Festive Sale: Flipkart's star power vs Amazon's emotional appeal

An analysis of the e-tailers’ advertising and marketing strategy for their season sales.

NEW DELHI: 2020 has been an exceptional year. After months of stress and self-imposed austerity, the festive season is here – and the people are looking to make the best of circumstances, even in the midst of a pandemic. Amazon and Flipkart, the two biggest e-commerce rivals, are all set to start to kickstart their annual festive season sales.

Amazon’s Great Indian Festival and Flipkart’s Big Billion Day coincide every year, and both e-tailers go head-to-head to garner attention and achieve the maximum sales. To leverage this golden period of festivities, both brands rely on advertising channels, spending hundreds of crores on marketing, to reach out to the masses. This year too, they have been campaigning extensively on ATL mediums to attract more and more buyers.

While the strategy of these rivals might differ, their purpose remains the same.

If we look at the last few years of their marketing strategy, it is evident that Flipkart follows the celebrity-driven approach, whereas Amazon focuses specifically on social media and content generation along with its ATL campaign.

Flipkart has been popular for its media campaigns like Big Billion Day, Kidults, Ab Mehengaai Giregi, Kidding No Worries, and Shopping ka Naya Address. Amazon, too, has some memorable campaigns to its credit: Aapki Apni Dukaan, Kitne me Mila, Apno ka Saath, and The Great Indian Festival.

As is customary, Flipkart in 2020 has created a number of video capsules featuring celebrities like Virat Kohli, Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, and Amitabh Bachchan.

According to angel investor and business strategist Lloyd Mathias, Flipkart believes that celebrities help break the clutter and reach a wider audience for its Big Billion Sale. But Amazon has the advantage of ‘connecting’ with its customers.

"Amazon has worked at building an emotional bond with Indian consumers with their Aapki Apni Dukaan spot highlighting the ease of shopping through the Amazon App. I think both brands' campaigns have been equally effective, though Amazon’s emotional appeals tend to stick. Also, celebrities used tactically are limiting – until they become part of the story,” said Mathias.

Amazon this year has tried to align with the Prime Minister’s call for atmanirbharta and come up with the tag lines, 'Made by India Made for India’ in addition to ‘Your trusted store for new beginnings’ and ‘delivering smiles to homes' – all aimed at appealing to Indian families.

Dentsu India EVP and head- strategy Vishal Nicholas feels that Amazon has ironically been baking an endearing Indian-ness into its positioning, quite consistently at that. “Their strategy seems to be to own cultural truths about India, shopping, and relationships, and most importantly to stay the course on this strategy.”

Agreeing with this line of thought, 22feet Tribal Worldwide business head – north Vishal Mehra shares, “For Amazon, the problem was to connect with the Indian public-at-large and dispel the notions of a foreign behemoth coming in and taking away all the business. To show a softer and more local side of its personality, the Apni Dukaan campaign was launched and since then they have continued using images of family and are even branching into promoting local kaarigars in their marketing outreach.”

As for Flipkart, its celeb approach is mainly used to bring aspirational value to product marketing, and it could be more effective. “Flipkart’s spotlight sale items are more around individual needs, whereas Amazon regularly pushes products which also involve family usage,” he explains.

A few years ago, Flipkart launched a marketing campaign for its fashion segment India ka Fashion Capital comprising different celebrities from Bollywood and TV Industry. The videos were used in GEC channels and digital media platforms to maximize reach.

Amazon has not opted for the celebrity path yet, and usually tries to have two-way communication with the help of social media – be it contests or shout outs – to keep the consumer engaged. The campaign #ApniDukaan focused on the core proposition of the sale: family buying a lot at lesser prices. Last year, it also came up Amazon Festive Yatra, a house-on-wheels concept that took a multi-city tour, to highlight the e-commerce brand’s offerings, especially the home-based and local products. But will it be viable for Amazon to go the Flipkart route in the future?

Nicholas claims that theoretically, it is still possible for Amazon to go down the celeb path. “But I see no need for them to do whatsoever. Their strategy is to be seen as an e-retailer who ‘gets’ India. So, if a celeb helps them do that, they could consider an apt celebrity if it furthers their cause disproportionately.”

Having a line-up of celebs in one campaign can potentially magnify star power like never before but only if they are united by the brand’s promise, purpose, or personality, he opines, adding: “Then the stars appear as a ‘team’ and star power works like a harmony – different instruments but a pleasing melody, else they can turn into a cacophony. Take the case of Mile Sur Mera Tumhara or some Nike all-star ads where the purpose is common – national unity in diversity for the former, whereas it’s winning in the case of Nike.”

Mehra shares that Amazon’s usage of the Indian family has been very wise and has helped it connect deeply with consumers. “The room for family-led marketing might have been limited with Amazon, but that hasn’t made any less impact on their business performance.”

Flipkart has been trying to woo customers in rural areas and Tier towns through its own brand of consumer products. The brand is expanding its private-label products in categories such as electronics, furniture, large appliances, and staples. While Amazon is also trying to catch up in small towns, its core strength lies in metro cities.

According to a research firm Redseer Consulting and Unicommerce, shoppers from rural cities, towns, and regions will be the top contributors to online sales during this year’s festive season.

Also, due to the pandemic, there has been a change in consumer buying behaviours – people are preferring to shop online frequently instead of stepping out of homes. This phenomenon has led both the companies to focus on all touchpoints of marketing. From TV spots to trending hashtags on Twitter, dropping sneak-peeks for exclusive sale items, and news articles on scoring the best deals – all to generate buzz for what’s shaping up to be an exceptional festive sale in an exceptional year.

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