In the last two weeks, I have seen daily front page ads for myriad e-commerce firms, starting from the Big bullies like Amazon and Flipkart to smaller players like Craftsvilla . All these ads proclaim big discounts and scream about sales. Apart from regular sales, e-commerce players and now Mobile wallet companies blast offers through emailers, messages and other channels. As if this is not enough, some companies even force you to download their app when you are trying to visit their website.
Most Indian companies, e-commerce or otherwise have a poor understanding of digital marketing. They reapply the old print and TV marketing techniques of sustained marketing blasts and maximum eyeballs to drive sales, forgetting that these sales last only till the next player spends even more money or the discounts dry up. Worse, over time, the customer gets inured to the nature of these discounts and only reacts when the discounts are significantly larger. In the middle of all this, the brand loses hard earned equity as people concentrate more on discounts and choose to purchase products depending on the discount available.
If one were to measure the effectiveness of these promotions in terms of driving sales, we would probably see a definite correlation. However one needs to ask – is this customer sticky? What enables him to stick to an e-commerce platform or brand knowing that tomorrow another rival brand can offer him a better discount ? Is the cost of acquisition(in terms of discount offered + promotional cost ) valid considering the lifetime value of the customer cannot be calculated accurately?
Equally importantly, one needs to measure the brand impact. With concurrent discounts, app based sales and flash sales, e-commerce firms have created a false expectation in the mind of customers which will last until the VC funds last. Once the discounts vanish, the customer may well retaliate by switching / opting for offline retail outlets. Building a brand identity over time , even if initially costlier might have helped e-commerce firms slowly gain customers.
Traditional media is losing eyeballs and moving to the digital world. It’s high time marketers understood that in this modern world, it’s not sustained spamming and media blasts but quality content which works best. Equally important for a brand is to be innovative and not just reactive. Although Oreo abroad and Amul, in India have a good reactive campaign, its taken them decades of research and work to create a clear brand image. It behooves brands to work on creating their own space online and not blindly copy the existing trends.
Spaces where there exist great scope for marketing and customer engagement include travel, healthcare and education. However Indian brands need to realise branding and marketing isnt just social media and specifically media blasts but also judicious use of channels and innovative content strategy.
One wonders how marketers will survive when email finally vanishes. How will they cope with the loss of traditional digital marketing channels. It’s time for marketers to come up with alternative solutions. After all, this is the age of Slack, Whatsapp and Uber.