K Vaitheeswaran is no stranger to disruption. For 13 years, the founder of Indiaplaza, has been in the e-commerce business. Since 1999, he has been through the ups and downs, right from the days of Y2K to Dot Com boom, bust and now the second coming of e-commerce.
Last month, Mr Vaitheeswaran revealed a secret: “I’m having sleepless nights,” he said to an audience at an industry conference. What’s keeping this seasoned entrepreneur up at night? Two things, he points out: Social media, and changing consumer behavior.
Ever since the emergence of social media, brands have been struggling to deal with consumers who often use the medium to complain and reach out to the brand.
When Indiaplaza was founded, things were simple. Consumers used to shop Monday- Friday between 10 am – 6 pm. With the increasing Internet penetration through mobile and traditional broadband, consumers have begun shopping at night in the last 2-3 years.
“From 10 in the night to 2 in the morning, we have many people buying online and we have to be on our toes,” said Mr Vaitheeswaran who in February 2011 raised $5 mn in series A funding to take on the market once again.
About three years back, the Internet veteran also saw another phenomenon taking the wind out of their sails: Social media. Consumers, who now had access to a large audience, were saying things about the brand. “Good service is expected so very rarely do people talk about it. But bad services almost always gets you unwanted attention online,” he says and points out that he is still a newbie learning the ropes of social media.
Around the same time, he personally took initiative and assigned two of his best employees to engage with the consumers online. “Look at Facebook, Twitter and respond to every complaint or suggestion,” was the brief he gave them. “Many times, its just enough to show that someone is listening and is likely to take action,” he says.
Indiaplaza has managed to bring down the number of complaints by over 80 % in these years, he says. When asked how, he has a simple answer: be honest and quick to respond. “I don’t plan to outsource social media management at the moment. But perhaps later on” said Mr Vaitheeswaran.
Social media has been a pain for brands ever since customers discovered its power. Earlier, we published a guest post on how Indian e-commerce companies are performing in social media. The author of the post says that while Flipkart was the biggest in terms of sales and visitors, when it comes to social media, smaller and nimbler players are asserting their dominance. Amazon’s Junglee.com, which is a newcomer, has managed to get over 6.5 lakh fans and is growing at 31 %, said the author.
Mainstream brands, such as car manufacturers and restaurant chains have also started measuring their social media stats. A survey released in August 2012 by Nielsen and McKinsey & Company says that Maruti Suzuki topped the ranking in creating a buzz and brand equity in Indian social media follwed by Samsung Mobile, Nokia, Brand IPL & coffee shop chain Café Coffee Day. In the previous round of the study, Nike and Flipkart were at number four and five respectively. These brands, of course, spend considerable amount of time and resources on managing their social media reputation.
Here’s an infographic created by Ishan from data generated through Unmetric’s platform (Note: We haven’t included data from Pinterest etc.)