Enabling Uninterrupted O2O Fintech Solutions In the Retail Sector The pandemic is providing a new lease of life to O2O commerce, which is enabling tools for customers to reduce their confusion in dealing with digital services, while still meeting all the requirements through tech-based processes

By Shailaz Nag

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As we enter the sixth month from the time of the COVID-19 pandemic's global spread, Indians have become attuned to the COVID-normal. People belonging to every stratum of society acknowledge social distancing norms and are aware of individual health precautions as requisites to continue leading everyday lives. Every commercial establishment's functioning is being altered due to the strict distancing guidelines and sanitization protocols. To eliminate the risk of virus spread, following them becomes necessary as it could help in reviving their businesses.

The essential services industry is the most benefited business case in the current scenario and they're being fueled by the FMCG sector and e-commerce services. This creates a unique situation where minimal contact is preferred by people, while e-commerce solutions might not address every requirement that arises. Essentials and food requirements are still met by our neighborhood outlets and this creates an opportunity for tech firms to design solutions. Smartphones have become ubiquitous across metropolitan as well as small cities and this adds to the streamlining of these services.

However, people still depend on merchants within the vicinity as it is more convenient and safe, where orders can be picked by finding them on smartphones. For completing a transaction, the QR code of the store can be scanned and payments made through digital payment apps such as GPay, PayTm, etc. Brick-and-mortar retail outlets are encouraged by the digital transformations taking place around them. It is allowing them to reorient their perspective towards adopting new-age services, as they hope to turn things around by catering to people who live nearby.

Innovations in uninterrupted O2O solutions

The pandemic is providing a new lease of life to O2O (online-to-offline) commerce, which is enabling tools for customers to reduce their confusion in dealing with digital services, while still meeting all the requirements through tech-based processes. For instance, the ingenuity of emerging startups in using the WhatsApp-based-Scan-Order-Pay solution simplifies procedures, as people get to depend only on a single channel for all their requirements.

Through a cursory Google search for the store or outlet of the customer's choice, orders could be placed by clicking on the provided link or phone number. This activates the WhatsApp interaction where a catalog of options for in-store selection would appear, directing the user through payment gateways and updates on their order. With all the subsequent communication happening on WhatsApp, O2O platforms create an uninterrupted channel where all one has to do is to order on the app or scan the QR code next time they go to the store.

Benefits of O2O commerce

O2O platforms aim to significantly reduce the dependence on third-party app environments, which often require registrations and entry of financial information. Every time a new retail app is downloaded, it warrants far more time than the user is equipped to provide. O2O scenarios allow the user to thin down on such online activity by merely using simple tools like the camera on the phone and open messaging platforms. Apart from the food and beverage sector, O2O platforms are looking to expand into other sectors such as pharmacy, fashion, retail, etc., as they are witnessing an uptick in business due to the efficiency of delivering services with the combination of physical and digital.

Customers can interact on one channel with the brand when ordering in-store, while also booking the order pickup. Furthermore, the digital payments ecosystem which has been enabled post demonetization, adds to the efficiency of this solution. Local restaurants, coffee houses, and other merchants see the benefits in the scan-order-pay solution as it limits human touch and crowding of public spaces, enabling options such as takeaways and better management of dining order volumes.

In addition to this, once the order procedure with a retail outlet is complete, WhatsApp then houses the transactional history making it easier for the user to communicate with a chosen brand or service at a later stage, as all the information is collated at one location.

Conclusion

Home quarantine and health precautions aside, businesses too can evolve from the crisis, piggybacking on new opportunities that are emerging from it. Tech-savvy startups and their lean teams are coming up with quirky and scalable solutions that can be incorporated during the COVID crisis, as it does not seem to have an end in sight. People are venturing out with caution, intending to slowly get their lives back to normal. It is prudent to enable necessary measures for convenience ordering, as people begin to arrive at store locations. There is a lot of scope to grow and zero-contact processes are needed at all establishments. O2O solutions have a significant role to play in implementing them in the coming months, as it has the potential to streamline the user experience, just by universalizing the interaction channels.

Shailaz Nag

Co-founder & CEO, DOTpe

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