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Online Shopping

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January 16, 2012, 4:21 IST

Team Digit

Online Shopping

Online shopping is convenient, useful, and simple to use. Most online retailers and deal-of-the-day sites also have many great offers, where you can get a lot of great stuff at lowered rates. However, finding the best deals for yourself is not a very easy task! We can help you cut through the clutter however! When it comes to specific categories of tech products, where should you browse to? What follows is our analysis of your options...

Besides statistics, the plethora of web stores and deal-of-the-day web sites cropping up everyday makes the question of whether online shopping is big in India redundant. Of course, it’s catching on! There’s no doubt that it is indeed going to be the most preferred way by which people will procure things in the future. As it stands today, many of us are pretty familiar with some of the well known places online.

With online shopping, the first questions we asked were - Which web store is the best for which category of products? Which one has the best range of products? Where are the best deals available? A simple Google search with “buy abc product India” may not throw up the best results as some of the sites offering the best deals may not have been properly Search Engine Optimized.

To answer these questions, we decided to undertake a massive comparison of eCommerce and online shopping web sites across categories. 

Survival of the cheapest: Hunt for the best deals online

Note: The scores are based on prices and availability of products during the time data was collected. They are indicative only for the selection of products picked out. For a different set of products, at another point in time the scores will vary. For the full scoresheet, visit this Google Docs link: http://bit.ly/shop_logs 

Best sites for each gadget category:

Mobiles
As expected, the aggregators and marketplaces scored highest thanks to ease of availability. eBay.in got the highest score for an appealing mix of price and availability, followed by shopping.indiatimes.com and naaptol.com. Indiaplaza.in also fared pretty well as there was a `2,000 limited period discount on the Galaxy S II at the time of accumulating prices. The online shopping site often has such attractive offers, so while buying mobiles it would be a good idea to search for your desired model at this web site. flipkart. com offers decent pricing, but scored lower due to non-availability of two popular Nokia phones from our sample list. Among web sites that keep their own stock, infibeam.com scored the highest and will be a worthy destination to check out before making a purchase decision online.

Tablets
For tablets, again eBay.in came out on top with a high margin compared to other marketplaces while shopmania. in aggregated the best prices. Our scores, however, ascertained that the best online shopping destination for buying tablets is adexmart.in when it comes to multi-category web sites.

Notebook / Netbook
The notebook / netbook segment was a tough one to tackle because of the various permutations and combinations possible in the configurations. Not many of the  online shopping sites offered a large range or variants in certain models. The results of this category comparison can largely be considered inconclusive. Still amongst what we looked for, Rediff offered reasonably decent prices and breadth.

As consumers, the best bet would be to decide on a particular series from a manufacturer, look for particular specs and settle for the nearest configuration.

Cameras
For cameras, we selected popular entry-level dSLRs as well as Point-and-Shoots, Micro Four Thirds as well as difficult to procure models such as the Panasonic Lumix TZ7. eBay.in can get you the cheapest rates while BigAdda.com and Letsbuy seem to be the next best places to go to while online shopping for cameras. Rediff on the other hand, gives you some of the not-so-easily available cameras, at least, according to the sample that we chose. So if you’re interested in buying a camera this Diwali, it would be worth your while to head over to this shopping portal to browse around. Interestingly, Letsbuy.com has a whole bunch of freebies thrown in with its camera listings. For instance, with its Canon 1100D you get a Silicon Power 16GB Class-10 SD Card, a Vanguard Tripod Aluminum MAK 233 and a carry case; while the Canon SX 30IS listing bundles a photo frame. These freebies are worth checking out if you intend on buying them separately anyway.

Computer components and peripherals
Initially, we fixed on a mid-range rig configuration and began searching for components on aggregators and speciality component sites. At the end of the exercise we found that except for marketplaces and aggregators, there aren’t any other online shopping web sites where you can get all the components from one place. So, we decided to build a high-end rig and check for availability to see if speciality component sellers such as Bitfang.com, techshop.in, mediahome.in, etc. work better in this case. The results were pretty similar. Shopmania.in scored the highest by sourcing the best prices from theitwares.com and techshop.in. The conclusion to be drawn here is that if you want to build a low to mid-range rig, your best bet is to procure different components from sellers on eBay.in. If you want to build a high-end rig, the prices you get from eBay are not very good. In this case, by scores, theitwares.com is a good destination for procuring high-end components. The wisest thing to do is visit the specialty tech shops individually and buy each component where its being offered for the lowest price.

Hard drives, routers, Blu-ray players and other stuff
We decided to check out what would be your best online shopping source when buying a rag-tag mix of products ranging from routers, external storage devices, HD media players, HDTVs, pendrives, etc. For such a varied list, aggreagators such as shopmania.in and marketplaces like eBay.in are your best bet. However, some subcategories showed interesting results.

For external storage, letsbuy and flipkart had the lowest prices, while adexmart had good rates for Blu-ray players, but not much of anything else. Timtara.com did well on USB flash drives.

