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In this column, The Drum asks marketers across categories and geographies to share their experience of combating the Covid-19 crisis, the learnings along the way, how they tweaked their go-to-market strategies and what their new playbook looks like as they seek growth. This week Vikas Gupta, head of customer, marketing and digital Businesses, Flipkart, shares his learnings and the future plans of the leading Indian e-commerce marketplace, that aims to “understand the needs and expectations of Indian consumers better than most”.

Unravelling the emerging e-commerce consumer

The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour in a big way, forcing businesses to rethink and reinvent their way of working. With people preferring to stay indoors during the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in demand for essentials and for products that catered to their working, learning and entertainment needs. Some of the emerging trends and demand patterns of the last few months include:

  • In this ‘new normal’, people have increasingly begun using their smartphones for high-performance tasks such as multi-app usage and gaming. This has resulted in a rise in the popularity of smartphones in the mid-premium segment in recent months.
  • There has been a 3X increase in demand for study tables, ergonomic chairs, and laptop tables. The demand for work-from-home essentials is highest in bigger cities as well as in non-metros also.
  • High-performance laptops for work purposes, equipped with graphic cards such as the ones used by coders and designers, are some of the most sought-after products.
  • People have increasingly taken to improving their kitchens since the time the lockdown restrictions were eased. Not only are they indulging in cooking, they are also looking for products that help them make their kitchen tasks simpler and quicker. Kitchen appliances, large and small, are in great demand – especially the automated or app-controlled ones.

Brand Journey last few months

As a homegrown company and as a marketplace that caters to over 250 million consumers, we are swiftly scaling up the supply chain with extensive safety and hygiene measures at every step. Some major new forays in the last few months include:

Going hyperlocal: In July, we launched our hyperlocal delivery service ‘Flipkart Quick’ to provide consumers with a handpicked assortment of more than 2,000 products in categories such as grocery, fresh, dairy, meat, and other essentials, with the delivery time of just 90 minutes.

Hand-holding first time users: The pandemic has led to many people turning to e-commerce for the first time, not only in metro cities but also in smaller cities and towns. To ensure that first-time users are at ease while shopping on Flipkart, two new technological features were launched to handhold them through the purchase journey: a search and voice assistant, and regional-language interfaces. These features came on the back of intensive research and data-driven insights on aspects such as e-literacy, consumer behaviour, and consumption patterns. The findings suggested that the next big wave of new online users in India will mostly comprise of consumers who prefer to communicate, both online and offline, in their regional language. And, so, three regional languages (Tamil, Kannada and Telugu) interfaces were introduced on our platform. The move that has helped us introduce many users of those languages to the benefits of online shopping. 

Ramping up the essentials business: As the government encouraged the home delivery of essentials in place of people having to leave their homes, we prioritized grocery deliveries across hundreds of cities. From relatively humble beginnings, the brand’s grocery and essentials business was leapfrogging to many more cities, enabling us to help millions of consumers under the countrywide lockdown.

Marketing can help

The brand launched a marketing campaign #AaoPhirPakdeRaftaar in June to inspire a sense of togetherness - by highlighting the challenges faced by sellers during the pandemic, and offering hope of economic revival in the days ahead.

Getting future-ready and festive-ready

We have on-boarded sellers from across the country and give them the necessary technical hand-holding as they scale up their business. We want to continue this momentum and bring consumption back to its pre-Covid-19 levels.

We expect the upcoming festive season to trigger and accelerate growth across our business ecosystem. With a modern and highly efficient supply chain network that delivers to 100% of the serviceable PIN codes, and which has been further strengthened by onboarding almost 50,000 local grocery stores across the country, the brand is all set to meet the additional festive demand. In addition, we continue to add large numbers to the lakhs of sellers and MSMEs that are already on the Flipkart marketplace as well as strengthening our physical and digital infrastructure to gear up for the upcoming festive season.

The big marketing learning during Covid-19  

The role of engagement and communication has never been more important. Post the nationwide panic and apprehension caused by the pandemic, our marketing approach has hinged on rebuilding the confidence of consumers, wish masters (as field executives are known internally at the company), and sellers.