E-commerce is booooooooooooooming in India. Yes, there’s so many ‘o’s in there to stress on the fact that its really booming. Fueled by the phenomenal growth of the online travel industry, the Indian e-commerce market reached an impressive growth rate of 47 per cent to over Rs 46,000 crore in the 2011 calendar year, a report said. The essential point to remember is that even though there are only under-10 million internet users who actually buy online in India, there are about 150 million internet users or around 75 million households that are ‘ready’ for e-commerce.

According to IAMAI, the sectoral umbrella body, current e-commerce market in India is around $ 10 billion, while US e-commerce market is set to touch $ 200 billion in 2013, growing at 17 per cent. In other words:

> Basket size for Indian e-commerce buyers = 10 million (max)
> Basket size for prospective (soon to be) Indian e-commerce buyers = 150 million
> Current e-commerce market in India = $ 10 billion
> US e-commerce market = $ 200 billion
> Travel sites contribution to above-mentioned $ 10 billion = 94% (Source)

Thus, we see a range of e-commerce websites popping up like mushrooms in the past few months… Myntra, Infibeam, Flipkart were once the market leaders… But now facing immense heat from Jabong (multi-brand aggregator), Fashion&You (multi-brand flash-sales aggregator), SherSingh (India’s First Global ‘Cricket Inspired’ Off-the field Lifestyle Brand), FREECULTR (Street style, casual chic free-thinking wear for the bolder generation), Zovi, Fashionara, ShopNineteen (fun, fashionable, affordable girlie ensembles for any time of the day) and others…

So, if you’re a customer – you must be thinking – dude, what the fuck? which site should I visit and buy from?

For both the customer, and the marketer (here the ‘brand’ or ‘label’), the problem lies in the secret – ‘How to stand out from this clutter?The salvation lies within. Here’s the checklist that an e-commerce portal selling clothes online needs to ask themselves –

a) Are we another website selling clothes?
b) Do we offer anything unique – styling element, fashion element, detail element, based on a philosophy, inspiration element etc.
c) Are we to sell clothes and make some money? Or, are we to sell clothes and build a ‘brand’ as valuable as Zappos, Apple & Starbucks?
d) Do we think about our customers – their feelings, their choices, their love, their hate, their feedback, their feelings in everything we do?
e) Do we have ‘attention to detail’ at every step of the purchase process?

If the founder(s) of the company sit in a room alone and ask these questions to themselves… the answers would be apparent; and the answer to the question – ‘How to stand out from the clutter?’ would automatically appear.

1. It ain’t about the money.

Only 2 days ago, I read an article on TechCrunch.com, “Want To Be Like Steve Jobs? Well It’s Probably Not Going To Happen, Says BFF Larry Ellison” wherein Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation and a dear friend of Steve Jobs mentioned a few salient points of Steve’s character. He said –

“He wasn’t trying to be rich,” Ellison went on, “Apple became one of the most valuable companies on earth and it wasn’t even one of Steve’s goals. Steve was always talking about products. He was a creative artist, engineer and entrepreneur unlike anyone else,” he mused, relaying an anecdote about how when Apple passed Oracle in market cap, Steve called up and joked with him about how CEOs in Silicon Valley measure their manhood in market cap. “He noticed [success]and he was proud of it but it wasn’t a motivator at all.

“[If you’re trying to mimic] Steve clothes, superficial things, then that’s the wrong thing,” Ellison said, “Steve wore the same thing every day because he didn’t want to think about what he was wearing.”

Thus, if you’re here to make some quick bucks to get that Merc S class, chances are you would end like LetsBuy.com and Taggle.com. In dirt.
Instead aspire for providing a real solution; a real product which is of impeccable quality, style, design at an affordable price for all.

2. Get a world class product.

Pay extra if needed, but go that extra mile. Get a product which is world class.
Customers always, invariably notice the difference between a cheap and an excellent embroidery.

3. Spend on packaging.

Spend on the boxing. Its extremely vital.
The cover, the lapel, the QR code, the corners.
Pay attention to details – shows – you love your valued customer.

Apple MacBook Pro boxing – exquisite. Padding on top to prevent scratches, lapel to make the laptop rise carefully and not suffer from a jerk, handle to carry the box, extra care is taken to fit the laptop in a special casing. This ain’t a laptop anymore, but becomes a ‘fashion element’.

4. Create signature details on the item.

Make signature details on dresses.
That extra lapel. That customized button. That special stitching.
Wow the customer with details that are at unexpected places and with unexpected materials (e.g. plastic or metal or something else).

