The mega sale was supposed to be a big bonanza for Indian titan Flipkart, but turned out to be its worst nightmare. Flipkart founders event sent out apology emails
When Shashank Saxena logged in to buy a Nokia Lumia 525 at a jaw-dropping price of $14.7 on Monday at 7:55 AM on Flipkart, it already displayed sold out when the sale was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM. The angry Saxena took to Facebook and wrote, “Sold out five minutes before the sale started… With this big billion day sale, you certainly have put the final nail in the coffin, Flipkart!”
And the complaining over social media just multiplied as the day went on.
What is “The Big Billion Day”?
By now, many Indians and techies around the world people are aware of Flipkart’s mega sale “The Big Billion Day,” which is a pre-Diwali sale meant to capture the holiday mood of shoppers during the long weekend. It was expected to be the equivalent of the heavily-discounted Black Friday sale in the U.S. On October 6 (6-10 date marks the number of the flat from where Flipkart operations were started seven years ago), which was a public holiday on account of Eid-ul-Azha and part of a long weekend before Diwali, Flipkart offered mouth-watering discounts on various categories offering USB drives for $0.02, headphones for $1.61, and mobile phones for $14.67.
Though Flipkart saw more hits than Facebook, which is India’s most-visited website, and its mobile app topped the charts on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Play Store, the e-commerce giant faced serious angst from many a disappointed user. The mega sale, which was supposed to be a big bonanza for Flipkart, turned out to be its worst nightmare.
The Flipkart founders sent personalized emails to customers informing them of the great deals and offers and beefed up the logistics, but unfortunately the items shown under huge discounts were out of stock. Some people also complained about products being out of stock within a few minutes after the commencement of sale. Consumers claimed that offers advertised by Flipkart in the newspapers were not available on the website. The servers crashed due to heavy traffic volumes leaving the users frustrated.
Flipkart has managed flash sales before and they must have anticipated heavy volumes of traffic during the sale: So why was the e-commerce player not prepared for it remains a big question.
At least they said sorry
Flipkart Founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal sent out apology emails to all the website’s users. It said:
Yesterday was a big day for us. And we really wanted it to be a great day for you. But at the end of the day, we know that your experience was less than pleasant. We did not live up to the promises we made and for that we are really and truly sorry.
It took enormous effort from everyone at Flipkart, many months of preparation and pushing our capabilities and systems to the limit to be able to create this day. We were looking at fulfilling the dreams of millions of Indian consumers through deals and offers we had painstakingly put together for months.
And though we saw unprecedented interest in our products and traffic like never before, we also realized that we were not adequately prepared for the sheer scale of the event. We didn’t source enough products and deals in advance to cater to your requirements. To add to this, the load on our server led to intermittent outages, further impacting your shopping experience on our site.
An unprecedented 1.5 million people shopped at Flipkart yesterday. While we stand humbled by the sheer faith that such a large number of customers have shown in us, we are unhappy that we were unable to live up to the expectations of millions more who wanted to buy from us yesterday.
And this is not acceptable to us.
Delighting you, and every single one of our customers, is absolutely the top most priority for Flipkart and we have worked very hard over the last seven years to earn your trust. Yesterday, we failed that trust. We have learnt some valuable lessons from this and have started working doubly hard to address all the issues that cropped up during this sale.
It then went on to mention the problems faced by shoppers such as price change, out of stock issues, order cancellations and website errors.
Twitter was abuzz with disgruntled users venting out their anger on Flipkart. Apart from Flipkart’s #BigBillionDay hashtag trending on Twitter, #Flopkart, #Failkart and #Fuddukart also made rounds.
The old trick of marking up prices
A post on MissionSharingKnowledge.com tracked how prices had been gradually going up before the sale and then slashed to be presented as a discount. The post compares prices of different items shown on Flipkart and clearly suggests how the e-commerce player increased prices within a few weeks and then decreased them to appear discounted.
Who stole the thunder?
Flipkart created a lot of hype around this day through a series of ads in print, TV, outdoor and digital. The leading dailies were covered with jacket ads of Flipkart but Snapdeal gave a huge blow by placing an ad beside Flipkart that said, “For others it’s a big day, for us, today is no different”.
Kishore Biyani’s Future Group trounced Flipkart through a print ad that said, “No deal can win the trust of a billion people. You have to earn it. You can’t take a nation for granted even for one day…”
Users who typed www.bigbillionday.com were redirected to rival www.amazon.in, with a speculation of ambush marketing by Amazon. Amazon advertisements also appeared on pages with the keyword Flipkart.
Both Amazon and Snapdeal seem to have gained the most from Flipkart’s Big Billion sale as consumers said “their deals were real”. Calling Big Billion Day a gimmick, users on Facebook said they were waiting for Amazon Week.
Rival Snapdeal issued a statement in which Kunal Bahl, Co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal.com, said, “Snapdeal had a record breaking day of sales on October 6, 2014. We witnessed sales of over a crore rupees a minute, with lakhs of products being sold in a single day. We were trending throughout the day on Twitter and the App Stores, receiving phenomenal positive feedback from customers. Over a million Snapdeal apps were downloaded in one day.”
Though Snapdeal claimed to offer products at lower prices, users were not satisfied with it as well, with many sharing experiences on social media.
This clearly explains the e-commerce war has heated up and the series of ambush marketing tricks by several players remind us of the very famous cola wars.
Where did Flipkart miss the game?
This big billion day sale must have taught several lessons to the e-commerce giant Flipkart. The company should have a separate technical team to handle record traffic and new users, thereby preventing the website to crash. The company should have informed users about the limited availability of certain products so that users don’t feel cheated after ordering products online. This would have prevented its image and the bad publicity that Flipkart faced due to disappointed buyers. The Indian consumers are very demanding and the e-commerce players have to beef up their plans to satisfy the festive season demands.
This post was originally published on e27