Why Indians love Physical Stores: 5 humble lessons for digital commerce

5 min readFeb 8, 2022


Indians getting onboard the e-commerce wagon PC: Harini

We are now on the verge of another fundamental shift in the e-commerce industry. With millions of new users onboarding the e-commerce service from Bharat, it is all the more critical to keep up with the pace of rapidly changing consumer behaviours and expectations and innovate in a saturated market of online businesses. Companies are rethinking their customer experience and shifting away from the traditional commerce platforms.

Termed E-com 3.0, the next revolution nudges big and small businesses to lookout for innovative ways to adopt to services to their customers rather than customers adopting to services. Who else does it better than… Physical stores.

Physical stores say, “We told you”

The pandemic has pushed Indians to get aboard the digital wagon in every possible sector and lifestyle, including the timeless Physical stores. Store merchants are keeping up with the trends and upped their digital game by providing services such as online store front, taking orders on WhatsApp messaging from customers and digital payments. Such digital interventions have strengthened the Physical stores paving way for faster adoption by their customers than complete e-commerce services. Why? Because all these digital interventions are incremental to the already excellent customer experience built around the reliability and trust.

Even with constraints like limited catalog variety and non-competitive prices, physical stores have stood the test of time and hold a strong place in the local communities, in both Metros and Tier 2/3 cities.

Orijit Sen

What are physical stores doing right?

🏪 Remember the last visit to your local Kirana store. The store bhaiya greets you by enquiring about your whole family, asks what you are upto and gives an entire update about grocery prices market going up each day. What you expected to be a ‘quick’ grocery run turns into a 15 minute gossip sesh. Well, this is what Indians loves about Physical stores.

Physical store vendors provide an excellent customer service that is:

Personalised | Reliable | Trustworthy

Following are few interesting use cases where physical shopping experiences outperform existing digital marketplaces:

Representation image for “Building a good relationship with customer”
Building a good relationship with customer

The shopkeeper greets customers, recalls customer preferences and home address which establishes a good rapport offering a personalised customer experience. Here, one can observe interesting merchant-shopper interactions and behaviours with integral elements that are specific to the culture and language of the land. In contrast, digital shopping experiences currently lack the presence of localised and personal engagement.

Efficient browsing and personalised recommendations
Efficient browsing and personalised recommendations

Shopkeeper is able to quickly understand the customer requirements and offers recommendations to aid in easier decision making. These shops have been in business since decades and hence are able to comprehend the exact requirements of a wide range of customers in that locality. Customers can make a specific requests in one simple sentence to convey their requirement, item name and size- price filter, size, asking for clarifications before making a purchase.

Credit system for payment based on trust

Buy now, pay later is a popular concept with grocery stores. This is observed more with repeat customers or customers trusted by the shopkeeper. This also increases the loyalty of customers to the store. Customers usually tend to shop throughout a month and settle the bill at the start of the next month.

Hassle-free returns and replacements

Building a good relationship with the customers makes troubleshooting and dealing with incidences of return of refunds seamless.

Continuous feedback loop to update catalog

Shopkeepers take regular feedback on products from their customers to identify popular products in the locality and update their inventory accordingly.

The trust, convenience and conversational transactions that these physical shopping experiences offer is still unmatched in the digital world for a large number of emergent internet users. This is currently preventing them from trying out shopping on digital marketplaces. Emergent internet users require reassuring feedback on every step of the shopping journey to increase trust and confidence to shop digital.

The differentiator between physical stores and e-commerce marketplaces is Conversations. Conversations between the vendor and customer are highly personalised and thus efficient during shopping. This aspect has been the inspiration for Meesho and Flipkart to explore the popular model called Social commerce on their e-commerce platforms.

How might we incorporate these elements of physical store experiences into digital shopping experiences that is accessible by Bharat users?

At Navana, we’ve taken this HMW to the test by identifying critical elements from physical shopping experiences and translating that to an end to end voice-driven conversational commerce experience over whatsapp. We introduce you to…

Visit Product Website to find out more!

The next E-com revolution for Bharat is here. It’s Visual. Vocal. Vernacular.

Are you ready?


Stay connected, we have more in the works!

This blog is an initiative by the Navana team to share snippets of our work and play. We write about our work process, new initiatives, and loads of sick ideas along the way.




This blog is an initiative by our team at sayl.ai to share snippets of our work and play.