Xiaomi has launched its offline-to-online solution called Mi Commerce in India to help retailers grab some eyeballs while people are staying at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese company doesn't want to portray its new solution as a competitor against e-commerce companies - for which it already has Mi.com, of course. However, Mi Commerce is designed as a “product discovery platform” on which Xiaomi exclusive stores will be able to showcase the products they have in stock. Additionally, Xiaomi has planned a working capital loan for all its offline retail partners. The company has also announced a service discount specifically for all frontline and police personnel.
Due to the recent relaxation in lockdown in Green and Orange zones, more than 15 percent of Xiaomi's retail partners are already operational in the country. The company is also projecting that 60 percent of its more than 10,000 exclusive retail partners will soon become operational. However, one major concern that Xiaomi and other smartphone makers have today is customers resisting to make purchases through offline stores. Mi Commerce would help address that concern for the time being.
“During this time, a lot of customers might have concerns to go out of their home and walk into a physical store. We understand this and want to support all our 10,000 retail partners, especially all the exclusive retail partners such as Mi Home, Mi Stores, and Mi Studios. For them, we are building this O2O solution,” said Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain while addressing reporters over a virtual briefing on Monday.
The Mi Commerce solution will provide a hyperlocal experience through a Web application, from where customers will be able to find what they need virtually. It would be similar to how you currently make a purchase through an online store. Retailers will have their dedicated URLs on the platform that they'll be able to share online or offline through billboards or newspaper ads to showcase their portfolio. All this is believed to resume some sales operations for offline customers and restart businesses for offline retailers.
Xiaomi won't handle any specific logistic requirements for retailers using the Mi Commerce platform. Instead, the retailers themselves need to use their existing staff to fulfil customer orders from their end once they'll be able to get some traction from the solution.
Not another e-commerce platform
One of the key things that Xiaomi has cleared about Mi Commerce is that it won't be available as a standalone e-commerce platform. The company is instead trying to project the solution mainly to address forthcoming challenges for its retail partners who are expected to see limited footfall due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“It is wrong to compare it [Mi Commerce] with any other e-commerce platform,” said Muralikrishnan B, Chief Operating Officer, Xiaomi India, during the virtual briefing.
Through Mi Commerce, customers will be able to find different Xiaomi products from one screen, pick what they want, and then submit their order that will be received by a nearby Xiaomi store. The store will then establish a connection with the customer and collect the payment through an online medium, say a UPI QR code. After that, the store will call the customer to confirm the order and delivery time and ultimately proceed the shipment through an in-house staff member.
Customers will be able to start shopping via Mi Commerce by sending a message to its WhatsApp bot at +91 8861826286 or visiting the Mi Commerce Web app. This will connect them to their nearest retail store and its available inventory.
Initially, Xiaomi is piloting Mi Commerce in Kerala, though it is planned to be rolled out across all Green and Orange zones in India later this week.
Amazon has also attempted to enable an O2O experience for retailers in the country with its ‘Local Shops on Amazon' initiative that was launched last month, with a pilot already live in 100 cities across the country.
However, Xiaomi's plan with Mi Commerce seems to be limited as it won't be available to all retail shops near your location. There also won't be any way for new retailers to join the platform — unless and until they are set to establish a Xiaomi exclusive store.
Earlier this week, Xiaomi competitor Vivo also launched its ‘Smart Retail' business programme to help offline retailers in the country receive product related queries through its online store. The company also enabled customers to send their queries through an SMS message or via Vivo India's Facebook page.
Other initiatives in the pipeline
In addition to Mi Commerce, Xiaomi has announced that it would offer working capital loans to offline retailers through the Mi Credit app. The details about the interest rate and other conditions are yet to be revealed, though. The company is also set to provide free service and discount on spare parts to all frontline medical and police personnel in the country. Xiaomi consumers will also get a “no walk-in” service for their devices in the coming days.
“Every customer who wants to go to a service centre needs to take an online appointment or token on Mi.com and then only we will allow the customer to work. At one point of time, we will only allow a few customers — two or three customers to enter a service centre,” Jain told the reporters.
Xiaomi is optimistic to see some positivity in the smartphone market. Notwithstanding, it does believe that the second quarter for the company will see a decline — majorly due to the coronavirus outbreak, recent GST hike, and the increased exchange rates.
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