Dos and Don’ts for Online Stores for GOSF 2014; What the Industry has to Say

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Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) is experiencing a consecutive rise in takers every year, due to an increase in online shoppers in the country. It has started to get recognition as the day when all the e-commerce companies together give heavy discounts.
10th to 12th December 2014 will be the third for GOSF, and the online players should have a better planning than last two years to avoid the mistakes being committed in past, and disappointing the consumers in return.
Following the trends of GOSF of last two years and other mega sale festivals hosted by companies like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal etc it has been observed that, though these festivals were customer centric, their output did not result in all the customers being satisfied. Consumer dissatisfaction was seen in form of criticism over all social media websites like Facebook, Twitter etc.
From the website crashes to auto order cancellations, the list of reasons these festivals give to users for being upset are several. The Indian e-commerce industry has been maturing for over a decade now and it is high time for the online businesses to buckle up and stop repeated blunders.
Checklist for Online Retailers
There are few points (learning from the past)  that retailers should keep in mind before the upcoming mega sale of 2014, so as to not lose out on their customers, since the cost of customer acquisition is already high enough.
§  Deploy Enough Servers
Let alone the online stores, last year GOSF’s official website itself went down for several hours. When the retailers are already anticipating a heavy traffic, they should also prepare themselves for the same. For Flipkart it has become a routine affair to crash, sometimes it is at time of mobile launches, some times it is for flash sales, and most recently it was on the Big Billion Day Sale. The founders accepted that they had scaled up the servers but were still under prepared. While on one hand website going down is a good sign of a heavy footfall, but it’s an even worse indicator or turning away the incoming customers. The traffic is expected to increase by 4 folds than what last year’s GOSF had, a better preparation technology wise will help the site to function better and smooth in case of rush hours.
§  Know and Manage your Inventory Well
It has been in observed in the past that the article is still shown listed on the website, even when it has run out of stock, and the user is sometimes notified about the unavailability after the payment has been processed. The critical-ity of this point can’t be emphasized enough. If you are running an online retail business, whether you use in-house technology or use an inventory management software, there should never be a discrepancy in what you show and what you really have.
§  Clear the Backlogs and Plan Logistics in Advance :
Online shopping portals should clear any pending orders i.e. deliver the items ordered before the commencement of the Big sale festival. Supply Chain needs to be solid. During Flipkart’s Big Billion Day Sale, several sellers were left out because they had orders already in the pipeline, leading to dissatisfaction among them. The same should we informed well in advance not on the day of the sale. Also, all the logistics partners should be given an approximation of the volumes they should be expecting.
Another thing that should have transparency on the front-end is the logistics capability for every product. As pointed out by Rahul S Dogar, Director, Holisol “Limit sales to pincodes where delivery capacities have been created”.  And also, to build special customer service teams to keep a track of orders. ”The delivery companies were still struggling with clearing-up the orders for Diwali until recently.” he added.
§  Maintain the Festival’s Credibility
It has been the complaint of many users that the discounts given on sales festival days are almost same as any other day. And also at times the prices on sales days are higher than non-sales days, such a practice is a kill joy for anyone. As, Ravitej Yadalam, CEO and Founder, Pennyful suggests that online websites should provide genuine deals as compared to the prices of items on regular days. The pricing should be fair and over-marketing should be avoided
§  Engage in Social Listening
Social networks, particularly Twitter, are the real channels where the consumers voice their joys and concerns. Listening closely to what they are talking about your brand, your competition, your industry, what they want can go long way especially during high traffic times. Addressing the issues as soon as they are brought up publicly, even a response that it’s being looked into will prevent the user from shunning your store completely and save you from undue bad publicity.
What  is the Industry Saying

Bipinpreet Singh, Founder and CEO, Mobikwik
A company should be true to its customers, in terms of pricing, when participating in GOSF. Users these days are well aware about the product they want to purchase so transparency should be maintained. A bad marketing strategy can and will backfire in the present scenario, so a proper understanding of the target audience should be the prime focus while creating any campaign. Also, to gain more traction out of GOSF, companies should build and engage in conversations about GOSF on Social Media.

