Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Who is shopping for what and when?

It is becoming common place to see mega sales and promotions being advertised and promoted by online retailers in India. However, what puzzles me is their timing. Most of these promotions are scheduled to start on Mondays and are during weekdays barring a few exceptions. This is in direct contrast to the physical stores. The brick and mortar stores usually gear up for promotions during the weekends namely Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They stock up, plan for adequate manpower and hope for the bumper weekend sale.

The weekend phenomenon is clearly a function of time where shoppers are free. Also, with shopping becoming more of a recreational cum functional outing, this tends to happen on weekends. Obviously online shopping is not time intensive and that is one of its main advantages. However, the timing of holding such promotional sales during weekdays, especially with a start on Monday’s is something worth exploring with regard to who buys from such sales, what is purchased and why on weekdays.

Conventional wisdom says that Monday would be amongst the busiest days for most working people and sparing time to even browse and click might not be possible for most. As clear data with regard to the age of online shoppers is not available easily, the next best reference is the age of internet users. A February 2015 report by PWC estimates that 37% of the users are in the age group of 15 – 24 and 38% are in the 25 – 34 years age group. It is quite possible that the majority of them are students or are in the early stage of their careers. They are also the Gen X whose orientation towards work as also work-life balance is very different from the older generations. Hence a weekday pressure, especially Monday pressure is not such a big factor.

This is validated by the categories that dominate online shopping in India. Another report by by RedSeer consulting dated March 2015 shows that 45% to 50% of online purchases are electronics and this could very well be dominated by mobile phones. Next is fashion with a share of 18% to 20%. Clearly these categories have a correlation with the dominant age groups of internet users and validate the weekday promotions of online retailers versus the weekend focus of physical stores.

In spite of increasing smart phone usage and shopping apps, 2/3rd of the orders are coming from a computer and only 1/3rd is originating from a smart phone. Many organizations especially those employing large numbers of the Gen X do not allow free access to online shopping and social network sites. If the majority of the potential online shoppers do not have access to these sites at work on their computer, they should be purchasing through their mobile. In which case the share of orders from mobiles does not reflect this and should be higher.

So the question remains, who is buying when and what online in India.