Flipkart launches 20 stores across India


July 29, 2015

Sharan Poovanna, Mint
Bengaluru, 29 July 2015

India’s largest e-commerce firm, Flipkart, has launched 20 stores in 10 cities to let its customers collect the items they ordered online at their convenience, mimicking similar moves from Amazon.com Inc.

The initiative aims to address issues such as unavailability of customers during delivery and restricted entry of delivery boys into IT parks, gated communities and educational institutions.

The stores will also be a centrepiece of Flipkart’s rural expansion strategy and will provide a reliable alternative to door delivery in small towns.

“We also plan to offer several value-added services at these experience zones to enhance customer engagement. Services like instant returns, spot trials, open box deliveries and exclusive product demos will also be rolled out in the near future,” said Neeraj Aggarwal, senior director of delivery operations. Flipkart plans to open 100 such stores by March 2016, he said.

The launch, made in partnership with Flipkart’s logistics partner Ekart, comes after the firm saw more than 80% of shipments picked up through the stores during a six-month pilot programme.

The “click and collect” model is not new. Amazon, which has no physical stores, has installed lockers in places ranging from grocery stores to gas stations in several US locations to hold items ordered online. The move improved customer service as it avoided the need for them to have to wait around for ordered items due to a missed delivery.

The first 20 Flipkart “experience” stores will be opened across 20 cities—Bengaluru, Mysore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Vellore, Gurgaon, Vadodora and Surat. They will service only Flipkart customers and not those of its Myntra unit. They will be about 500-1,000 sq. ft in size, 70% of which will be used to store goods.

A host of other online chains have also been keen to have some sort of physical presence. FabFurnish, PepperFry, Caratlane and LensKart, among others, already offer offline touchpoints as part of customer engagement efforts.

The trend is here to stay, said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy Third Eyesight. He expects firms to continue trying to find the right mix of online and physical presence as they look to provide a seamless customer experience.

“Some products are better handled in the physical environment,” said Dutta.

(Published in Mint.)