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Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon have covered their bases, but will the sale-season be glitch-free?

Radhika P Nair
13th Oct 2015
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It is that time of the year again when all our wallets get much lighter. Top e-commerce portals have begun wooing consumers with deep discounts and special offers as part of their pre-Diwali mega sales. Flipkart, Amazon, and Shopclues are among the marketplaces that are launching pre-festive season sales on Tuesday with discounts of up to 80 per cent. Snapdeal already had its Electronics Monday Sale on the 12th.

A similar sale last year was overshadowed by glitches. While Flipkart’s problems hogged the news cycle, Amazon and Snapdeal too faced issues especially with orders getting delivered. This time, all e-commerce marketplaces assert that they are better prepared and shoppers will have a smoother experience and that will lead to better sales performance for the sites.

Great expectations

Already Snapdeal has claimed, at the time of writing this article, that it is on track to reach $100 million in sales in a single day from its Monday Electronics sale on the 12th.

“Going by the customer response to the previous two events that we hosted this year, The Great Indian Festive Sale is going to be historic for us,” said Samir Kumar, VP Category Management, Amazon India. The Amazon sale is scheduled for 13th to 17th of October, the same period as Flipkart’s Big Billion Days sale. “We expect millions of new customers to shop on the sale and experience Amazon.in for the first time.” Samir said he expects over 60% of the new customers to come from tier-II and tier-III cities and towns.

While Flipkart’s sale is only on the app, Amazon and Snapdeal have the same deals across web, mobile site, and app. Samir said he expects over 10 percent increase in the number of customers shopping on the Amazon mobile app. All three sites see mobile contributing over 50 percent of overall transactions, with Flipkart and Snapdeal claiming over 75 percent of sales through mobile. Flipkart has not shared its sales target, however, reports state that the company is expecting over Rs 3,000 crore. Its subsidiary, fashion retail app Myntra, is targeting to ship 600,000 packages during the period.

Rahul Taneja, Vice President of category management at Snapdeal, said the site would offer mega deals every Monday across categories but there will be deals throughout the month until Diwali. “We see a huge number of new customers adopting e-commerce each Diwali. Though one would expect, the demand to taper off after the festive season, but each Diwali sets a new normal,” Rahul said.

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It is not just the biggies who have high hopes from the sales during this period. Cashback and coupons site CashKaro is expecting Rs 300 crore in Gross Merchandise Value or total sales between October and December—the country’s festive season. It has special offers between 13th and 16th to coincide with the sales on the marketplaces, with offers on over 800 sites.

The sale period and the festive season is not just about offers and deals. “This particular festive season is going to be a very important milestone for all e-commerce players,” said Arvind Singhal, Chairman of retail advisory service provider Technopak. “For the big players in marketplaces—Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon, Paytm, and Shopclues—this season will determine who is really the number one and who is gaining the market share and who is losing. None of these players would want to seem like they are losing market share.”

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How prepared are the sites?

While last year, Flipkart and Snapdeal claimed to have clocked Rs 600 crore each in sales in a day, tech glitches and delayed deliveries resulted in negative publicity and angry customers. The marketplaces seem to have learned from last year’s experience. Flipkart has set up additional data centres, has seen a 3X increase in capacity in the past six months and got additional call centres on board to handle additional customer service calls. It is also offering additional services to employees to ensure smooth shopping experience. The move to spread the sale across five days is seen as a smart move by merchants. What is more, the company is staggering deals on certain categories to ensure the numbers on the app are more manageable.

Snapdeal has had sales on and off most months during the past year. This should have helped them test out their systems. The company said it has worked closely with its sellers to help them with inventory planning for the festive season, including enabling them to access working capital loans through their Capital Assist platform. The Gurgaon-based company has also invested heavily in logistics. It announced a $20-million investment into e-commerce logistics player GoJavas earlier this month. The company said it has invested $100 million in the last six months to improve its delivery timelines.

Amazon too has invested in its last-mile capabilities. It recently launched eight new Fulfilment Centres (FCs), as it calls its warehouses. It now has 21 such centers in 10 states, covering a total area of over two million square feet with a storage capacity of over five million cubic feet.

So will things be perfect this year? Technopak’s Arvind’s answer: “I am sure there will be glitches this year also, because e-commerce is still work in progress.”

(With inputs from Athira A Nair)

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