Retail the world over follows one simple mantra, “festivities mean insane volumes.” The West has Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year weekends, but in India, the most hectic shopping season of the year kicks off right around Ganesh Utsav and continues well into the New Year. This time of the year sees most communities celebrating their major festivals, from Dussehra to Christmas. And while the West has insane deals that culminate in outright madness, like Black Friday or Boxing Day, the e-commerce sector in the country is bracing for what they know as the ‘golden period’ for sales in the country.
Why the festival season is such a boon for e-commerce players
E-commerce in India is primed and ready to give offline megastores a run for their money. In what the business terms as ‘normal’ time, e-commerce stores have begun giving desi customers a taste of disruption with regular sales, promotions and with greater adoption of the in-app concept, app only sales are the new trend. “Take this and multiply the same ten, no a hundred fold,” says Humza Multanwala, a sales and marketing consultant, “the festive season has become the new battleground for the young turks of the e-commerce world and the established order of traditional retail. The distinct advantage the Young Turks have is the sense of saving through deep discounting that they can offer the customer. Moreover in the arena of consumer electronics, personal telephony, computing and even insurance these days, e-commerce players seem to be able to pass on savings in a more effective manner to the consumer.”
Another reason for the growing preference for online shopping these days is the genuine lack of time that people face. Psychologist Rochelle Gomes has this to say, “People today are more focussed on work and weekends and that leaves them with little time to actually prepare as a family for festivals. In this e-commerce gives them an easier outlet to compensate for the paucity of time they end up spending with loved ones, shopping or preparing for the festival as a whole.”
How much this season is truly worth to the e-commerce fraternity?
While e-commerce in India still has a significant way to go to catch up with the West, it is already giving the offline retail community sleepless nights. How’s this for a stat, India’s most competitive online sales entity Snapdeal, has since last Diwali, seen a rise of over 15 times the traffic, to its domain. Online retailer Amazon, has most recently (in obvious anticipation for the Diwali rush) bolstered both its delivery capability and its storage facilities at great cost. Jabong, Myntra, FreeCultr and several others have already begun sourcing and in many cases retailing their Diwali specific collections. And why wouldn’t these special preparations be made, way in advance? After all this season alone is worth a staggering $25 billion, or Rs. 4000 crores! Enough reason then for the biggest sharks in the sea to duke it out amongst themselves.
How e-commerce players are preparing for the year’s busiest shopping season
From daily needs and groceries, to fashion, lifestyle and books, every niche of the Indian e-commerce space seems to be gearing up for the bustling Indian festive shopping season. In the words of Sahil Dalal, CEO, Myonsto.com an Ahmedabad based daily needs and grocery based e-store, “India and festivals are a match made in heaven. As a people we are a festive, friendly bunch that is big on gifting culture.” Dalal’s dotcom concentrates heavily on the daily needs section, but boasts of a rather extensive foreign chocolates and sweetmeats selection, which he says is a great draw for the average consumer. “Sales for this category are high pretty much all year round, but during the festive season, the numbers touch astounding highs and as such is great business,” beams Dalal. When asked what are the measures he’s taken to ensure this burgeoning demand in his category, Dalal simply smiles and replies, “advance procurement and stocking. Through past data we know the kind of sweets and chocolates that do well, and have already begun the procurement process.”
With the prices of groceries climbing prodigiously year on year, e-tailer Localbanya’s subscription based model seems to be a cost-effective and useful model that people can gift each other. After all like Multanwala says, “it is the gift that never stops giving!” The plans are smartly designed and can be purchased for gifting purposes. We have a feeling we know what many HR managers are already planning to give employees as part of their Diwali gifts and perks this year!
Year on year the market for unique, thoughtful and offbeat gifts keeps expanding. Keeping this need in mind, Amazon that boasts of scores of products has decided to launch a rather interesting concept targeting book lovers, called the Kindle Unlimited, this service enables Kindle users read unlimited books every month, for a rather nominal fee. Another interesting way e-commerce players are augmenting their product offering with timely services that will act as an inducement to purchase a higher value product!
Ensuring that there’s enough for all, and that it is delivered to all
Retailers across the board from Amazon and Flipkart to smaller, more esoteric sites like Hitplay and ThatsPersonal are beefing up (pardon the pun), their product offering as well as their logistics. In the words of Hitplay CEO Jigna Alreja, “Having the world to offer is the number one priority of any e-commerce web store, but ensuring that we have enough product and we have a concrete logistical setup in place is just as important.” A high ranking source at a leading fashion e-store says that since most logistical partners for all e-commerce sites are the same, a uniformity of service delivery is both created and delivered.
In the e-commerce space deliveries are the make-or-break factor that often times determine whether a customer will even give an e-commerce brand a second look. While in the nascence of the industry, the delivery and logistics market was dominated by the big-boys like FedEx, Aramex and DHL/BlueDart, making shipping and deliveries a difficult (on cost) proposition for smaller e-commerce players. But with the advent of newer players like Delhivery, Javas, Ekart, First Flight and others, even smaller e-retailers have begun rather aggressively promoting their wares, secure in the knowledge that they will reach the consumer on time. Improved service delivery, the proliferation of players in the logistical support business, and a near 80% success of deliveries across geographies has enabled e-commerce players to deliver (pun intended) on their promises.
E-commerce players acknowledge the role that their delivery partners have played in their success so far. In order to maintain the success however a commensurate increase in the effort of these logistics partners needs to be seen. Addressing this concern area, a higher of Delhivery, a success story in its own right in the logistics space says that because they (Delhivery) have seen a huge demand for their services on a year-on-year basis, and because profitability is directly linked to delivery success, they are strengthening their delivery reach and infrastructure across geographies. When quizzed, many other delivery company authorities also acknowledged a similar drive on their part. This simply means that this year’s boom time has been anticipated well in advance and planned for accordingly.
The year 2015 has seen a manifold growth in the penetration of internet, both terrestrial and mobile. As it stands, more than 800 million people are using the internet in India, across terrestrial, 2G, 3G and 4G connections, and on a daily basis more and more consumers are joining this number. It is little wonder then that e-commerce players are so bullish about the upcoming festive season. According to market analysts, this year the projected turnover of the e-commerce industry is going to be around $10 billion, of which as stated earlier, $4 billion will be made in the next two months! You can do the math yourselves then, can’t you?
To sum it up an official at Hitplay, on condition of anonymity says, “Boss, the consumer’s Diwali may begin in November, but we’ve planned for his/her Christmas presents well in advance. We’re the modern equivalent of Santa’s little helpers and if there’s one thing we know it is that for us the season never ends.”