Paytm Mall is the latest e-commerce company in India to jump headlong into offline retail, and its offline move has been more striking than most.
Paytm Mall has partnered with Red Tape to open a shoe store in Sarita Vihar in Delhi that aims aims to bring together the best of online and offline worlds. Customers can walk into the store, try out shoes, scan product bar codes, and make purchases via Paytm Mall’s mobile app. The store, appropriately enough, says “Powered by Paytm Mall” at its entrance.
Online store by Paytmall is here!!! pic.twitter.com/3xSPeI138r
— Amit Sinha (@amitsins) February 14, 2018
“India is too vast a country to be served by online-only retail and, given the rudimentary logistics infrastructure and customer preferences that vary from one district to the next, new retail will be the unique differentiator,” said Paytm Mall head Amit Sinha while launching the store. He said the store will offer same-day doorstep delivery as well as handle returns. And Paytm, true to form, is already promoting offers and cashbacks on its first offline offering — the company is already offering a 70% discount, a 15% cashback and free flip-flops on purchases above Rs. 1,499 on opening day.
It remains to be seen how customers will take to the store. Footwear is probably a good vertical for such an experiment, because customers try out shoes before they buy them, and yet pay prices that are available online. The store could also help Paytm tap into a segment of the population that doesn’t yet use its app, thus bringing its offering to people who still prefer buying products from physical stores.
And Paytm isn’t the only online store that’s been flirting with offline retail. Faced with low growth of online sales, e-commerce companies have been increasingly making a beeline for the offline world. Last year, Amazon had purchased a 5% stake in Shoppers Stop for Rs. 180 crore. Days later, Flipkart had announced that it had acquired an offline phone repair company that had a presence in over a 100 Indian cities.
Meanwhile, offline stores have been trying to introduce more technology into their operations. Future Group has announced a project it calls Retail 3.0, in which it’ll open member-only stores across the country which will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand the preferences of their customers, and also let them order through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Both offline and online stores appear to be converging into a hybrid, omni-channel model, and trying to see what works with customers. In Paytm’s case, it’ll soon learn if its offline-online shoe fits.