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Online shopping makes your home trial room [India Business] [Times of India]
[May 12, 2014]

Online shopping makes your home trial room [India Business] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BANGALORE: E-tailers are now coming home not just to deliver products, but to measure you up for a tuxedo, see in advance whether your new sofa will fit the decor of your living room, and even to show you a range of clothing before you decide on one.

In e-commerce categories like apparel, personal accessories, furniture and jewellery, customers still like to touch, feel and try before purchase. Even though many e-tailers have lenient and efficient return policies, and some have virtual trial rooms that enable buyers to check out how products look on them via an interactive webcam, these are still not options that customers are comfortable with.

"The inflection point for online fashion shopping will happen if your house can become the trial room," says Shoumyan Biswas, senior director of marketing at Flipkart.

The Bangalore-based company is piloting a try-and-buy concept in the city, under which customers can order 3-4 products of different hues and sizes to try at home. "Our delivery executive will wait till you try on the merchandise. You can purchase either one item, buy all, or you have the option to return everything," says Biswas. The company says the 10-day-old trial room pilot project has seen many more consumers buying products than would have happened otherwise.

E-tailer Tailorman sends its tailors over to either your office or home. Be it a suit or bandhgala, the tailor is geared with fabric swatches along with styles for you to choose from. "The demand for this service is more for men's formal shirts and suits," says Vidya Nataraj, founder of Tailorman. She adds that this personalized service has raised significantly the awareness of the brand.

Last year, online jewellery store Bluestone launched its 'Home Try-On' service across the country's top metros. Buyers can choose several pieces from the online store, jewellery consultants then further curate selections based on the buyer's tastes, and these are then brought home. "This service is available for jewellery across price points and currently we get about 50 to 100 requests every day. The average sales conversion rate is 80%, with the average purchase bill being Rs 50,000," says Gaurav Kushwaha, CEO and co-founder of Bluestone.

Online premium furniture store Urban Ladder ships high-value sofas, priced upwards of Rs 40,000, and other select furniture items to your home for trials.

"We are trying to solve the fundamental problem of consumers wanting to know how a product is and how it would look inside their homes. Conversion rates are as high as 70%," say company founders Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa. The free service asks consumers to ensure that the entire family, who are part of the decision-making process, is present during the home trials.

The company also ships customers a small booklet of fabric swatches for their high-value furniture orders. "Everybody is concerned about colour -- will it look good with my curtains and interiors? So the service is to make sure the customer is not disillusioned when the product arrives," say the founders.

Most home-trial offers are free for now. Whether they will continue to be so remains to be seen. Home trials add to cost, but so do returns. A study by logistics firm Gati has found that one out of four products sold online in India is returned. In mature markets, this figure is 33%, going up to 50% for some etailers. If home trials reduce returns significantly, it could be a huge win-win for etailers and customers.

(c) 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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