Everything passes. It has to. That's the beauty and tragedy of it.
The recent ‘Big Billion Day’ fiasco by Flipkart has given rise to a spate of discussions – some positive but mostly negative – around the marketing gimmicks employed by e-commerce businesses these days. One of the leading national print publications showcased a page-length ad by Flipkart – right on the first page so it hits the urban, tech savvy crowd smack in the face the moment they open their newspapers on Monday morning.
The result? An unprecedented flurry of shoppers to be the first in the scene to grab a bunch of items on a so-called ‘limited offer’ day long sale…
No doubt it was a bold move by Flipkart to overhaul sales and get maximum traffic to their website in a day. Within just 10 hours of the working day, Flipkart recovered more than $100 million in gross merchandising value (GMV). There was tremendous traffic onto the website that clearly indicated the depth and breadth of online shopping frenzy prevalent in the market.
Not to mention that the same newspaper also flaunted an ad by Flipkart’s competitor Snapdeal in the following page with cheeky catch-phrases. Amazon, a seasoned player in the e-commerce field, though a fairly new entrant in the Indian market was not far behind in stealing the thunder from Flipkart’s ad. Competing hashtags that went viral was nothing short of war. Apparently trolling is no longer a cause for consternation. All is fair in love and online marketing. ‘Dog eat dog’ world that it is, one can hardly blame such antics or judge all outliers such as Flipkart and Snapdeal going the extra mile. In an age where online shopping has become a byword for the urban, internet enabled smart phone wielding, wallet-toting youth, there is a clear jostle for supremacy among online marketers and etailers.
Amid all this brouhaha, one wonders the long-term implications of such drastic devil-may-care gimmicks to woo shoppers by droves. Was it a well thought through exercise launched by Flipkart or an impulsive plunge to be the first in the scene? Will it make a lasting dent in the psyche of online shoppers that is growing by the minute? Or will it be forgotten in time – only the brand having made its stamp in the minds of the Indian masses. Either way, it was a risk – calculated or otherwise – that Flipkart chose to take.
Now, Flipkart’s scheme to lure in customers may have been revolutionary, but it had its share of glitches that cannot be brushed under the carpet in a hurry. There were a bunch of products ranging from apparel to accessories to electronic gizmos which flaunted a staggering slash in prices and were hard to ignore. When shoppers would go as far as selecting the items or adding them onto their cart, the items would mysteriously appear as “SOLD” or “OUT OF STOCK” or even worse – show their regular, everyday prices without the promised discount! Even those who successfully managed to place an order found that their orders were unfathomably cancelled without their permission or any kind of intimation. Needless to say, there was a rise of disgruntled customers who opted for competitor shopping sites where the festival season anyway promised heavy discounts. What started out as an audacious tactic fizzled out when shoppers realized they were being duped. It might have brought in the dough. But it has cost the brand dearly.
What does it mean for the customer?
Customers are no longer fooled into making snap judgments and instantaneous purchases. They go through all online and offline avenues comparing costs and features, analyzing peer reviews, participating in social media discussions, looking for the most viable deals before making a purchase decision. They are not shy of voicing their opinions on products or sharing their brand experiences with peers. They influence the brand’s image in a big way and form lasting impressions. Social media provides an integrated platform for expression of customer feedback. The availability of internet aided mobile devices and a plethora of apps make online shopping not just a convenience but a way of life.
If not one, there is always another brand round the corner, promising more. There is no dearth of choices with many such marketers joining the e-commerce bandwagon, each looking to outdo the others and fast. Upping the ante to evolve with time is the need of the hour for any brand that wishes to stay in the good books of the customer for long. Furthermore, businesses need to have a sound marketing strategy to analyze customer sentiments from the trove of data generated across all online and offline platforms in order to cater to customer needs in real-time. In short – customer first…
Shopping has been a necessity for some, therapy for others and ultimate pleasure for most, equivalent to eating chocolates or taking a vacation after a hard week or even falling in love, maybe! The thrill of getting new stuff to flaunt around is quite a heady one. But while earlier it was more of a necessity versus availability issue, now, it is more spur of the moment ‘binge shopping’. Irrespective of whether one needs something or can afford it, one grabs what one wants. Thanks to flexible payment options such as credit cards, cash-on-delivery (COD) and internet banking as well a range of perks such as discount coupons, loyalty points, payback systems, easy return policy and no extra charge on cancellation, online shopping rules the day.
It is indeed a dream come true for true blue shopaholics and wannabes who live by the maxim “Shop till you drop!” But we wish online marketers would clean up their act before its too late for them. Customers have their options open anyway. More power to the shopper, yay…!