With a dream start on the e-commerce front, Ravi Vora, VP-Marketing, Flipkart is taking the brand forward by bringing in new categories and building a digital platform to leverage it further.
Q] Tell us about the journey of the brand Flipkart from its inception till date...
From the beginning, the intention was to build a large online megastore, not restricted to books alone. However, there were reasons why we went with books first and added other categories later. Initially, there was no marketing spend. The idea was to build a great customer experience of shopping on the site, which we did fairly successfully. For the first three-and-a-half years, the entire growth was through word of mouth. People who had a positive experience with the brand actually went and talked about it to their friends and relatives and they in turn brought in more customers. Repeat rates were as high as 70%. What drove this word of mouth was the great selection that we had on our website, the discounts and delivery within the promised time. People were happy with the packaging. We were also giving away bookmarks, which people found very useful and attractive. That gave us a base of two to three lakh customers. That’s when we decided to bring in people unfamiliar with Flipkart to start experiencing our site. We did our first campaign in April, 2011 around the largest online bookstore. The idea was to convey how easy it is to get books online and the big collection available on the site. It was actually a thematic film. Then there were three other films which talked about features on our website -- Cash on delivery, 24x7 customer support and great deals. We also did a fair bit of print around it. It ran from April to mid- June, 2011.
Q] You also launched mobiles and consumer durables on your website during the same period. Why wasn’t there much communication around it?
The base that we had built thus far was around books. The intention behind the film was awareness generation about Flipkart. We were actually hoping to leverage the base that we had built up in the larger towns. So, it was around the positive experience that book buyers had with Flipkart.It wasn’t to give new reasons for people to shop.
Q] You’ve talked about your website’s features in your current communication. What stand do you plan to take going forward?
We have spoken about what Flipkart offers, and ‘what is stopping people from shopping online’. For example, our cash on delivery option actually took away the fear of online payments which a lot of people had, including fears like sharing credit card details or paying before the product is received. In the second campaign, we were actually moving into the electronic space where people have concerns about the products, whether they will receive it in proper shape and whether warranties will apply. So we did a film around our 30-day replacement guarantee. The third film was around the warranties.
Q] You’ve used kids in your commercial. While it helps you break the clutter, what were the other reasons behind the casting?
The primary reason was to break the clutter. We were clear about what we wanted to do – bring down barriers to online shopping and make people comfortable with the concept. Kids managed to give the campaign a breath of freshness, the engagement factor and humour that people want to go back to. All our numbers and metrics have moved in the right direction and actually beyond what we expected.
Q] What was your quantitative objective for the campaign and how much of the target have you achieved?
The traffic that we goton the site more than doubled over two months. The conversion rates and average order size remained the same and this doubling of traffic actually doubled the turnover. So last month, we had a turnover of Rs 60 crore, which is double the August figure.
Q] Being an online brand, how are you using the online advertising space?
The online medium is being used as a performance-based marketing medium. On the money we spend, we expect a certain number of people to buy. We look at those convergences with the cost that we would spend for that acquisition. It is yielding results. When it comes to offline, we treat it more as branding investment and probably give it time to mature before we start counting the returns. So we are kind of building a brand over a longer period of time and building loyalty and repeat rates.
Q] Even on the offline medium, results seem to be coming pretty fast for you.
Yes, that has been the beauty of the campaign. While you can be right about the strategy and you can give a great brief to the creative team, only if the creative team gets its act right can a campaign succeed. We had the right strategy, the right brief and identified the problem correctly. The creative team has taken it to a ompletely different level. That is why the results have been so quick for us.
Q] What has been the learning in the process of building your brand?
The big learning is that as e-commerce is in the nascent stage, it is not about grabbing a share in the online space. It is not about driving traffic which is going to another site; it is about growing the category itself and actually shaping and building the category. So while one may argue that a particular kind of investment is helping the competition as well, I think it is the right place to invest. This is not the time to go for a share game. This is time to build the category and get people who are shopping offline to start shopping online. That is where the market is.
Q] What is the way forward for Flipkart?
We will continue to add categories. We will also look at building more depth and get more share of the wallets from our existing base, which is around 15 lakh registered users. We will continue our efforts to get a share from offline shopping into the online base.
Q] Will books still remain your priority?
It is still the main product, which drives around 60-70% of the volume. However, in value terms, it has now come down to about 30-40%. Electronics being the higher ticket purchase, we’ve had great traction in that category.
Q] Where do you see sales coming from?
Electronics is a big driver of e-commerce, especially mobiles. Categories like lifestyle, fashion and accessories have done well in other countries and we see them doing well in India as well. We will try to get those categories on board.
Q] What is your approach on the social media platform?
We’ve quite effectively leveraged our social media presence. We actively address customer issues over Twitter and people actually say that it is faster to get through to Flipkart on Twitter than through mail or phone. We’ve got close to nine lakh fans on Facebook and we engage very actively with them.
Q] Tablets and Kindle are becoming a rage. How do you see the future of books and booksellers with these technologies?
That time is a little away. We also have a digital strategy in place and we are working on it. When digital comes in, we will be at the forefront.
Q] You plan to get into e-readers/e-books too?
Ideally yes, but we do not have any firm timeline yet. We have a digital strategy that encompasses books to readers to other options and categories as well.
Q] Flipkart recently acquired Mallers Inc’s flagship B2B digital music platform called mime360. What are your plans on that front?
That is part of our digital strategy. While we will definitely leverage it on the music side, that platform can be used for other categories also.
Q] The digital music market hasn’t been explored in India yet.
Yes, that is something we hope to do. Nobody has managed to crack the e-commerce market the way we have done, with Flipkart. I hope we are able to repeat the magic on the music side as well.