Even as e-commerce players had their individual discount war raging in the run-up to the 70th year of India’s independence, no big marketing blitzkrieg was seen either on TV, print or on the outdoor medium which was the staple over the past couple of years.
An industry expert from a media agency who didn’t wish to be quoted said, “Independence Day is a big occasion for good discounts and deals. Brands like Big Bazaar started it and e-commerce has been just capitalising on it since then. The only shift in trend seen this year among the players is that, they have been running their sales almost a week in advance. For example, Amazon this year had their ‘Great Indian Sale’ from 8-10 August, as compared to last time, when it was held during 10-12 August. The reason being, everyone wants to tap their customers before the other player does it.”
The expert further highlighted, “The marketing spends of last year was no doubt bigger, this year it is more about the stabilisation for the e-commerce players.”
Talking about the discounts, Amazon was the first one to launch their ‘Great Indian Sale’ from August 8-10 and aggressively marketed it across mediums. Apart from TVCs, running full page front ads on print dailies and occupying prominent outdoor place, it was also seen engaging with its users on the social media. According to reports, Amazon India saw a three-fold jump in sales over its daily sales numbers during its heavily advertised three-day sale.
Flipkart launched their ‘The Freedom Sale’ from August 10-12 and Snapdeal offered discount up to 70% in all their products in the ‘Wish for India Sale’. These two players were not very active in the marketing of their promotions. Myntra which was acquired by Flipkart last year had their ‘Right to Fashion Sale’ from August 13-15, offering 50-80% off on products across categories. To promote the offer, the player launched an ad campaign.
Other players like ShopClues and Pepperfry also lured their customers with great offers for Independence Day. While communication from ShopClues focussed on the discounts, online furniture portal Pepperfry on the other hand launched their ad ‘Don’t Wait till Diwali, buy furniture anytime on Pepperfry’ to kickstart their festive offerings.
Nothing stood out in this year’s Independence Sale: experts
Commenting on any noticeable highlight among the e-commerce players on Independence Day this year, Madhukar Sabnavis, Vice Chairman & Director, Client Relations, Ogilvy & Mather said, “Nothing in particular or special is happening this year. Big Bazaar made the Independence Day a shopping date and that is what many retailers are riding on. As sale is becoming part of life and marketing calendars of retailers, this is one more event to consider and evaluate for sales. It has just become a standard. In fact, to my mind, as sale has become so common place, you need something interesting to make them stand out as we move into the future.”
Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President- Head Marketing, Products, Digital & E-commerce, HDFC Life cited, “Too many sales are happening on the e-commerce side at the moment and if you look at most of these sales, they are taking place for a maximum of one to three days, I don’t think this helps in getting mileage. The better idea is to have a sale running for 15 days and then back it up with good advertising. What is currently happening is that it is just attracting one segment, who are impulse buyers, but lot of people are planned buyers, they need time to make a purchase. So these are the guys who are going to the retail segment. As compared to last year, this year, the strategy has been more tactical, than strategic.”
Tightened purse strings
With most of the e-commerce players struggling with heavy losses and valuation struggle, analysts had already predicted that there will not be any astronomic ad spends. They are also fighting to get fresh rounds of funding and they don’t have the money to advertise heavily like they have been doing in the last few years.
In addition to this, there has also been a dip in sales reported after the introduction of the Department of Industrial Policy & promotion (DIPP) policy introduced in March this year. As per the guidelines, not only are ecommerce firms barred from offering discounts under the new policy, they also cannot offer promotional schemes like cashbacks to attract shoppers. The warranty of goods and services and after-sales service too will be provided by sellers and not the ecommerce company.
In 2015, Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, collectively spent around Rs 1,500 crore on the festive marketing. However, while the spending by the big 3 (or 4) might be expected to reduce, overall the e-commerce industry is still expected to be the biggest contributor to ad spends this year. The reason for this is that analysts expect the smaller, and newer, players to step up brand campaigns.
With this tight market condition, it will be interesting to see how most of the e-comm players gear up for Diwali, which is the most lucrative time of the year for all retailers.