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2015: A year of e-comm advertising, but has it been one of brand building?

04-January-2016
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2015: A year of e-comm advertising, but has it been one of brand building?

2015 year witnessed intense competition in the e-commerce category with players engaged in various marketing activities, in an attempt to create the maximum brand recall and consumer engagement. Celebrities like Aamir Khan were roped in by Snapdeal and Shah Rukh Khan was signed by Big Basket. Players like Snapdeal wanted to establish Monday as their key shopping property with the launch of their ‘Diwali Monday Preview’ sales, while ShopClues released their first ad campaign this year for their Sunday property- ShopClues Flea market.

Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart have been most prominent in terms of their advertising in 2015. From launching high-decibel Diwali campaigns to engaging in ambush marketing, these players have been in the news all through the year.

The Times of India edition for October 13, 2015 was one spoken about by everyone, and not for news, but the sheer number of ads. The point under contention was a multi-jacket cover with a full jacket ad by Flipkart, a cover ad by Snapdeal, another one by Videocon and yet another by Amazon. The TOI ad space itself was worth over Rs 12crore in one day.

Talking about the creative strategy, Amazon picked up popular human behaviour and tried to capture the Indian shopper’s mentality through their ads ‘Aur Dikhao’, ‘TryTohKar’ and ‘Kya Pehnu’ this year. Snapdeal introduced Aamir Khan as the face of their brand through their campaign ‘Dil Ki Deal’ and the endorser was also seen doing ‘Sher-o-Shayeri’ to talk about their Monday Preview sales. Flipkart after eight years went for a brand identity refresh this year starting with a new logo. It also came back with the second edition of the popular property- ‘Big Billion Days Sale’. The highlight of this year’s sale was that it took place over a span of five days and was ‘app-only’. There were speculations that post the sale, Flipkart will go the app-only way, however, there has been no news about it so far.

This year, as competition got intense in this category, we saw players aggressively trying to reach out to their sellers, as much as the consumers in their ad campaigns. Snapdeal came out with its first vendor communication featuring Aamir Khan in April this year. It was then followed by Flipkart and ShopClues, who also came out with similar ads, targeting vendors and inspiring them to be a part of the online e-tail revolution.

Expert View:

In an earlier interview with exchange4media, Piyush Pandey, Chairman and Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather, India and South Asia said, “The e-comm players have been very active this year, but they have been so transactional that hardly anything sticks to my mind. These players have spent a lot of money but each one has been transactional in their advertising, as a result of which we have witnessed lesser brand building.”

Echoing similar opinion, Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor & Consults said, “In terms of the communication, all the e-commerce brands look like one another, the distinction is dead today. Infact, when the e-comm thing started, players had their separate identity. Flipkart rolled out ads featuring children and that really stood out and worked well for them. Today it has lost the brand advantage. All these players are either talking about their range, or the time taken to deliver. So, communication is being limited to just the very basics and there is no brand building happening.”

“I feel that out of all the players, Amazon has the creative potential to stand out but it hasn’t been exploited till now. It is Flipkart which started out as a brand and went on to become a commodity, while Amazon started out as a commodity as is trying to morph itself into a brand now,” added Bijoor.

Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants highlighted, “2015 was an e-commerce advertising year. Apart from the big three-- Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart, there were many others that advertised quite substantially. By roping in celebrities like Aamir Khan (Snapdeal) and Shah Rukh Khan (Big Basket), they made the e-commerce space quite high profile. While there were different creative strategies, there was also a common element-- the price war. Unfortunately, all have focussed on price concessions instead of consumer convenience, excellent brand experience or other non-price consumer benefits. OLX managed to connect the mind and heart, and in my opinion connected the best with consumers. Hope e-commerce does not become d commerce (discount commerce).”

Kanika Tiwari, Head- Marketing & Communications, Affinity Global Inc elaborated, “According to a February report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) , the overall retail market in India is expected to almost double in size to $ 1 Trillion in 2020 from $ 600 Billion in 2015. Of this, modern trade is expected to grow three times from $ 60 billion to $180 billion. And the e-commerce market is expected to quadruple from $15-18 billion now to $60-70 billion. The main drivers of the growth as per BCG are ‘Broader assortment, higher discounts, and greater convenience.’ That explains why Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal continue to tout convenience, their exhaustive range and low prices in their ads. It means that irrespective of creative aspect they are essentially tactical in their ads. Among all the e-commerce brands, Flipkart was found to have the most unique content strategy followed by Amazon and Snapdeal.”

Way forward:

Sharing his optimistic view, Pandey said, “I feel things will change, the e-comm guys will also sit back and ask: ‘Am I looking like any other e-comm guy’? Do I need to build affinity? Do I have to build engagement? So, brand building will take place. You can’t really accuse them of doing bad work and I think they will learn. We are at it and I am sure we will see that work. It has been a year of transition with new brands coming in, new categories coming up, give them time to settle down and something will happen.”

“This year, players mostly used conventional media -- print, TV, outdoor along with social media being supplementary. Those full page ads in the same newspaper on the same day were amusing, since one had to wade through two- three pages to reach the first page of news. Guess, the VC money was speaking. Hope there is sense next year to use my brand mantra ' Use advertising like salt, in the right proportion ‘. Sometimes one wonders whether the ads were targeted to consumers or to investors, maybe for the next round of funding,” discussed Kapoor.

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