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"Marketers are under pressure to show returns on their investments": Shoumyan Biswas, Flipkart

By Sunit Roy, afaqs!, Mumbai | July 06, 2017
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An interview with Shoumyan Biswas, Chief Marketing Officer, Flipkart.
Shoumyan Biswas

Shoumyan Biswas

Chief Marketing Officer, Flipkart

What's on the mind of Flipkart's CMO? Read on to find out.

This interview is part of our Marketers' Special Issue - afaqs!Reporter magazine, June 15, 2017.

Edited Excerpts


Review the last 12 months for your brand and segment. What challenges do you foresee in the next 12 months?

For Flipkart, the last 12 months have been very good on all key parameters, like customer base expansion and business growth.

While internet adoption in India is growing, the velocity of adoption of online shopping has not kept pace with it. Over the next 12-24 months, we will continue to focus on ensuring more people shop with us, more often.

"While internet adoption in India is growing, the velocity of adoption of online shopping has not kept pace with it."

In what ways are changing urban lifestyles affecting your category, if at all?

With respect to retail, the main questions are: Who is buying? What are they buying?

We are seeing huge traction for categories like mobile phones, electronic devices like laptops, cameras, and branded fashion. Demand for trendy, unbranded fashion and large appliances, like TVs, is also growing.

"We are seeing huge traction for categories like mobile phones, electronic devices like laptops, cameras, and branded fashion. Demand for trendy, unbranded fashion and large appliances, like TVs, is also growing."

Have there been any recent geographical or demographical shifts in the adoption of online shopping?

We are seeing increased adoption from tier II and III markets. Mobile penetration, low ASP (average selling price) of smartphones and reduced data costs are driving this.

The percentage of women shoppers for specific categories -like apparel, footwear- is growing.

Overall, in metros and large cities, 'value conscious but time poor' consumers are finding great convenience and value in shopping online.

In smaller urban cities, mobile and smartphone penetration is giving people access to quality products and brands at affordable price points on online shopping portals like ours.

Are there any changes in technology that could affect your category?

Absolutely. We are an online business and technology helps us at every stage of the customer journey. For example, when it comes to messaging our customers, the right use of technology can help us identify different customer cohorts, broadcast content to them and measure the effectiveness of these multiple mini-campaigns on a real-time basis.

Where will your next million/5 million/10 million consumers come from?

Online shopping adoption in the country, which is roughly close to 100 million so far, has taken place mostly among NCCS A, B customers - primarily salaried, professional men, living in the top 10-12 cities.

Our growth over the next few years will come from women shoppers and non-metro customers.

How has the role of the marketing head changed of late?

The role of the CMO has changed from 'communication expert' to 'value creator'.

Today, a CMO needs to own every touch-point in the customer journey, manage automation in marketing, and manage the customer funnel/analytics.

Communication is more about human communication - tell, not sell.

As a marketer, what scares you?

I would not use the word 'scare'. I'd rather say 'challenge'.

Today most marketers are under pressure to show returns on their increasing investments - assets, media, technology and people. Too many inputs, and unclear correlation to output metrics, make the task of measurement tougher.

Multiple, disconnected tools, technology and data sources exist for the same objective, that is, making the right choice. Having so many choices, makes the task of evaluation even tougher.

I fear that in such an environment, CMOs may end up spending far too much time on measurement -of people, channels, input and performances- and not enough time on building creative ideas.

"I fear that CMOs may end up spending far too much time on measurement and not enough time on building creative ideas."

In what way has the information you receive about your consumers changed over the past 12 months?

As our customer base increases, our insights get stronger.

We have clear views on which categories are mutually compatible for cross-sell opportunities, which customer cohort is more likely to shop during an event, etc. This helps us segment our target base and decide how to communicate with them.

What is your lead medium of communication today?

It depends on the target group and the task at hand.

But since we are an online business and since the 'online penetrated' TG in India spends lot more time on their mobile devices compared to their television sets, our plans have a higher index towards social and digital channels.

Marketers today deal with way too many external brand custodians - agree?

The problem is not with having too many brand custodians. The problem is the lack of a unified view or framework that binds the output and capabilities of these custodians.

In what way has your expectation from your agency partners changed of late?

Expectations have evolved in line with the changing priorities of the marketing function.

Focus is on creating more 'human' and conversational content. If our customers are spending a lot of time on Facebook and if short videos or short content forms work better on Facebook then our creative design needs to change accordingly.

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