E-commerce: The festive sale cacophony

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New Delhi | Published: November 5, 2018 1:55:49 AM

To publicise the sale, Amazon had a festival band generate buzz on ground, at metro stations and airports, and with its partnership with Sony Music, the company held a 90-minute digital music concert.

E-commerce: The festive sale cacophony

As soon as August ends, there’s no escaping the online festive season sale announcements. The advertisements are all over — e-mailers, push notifications, online ads (retargeted or otherwise), ads in print publications and, of course, on TV — leading to one glittery mess. How can brands ensure they have the consumer’s ear?

Seldom are brands able to hold the consumer’s attention; those that manage, do so tactfully. Take Amazon’s festive season campaign for instance, which, through its value proposition, addresses the insight that customers rarely exceed their pre-decided budget, leading them to prioritise their purchases or sometimes, postpone/drop certain purchases.

The marketing stratagems

To publicise the sale, Amazon had a festival band generate buzz on ground, at metro stations and airports, and with its partnership with Sony Music, the company held a 90-minute digital music concert. Sonal Dabral, group CCO and vice chairman, Ogilvy India (Amazon’s creative agency), elaborates on the strategy, “Print and digital are as big as TV during this season. The effectiveness is driven by how well one creative idea can hold everything together.” ROI, he says, is not determined through sales alone. “The festive season has moved from a ‘boost sales only’ mode to more strategic objectives of driving penetration and new habits.”

Page after page of ads cataloguing the deals of the day by players are a common sight. Amazon and Flipkart are known to do this far more regularly and conspicuously than other players. Ravi Desai, director, mass and brand marketing, Amazon India, says, “One of print’s functions as a complimentary medium is to give customers detailed information of categories that they may not have considered while curating their lists.”

Language is another aspect that Amazon has leveraged; it recently gave consumers the capability to access the platform in Hindi. The number of new customers through the Hindi website grew 2.4 times, as compared to the numbers on a non-festive sale day. Its ongoing sale period has seen 80% new customers coming in from small town India.

Keeping in mind dwindling attention spans and changing consumption patterns, Flipkart has adopted a three-pronged strategy: choosing seamless content integration over stock festive advertising; launching over 200 TV commercials featuring celebrities from the fields of entertainment and sports; and catering to the mobile-savvy audience.

To stand out from the clutter, the Flipkart Hagglebot was introduced, which allows consumers to use Google Assistant to secure the best deals for certain products. Kunal Dubey, director, marketing, Flipkart, says, “If you look at the inventory sold in the festive period, on TV and digital, it is 25-30% higher than a normal month. So you cannot try to break this clutter with a regular marketing approach. You need a differentiated campaign design, which need not require more marketing monies.” Owing to personalisation of communication through the use of celebrities, Flipkart claims to have seen a twofold increase in click-through ratio (the industry average is around 2-2.5%). Flipkart is spending around 45-55% of its marketing spends on digital this festive season, as against the industry norm of 20-25%, Dubey shares.

For players who do not have the might that Amazon and Flipkart enjoy, not losing sight of the core audience is key. ShopClues’ marketing head, Rajat Girdhar, explains that the natural tendency of consumers to shop at this time of the year can help in offsetting the effects of clutter. For its core consumer segment — the price conscious — ShopClues rolled out a MahaBharat sale campaign by bringing on board actor Gajraj Rao.

“Where a Flipkart or an Amazon speaks about the latest smartphone, there are consumers in the market who want the latest shirt/t-shirt/watch at prices they can afford. We are trying to target the value conscious consumer who shops on the basis of price and not brand names,” says Girdhar.

The problem of excess

Highly spread out plans run the risk of higher wastage as well, as not every impression necessarily leads to conversion. Zapr Media Labs found, upon studying the mid-September to October period, that major e-commerce brands extensively targeted viewers of English movies, Hindi entertainment and infotainment channels in their TV media plans. However, the highest share of impressions (36.11%) went to sports channels. “Brands can leverage offline intelligence to track the effectiveness of their media plans and combine TV and digital to reach unique individuals in their TG, thereby avoiding any wastage across media platforms,” says Aditya Kulkarni, VP – data insights, Zapr Media Labs.

Another big factor that threatens the effectiveness of a strategy is fatigue. That is something players can attempt to counter by being highly conscious of the value being delivered to the consumer. From the consumer’s point of view, a 40% off on a product in their wish list is a far sweeter message to receive rather than a generic message announcing a mega sale event.

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