Over the last few weeks, the ecommerce industry in India has faced problems in delivery, payment options and other logistics. Instances such as Flipkart’s website crashing on the ‘Big Billion Day’ sale and mix-up in Snapdeal delivery system have put the Indian ecommerce industry in unenviable positions. But one man’s, or as is the case here, one business’ challenge is another business’ opportunity. And the enabling agent in the case of what has popularly become #SoapDeal is social media.
A Mumbai-based consumer had ordered a Samsung Galaxy Core 2 Duos on Snapdeal Diwali Bumper Sale during the Diwali festive season. Other e-tailers were offering huge discounts and other kinds of attractive offers on their respective website as well to boost ecommerce sales during the period. But, instead of a smartphone, the consumer was delivered a scrubbing stone and a dish washing bar Vim, a Hindustan Unilever brand .
The furious customer took on to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to voice his anguish and this particular e-shopping experience. His posts on inefficient delivery system of Snapdeal and poor customer service gathered interest from a large number of social media users across India.
Hindustan Unilever, India’s largest FMCG company seized the opportunity to reiterate its position in the market. The customer received an e-mail from the company saying “the pictures you posted online show that our brand was used in this incident. Vim is one of our iconic brands with some great consumer franchise. We felt bad about it, not to mention what you went through. Here is a small gesture from our side to cheer you up,” referring to the Samsung smartphone which they sent to the consumer, free of charge.
Different sections of the market translate this strategy differently. “I am not sure if HUL would get much benefit from this. Had this been done by a competitor of Snapdeal e.g. Amazon or Flipkart, perhaps it may have benefited that competitor,” said Arvind K Singhal, Chairman of Technopak.
Irrespective of the views, HUL’s move attracted immense positive marketing with minimum cost i.e. just one smartphone . Unlike most of HUL’s marketing campaigns, this one relied heavily on social media and content creation by the consumer.
While Snapdeal was bearing the brunt of consumer’s fury due to mix-up in the delivery, HUL upgraded its brand image in the connected social audiences in India. Giraj Sharma, Founder of Behind the Moon, a brand consulting firm, said that the move by HUL is a ‘sweet gesture’ and not a malicious practice because of the credibility of the brand and the genuineness of the gesture.
However, disposition of the consumer was addressed by Snapdeal and he has been assured that the entire amount will be refunded in a couple of days. “If Snapdeal handles this situation well, I do not think that this one event is going to cause any harm to the company or the ecommerce industry. However, if this incident repeats for Snapdeal, then it may reflect negatively on its business, “added Mr Sharma.
The scale of operation of Snapdeal and other ecommerce players in India is of a considerable size and occurrence of such incidents is miniscule, according to Mr Sharma. Therefore, they are not capable of causing permanent damage to the brand image. But due to this increased competition in the market, e-tailers have to constantly keep a track of customer satisfaction and deliver to the best of its capabilities.
The incident however asserts that the always-on marketer can find an opportunity to engage its consumers anywhere, if they are listening.