Amazon’s bullish approach towards India can be considered as a sign of an e-commerce market starting to grow out of its birth years — however gradual that may be. Amit Agarwal of Amazon India, in conversation with BrandWagon’s Shinmin Bali speaks about the brand’s focus in India, the festive season still being a crowd-puller, going the app way, and more. Excerpts:
How has your target audience evolved over the years in India?
Customers around the world want a vast selection at low prices and a convenient and trustworthy shopping experience. When we started our operations in India, we saw a very healthy traction and demand coming in from tier II and tier III cities. The power of e-commerce helped take brands and sellers to every corner of the country, which was earlier limited to the metros. Currently, over 65% of our traffic comes from these markets. In fact, on Diwali last year, we saw 30% traffic coming in from tier III and below geographies. It is clear that these markets are evolving and are hence a major focus point for us.
What do you make of app-only strategies?
With reference to mobile shopping, not only is there a steady, sharp increase in customers via mobile and the app but it is also the quantum of shopping and repeat customer rate that are significant. This is only expected to grow northwards.
We are focussed on a light app, low page loading rates and payments to continually enhance customer experience. Today all our development and innovation is app first, and it will continue to be our flagship experience. However, as a customer-obsessed company we will enable our customers to shop anytime, anywhere and in any way they want including a mobile and a desktop site.
How has Amazon’s communication evolved over the years?
Our first ad campaign spoke about the world’s largest online store coming to India and offering benefits like 100% purchase protection, guaranteed one-day delivery, easy returns and COD. The Aur Dikhao campaign appealed to the Indian consumer mindset that has an insatiable hunger to see more options before making purchase decisions. The Kya Pehnu campaign conveys the ultimate fashion dilemma that each one of us faces — the need to present our best at an important occasion. We are a youthful brand at heart.
While developing the Apni Dukaan campaign, we realised that despite the growth of e-commerce in the country, there is still a large section of the population that is hesitant about making purchases online. In order to convey features like easy returns and access to genuine products that essentially build customers’ trust and confidence in shopping on Amazon.in, we decided to use a phrase from Indian popular culture: “Yeh apni dukaan hai.” In daily parlance, customers generally use apni dukaan in reference to those stores that they are more familiar with and have complete trust in. We want to make people aware that Amazon.in is one such store.
What importance do festive sales hold for Amazon? Do they make for the same kind of selling opportunity as they did a few years ago?
The festive season is no doubt the biggest shopping season in India and we did witness a blockbuster festive season in 2015. The demand was unprecedented. This was our biggest ever sale event in the history of Amazon.in. It was the biggest in terms of revenues, unit sales, traffic and new customers. It was four times bigger than the previous Diwali. During 2015’s The Great Indian Festive Sale alone, customers shopped as much as they did during the entire month-long Online Shopping Dhamaka of 2014. It was an aur dikhao in its full glory with customers buying across categories.
Over 65% orders came from tier II and tier III cities and towns. We received thousands of orders from places like Rajkot, Mallapuram, Kota, Dhanbad, Salem, Srinagar, Solapur, Diu, Jamnagar, etc. Traffic from mobile was over 70%. All through the season, including our biggest days, we were able to serve customers without any technical glitches. Our premium shipment orders spiked by 300% over our daily run rate during the festive season. On an average, sellers saw a three to five times growth in business. In the first three days of the Festive Sale, customers bought as many mobile phones as they did during the entire month of September. Amazon Fashion grew seven times over the previous Diwali.
In spite of the success we have seen in India so far, we believe that the Indian e-commerce space is still at a very nascent stage with significant potential for innovation and growth. We believe there is room for multiple formats, players and most importantly, for innovation.
For Amazon, India today is the largest market outside of the US in terms of the number of new customers. We continue to look at India as a key growth market and continue to invest aggressively. It also remains the fastest growing country, till date. We are invested in India for the long term.
What kind of traction is Amazon Now seeing currently?
We are witnessing huge enthusiasm not only from local kirana stores but also from iconic large retailers who are keen to partner with us and expand their customer base. Amazon Now will continue to be one of our key areas of focus as well as investments in the coming years.