Cash-rich etailing giants up their competitive ante

Audacious marketing budgets spark off online shopping blitz; Flipkart claims to have sold 100 products every second on October 6, while Snapdeal takes a pot shot at its rival

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Oct 7, 2014 8:03 AM
Cash-rich etailing giants up their competitive ante

India woke up to an exciting day on October 6, Monday blues notwithstanding. E-commerce biggy Flipkart held what was purported to be the biggest sales blitz of the year. Flipkart, quite literally, promised offers and discounts on a billion objects with its The Big Billion Day, but it was far from the only e-commerce player looking to entice holiday shoppers.

Snapdeal’s Diwali sale has been going on for a few days now with the e-retailer offering visitors hourly offers on around 100 products including a Diwali Bumper Sale with ‘one on one’ offers. Meanwhile, the third biggie in the e-commerce space, Amazon, has announced a ‘Diwali Dhamaka Week’ from October 10-16. Last weekend, it had already hosted a ‘Mission To Mars Celebration Dhamaka’. ‘Save Your Festival Shopping For The Amazing Diwali Dhamaka Week’ announced an Amazon ad in a leading daily today. Snapdeal, on its part, took a sly pot shot at Flipkart with a print ad that read “For Others It’s A Big Day. For Us, Today Is No Different.”

Flipkart, not one to cower down, especially for an event that it potentially sees becoming India’s version of Cyber Monday or Black Friday, did not hold back either. A pan-India flip jacket carried today in one of the country’s most selling daily might have cost the company around Rs 4.5-5 crore said a source.

The incredible willingness to spend shown by e-commerce players bodes well for shoppers, advertisers and the industry in general. “We typically see such aggressive spending happen when there are market creation opportunities. You can take the example of the Cola Wars. Both Snapdeal and Flipkart have gone after every kind of advertising opportunity available, whether it is print, outdoor, radio or online. They have associated with every TV show that they could and have been incredibly loud and in the face,” said PM Balakrishna, COO at Allied Media.

Snapdeal, for example, launched its biggest ad campaign ever to promote the Diwali Bumper Sale. The campaign, which began in September, saw 50 commercials with 28 celebrity endorsements. To support this campaign, the company has planned activations in nearly 70 cities and towns along with 30 different hoardings featuring the celebrity ambassadors, informed Sandeep Komaravelly, Senior VP (Marketing) at Snapdeal. Though he would not divulge the total spends for the campaign, a source informed that nearly Rs 6 crore has been spent for just outdoor advertising.

Even Flipkart, apart from the spending today, has been continuously hammering in the idea of The Big Billion Day for the past few weeks. “We have used a blend of traditional and modern mediums for the festive campaign. OOH and digital mediums are targeted towards the metro cities and television and print mediums are used extensively to reach out to the greater masses across the country,” said Shoumyan Biswas, Senior Director (Marketing) of Flipkart.

Jabong, another fashion e-retailer, also recently launched its new brand campaign, ‘Be You’ across print, TV, outdoor and digital. The one player that has been relatively quiet so far is Amazon. Though a new TVC campaign debuted last month and there have been some print and digital ads, it has not been as aggressive as the other three aforementioned, at least so far. A reason for this could be that Amazon wants to wait for the hype around The Big Billion Day and Snapdeal’s  Diwali Bumper Sale to die down. Agrees Balakrishna, “With Amazon it is now a question of wait and watch. The war of acquisition has caused blurring between the different campaigns and Amazon might be waiting for this clutter to clear away. All three brands will have to up the ante.”

Though both Snapdeal and Flipkart have not held anything back financially or otherwise to capture the maximum eyeballs, it finally comes down to who could provide the better experience and the best deals. Snapdeal claims that between October 3-5, it sold 10 products every second with a 100 per cent jump in sales. Flipkart says they got a billion hits on the site during Big Billion Day and achieved a 24-hour sales target of $100 million in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) in just 10 hours.

Not all the feedback through the day has been positive though and there were quite a few shoppers who complained about website crashes, the unorganized inventory page. Rumours that prices of products had been hiked prior to the sale also did the rounds of social media, further adding fuel to the fire. “Our technology team has been dedicated towards addressing errors and providing constant support to accommodate the largest scale of traffic and customer visits e-commerce has witnessed across the country,” said founders Sachin and Binny Bansal in a statement.

We got Meltwater to crunch some numbers to find out the buzz around Flipkart on social media. According to their analysis, by 4.30 pm on Monday evening, Flipkart had more than 38,000 mentions with nearly 7,200 negative mentions and 9,400 positive mentions. The complaints tended to focus on products being out of stock (2,247 mentions) and claims that the sale was fake or fooling people (735 mentions).

With the investments made by e-commerce players for the Diwali festive period, it will be interesting to see what the return on investment has been and whether it justifies the huge ad spends. Also, with just three days before the beginning of its Diwali offer period, Amazon will also definitely have a thing or two to prove, especially after CEO Joe Bezos promising a $2 billion investment in probably the world’s fastest growing e-commerce market.

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