Amazon India has announced the launch of a new initiative to help digitise day-to-day operations of local stores in the country and enable them to create their own online storefronts. Called “Smart Commerce,” the programme will bring a set of solutions to help mom-and-pop stores in the country to have digital experiences — from listing their inventory and billing to ultimately getting their storefronts on the Web. The stores participating in the initiative will also have the option to sell their products via the Amazon.in website. This is the e-commerce giant’s latest move to work with offline stores, and appears to also have the effect of silently expanding its presence in the country.
At its annual small and medium businesses-focussed summit Amazon Smbhav on Wednesday, the Seattle-headquartered company launched Smart Commerce as a new move to work with offline stores in the country.
Amazon will initially introduce solutions to help local stores digitise their billing and inventory management that will be available to integrate starting as early as June. Gradually, the programme will allow local stores to create their online storefronts and even serve their customers through a voice and chat-based shopping experience.
Exact details on Amazon’s go-to market strategy with Smart Commerce are yet to be revealed. This means that it is currently unclear how the programme will eventually work for the e-commerce company. However, it is obvious that the latest development will give Amazon another chance to work closely with offline stores in the country — the ones that often oppose the company for its growing online presence that is directly impacting their customer base to some extent.
In April 2020, Amazon introduced ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ programme in India to assist local shopkeepers to start selling through its online marketplace. It was one of the initial moves by the e-commerce company to work directly with small-scale stores in the country.
“We are humbled by how neighbourhood stores from across India are taking advantage of our Local Shops on Amazon program to go online and grow their business, with over 1.5 lakh stores already selling on Amazon.in within two years of launch,” said Amit Agarwal, SVP, India and Emerging Markets, Amazon, in a prepared statement.
Amazon in June 2020 also launched an initiative called ‘Smart Stores’ that was an answer to Google’s Spot Platform and was aimed to enable offline retailers to offer digital storefront of their establishment and allow their customers to discover products, read reviews, and find offers at their stores through the Amazon app.
Smart Commerce is a step-ahead of that launch. But instead of restricting local shops to serve customers only via Amazon’s own online marketplace, stores participating in the new programme will have the option to create their own storefronts that could be their websites or apps for selling products online.
The new initiative is also planned to not only bring stores online but also to digitise their operations — including their billing and inventory management.
“Today, we are excited to launch Smart Commerce that will enable any store to truly become a digital dukaan, and serve customers with the best of Amazon no matter where they are – in their physical store, directly through their own online storefront, or on Amazon.in,” said Agarwal.
Amazon has promised to invest over $6.5 billion (roughly Rs. 50,435 crore) in India to digitise small and medium businesses. It also projects to digitise one crore small businesses in the country by 2025.
“We are humbled to share that we have already digitised over 4 million small businesses and local stores, are on track to enable $5 billion (roughly Rs. 38,800 crore) in cumulative exports and have created over 1.16 million direct and indirect jobs in India including 135K new jobs added in the last one year,” said Manish Tiwary, Country Manager, India Consumer Business, Amazon India.
Similar to Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart is currently exploring ways to work with offline stores in the country to grow its business. Meta is also working towards getting into the India retail sector with Reliance Retail that also has JioMart to take on the likes of Amazon and Flipkart.