Almost every other day, press releases of new phone launches pop up in my inbox. While I skimp through most parts, the thing that always leaves me surprised is as to how many phones nowadays are being sold exclusively online. Smartphones that cost as low as Rs. 2,000 (like the Intex Cloud FX), which expectedly could be the first internet enabled device for many, is ironically sold exclusively on the internet. So, why are so many companies giving in to this type of sales model?
There are primarily two reasons for companies to opt for this type of distribution. One, it helps them cut costs of marketing and stocking inventory, the benefits of which get passed down to the customers. It is improbable that companies like Motorola, Xiaomi and the like would be able to sell their phones for such a steal, if it had chosen to sell in brick and mortar stores. And secondly, selling online through flash sales makes it difficult to purchase the device and people get a sense of attainment when they are able to do so. But this model does have some downsides, which I’ve listed below.
Flash sales are basically when a company puts a product on sale on a particular day and time with fixed number of units in stock. Generally, these phones go out of stock in seconds and companies love to flaunt those numbers. If you search for any of these ‘online only’ devices on sites like OLX, Quikr, etc, you will see a lot of them being sold for a much higher price. The sole purpose of some people to buy devices during flash sales is to make money out of it through resale. Even a popular used product site Quikr slyly endorsed this practice it by putting up this ad.
Xiaomi who made flash sales popular, has try to stop these illegitimate sales. They have told websites to pull down such ads but it’s a problem that just keeps repeating.
So to buy a phone like the Xiaomi Mi4 or the Lenovo A6000, you have to — 1) Register on the e-commerce site prior to the sale, 2) Be available at the exact time the product goes on sale and 3) Repeat Step 1 & 2 if you don’t get one the next week. While flash sales are more like a lottery and you have to depend on your luck to get the phone, the invite system that OnePlus is famous for, is even more annoying. It’s just a phone! Why make people subscribe to newsletters or play contests or beg to others to get an invite?! Personally, I do not approve of either. If I am ready to pay you upfront for a device, then you can’t possibly make it so difficult for me to buy one.
I’d rather go in for something that is available more easily. Motorola should be given credit for not doing either, and except for the time of a new product launch, you can generally browse Flipkart to buy a Motorola product at any time of the day.
No Hands On
This is probably the biggest drawback of not only phones but anything that is being sold purely online. When phones are sold offline, you can visit a store and get a demo of it. And no amounts of reading user reviews or watching YouTube hands-on videos can give you the exact idea about the product. You get to see the product in person and get a hang of it. You may not like the UI or the feel of it or the particular colour you were thinking of buying. But for online only models, the only way you can get a hands-on experience of the phone is if you already know someone who’s purchased the phone. And sometimes, what they show on the site and what actually comes inside the box can be wildly different.
Retailers Buy And Sell Offline
We’ve come across some local retailers who end up buying a popular phone that is sold exclusively online, and then reselling it to a customer who wants it from their store. If they’re facilitating someone who isn’t familiar with e-commerce, maybe it’s not that big a deal. But it can be a problem if they’re adding a markup over and above the cost of the product. Moreover, if they’re reselling products that have been purchased months ago, then the customer will not get the full warranty tenure, that is provided the retailer offers the actual invoice from the e-commerce platform.
To conclude, the online only model isn’t bad. After all, something ought to give when you’re getting top-of-the-line specifications for such a bargain. But it would be great if they went the Motorola way rather than making the whole buying process so painful. And if you are as impatient as me and don’t mind spending more, just go to a shop and purchase your new phone that very minute.
We’re turning over this place today to a guest post from Criselle Lobo. Criselle is an Associate Editor at PriceBaba.com. She is an IT graduate who spends most of her time writing on technology and remaining to watch movies. You can follow her on Twitter @criselle4.