Evolution of India Ecommerce Industry : As Told Through TV Commercials

Indian ecommerce industry evolution : as seen through TV commercials of Flipkart and others!

In India, ecommerce had to take print and TVC (TV Commercial) route to reach out to mass market/consumers.

Call it an irony, but the *serious* Internet population was never that big enough to come and transact online – so the only way for online stores was to go offline and bring them online.flipkart_TVCs

The First Wave of Indian Ecommerce Industry

In India, the first wave of ecommerce started way back in late 90s / early 2000 with companies like Rediff/Indiatimes. The pioneer was Indiaplaza , rather Fabmart.com which was launched in September 1999 and was only selling CDs around that time!

The first wave fizzled out due to lack of demand (desktop Internet never really took off in India in a big way) and poor infrastructure (payment gateways/logistics etc).

The Second Wave

The second wave (2007+) is when it all started up with companies like Flipkart and several others  (NextBigWhat tracked close to 1300 ecommerce companies between 2008 and 2013), raised funding and are now giving offline retail a run for the money.

While some players have set the standards, the industry as a whole has slowly built customer trust – the trust you can ‘buy online’ and the product will ‘get delivered’ as well !

At NextBigWhat, we have always been curious about these emerging trends – right from covering the launch (Hello Flipkart) to covering the ever evolving infrastructure pieces (like logistics/payment gateways etc)

And now, after 7 years of continuous experiments, evolving focus and raising a few billion dollars, ecommerce definitely has made its mark in the retail space (so much so that offline retailers are now teaming up to beat online players).

One of the ways to document India’s ecommerce evolution is to look through the lens of TVCs, the TV campaigns that ecommerce companies ran. And that’s because most of these advertisements were targeting one specific intent/one specific pain points of customers which ecommerce companies were trying to solve/answer.

To start off, we focus on Flipkart, simply because it was the first mover in most trends in India. You’ll notice how the direction of online shopping has been shaped by the smart campaigning. Flipkart characteristically focuses on one key issue in each ad-campaign while reinforcing the larger brand.

Take a look at their first ad, where they introduced..’the mouse’.

Discounts, Replacements , CoD: User Acquisition [2010 – 2013]

In many ways, online retail started off by providing cheaper and discounted alternatives in certain product categories. These discounts were usually provided on consumer electronic goods and books, which form 26% and 12% of the consumer transactions online respectively. Along with offering discounts, 30-day-replacement policy was introduced to gain customer trust.

The cash on delivery option was a pioneering move in online retail. Back when online retail market skeptics argued that a low credit/debit card penetration combined with a ‘touch and feel’ shopping culture would prove  too big a wall to break down, CoD option was opened up. It remains the most popular payment option to this day. Although it has its share of problems with delinquent orders, it was a key move in getting more customers to *order online*.

These messages continue to appear in several of their ad campaigns and played a hugely significant role in convincing the Indian consumers to give online shopping a try during the early stages. Delivery commitment did the rest to retain them.

Kidding Commerce: Building Trust [2011-2013]

Last years data disclosed by Baymard Institute indicates that 67% of the online shopping carts are abandoned post-shopping. The appearance of unexpected costs during check-out it is the biggest reason for the abandoning. However, issues such as poor navigation, cumbersome process, hassles during payment, unstable site etc are also key factors which cause cart-abandonment.

So the “Ease of Use” problem had to be solved next. Website aesthetics were improved, Product communication and reviews were added,  navigation was streamlined, customer-favouring digital payment mechanisms were introduced, The campaign built around this sent a message to the consumers that online shopping was so easy that even  kids could do it. This campaign subtly internalized online retail in Indian homes.

Various ads were built around this campaign for features such as ‘30-day-replacement’, ‘Cash on Delivery’ and  ‘Discounts’. The tone of the campaign however highlighted the simplicity of use.


Anywhere: Going Mobile [2014 – present]

Number of Mobile Internet users in India has overtaken the desktop users. In many ways online retail will become synonymous to mobile retail. With Flipkart focusing to become a largely m-commerce company, an ad campaign has been built around this.

Following the launch of iOS and android apps earlier this year, there has been a clear emphasis on getting more people to transact mobile.  With flipkarts main competitor, Snapdeal announcing that nearly 50% of its transactions came through mobile devices, efforts are being made to increase app downloads by offering cash vouchers to lucky winners while offering free shipping and other exclusive discounts for orders through the mobile app.

Fashion Store: Towards Profitability [2014 – present]

Fashion is the NextBigWhat for Indian ecommerce players.

Fashion and apparel is the largest category in online retail and has the highest margins, ranging from 20% – 30%, among all the product categories. The latest ad campaigns are created around flipkart as a fashion store. This campaign is different from the ‘Fashion has a new address’ campaign that it emphasize on the fashion store as a vertical.


What’s NextBigWhat For Ecommerce?

Ecommerce is moving beyond ‘hey! online is cheap’

Buying online ie becoming synomymous with Style. Fashion. Convenience. Anytime /Anywhere Shopping. Discovery. Fun. And A Lot More.

And ofcourse, cute cats!

[Written By Ashish Sinha and Advith Nagappa]

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