Decode the online shopping juggernaut so that you are on top of the buying frenzy in this season where offers and discounts tip over...
To market to market, to get a fat deal has undergone a monumental change. The festive season that continues through Diwali to Christmas is the time to indulge in retail therapy in a virtual shopping haven. Yet to decode the relevant offers from the “over-hyped” ones, we explore the season of sales online, and what deals work, and what, quite surprisingly, do not. And how the clueless shopper can decide.
Phones and electronics are the go-to this festive season, and the discounts and offers are designed to grab attention, and keep the hits going.
Anurag Mathur, retail and consumer goods practice leader, PwC India, India Retail Forum 2017, wants people to look beyond the huge attention grabbing tactics, “Even though online shopping gets attention due to heavy budget advertising and valuation rounds, e-commerce is still under five per cent of overall retail in India. So, we can’t say shopping has ‘largely’ moved online. However, because of the aggressive customer acquisition strategy, ecommerce has been increasing. Over the past years, larger e-commerce players have been moving towards exclusive products and deals. Yet, this is still limited. For the large part, deals are similar. Discounts on some products do vary. E-commerce players offer differentiation through different levels of cash backs, EMI & buy back options.” Mathur feels the use of marketing budgets to offer huge discounts is the trend, and at times, products are sold at below cost to drive customer acquisition.
An insider from a fashion portal (on condition of anonymity) explains further, “Most people know that end of season sales are mostly gimmicks to garner attention.”
The insider adds, “There are periods of lows and highs. The 70 per cent off on select items may not have the best products or the most popular buys. It’s probably the best time to stock up on staples — jeggings or flip-flops, basic stuff. The quality is not necessarily always at par, but it’s okay, as you’re clearly paying a lot lesser and it arrives at your doorstep.”
When it comes to the growth story, there has been an upsurge, but traditionalists prefer the look, feel and touch of a product. Infact, the virtual bubble has not reached its potential yet. “Online purchase is like the early days of the Internet, when people used to coax the PC to download faster… despite the fact that only 7.1 per cent of the global apparel sales is from the Internet. The critical mass of this nascent trend, will be achieved, when we understand how many can buy a product or for aspiration of a brand without incentives like discounts or cash back. That will cap the maturity of this herd-like frenzy. Touch and feel is still number one in the purchase decision,” explains Ruma Shroff Datta, director, retail and merchandising KHADDER.
A regular online shopper and expert, Mitriyi Rao has seen the bigger picture, and she breaks it down for the unsavvy virtual buyer, “Myntra has a great collection in terms of style, trends and discounts. For discounts, one should checkout 50 per cent and above, or 40 per cent and above categories. Ignore those deep-discounted sections (60 per cent and above) as there are hardly any options there, and the ones available aren’t worth it. I feel that Amazon fashion has a more vibrant selection when compared to Flipkart. But on the flip side, Flipkart has better offers on popular phones — which also includes, exchange offers, low cost EMIs and extra discounts on credit cards. In terms of sports shoes, Amazon has a wider collection and a slightly better price advantage. Households stock up on electronic goods, large appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, ACs this season, both the big players offer similar pricing. I feel that Flipkart has an edge because of additional buy with exchange offer and extra discounts on credit cards.”
When it comes to fashion too, it’s been a switch to pastels, and Tanya Eldred Bhat, stylist, The Open Trunk explains the prevalent trend, “We are seeing more pastel shades — Paler tones of yellow and shades of greens in Indo-western clothes. Pochampalli, ikat, Madras checks, natural fabrics like jute, linen, malmal, pure silk are the focus. Saris are getting a facelift with exciting blouses with dramatic, exaggerated sleeves and cuts.”
Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, a business strategy specialist believes it is a win-win for all, “There are several reasons that allow online portals to offer better deals, discounts, and bargains, fundamentally owing to their large inventory. As to why consumers opt for online portals, the reason is portal loyalty.”
Anurag Mathur also delves into how great big sales and events around festivals are important milestones for e-tailers to acquire new customers, “They invest heavily during this period. Even though the main product is discounted, e-tailers are in a better place to cross sell complementary products and offset some of the discount funding. As of now, it seems everyone is winning — customers (discounts), sellers (sales) and those funding the etailers (valuations). Brick and mortar retailers, are definitely being hit,” feels Mathur.
— With inputs from Pooja Salvi