Sanjay Sethi, Co-founder and CEO, Shopclues
Technology is the backbone of any e-commerce business. When planning our GOSF initiatives, tech-readiness is our prime concern – and that implies capacity building for the surge in traffic and for seamlessly scaling up to manage the volume of business transactions. We are tweaking and tuning all our tech infrastructure in preparation for GOSF. Given the response we got during Diwali this year and the enthusiasm among shoppers, we expect over 120% increase in traffic and 180-200% increase in sales over GOSF 2013

Ravitej Yadalam, Founder and CEO, Pennyful
GOSF is indeed a very exciting time for the Indian ecommerce Industry. GOSF was conceived by Google in 2012, we are certain that over the last two years, retailers have learnt a few best practices they need to keep in check for this year’s GOSF. Based from their earlier experiences, retailers should leverage GOSF to reach and acquire new customers. As seen in the case of the last two years, GOSF 2014 will witness a lot of shoppers who are transacting online for the first time. Each of the 450+ partners of GOSF need to see themselves as a representative of the entire e-commerce industry.

Shankar Nath, Senior Vice President, Paytm
GOSF is an excellent platform for the e-commerce ecosystem in India. A key focus area of this festival is to  acquire first time transacting users, and thus it expands the online market. If you are a serious player in mobile commerce and e-commerce, this is an initiative you just cannot miss. We are expecting significant incremental growth during this festival.
Swati Bhargava, Co-Founder of CashKaro
Google’s third edition of GOSF is expected to be bigger and better than the last two years. In some of the recent shopping festivals, consumers have been disappointed with the quality of deals so I’d say let’s ensure good value is being offered. Mantra should be to under-promise and over-deliver. Also,retailers should be prepared to handle huge volumes which are bound to come as many first time shoppers are also expected during GOSF. This includes building capacity to handle higher site traffic, more orders, ensuring availability of products, planned logistics and more customer support teams. During the 3 day GOSF period, we are expecting a 400% increase in traffic on and 300% increase in revenues

 Vikash Khetan, Founder and CEO, CouponzGuru
We started a specially designed website for the purpose of this sale. Extensive preparations have been made to not only bring the best offers in real time to users, but also to ensure that their website is able to handle the onrush of 5 times their normal traffic. We have set up deals with a large number of 450 and counting vendors, who will be participating in the online festival. At CouponzGuru, we expect to attract 3 lakh visitors in the 3 days of the festival.

Rahul Dogar, Director, Holisol Logistics
In our opinion there are a few things retailers should look at. Firstly, study the capacities of their logistics networks – whether inhouse or outsourced – and plan sales accordingly. Don’t leave it to luck or chance but plan well. For this to happen, marketing/sales/merchandising/logistics functions needs to work together to make it successful. Also, Look at the alternate to airline haul – the capacities on air are limited and usually creates huge bottlenecks during such high peal sales. It is advisable to look at alternate rail and road hauls which are able to meet same delivery timelines as airline haul.
Marketplace companies are increasingly building the tendency to pass the buck to sellers, sellers need to be engaged and educated of all these issues as well.

Sudhanshu Kapoor, Founder and CEO, PayOOM
Most of our publishers have created special landing pages/Micro sites for GOSF and have a number of special marketing plans in the box for promoting same. We are expecting at least 3X of traffic and at least 2X of sales during GOSF. We have seen a similar trend during PayOOM affiliate week, which we did in the last week of November, where most of our advertising partners have shared special coupons/offers promotions.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda
GOSF is one of the largest online event of its kind in the e-commerce space. We are specially targeting the virgins in the online shopping space and believe food is the best first time experience to get yourself introduced to the online shipping experience.  We are expecting 50-60% spike in Sales during the event but more importantly we are excited about the proposition of converting non-shoppers into first-time shoppers during the event. 
The industry is expecting a four fold times higher turnover of customers than last year. High on plans, strategies and expectations this GOSF is being eagerly awaited by the Online industry and the customers as well. Will it be better or even worse than earlier, we’ll find out in one week.

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