Come Diwali, and there’s a grand showdown between India’s e-commerce stalwarts. The top three firms go all out to woo consumers and ratchet up sales – there’s discounts, promotions, and offers galore. What’s more, the three firms end up going head to head – Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal have held coinciding sales this year. This makes it a zero-sum-game – one retailer’s gain is another’s retailer’s loss. What this also allows for is some neat comparisons to determine how the three are doing.
Amazon and Flipkart have both released impressive sales numbers from the initial days of their sales, but these numbers are best taken with a pinch of salt. What’s worse, they’re hard to compare – Amazon for instance says it’s sold 1 lakh products in the first 30 mins, Flipkart countered with saying it had sold 5 lakh in the first hour. But it’s hard to drill down on these numbers – what kinds of products where these? What was the revenue? Or profit? How many were returned?
We’ve earlier used Google Trends to figure out the relative popularity of the companies, for we believe it offers an unbiased and broad view of what’s really going on. While Google Trends doesn’t give lots of details, given the volume of searches on Google, and the similarity of product offerings by the top three, it can be used an an effective proxy to determine who’s where.
And it’s showing some interesting results. Earlier we’d reported that Amazon had been rapidly gaining ground in India. But come sales season, Flipkart’s seems to be back on top.
This graph shows the relative popularity of the terms “Flipkart”, “Amazon” and “Snapdeal” in India. Before the sales began, Flipkart and Amazon were neck-to-neck, and Snapdeal trailed behind them. Then Amazon started its Great Indian Festival sale at 12 am on the 1st of October. Around that time, there’s a jump for Amazon searches, and Amazon opens up a wide lead between Flipkart and Snapdeal on 1st October.
At 12 am on 2nd October, Flipkart and Snapdeal launched their respective sales. Both companies saw spikes in their searches, and Flipkart shot to the top of the pile. Flipkart’s peak bounce was 33% higher than Amazon’s. Snapdeal had a bounce too, but never quite went past either Flipkart or Amazon.
Flipkart held the lead all through 2nd October, the first day of its sale. And going into the 2nd day, it’s still ahead of its rivals – it’s opened up a marked gap between the other two.
These results are also corroborated by the searches on the names of the sales. We looked at search volume for “Big Billion Day”, “Great Indian Festival”, and “Unbox Diwali”, the names of the sales carried out by Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal respectively. Here, there’s no contest – Flipkart’s ahead of the other two by miles.
It perhaps helps Flipkart that it’s built the Big Billion Day brand over three years. It had its share of infamy in 2014 when Flipkart had to publicly apologize for technical glitches on its site during the sale, but all publicity is good publicity. People seem to have the most recall with the name of Flipkart’s sale, as opposed to the names of the other two sales.
But it should be noted that Flipkart’s lead over its rivals isn’t as great as the last graph suggests – searches for “Big Billion Day” are tiny in comparison with “Flipkart” searches. They names of the companies are still the best way to compare their relative popularities.
In summary, this is what Google Trends tells us about the sales so far:
- At a macro level, Amazon is rapidly gaining on Flipkart as the top e-commerce portal in the country.
- Flipkart’s done better than Amazon during the sales period
- Snapdeal is now a clear distant third behind the top two.
Flipkart should be heartened by its showing in the sales. While this analysis doesn’t consider the promotional or marketing costs, Flipkart seems to have staved off Amazon $2 billion paycheck to turn in a strong performance. The Amazon train might be rolling on, but these sales have made it clear – Flipkart isn’t going to go down without a fight.