Navratri marks the start of the festive season closely followed by Dusshera & Diwali and lasts till Christmas. The festival season is considered auspicious and coincides with marriage season in India. Naturally, the festive and marriage season is the best time for online retailers to get their act together and woo their customers who are ready to spend extravagantly during this time of the year to buy gifts for their near and dear ones. Major e-commerce firms like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong, Myntra and Paytm are gunning for big business during the festive season and have already doled out massive discounts and sales through advertisements in the newspapers, television and internet on branded products like garments, footwear, electronic goods, furniture, home decorations and jewellery.
According to a recent ASSOCHAM study consumers are likely to spend about $8 billion (Rs 52,000 crore) on online shopping this festive season, translating into 40-45% sales increase for e-commerce players. According to the chamber, consumers spent Rs 30,000 crore in last year's festive season. With the wide usage of Smartphones and mobile devices in urban areas and also in tier-I and tier-II cities, there is a sharp rise in shopping via mobile apps. Online shopping happens to be very convenient which also leads to impulsive buying. The consumers do not have to drive through the traffic maze, face the pollution, burn fuel or stand in long queues; they simply get the product delivered right at their doorstep. All these factors have made online shopping a lucrative option for the consumers.
There has been a spurt of start ups in India due to ease of starting an online business (as opposed to opening a brick and mortar store), easing of business norms and availability of start-up capital. And for many budding entrepreneurs, this is the first festive season. But the start-ups have thrown caution to the wind. This is direct fallout of the 2014 festive period when e-commerce firms backed by massive funding and advertising went mainstream in India but it proved to be a classic case of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’. Last year many large e-commerce firms advertised heavily about their festive sales but the excessive web traffic caused the websites to crash down several times. Orders were misplaced; many promised deals disappeared even before they started. The e-commerce entities have learnt the right lessons and have geared themselves to address various issues to make this year’s festive period a grand success.
Let’s see the top measures which the online retailers should keep in mind to handle the spike in demand during the festive season:
- Plan, plan and plan in advance. Nothing can compare to forethought and strategizing your marketing, sales and budget plan.
- Analyze the sales trends during previous festive seasons. Google Trends is a good place to start. Anticipate what you can offer and how much stock is available at your end.
- Address both the front-end and back-end infrastructure capabilities to handle the demand surge.
- Start ups are likely to face working capital issues. So the retailers should tie up with financial institutions and banks for loans.
- Make the best use of technology and automate manual processes; upgrade to state-of-the-art ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems
- Integrate with more third-party logistics providers to handle the high volumes of web traffic and deliver the products to the customers within the committed time frame.
- Hire more people to handle the exponential demand.
- Focus on delivery. Choose a technology based slot-based system for product delivery which automatically detects the fulfillment of a time slot for delivery & gives the customers the next slot for delivery.
- Keep your advertising measured. Do not advertise more than you can inventory capability. Promise only what you can deliver!
- Last but not the least, it is vital to test whether your servers can handle the excess load of online shoppers during the festive season. Your website shouldn’t crash in the midst!