Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pay online and gain rewards!

Many of us have been transacting online since the last few years and the size of this market has only been increasing. Most International and a few Domestic Banks provide Net-Banking facility at no additional cost to their customers and this means the customers can use their Debit/Credit cards to perform various transactions –to transfer funds to other accounts within and outside the customer’s own bank; to purchase financial products such as Fixed & Recurring Deposits, Insurance, Stocks, etc.; and of course, to shop! When I mean shop, one could buy almost anything that one desires – from groceries to stationery, cars to real estate properties. Needless to say, one needs to use his/her own prudence while shopping online – whether using a Debit or a Credit card as it is a natural tendency to spend as much as possible, given the various exciting promotions and offers that compel us to “consume” more. Internet payment security has been a great concern over the past years but that’s improving day by day with Banks and their payment gateway partners (third-parties who process the transactions on behalf of the bank’s customers) upgrading their back-end continuously, to ensure that the transactions are not spammed by malicious intentions.
Online shopping has been in existence since late 90s – with many Airlines and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) notably starting the trend. For the sellers, it was mere savings in their operating costs – there is no need for precious real estate and manpower to conduct these transactions; for consumers, it was saving time and effort, and of course, a better deal at the touch of a button. In India, Air Deccan (which was later taken over by Kingfisher Airlines) was among the first to popularize this trend. Over the years, many Retailers such as Shoppers Stop, Crossword, The Future Group, PVR Cinemas, etc have been using this potential in their favour. Then there are generic websites such as eBay and Amazon who have been pioneering this concept since the past decade, where one can purchase almost everything under the sun. Having said that, the size of the Online Shopping/transacting market is not yet very big in India. There are various reasons that one could find that deter people from transacting online, security being a major one but most importantly, it is the “habit” or the lack of it. I know many of my friends who have been living in the US or Europe who shop online for as many products – from hand wash liquids to food items to shirts and ties. That’s because of previous experiences and yes, standardization of products (including Quality and Delivery). I remember when I was at my friends’ place in Hong Kong last year we called and ordered full-fledged meals for three days from a small time Indian Restaurant – order placed, payment done instantly online and food delivered in less than 30 minutes. So, if it can work well in HKG, so be it in BLR as well!


While retailers have been encouraging consumers to shop online more often, Banks and credit card issuers have been doing their bit too. One of the most popular ones in recent times is the initiative by Visa. Visa has its own website aptly named visabillpay.com and the Indian version called visabillpay.in. One can register and pay bills online instantly across various service providers such as Regional Electricity Boards, Mobile and Telephone service providers, Insurance companies, etc. using all Banks’ cards which are issued by Visa. Since the payment gateway is managed by Visa, security factors seem to be well in place. Apart from providing the bank login details, one needs to provide the authentication grid details as well – three out of the ten two-digit numbers that are behind every card issued (recently) must be keyed in to complete the process. Visa, on its part takes special initiatives from time to time. When I had registered two years ago, they had a simple yet effective and compulsive scheme – when a bill is paid through the website, the user gets a 5% cash back subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 per transaction. Recently, they have come up with more exciting offers and have been repeatedly announcing this through the Print Media (across various national publications). As a limited period offer, for every five bills that are paid through the website, the user receives a Gift Voucher from PVR Cinemas. And for every bill worth Rs. 800 or more that is paid through the website, the user receives a Gift voucher worth Rs. 150 from Pizza Hut.And there are some other exciting offers too... 

There have been many programs in the past to reward customer loyalty. But this is a bit different. Needless to say, this is among the brilliant campaigns that I have seen in the past few days when Retailers have tried every trick in the book to woo consumers. In this case, a very smart move by PVR and Pizza Hut! While it is bit more cumbersome in the case of the cinema, the pizza idea seems better. The consumption cycle is not just faster, but obviously the upside sales potential is higher. A family of four would order for atleast Rs. 300-400 during one purchase and the upside value is the hook. In case of PVR too, consumers would visit the cinema, redeem tickets against the voucher but buy food and beverage within the auditorium. That’s again a big opportunity.

In both the cases, chances that first-timers would get tempted are high. If someone has never tried paying online, then probably he would, with the comfort of paying bills online, from his desktop or PDA. In case the customer has never visited a PVR or has never ordered a pizza, then that’s again a great attempt to get them acclimatized to a new way of watching movie or dining.

Whichever way, the more you spend, the more you earn rewards. So, go pay! And get rewarded instantly. 

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Although online payment is giving many rewards, one always have to be careful to put card details only on trusted sites...