Hot Picks on the web

Written by Sharad Raghavan | Updated: Oct 22 2012, 09:10am hrs
The festive season offers a great opportunity for e-commerce sites. Heres a look at some of the deals and promotions being carried out to woo customers

The festival season is upon us, and with it comes the shopping frenzy usually associated with prosperity-related festivals like Dusshera and Diwali. In fact, in India, the festival season lasts for several months, right from Durga Puja in October through Dusshera, Diwali, Eid and Christmas, finally culminating in New Years. Naturally, with urban India finding itself flush with prosperity and money to spend, this three-month window sees a flurry of shopping activity, much to the delight of vendors, retailers and merchants. However, along with the joys of festivities comes the onerous activity of actually braving the over-crowded marketplaces and shopping malls. This puts a lot of people off shopping, especially added to the recent danger of terrorist attacks at crowded places.

It is against that background that e-commerce in India has seen a spectacular rise. Indias e-commerce market was estimated to be worth around R50,000 crore in 2011, according to data from the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IMAI), with around 10 million online shoppers. IMAI data also shows that the e-commerce market in India is growing at a red-hot 40-45% CAGR compared to a global growth of 8-10%. The advantages of e-commerce in India are obvious: the cash-on-delivery feature pioneered by Flipkart and now adopted by many others, the convenience (and safety) of home delivery, to name a few. With this rapid growth and the obvious attraction posed by the large festive season window, many e-commerce sites have brought out festive offers to attract shoppers and build up sales.

Flipkart hasnt made its festive season plans public yet, but last year it offered discounts of up to 25% on its electronics and kitchen appliances. It is likely that Flipkart will follow that model this year as well., another familiar name, has wholeheartedly embraced the festive season, but seems to be focussing more on the apparel side. Its website boasts a sizeable and discounted collection of clothes, watches and footwear (for men and women) for every festival between now and New Yearsa separate set for Dandiya, Durga Puja, Navratri, Diwali and even a semi-casual set for festive parties. Similarly, Homeshop18.coms promotions include discounts on a whole range of kitchen appliances (discounts of up to 27%), furnishings (discounts up to 61%), home solutions like safes and bathroom fittings (discounts up to 21%) and furniture (a double discount of 20%+20%).

Apart from these known names, there are a number of new kids on the e-commerce block. Take, for example, Crazeal, the India unit of daily deals site Groupon. According to Crazeals CEO Ankur Warikoo, the e-commerce market in India is worth around $600-700 million on an annual basis, and the company, which is in its second year, expects a 40-50% quarter-on-quarter surge in sales during the festive quarter. What we are doing for the festive season, which we did very successfully last year, is to display offers on unique destinations in one place, which we call microsites. We are not a retail e-commerce site, instead we focus on deals that customers can avail of. These microsites are theme-specific like, say, New Years. So, our microsite will feature all the best places to go to on New Yearsthe places that offer the best discounts on food, bulk parties, alcohol etc. It was a huge hit last year, and we expect that success to be replicated this year as well.

This seems like a great idea, especially in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, where choices are vast. People often find that they have too many options to choose between, and hold off on making a decision until it is too late. A consolidated site that offers all the relevant offers in one place will be eminently useful.

Crazeal is also working on a different gifting model than other e-commerce sites. So far, people have always gifted each other goods chocolates, jewellery, etcbut why cant they gift each other services like a spa or a massage, asks Warikoo. Many of our deals are based around services like these and we want the gifting trend to include services as well. This is the best period for e-commerce sites as far as sales go, he adds.

Such is the attraction of the festive period, and the shopping frenzy that comes with it, that phone companies are entering the fray. This is a big season for everyone, says Amit Mathur, director-channel sales, Research In Motion, India. Families are in the market and its a great time to increase visibility, he adds. RIM is not looking for an immediate boost to sales in the festive season, however. Mobile sales are reasonably constant, but what we are looking for is increasing footfalls in our shops. Customers can come in and look around without buying anything, because we have seen that they come back later when they have made a decision. Our goal is to create a lasting impression, he adds.

So, this festive season, sit back, relax, and do all your shopping from home. E-commerce is waiting for you, and, conveniently, is willing to come to your home to deliver your goodies.