The festive season has been filled with shopping festivals. Flipkart, Snapdeal and others proved the popularity and acceptance of the online medium for shopping with their ambitious sale events during the Diwali period. However, no one was quite prepared for the traffic that these sales would generate, which led to issues with site outages, inventory shortages and logistics, something that the shoppers were not quick to let anyone forget. With the Google Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) 2014, the stakes are set to be even higher. Last year more than 2 million people are said to have visited the GOSF website. This time around with around 450 participants, the rush will be even higher and e-retailers are taking pains to see that last time’s mistakes are not repeated.
One thing that has been given a lot of attention for GOSF is the technical backend. As Praveen Sinha, Co-founder and MD of Jabong, puts it, “During the Diwali shopping period, we were prepared for scale but no one expected the traffic to be that much, which is why the systems were vulnerable. But I think we have understood the issue now. I haven’t heard of any problems on the first day of GOSF, which shows we have learnt.”
Another GOSF partner, ShopClues.com has been tuning the tech infrastructure in preparation for the surge in traffic. “Technology is the backbone of any e-commerce business. When planning our GOSF initiatives, tech-readiness is our prime concern and that implies capacity building for the surge in traffic and for seamlessly scaling up to manage the volume of business transactions,” explains Sanjay Sethi, Co-Founder & CEO, ShopClues.
One other major issue is that of logistics and inventory management. With e-retailers expecting at least double the traffic during GOSF as compared to the Diwali shopping period, ensuring products reach on time without hassles and there is reasonably enough stockpile of inventory becomes important. But this is something that can’t always be forecasted accurately. In fact, logistics and inventory management are a nightmare for Indian e-retailers even on a normal day. “Logistics becomes a bottleneck during these periods and this is something that is not in our control,” agreed Sinha.
To prevent any hiccups, many GOSF partners are working closely with vendors to ensure the logistics back-end is secure. Others like HomeShop18 depend on their extensive logistic footprint in over 3,000+ cities as well as tracking tools and close relationships with logistics partners. For example, says Sundeep Malhotra, Founder and CEO of HomeShop18, “We are working closely with our logistic partners and have strong monitoring tools for better control over shipments. We provide our courier partners with detailed forecast that helps them to streamline product delivery.”
Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO of Pepperfry agreed that logistics is where the pressure is usually faced. However, he also pointed out that during the Diwali period, there was 15-20 days of sustained pressure, which will not be the same as during the three days of GOSF. “We have spoken with our vendors and put in systems in place to take over the increased scale and traffic. Most of our products on sale are already packaged and ready to ship. Even logistically, we are ready for continuous deliveries,” he said.
This is a tactic that seems to be popular as even Vikram Chopra, Founder and CEO Fabfurnish.com mentioned that they were pre-packaging products expected to do well. To ensure that products are available to shoppers, Favfurnish also increased inventory of products on sale.
“It is all about anticipating the business volume that an event like GOSF can move—by carefully working out accurate estimates, we can be better prepared to manage our orders. We have also worked in tandem with our merchants and logistics partners to ensure that the entire fulfillment process runs like well-oiled machinery,” opined Sethi.