Monday, 6 October 2014

5 reasons why FlippantKart is the new Palika Bazaar/Fashion Street

If you've ever meandered around in any of the above markets, you can probably come in terms with the association I'm about to draw. For decades these two markets have developed an indomitable reputation in the respective cities for being a perfect flea market. A place where glib sellers and gullible shoppers galore. A place where price tags of every deal are no longer a mere function of the cost or the price, but a function of factors that are beyond the scope of conventional trade. Sales are made at what are apparently jawdropping(Oops! Took this from Snapdeal) prices but then the goods turn out to be a facade. You prowl on the fact that your latest buy lost color after the first wash, also embroiling the remaining innocent clothes in the same laundry, or the fact that your 64 GB pen drive that you brought at a throwaway price kept attenuating in space till it dropped to 64MB of actual storage. In short, you get the best price for the worst thing. We already had one such cult market in every city and suddenly, a sane business model went topsy turvy and competed with these markets the other way. This time though, the product remained intact and its quality still supreme, what suffered though, was the price, and the junta of course! 

Every major daily had this front cover ad, the largest hoardings across the most prominent of places housed the Big Billion Day sale communication and this time, the pioneers when it came to taking ecommerce to TV didn't leave that avenue either. So effective was the strategy that even the nearest competitors Snapdeal and Amazon had to come with lucrative deals of their own to stay intact in the online marketplace. So consecrated was flipkart's promise that it made even the most phlegmatic of shopper feel sanguine about this one single day, slated to be the gamechanger in the Indian ecom history. And alas! It did change the picture forever. It did show how squalid market dynamics remain online, it did evince the fact that these models continue to remain not so sustainable, and it did show that even an established player like flipkart had to resort to deviousness and deception to gather its share. So despite the fact that a moto e was sold at 5499, 1500 below its usual MRP and that a few people claimed to have bought the Tab 2 at an unbelievable 1100, the Big Billion Sale was largely a farce, which left a lot many people bereft of what was otherwise quality time they could have spent with their family, friends or other much more rewarding pursuits. 

I woke up a little too late, knowing well in advance that sale starts at 8 and I had my regrets on getting a flurry of WhatsApp messages that said how people were grabbing the deal of a lifetime on shoes and headphones and what not. I later on found out only a handful of these people actually went with the excitement and brought something. Others quickly found out that better deals were already available elsewhere and in some cases, flipkart itself had quoted better prices than it quoted on this sanctified day. So, I simply tracked flipkart throughout the day and came up with 5 tactics that they applied throughout to keep buyers engaged. Just like the sellers at Palika Bazaar would set leather belts on fire to allure a passerby or those in Fashion Street keep jabbering or twiddling about theirs being the hub for best deals. 

Missing Reviews

One of flipkart's usps was its extensive network of ardent reviewers and the fact that reviews always reflected a veracious picture of true usage experience thereby helping prospective buyers zero in on what products to choose. By removing the reviews, flipkart made sure that the naive and credulous could have no avenue through which they could solve their qualms and make purchases with confidence. There was complete lack of information and one had to go by what flipkart said. I chose not to buy this cherubic Zebronics MP3 player that was even back then sold for a morsel 300 just because I read through the reviews that it was a complete disaster. Today, it's deal came @ 250 and I guess a lot many people brought it without knowing its obvious aberrations.



Disappearing Deals

Another doltish feature of today's sale was the way in which deals kept disappearing and even reappeared from time to time. Just like the flea markets in the title, you'd have a deal and when you click at it you find the deal doesn't exist anymore. In some cases, it might have been the product going out of stock but wait, it actually came back!



The not so best prices

Consider this pair of shoes. flipkart mentions with conceit that it's giving a 40 percent off on the entire range, which other competitors are giving already. Check for yourself!



Offers that never came through

And this riling section at the bottom of the site that claimed that a few deals a going to come up soon. While some deals did come through, most of them either got quashed in flipkart's back offices, or they were too evanescent to be claimed.



You call them offers

And finally, the three offers that were mentioned alongwith almost every product. Boastfully lined out on every deal, these 3 offer tabs lured many people to scroll to a deal to see what these additional 2 offers could be apart from the usual discount. And you find that it's specifically for a Citi or StanC credit card purchase and that too with basket sizes that were more often than not 5 times your acttual purchase value.



All in all, flipkart may deserve all the praise for being the bellwether of the Indian ecom industry and they're rightfully the leaders courtesy of theirs being the literal torchbearer for so long. However, the shoddy and sleazy job they did today, specially after being so good throughout these years, deserved its share of obloquy and opprobrium. I genuinely hope that SnapDeal and Amazon give flipkart a hard time in the coming days so that it never even dares to commit this self inflicted committal again.