Excellent example is Sher Singh button for its dress shirts. A red button signifies the ‘leather cricket ball’ from which the brand was initially conceptualized. Without being loud, this detail makes the shirt chic.

Another good example is – FREECULTR. The signature stitch line that denotes conformity (through the parallel lines on the left pocket) and the freedom of thought and expression as the parallel lines open up, denoting the true spirit of FREECULTR.

5. No Cheap tricks.

When every e-commerce site is vying to get users onsite by paying more and more; don’t compete unnecessarily by blowing cash and getting them onsite.
Don’t buy fans on Facebook by running contests, which really doesn’t connect with fans/followers. And in fact, negatively affects the EdgeRank algorithm for the page; thereby affecting the future chances of user engagement on the page.
Don’t offer Buy1, Get1 offers, and cheap tricks like discounts, discounts and more discounts.

The above mentioned tricks may get you a good surge of visits in the short run, but will completely destroy the image of the brand in the customer’s minds in the long run.

Instead – continuously scan the horizon for ‘engaging content’ across all consumer touch-points (whether email newsletter, facebook posts, facebook CPC ads, twitter tweets, pinterest boards and pins) and more; to listen, engage, answer and provide a sense of ‘community’ and camaraderie with your fellow consumers. The prospect should be logically convinced of your product without you even telling them. Thus, grow trust.

6. Be honest.

However hard you try, some day, something will go wrong. The wrong stitching, that wrongly placed embroidery, that necklace whose beads fell apart. In such cases, provide a ‘sincere’, ‘honest’ and ‘caring’ ear and shoulder to your customer when he/she does get in touch.

Be honest, get in touch with him/her, and provide the best solution possible at the fastest turn around time.
Don’t say – ‘we will get back to you’; rather ‘call and ask for whether the problem was solved’ even after solving it.
Go that extra mile.

Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh, often used to say – ‘Zappos doesn’t deliver shoes. We deliver happiness‘. Thus, if someone calls Zappos even in the middle of the night asking how to get pizza delivered, Zappos employees help the person on the phone by connecting them to nearby pizza delivery centers. Zappos doesn’t and never had a MPI (Minutes per incident) number at their call centers. At end of every call, call center employees are asked – ‘whether the customer was wowed?’ Result – There’s over a million companies that sell shoes online, but there’s only one Zappos.

So, are there brands which do ALL of the above?

Yes. One of my personal favorites is an Amsterdam couture brand, Scotch & Soda.

The website offers a complete experience. Fast, sleek and chic. The LOOKBOOKs are exceptional. The tees/denims/shirts/dresses are just awesome. The packaging, the detailing, the delivery (International Delivery from Amsterdam –> New Delhi took less than 3 days which is FREE of cost) – all truly exceptional.

OVERALL BRAND experience – Exceptional.
Price of a simple tee – Rs.3000+ and more.
Would I buy it – Yes, even if the tee was Rs. 20,000/- or more.
Since, you’re buying from a brand that loves and cares about you, and NOT from an e-commerce site.

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About sghoshoxon

Born in India, educated in Moscow, worked in the UK; Subhasish speaks English, Russian, Hindi & Bengali. Marketing // Strategy // Consulting, Active Blogger, Social Media Evangelist, Apple fan; Thanks to all for reading my blog posts, with 'FewRandomRantings.Wordpress.com' reaching 74,000+ visits since inception. Follow me @nerdometer.

5 responses »

  1. […] My detailed blog post on HOW TO CREATE AND SUSTAIN A “BRAND ONLINE”. Share this: Pin ItShare on TumblrEmailPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. Alan says:

    The article was very informative and true , Indian e commerce sites have to learn the Basics

    • sghoshoxon says:

      Yes. very true. unfortunately, all of this requires – planning, strategies (long-term and short), and most importantly correct people doing execution. most of the e-commerce sites are to ride this Dot.com boom and make some quick bucks, just like the world saw thousands of Dot.coms in the US before the bubble burst. so 90% of e-commerce sites in India don’t talk about – referral programs, loyalty programs, user engagement etc. these are like “greek terms”. its about selling items at whatever percentage discount you can. 70,80,90% or more 🙂

  3. […] The question that arises then – how does an e-commerce website make the difficult transition from a “website selling discounted stuff” to an “Online Brand”? Its covered in detail here. […]

  4. […] Build up a brand slowly, but steadily. Work hard, focus on the right things, and build your product/service such that, CPAs […]

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