Since e-commerce based markets are witnessing an upsurge these days, Online Book Stores in India are no exception to ride the waves. And having some biggies foraying into it of late, market has just become fierce & competitive. Both Availability & Affordability are the basic USP here. The greatest limitation of any physical store is to have limited capacity of book for display and sale whereas Online Book Stores seems advantageous on this constraint. But all said and done, many of the end users are still wee bit skeptical about the Online Stores. And those who want to, they are bugged by the various option in hand, which means which shop to go for. So I thought it will be worthwhile to share my experience with 3 prominent bookstores from where I’ve made several purchases so far (now 95% of my purchase comes from them only).
To help myself to find the best store(s) out there, I started it all with NBCIndia. Then Infibeam – touted as the next Amazon of India, I was curious enough to validate the claim and placed the due orders. Since I was also seeing a lot of search results from Flipkart too, I also gave it a try to check what they are upto. And finally I compiled my review.
Below are my experiences with them in my saga of “which is the best Online Book Shop – Flipkart or Infibeam or NBCIndia ?”
Flipkart – A Shopper’s Delight
To sum it up in a single word – AWESOME !!! These guys are brilliant professionals and seems to be taking the business seriously. Merely started with Booksale as their flagship offering and gradually ventured into more products. I resorted to Flipkart as a part of my experimental buyouts and after making several purchase from them, I now personally count it as my default market place for all those biblical odyssey !!!
Their pricing seems to be competitive. Though I sometimes don’t mind paying few bucks more given that I’m also buying a peace of mind by coughing out a premium. Courier is free if the order amount exceeds 100 INR which is a norm these days with other sites too. International Shipping is missing, but personally speaking, this bothers me the least as long as I’m in India.
I initially ordered three books from them and to my surprise, It was delivered within the stated time frame. Impressed by its service, I again placed an order but with a bigger budget this time (after the iteration of faith with my first purchase). And I was again delighted by seeing how they handled all my purchase orders and constantly updating me with all the deliveries. Cash on Delivery (COD) is yet another good reason to shop with them. This also comes as a compelling factor for those who are skeptical about online stores.Plus, they cover major part compared to others in the business. As soon as the books are couriered (consignor address varies because of their procurement channel), you will be sent a mail which includes all the tracking information.
Packaging is also robust with cartons and bubble wrappers (filler rolls in some cases) ensuring good condition of the consignment. Though not very important, but its worth mentioning that each books is properly sealed with plastic and a bookmark slipped in – a good practice of professionalism and brand making. Though I don’t like tiny stickers on the back reading Flipkart.
These guys are brilliant professionals who seems to be taking their business seriously…
All the order details are also manged with neat format in the user account section with all the updates. And whenever there is any delay/cancellation in the process (almost rare), they will politely apologize with a mail and giving you all the status of that particular item. One also has an option with a dedicated user interface to send an email regarding any particular item. This comes handy when you want to inquire about a some book(s) out of multiple purchase made all at once.
Now – The Customer Service. Rather than writing it in a formal way, Id like to mention one of an instance which speaks volume of them. Out of my series of purchase from them, I once received a defective piece of book with torn pages inside. I just dropped in a suggestive mail stating that they should follow quality-check more stringently prior to packing. I also wrote that since this is happening for the first time and I have no qualms with them whatsoever as because of the good track record, I’m keeping that defective book with me to extend my goodwill gesture to them.On the very next day I got a call from them apologizing over the matter and asked if I wanted the replacement.I declined. Again after half an hour I got yet another call with the same request. I again declined politely. Now they called me up for the third time with their senior in scene (passively) stating that though I’ve refused to accept the replacement copy,they would indeed compensate for the damages met. And I was gifted with Store Credit of equivalent amount as a token of apology. Now thats what I call CUSTOMER SERVICE. I’ve also noticed that they reply back to every mail promptly – be it general query, suggestions or any other correspondence matter.
Averaging all the features and experience provided, I recommend everyone out there to go Flipkarting – its worth the every penny spent !!!
- Scope for Improvement : Introduction of more offers & freebies to loyal customers apart from general discounts which is quite common with other stores too.
Infibeam – Losing The Sheen
I wish I had read the reviews on the other sites (mouthshut for instance) prior to ordering anything from them.
Honestly, their pricing is at par with other site. But this doesn’t means everything (will justify below). They also have a free courier service with order(s) exceeding 100 INR. Like Flipkart, they too have COD feature with them with select items and cities. One of the plus point with Infibeam is that they have International Shipping arrangements with them (charges borne by the consignee).
I for the purpose of my test purchase ordered couple of books from them.While browsing, my item of desire bore the tag of 2-3 days of supposed delivery time. So far so good.Now after adding the items to my shopping cart, I proceeded to the check out and made the payment. And this is when things started to turn sour. After hitting the pay button, I was redirected back to the merchant site and was thrown with payment failure. I then frantically checked my bank account only to find that the amount has been debited. With all the gripe within, I raised the issue with both the parties – Infibeam & CCAvenue which was latter resolved in two days with few hair splitting.
But saga of surprises didn’t stop here. After receiving a mail that order has been confirmed, I with the matter of curiosity checked my user account with them. The items which where boasted to be with me within 2-3 days now got postponed for almost a week. Which meant, if the order was confirmed on the day 1st, you’ll have to wait till day 7th, and only after that the books will be couriered which will take 2-3 more days. My heart skipped a beat, but I patiently waited for the so called D-day. And during that period of time, I entertained myself reading the negative reviews over the other websites and cursing myself. Now when the date arrived, there was no activity from their side.
