Video commerce takes wing with near-life-like shopping experience

Ajay Saxena (name changed), an executive at a multinational firm in Virginia in the US, wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner for his parents in Delhi. He logged into the website of an electronic retail chain and clicked on a link, which not only gave a demonstration of the product, but also allowed him to loop in his parents over a live video call before he took the purchase decision.

Sharma is one among many buyers who have found the advantages of “video commerce”. It’s a model which is fast becoming popular as brick-and-mortar stores look at ways to stay competitive in the post-pandemic world, when buyers are loath to visit stores for fear of catching the coronavirus.

Unlike e-commerce shopping, video commerce provides a personalised buying experience to both buyers and sellers who are connected in real time. “I would choose this platform over traditional buying, as it is convenient and saves a lot of time,” says Saxena.

Experts say that video commerce has the potential to completely transform the retail industry. “Customers were treating video commerce as a wow feature until now, but after Covid, it has become a must because it is an alternate sales channel,” explains Ankush Gangwani, global director of product management and business collaboration at Tata Communications.

The company, which had been delivering this service on a pilot basis to several global clients in the retail, automobile and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) segments, is now scaling up, as there has been a huge rise in demand. 

The Digital Customer Experience is a platform on which different technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), video streaming and hosting are married to create an ecosystem where security and stability are given top priority. The platform combines the intelligence of software, application and telecom connectivity to provide a near-real experience to customers until he or she executes the final transaction.

A buyer can log in to the website or app of the company, fill in details such as location, language of choice and requirement. Based on this, the AI system at the backend finds the right sales associate to handle the call. The customer can make the purchase remotely by paying through a secure link which can be activated by an OTP.

“Most customers who are coming to us are shifting from the unstructured approach of video messaging apps. If you want to look at it from a corporate’s point of view, compliances are very important for them,” says Gangwani. Tata Communications has invested millions of dollars over the past two years in meeting compliances and building the platform’s security backbone.
Pointing out that people are more comfortable shopping via video in Covid times, Gangwani says, “The demand increased multi-fold after Covid. Hence, we are scaling up to cater to these requirements.”

The Tata group company is catering to three sectors through this platform — retail, automobile and BFSI. In retail, it is targeting segments such as electronics, jewellery and fashion. If a customer wants to see the size of an appliance like a television or a refrigerator to find out if it fits in the space available at home, the salesperson can switch to wall-mounted cameras to offer a full view of the product. “An electronics products company, which is using our service, has transformed one whole floor of the store only for digital sales,” says Gangwani.

He claims that customers can save up to 40-50 per cent of the cost of sales using this technology, as there is no investment in real estate, while it creates more traffic on the website because of the convenience factor. The cost of the technology varies from project to project, as one customer may want a plain vanilla set-up, and another a completely digitised floor.

Tata Communications is also executing car demos, with salespersons showing details such as the leg-room in the car, by using multiple cameras. Function consultants have been brought on board to make the whole experience of buying a car virtual.
In the banking segment, the company provides systems for wealth management, relationship management, and eKYC, where a customer can undergo the entire sequence of documentation and identification, including facial recognition. “Through video commerce, the relationship manager can share the customer’s portfolio, bring in experts if someone needs insurance and can also co-browse and fill forms on behalf of the customer on the screen,” says Gangwani. “The whole process is also encrypted for security purposes.”

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