Google is eyeing the ecommerce market in India. Except, it won’t be doing any direct commerce there.
Come November, Google plans to launch an online storefront for all its branded hardware products, EThas learnt. These would include its flagship smartphone Pixel, Chromecast, Google Home smart speakers, and virtual reality headset, Daydream.
The storefront, similar to Apple’s storefront for the India market, will be a website where Google will merely display its branded and licensed hardware products. But it will also be able to gain access to customer data and have a stronger influence over the buying experience.
“We are looking to launch a Google-branded online store for all hardware launched in India, with an authorised partner who will operate and manage the fulfilment,” a company spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement.
Google, sources say, is in talks with several third-party partners for this, including Ingram Micro.
“A storefront allows Google to access info on the premium users looking to buy its phones. Second, it also helps the brand to control the end-to-end selling experience and have the ability to cross-sell other products and offerings, like bundling Google Home or accessories, or even, in the future, extended warranty plans or upgrade programs like Apple does well with Apple Care,” said Neil Shah, partner at Counterpoint Research.
In 2017, Google’s market share in India was 0.07% of the overall smartphone market, while in the premium category (smartphones above $600), it was 3%, according to market research company Counterpoint Research. In the first nine months of 2018, those numbers fell to 0.03% and 1.6%, respectively.
Google’s move comes at a time when other smartphone companies such as Samsung and Xiaomi have been coming up with their own ecommerce offerings. Manu Jain, the country head of Xiaomi, in an earlier interaction with ET had stastated that Mi.com, the company’s ecommerce website, had become “the third-largest (ecommerce website) in India” in terms of overall gross merchandise value (GMV), a proxy for gross sales.
Mi.com held 14% market share in online smartphone sales during the first quarter of 2018, according to Counterpoint Research. During the same period, Amazon’s market share stood at 30%, while Flipkart was the leader with 54%.
Experts tracking the online retail space believe that the lines have blurred between search and commercemaking Google realise that commerce is a powerful ‘search’ use case. However, some are skeptical about Google’s move, wondering how many habitual shoppers would go to a Google store than to an ecommerce marketplace directly. “Currently, almost 45% of online gross sales in India come from smartphones,” said Arpan Sheth, partner at consulting firm Bain and Co. “If they have the right supply of phones, one that can drive traffic, make it exclusive, it could pick up the pace.”
Google’s pre-launch version of its India storefront (store.google.com) allows users to find both online and offline retailers where they could purchase its products from. That will change in November, with users getting an option to purchase, with a redirection to the partner’s page, upon which the transaction can be completed. This is unlike Google’s home market, the United States, where Google’s store is managed and fulfilled by the company.
On Tuesday, when Google launched Pixel 3, the latest edition of its flagship smartphone, its storefront was updated to include accessories like charging cables, headphones, and phone covers among others.