Marketing (especially online) to the best of my knowledge is something like a parachute – you have to fare well in the maiden chance itself …
I somehow maintained my cool and decided to wait for one more day. Still no activity. Shouting enough is enough, I called up for customer care. But the man on the other end seemed to more interested in flaunting his language skills rather than solving my problem. He in his typical American accent retorted, “the item is out of stock” and hit pause. It sounded like as if I have to give him the clue that what should be done now. He then resumed stating that they are trying to procure the books from their partner vendors and will deliver the books as soon as possible. I banged down the phone with a confession – Sorry Dad, I wasted your hard earned money to the kitty of scamsters.
There were two things, which if addressed properly may have earned them some credits from me. First, they should have at least bothered to updated me with the delay and shouldn’t have taken the orders if the item was out of stock. The things went ahead only when I had to intervene and ask about the status of delivery. Second, even when called up, there was no sense of apology prevailing which could have pacified a customer like me. Having lost all the faith, I waited for my stuffs. I also made up my mind to ask for the cancellation and refund if it gets delayed further.
Now it was my luck playing over there that one out of two books was delivered (with reputed courier service). And in the mean time I also had a conversation with them asking for the cancellation of second book. But I was told that since the second books has gone out of the market, they will be giving me an Imported Hard Bound edition with the same price within 15-20 days. Maybe it was too good to be true or I don’t know if this was yet another bait, I declined to the offer on the fair ground that I’ve no more faith in them. The only best part of the story was that the balance amount was credited back to my account promptly.
Book was “finally” delivered but the packaging was nothing to write home about. It came in a Plastic seal, but the material inside was wrapped with thick paper sheet which could have been much better. But given that it was a single book, I presume that for higher numbers, they may be having carton packing. And this is where Flipkart has an edge – no matter how much you order, all of them arrive in a carton pack. And Infibeam too had bookmark enclosed with it.
Sad enough, my first purchase became the last too.
- Scope for Improvement : It takes a lot to build a brand. Many customers like me swear by it. And given that e-commerce will get more fierce by each coming days, being an early entrant and having a good brand value, Infibeam does have lots of potential. But it will lose it to its competition if above shopping experience doesn’t improves.
NBCIndia – Boring But Works
If the quick analogy of the two above websites is the Shopping Malls with good ambiance with all the bells an whistles, then this is nothing but a street book shop with no sense of aesthetics and urban glitz. The site seems to be very outdated which may prevent potential customer to believe that if the site is authentic. Only VeriSign logo at the footer came out to be the saving grace.
Unlike Flipkart, which have channel partners spread over various metros (this sometimes also ensures the faster delivery), NBCIndia is limited to Delhi only.But this doesn’t matters much as number of books available with them are respectable.
They also happens to be the first website from where I made my first purchase. Their price sometimes aren’t as great as Flipkart and Infibeam, but I don’t mind paying the extra bucks if the books aren’t available with any other online bookstores. So, I personally consider NBCIndia as my secondary option. They have COD facility (but not as great as Flipkart with limited area coverage) & International Shipping arrangements. Though paid shipping even for the domestic areas is a major setback (free only when amount exceeds Rs. 399)*.
[one_half]Their customer care is average. NBCIndia needs to realize that online business sometimes demands 24×7 culture, no one likes the phone call being picked up by a peon for his query and being asked to callback over the next working day. Though, when at desk, they hear you properly.[/one_half]
Most of the business houses sees no sign of aggressive expansion and innovative approach.NBCIndia is sadly one of them…
This bookstore too needs to have a good inventory management system. Just like Infibeam, they too once picked up the order for the the book which latter turned out to be out of stock. But the issue was resolved without any fuss and amount was credited back to my account. But still, my major concern while ordering, otherwise “InStock” is just a vestigial tag.
NBCIndia’s packaging also leaves much to be desired. It sends you all the books in a cardboard envelope, which by no means can be considered robust. But they too have a collaboration with reputed courier service.
Interestingly, they provide you with occasional gifts and rewards with some purchase. Though this may fall under the marketing gimmick, but I still appreciate their effort for freebies.
Still this is smitten by mediocre presentation and overall experience.
- Scope for Improvement : The website seriously needs a complete facelift followed by more professionalism.
*The reflected rate during the time article has been written.
|Site/Feature||Site Navigation||Pricing||Packaging||Customer Service||COD||Int. Shipping|
|The comparison chart (scores out of 5)|
The Last Word
It is clearly evident that Infibeam, despite of all its virtues had customer service as their achilles heel. Also, a good inventory practice with updated database is the key of good business and keep the customers coming back to you. On the other hand, Flipkart takes delivery time, better customer care, competitive price as their USP. NBCIndia, also needs to realize that good website is a metaphor of great Shopping Mall which everyone of us would appreciate, plus, they need to address certain caveats for a fair survival.
Conclusively, I’d go with Flipkart (till date) !!!
PS : Shipping rates and other terms of service may change over the time according to the company. So readers are also encouraged to check it with the respective sites itself.
The review was written when eCommerce was just warming up with countable major players in the scene. Out of them, few evolved, few stayed the same and few gave up eventually. And this is their current status:
Flipkart : They are still ruling the roost and has come a long way since then. My only gripe (or suggestion) with them was offers and contests which is now their feature !
Infibeam : Still no mercy. Catalog has improved but not the company.
NBCIndia : Well, who are they ?
Apart from above, etailers like Homeshop18 & Snapdeal (not a book seller anymore) have also made their presence felt but leaving a lot to desire. Amazon India now is Flipkart’s greatest concern (and vice versa !). And niche online shops like Myntra (now with Flipkart) & Jabong have both earned a nice reputation with their services and wide array of offerings. And remaining have miles to go !