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Monday, September 12, 2016

Ads of Flipkart Assured against Amazon Prime – how do they stack up?

The Trio in Indian eCommerce market - Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal have been trying hard to not only keep its market share, but also get an additional pie out of it. In fact, the Indian companies, Flipkart and Snapdeal have been struggling to keep their game up against the giant, Amazon. In a market that goes behind discounts and offers, these eCommerce giants are trying to vow prospective customers with an additional offering - premium services that offers various additional features such as faster delivery, guaranteed quality and access to exclusive deals.
If we rewind a bit, before these premium services, it was all about the prompt delivery promise (with Flipkart Advantage and Amazon Fulfilled). Later it was all about the quality and no-fake products value propositions. In July 2016, Flipkart revamped its Advantage offering and changed to Flipkart Assured (F Assured) program. As per a recent article in The Economic Times, this is expected to help the company compete against Amazon on quality assurance and customer service front (specifically the Amazon Prime offering).As per this policy, Flipkart undertakes six quality checks, faster delivery of products and simplified return policies. Flipkart is also investing in promoting the change heavily in owned, earned and paid media.
Let's first review quickly, the Flipkart Assured video commercial they have put up in YouTube. There are actually two - and both have created its own controversy. In both the ads, Flipkart has brought back Kids at center stage.

What's the ad all about?

The ad starts with a perceived gentlemen having a neck collar ordering a pair of shoes using Flipkart Assured. Introduction of the feature in the beginning itself creates a curiosity of the offering. Two watchmen asks how can one be safe shopping online. The dialogue around perceived risks in online shopping and the answer of protagonist that only one check - F Assured is required reinforces the USP of the offering.
Its followed by a humorous scene of a dog peeing on one of the watchman's shoes and the other asking if he also need a new pair. The commercial ends with another re-iteration of the message of what F Assured is all about. As per the above Economic Times article, Flipkart is targeting youth who haven't really started to try out online shopping with F Assured. However I don't feel that has come out well in the commercial. I think, the audience targeted is more of a middle aged group hesitant to buy online. Also, the ad fails to highlight other benefits such as faster delivery (which is in fact included in a follow up 10 sec ad). Overall the tone of the ad is humorous in nature. The controversy was around Nepalis/Gurkhas be stereotyped as watchmen.

What is the Value Proposition?

Let's look at the value proposition of the offering now. In India, it was Flipkart who first introduced premium services in e-tailing with Flipkart First. I think it didn't sail through well because of the cost conscious Indian customers.
However, this year with its success in the West and a possible inclusion of Videos in the offering; Amazon beefed up the competition with its introduction of Amazon Prime. Flipkart First, when compared to Amazon Prime was still falling short on many counts (for example Flipkart is not claiming a 100% early access to daily deals for its members).
I think, now with the introduction of Flipkart Assured; it has just created another confusion around what the actual offering is and what it is competing with - is it against Amazon Prime or is it Amazon Fulfilled or Flipkart Advantage or Flipkart First itself. From its features, F Assured seems to be more inline with Amazon Fulfilled rather than Prime. Also, while both Amazon and Flipkart has its own ambiguities in its terms and conditions; Amazon Prime seems to be more appealing (especially when they include Amazon Videos as well). Here is a quick comparison between the two. Interestingly, as a catch-up exercise, Snapdeal also has come up with its own version called Snapdeal Gold!. This looks similar to Flipkart Assured in terms of the features included in the offering. Here is a quick comparison between various offerings.

Flipkart Assured

Flipkart First

Amazon Prime

Snapdeal Gold

  • Free Service and on selected products
  • 6 Quality Checks to ensure product quality
  • Fast & Free Shipping (free delivery and within 2-4 days if purchase amount is above 500/-)
  • Paid Service (500/- per year)
  • Discounted/Free/Faster delivery
  • Early access to selected deals
  • Better customer support
  • Paid service (499/- per year) and applicable on selected products
  • Early access (30 minutes) to lightning/daily deals at Amazon
  • Fast & Free Shipping
  • Free service and on selected products
  • Quality assurance
  • Free next day delivery in certain cities
  • Better return policies

Flipkart Assured badge may have been a relevant differentiator during the initial days; but considering they have established their brand for credibility, I am pessimistic about its value add. Also the target audience it is trying to reach will be more careful (by reviewing the seller quality, brand of the product etc.) than just go by the F Assured badge. The media budget could have been utilized more to promote Flipkart First as opposed to Flipkart Assured (similar to what Amazon is doing for Prime as opposed to Amazon Fulfillment)

What do you think about these offering; do you think it will fly in a market like India?
Is it just another marketing gimmick or necessity to keep up the game...?


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