Only about 1% Indians transact online. I’m not really into the algebra of things, so all I’d say is, this particular “only instance” of 1% India must be overlooked at one’s own detriment. Especially, as this pie grows by the second and gets tastier by the (c)lick, not all of us are waiting our turn to dig in. In this e-race to acquire new customers, pole positions are occupied by those who were done clacking their forks and knives early. For them, now its time to gorge. The gluttons aren’t leaving a bite of communication underutilized nor a pinch of media space free as they look at biting into as much, creatively and with vigor. The end objective being to attract and retain every (c)lick happy Indian youngling.
By the time you’re finished reading this piece, Flipkart would have sold over 60 products and e-bay over 20. These are e-endeed the new destinations to shop (evidence played out in Fipkart’s latest commercial “shopping ka naya address”)
Flipkart’s not the only one dishing out fresh off the oven communique. Don’t know about Quora, but ebay has an answer to every “how to…?” that money can buy. They play up the irony as these are aspirations that money cannot really afford. The approach is fresh and quirky, for e.g. one would think that getting a supermodel girlfriend is more about personality than possessions. In thier latest campaign though, ebay turns this assumption on its head. Clever.
Not just on TV, but also on their website and various web banners,they abate anxiety in matters such as “How to beat the heat this summer?”
As one of the biggest e-commerce site in the world launches it’s well thought onslaught on Flipkart (which incidentally has always looked like an acquisition target for Amazon.com) the latter has stuck to its guns and is charting an interesting growth story. Their eccentricity is more in design. By opting for children as protagonists, presenting them as adults, employing the conversational tone, their key message is buying online is child’s play. Especially with the services and the SLAs(ever heard of 30 day returns?) Flipkart attaches to them. It is no surprise that clutter breaking communication has in fact leapfrogged them into leadership position.
The e-com way
It is important to recognize as a marketer, that in a competitive market, empty promises are the surest way to quick #fail . Fulfillment therefore is no less a contributor in the massive success of the likes of ebay and Flipkart. Doing the simple things right, such as making on-time delivery of undamaged goods ensures repeat purchase. We were at a Startup event recently and there were these guys starting up an e-commerce + education venture, suggesting that they’d turn the Flipkart model right on its head. It looks like we’ll have to handstand to figure out the e-commerce world. I wished them luck but couldn’t help presenting the argument that people in India are just about getting used to the Flipkart model itself. Transaction – Delivery models usually juxtapose buying behavior so if you’d make me take a penalty with my left boot or cook authentic Lebanese, chances are I’ll make a hash of it, no wait a sec, I’ll just plain refuse.
e-Commies – Category Leadership
Getting back to this marathon’s leading pack there are arguments about the various categories that different players dwell. Flipkart for instance is defacto for books, Snapdeal for deals while ebay does a lot of consumer electronics selling. This is bound to happen and given the premise ebay’s latest commercial scores big – it stresses on the SKU range on offer. Want it, get it (anything, anything).
Flipkart on the other hand is in a hurry to consolidate and is not averse to the inorganic route as its buying out competitors such as Letsbuy.com. This way or another, both ebay and flipkart are in a race to become as broad based as possible and acquire as many users as possible and then focus on fulfillment to let word of mouth rip.
What’s the Big Deal?
It’s not entirely novel, online firms buying media offline to gain traction. Hari Saddu might be a bad boss, but you know he did well as a communications agent for Naukri.com. What seems interesting though is that this industry doesn’t seem to have the baggage of benchmarks and research. They don’t need to sell moisturizer by exposing a gorgeous woman’s beautiful legs because a regression analysis says so. Their approach is fresh and unlike commoditized products such as the colas they don’t have to lie. Even the relatively smaller players such as Quikr.com come across as vibrant as their offerings are indeed spanking new. The winner in such a scenario is the Indian youth who now has options to pick a product from. ”I am bullish on the ecommerce sector. It is the best time to be an online buyer currently because the venture capital is subsidizing every purchase,” said Mahesh Murthy, partner at Seedfund, a first stage, venture capital fund (via afaqs).
The industry is at such a point where when a big online player advertises on television or another mass media it fuels not only their growth but that of the industry since once a customer does get online he/she looks for alternatives. It’s like when you go to the mall with the intention of picking up a Levis jeans and get sucked into a fabulous cK offer, better value via a sale, you wouldn’t ignore that outright would you. Then there is the case of repeat purchases, what if you do get a dozen compliments for the cK? It might now be great value, even at a premium. The CRM principles must adeptly be applied to acquire, retain, refer, milk, milk..So when I Google “Flipkart”, I might stumble upon a Fashion and You ad that might suggest that it is a better idea to go for a summer hat rather than Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats I was about to. Eventually, I might go for both, isn’t that a big deal?
Where are we headed?
Consolidation is evident. However, it is interesting to note that since our e-tailing has almost leapfrogged the complete development of an organized offline retail sector there aren’t many of the traditional retailers such as Pantaloons who have cracked online. Unlike say a Walmart, which has an online presence second only to Amazon. So there could be different types of inorganic developments – How about something like Shoppers stop/Lifestyle buying out Fashion and You? Or the other way round? Amazon picking up Flipkart to announce its entry into India. The bargaining power of these new companies is sure to produce a few millionaires.
Social. It is natural for our indigenous e-commerce folks to attempt the social route as its been adopted as the natural next among global e-tailers. A page on FB and a handle on twitter isn’t quite enough you see. So when you hear of Flipkart’s acquisition of a WeRead.com, it does makes them come across as serious players. On the other hand if you get onto say Myntra.com’s blog you’re directed to an associated site called Stylemynt.com which is an extremely disjointed entity as the content is quite haute’ for a retail brand that’s selling Flying Machine.
Product advancement. Kindle is one of those radically innovative products that is sure to make other online businesses think about product innovations. They can be incremental, such as apps on pads and pods or radical, the ones we don’t know about yet. This is more long term though.
All in all, the race for e-commerce dominance has only just begun in India. As leaders run down the laps and fresh legs join them on the track we’ll be watching closely, perhaps picking favorites, maybe working with a few, who knows, the possibilities are e-ndless.