for search engine marketing.

10. Social Media – Scream about your new online business on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. Build a following. Offer your fans some compelling reason to keep coming back.

11. Customer Service – Be the Amazon.com of your business. Beat your competition when it comes to customer service.