Having acquired critical mass, Sandeep Komaravelly, Head of Marketing, Snapdeal.com, is busy making plans to take the brand to the next level.
What has been your key marketing approach since your launch in February 2010?
Since inception, our key marketing approach has been to increase awareness and reach out to our target audience, the 18-40 age group. These are the people who have used or have the propensity to use plastic money. We try and approach them through various media and as our service is web- based, we started marketing through online platforms. We do online advertising, affiliations with other websites, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing, etc. So our initial phase was predominantly focused on the online domain. Once we have acquired critical mass, it is important to reach out to a wider base and take a lot of offline marketing initiatives. It includes television, radio and BTL connect events. Thus far, it has been a mix of both online and offline marketing activities.
What has contributed majorly to our image and awareness about us is word of mouth through existing customers, subscribers and social media initiatives. People who have used our service talk about it to their friends and relatives and keep spreading the word, creating a viral effect.
What has been the ratio of your spends on television, digital and other media?
It varies according to the business objective. Whatever activity we undertake, the aim is to get the maximum out of investment. Depending on plans for a particular period, we figure out the best way to market. There are months when we don’t do anything, like for the last two months, we haven’t done any ATL activity. It also depends on available channels to deliver the maximum ROI.
What was the objective when you were running your TVC a couple of months ago and what is the reason for staying low on ATL right now?
We were very clear about advertising on television at that time because we had a couple of clear objectives. One was to increase the reach that we already had in the online space. A lot of people knew us in that space, but if we wanted to reach out to a wider audience, then television was and is quite an effective medium. Its reach is much bigger than any other medium. Also, when you advertise on TV, there is an inherent amount of trust associated with the brand. This helps in adding credibility to the brand and telling people that here is a service that you can trust, so go ahead and try it out. We extended the campaign for two-and-a-half months on various channels. Once we achieved the target of reaching out to a certain number of people, we are now critically analysing the business requirement for next time, the objective and what we are trying to communicate, etc. We will come out with a fresh campaign after a while.
How are you differentiating yourself? How do you ensure that your customers come back to you for repeat transactions?
Our model is quite unique. We are quite different from some of the other players in the domain as we function on a completely different mechanism. The most important thing that will make the consumer come back is his experience while using the offer for the first time. It is also important to be innovative in terms of anticipating customers’ requirements and offer those deals. If the customer does not find what he is looking for, he may shift. Advertising and other marketing initiatives can bring consumers to try and check out the website, but after that, it is the product experience that decides whether the consumer comes back or not.
Is roping in merchants a challenge?
It definitely was a challenge when we started out, because we had to explain the concept to them and inform them about the benefits of exploring a channel like this. But once the merchants started seeing the benefits of this, it was easier to bring them on board. Now, half of the deals on our site are inbound requests. It is a matter of merchants actually realising the value of this channel.
They say launching an online business is easier than scaling it up. What are the key points that you keep in mind while scaling up Snapdeal after acquiring critical mass?
Scaling up has got multiple aspects to it. One is the obvious effort that goes into ensuring that offices are in place and a strong business development team is on ground to actually take care of customers, etc. That is key for growing from one city to Tier II and III cities. But it is also important to ensure that the customer experience in these new cities remain superlative. So whenever you are expanding, it is not only important to set up deals, but also to ensure that the customer gets the same experience as in any other big city.
What kind of innovations are you bringing in group deals?
We have a couple of very innovative offerings. One of them is a recent launch called Deals Near Me. It gives real-time view of the deals available to the viewers in their city. They can search for a deal in a particular category - for example food deals in Gurgaon - and if a deal is there, they can close it immediately. We have effectively increased the number of options that a consumer has in terms of deals on the website. Apart from that, we keep doing things to improve user experience. For example, we launched a mobile voucher feature recently, where consumers could get a coupon or voucher on mobile through SMS. They just needed to show that to the merchant to avail the offer.
Snapdeal recently received an investment of $40 million from global investors Bessemer Venture Partners, along with existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and Indo-US Venture Partners. What are your plans for the investment, especially in terms of marketing and communication?
We will see to it that the investments are used to reinforce the brand. We will do whatever is needed to ensure that there is a good brand recall amongst our consumers and people who do not know about the brand get to know of it. It will be done in the form of ATL, BTL or online activities over a period of time.
In 2000, e-commerce websites came up in a big way but we know what happened next. What do you think has fundamentally changed in the Indian internet economy now to demand this kind of valuation?
I can’t comment on what really happened in 2000 because we do not know what models the companies had. E-commerce companies that have emerged in India in recent times focus on fundamental revenue-driven models and are not superficial in nature. Most of these companies have clear revenue and growth targets. So, the fundamentals remain strong and that is the difference if you compare today’s companies with the ones in 2000.
What more can be done in the area of e-commerce? What will be the key differentiator of good e-commerce websites going forward?
A lot can be done in the area of customer focus and that will be the differentiator going forward. There are various aspects to this starting from the quality of services offered, after sales support and overall experience that the consumer gets during transactions on the site. These aspects define total consumer experience and there is a lot of scope for growth in these areas.