(This article has been updated in Sept, 2018)
In line with its vision to transform the way India buys and sells, Amazon.in today officially rolled out its assisted online shopping service, internally codenamed Project Udaan till now, under the brand name Amazon Easy. The India-specific innovation is aimed at enabling customers in smaller markets to get access to the convenience of online shopping. Under the Amazon Easy umbrella, Amazon India aims to help break down various transaction barriers for first-time online shoppers like trust, lack of Internet access , language and as well as digital payments, to embrace e-commerce.
Mohammed Naved of Bijnor district in UP was happy with his sub 5k smartphone. His days looked the same - some WhatsApp forwards, a little Facebook browsing, the usual. “But I soon discovered that with a slightly more expensive phone, I could stream news, music, and movies and learn a whole lot more about the world on my smartphone,” he says. That’s how Naved met Amazon in his village, bought a brand new smartphone, and his worldview and his horizons expanded that much more. All thanks to the access and convenience of online shopping that he discovered in the lone village banking correspondent outlet – now an Udaan point.
“Amazon Easy is going to be transformational as it uses technology and empowers local entrepreneurs to break down complexities and barriers for new-to-ecommerce shoppers using assisted shopping.”
Small towns are ready
In close to five years that Amazon has been in India, we have seen a multitude of shoppers like Naved buy from our platform. It is clear that beyond metro cities, small town India is ready to wield the power of convenience and choice, pricing and accessibility that comes with online shopping. However, a lot of these customers have shopped from trusted stores and individuals for generations. Touch and feel before investing in mid- to high-budget products continues to be important for them. They see the benefits in online shopping but its novelty also leads to some lack of trust. The roadblock is often compounded by issues like lack of digital access, language barriers and the complexity and novelty of online payments among a target group where even offline banking penetration is low. To counter these exact barriers, we launched the assisted ecommerce program - Project Udaan - in 2015.
What is Udaan?
Udaan brings together several aspects of enabling digital commerce via assisted shopping beyond metro cities, including skill development, self-employment and in several cases, even Amazon Pickup, i.e. select offline stores where customers can choose to have their orders delivered. All of these go hand in hand in introducing online shopping to new consumers who have heard of Amazon but haven’t experienced the convenience of shopping on it first hand.
Partnering with the offline retail ecosystem to bridge the trust gap
Customers can walk in to the neighborhood Amazon Easy store for assistance while shopping on Amazon.in. Amazon Easy store owners help customers browse the selection, identify and select a product they like, create their Amazon accounts, place orders and checkout to buy. Customers can choose to pay with cash on delivery when the product is delivered to their homes or swipe their cards at the stores while placing the orders. Amazon.in delivers the products to customers at their chosen addresses. Customers can also reach out to the stores if they need help with their order status and returns.
Amazon.in kicked off the assisted shopping project, internally code-named Project Udaan as a pilot in 2015 and has since expanded to 14000+ stores in 21 states with large network partners like Storeking, Vakrangee to smaller partners like Linq, Indiabuys as well as individual entrepreneurs. Amazon.in equips these offline stores with training materials that include skills like searching, browsing, and navigation on Amazon.in, helping customers set up Amazon accounts, check outs, payments, answering status and delivery queries, and refunds and returns if required. Amazon Easy is not only helping more people join the digital ecosystem but also opening up self-employment and other job opportunities for semi-skilled and partially-skilled people etc.
Inclusive and mutually beneficial
From logistics and retail startups and small businesses to hundreds of mom and pop stores across the country, Project Udaan is creating a sound, self-sustaining retail ecosystem whose very nature is inclusive and mutually beneficial. And with a diverse range of orders – Adidas shoes, designer wear, Apple Watches and Amazon Pantry and even Pedigree pet food - coming in from far flung towns, it is evident that Project Udaan is meeting its objective of making online shopping the new normal in India.