List of the top online shopping portals for India, with each site's specialities:

www.koovs.com
At Koovs you have great deals in various categories such as cameras, computers, mobiles, etc. The deals are not “at cost price” as they claim but some of the offers are not bad at all. Worth checking out.

www.buytheprice.com
This one too, almost exclusively, operates in electronics. We spotted some interesting offers such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830 for Rs. 13,099. There’s also a section on Consumer Durables too, a popular category during Diwali. After all, even geeks need refrigerators to chill their beers and microwaves to warm their food in, right?

www.bitfang.com
Another popular IT hardware seller, BitFang has weekly as well as daily deals. You have “BitShocking” as well as “BitSpecial” as the type of deals. You can get routers, digital cameras, video cards and even phones for cheap.

www.bigadda.com
Although primarily catering to lifestyle, from time to time, you do find DVD players, mobile phones and other consumer electronics here. Keep an eye out for the products of your choice.

www.taggle.com
Taggle is a deals web site that specialises in gadgets and electronics. In fact, because of its “deals” positioning, it’s a pity that we couldn’t include it in our online destinations list. The range may not be very wide but the deals are quite good. For instance the HTC Desire S was available for Rs. 22,100. While the Dell Vostro 1015 (2GB DDR3, 320GB, Black) + FREE backpack was pegged at Rs, 23,999. A web site you definitely must frequent.

www.soldinsixty.com
This web site will mostly have perfumes, watches and other such products on offer. Every now and then however, you get fantastic deals on external hard drives. You can find other electronics offers too. For example, at the time of writing it had a BlackBerry Bold 4 9900 for Rs. 30,499, a Philips 5.1 Channel Speaker set for Rs. 3,499, a universal plug-point adaptor for Rs. 199, etc. Follow its twitter account to stay updated.

www.ebay.in
eBay is just too big to not have a deals section. Unlike other deal-of-the-day services, eBay.in does show some love to the geek buyer. You can get offers on laptops, smartphones gaming consoles, cameras and tablets. The deals are displayed right on the home page. At the time of writing, we spotted a Dell Inspiron 15R (i3 380M, 15.6”, 3GB DDR3, 320GB) for Rs. 27,540.

www.primeabgb.com
This speciality component store displays a daily deal of the day before redirecting to the home page. The products range from memory kits such as the Gskill Ripjaws 16 GB, CPU and Mobo combos, monitors and even optical drives. At the time of writing, the deal of the day being offered was an LG 12x Blu-ray disc rewriter for Rs. 6,000. A place worth checking out daily if you’re a hardware junkie.

www.snapdeal.com
Snapdeal is not all about spas, restaurants and make-over deals. Click on the product deals tab and you’ll find lots of interesting offers on mobiles, electronics and other accessories such as pendrives, SD cards etc. We spoke to Snapdeal’s CEO, Kunal Bahl and found out that they’re planning to increase their offering specially to cater to the festive season. There will be deals on mobiles, electronics, fashion accessories, diamond jewellery and gold coins and other festive products.

How we compared

Our task first began by mapping the entire online shopping universe. The exhaustive list drawn up consisted of over a hundred individual web sites selling everything from IT goodies and flowers to books and even speciality baby products. Of course, since we weren’t too interested in Lingerie, Art and all these other categories, we whittled down the list to about 30 of the best destinations for IT purchases.

Once we had these web sites, we moved on to the enormous challenge of actually quantifying parameters such as pricing and availability of products found on these online shopping web sites. We created a mixed bag of 62 products spanning each and every category you can possibly think of. The products were selected intelligently so as to represent a near perfect cross-section of what is available in the market and what a typical ThinkDigit reader would be looking for this season. We had a couple of phones ranging from entry-level ones such as the Micromax Bling 2 to high-end ones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and everything in between. For cameras, we had a couple of popular entry-level DSLRs such as the Canon 1100D as well as notable Point-and-Shoots such as the hard-to-procure Panasonic Lumix TZ7. Other products we searched were some of our Best Buys from Digit’s Comparison Tests. Two routers, a few portable hard drives, notebooks, several tablets, a budget Blu-ray player (Sony S380), pen drives, LCD/LED TV models and a complete mid-range rig were all included in the mixed bag of products.

Apart from searching for these products and comparing their pricing across online shopping web sites we also looked at the depth offered in each category i.e., the number of items listed, wherever available. Scores were given for pricing in each category as well as for the availability of products. A score was obtained for each product by comparing the minimum price offered anywhere as a percentage of the price offered at that store. These scores were summed across the category. If the product was not available with a particular web site, a penalty of twice the maximum price was added as an overhead.

As the online shopping comparison progressed, 3-4 distinct categories of web sites emerged, viz., Marketplaces, Aggregators, Multicategory stockists and Speciality stockists. What also emerged were distinct core competencies or specialities that each of the multi-category web sites seemed to have fine-tuned. For instance, flipkart and adexmart have acquired quite a bit of expertise in mobile phones. Some online stores were admittedly catering to specific categories. For example, within technology as a broad space, bitfang.com, techshhop.in and many others, deal with only computer components. There were a couple of overlaps too. Naaptol.com, for instance, seemed to be a hybrid of sorts having Stock Keeping Units (SKU) of its own, hosted stores (much like a marketplace) and aggregated prices as well. To be fair, by and large hard comparisons were made within comparable categories; marketplaces to either marketplaces or aggregators, speciality shops to other speciality shops etc. However, another way of looking at the comparison is that as a consumer, you don’t care what shop you buy your products from as long as you get the best price. So, whether eBay or Naaptol lets you find a particular graphics card or a speciality store stocks it themselves, may not be very relevant to the end user.

While noting prices we went up to the last possible point in the checkout cycle before payment to get a price inclusive of shipping and VAT and any other charges. So after much research on online shopping, we present to you some of the best places to buy tech products online, per category.


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