Saumya Tewari and Satrajit Sen

Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?

We gather from its latest ad campaign, that Flipkart appears to be making an aggressive attempt to position itself as a strong player in the online fashion segment. Question is - Can Flipkart ever stand for fashion? afaqs! finds out.

As far as perceptions go, when it comes to 'fashion e-commerce', a segment in its own right, the likes of Myntra, FashionAndYou, Jabong and Zovi pretty much dominate the domestic scene. Where does that leave Flipkart, the poster boy of Indian e-commerce?

Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Well, Flipkart probably doesn't enjoy the same recall value when it comes to fashion. Since its foray into the fashion e-commerce category last year, the site has been trying to push itself as a strong contender.

Experts go as far as to call Flipkart's rumoured merger with Myntra an effort to piggyback on the latter's stronghold in this space. After all, Myntra ambitiously aimed to double its turnover from Rs 400 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 800 crore in 2013-14, on the back of the 500+ fashion and lifestyle brands (Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lee, Levis, Arrow and the like) it offers.

Flipkart's latest TV campaign, a step away from its recent 'Shop From Anywhere' campaign, is an effort to popularise its apparel section. Created by Happy Creative Services, the campaign says, "Your fashion fantasy comes true."

This time, focus is on fashion trends, must-have styles and the variety of options available at the newly launched Flipkart Fashion Store. The three-film campaign highlights different collections, including sportswear, beachwear and casualwear.

Says Ravi Vora, senior vice president, marketing, Flipkart, "People buy the latest trends in fashion as they believe these new clothes/accessories will make them look cooler. Our new 'fashion campaign', along with the brand new look and feel of the Fashion Store, has been created keeping this insight in mind. We want to help our consumers increase their fashion quotient."

The campaign highlights Flipkart's robust range of 1,500+ brands. The TG comprises the youth, particularly the IPL audience. Interestingly, the brand is targeting a new demographic of online shoppers this time - youngsters in the 20-27 years age bracket.

This makes strategic sense. According to ComScore, a source of digital business analytics, 75 per cent of India's e-commerce users are below the age of 35. Moreover, most online buyers or 'transactors', as it were, are between 35 and 44 years.

Fashion Forward

Flipkart's fashion offering is relatively new; recall that the brand's women's clothing range was launched only last year. Speaking to afaqs! about the brand's late entry into the fashion and lifestyle segment, Shoumyan Biswas, senior director, brand marketing, Flipkart, says his team wanted to understand the consumer first before taking the plunge.

"This is a highly evolved category with high dependence on the touch and feel factor. We entered the online apparel market at a stage when we felt we had a better idea of our customers' requirements. Consequently, we were able to customise our offering and policies to best meet their needs," Biswas states.

The strong perception of Flipkart as an 'electronics and gadgets' platform, says Biswas, is the result of the site's market leadership in the consumer electronics space. However, this favourable perception may well be one of the reasons Flipkart isn't readily thought of as a fashion brand. An instance of getting trapped in one's success, perhaps?

In January this year, Flipkart launched a lifestyle private label called Flippd, that offers men's apparel and footwear. States Biswas, "We started building our fashion segment properly last year. We knew there was immense scope for us to get additional shoppers to the site through this category. To that end, we even launched some specific campaigns for 'the lifestyle audience'. This year we have upped the ante."

Fashionable Enough?

Can Flipkart Stand For Fashion?
Will Flipkart's efforts help position it as a fashion-strong player? According to Mahesh Murthy, co-founder of Seedfund, an early-stage venture capital fund, Indian consumers just don't think of Flipkart when they think of fashion. The current campaign, he opines, is Flipkart's high-volume investment to fix that image.

The company's push to establish itself as a strong fashion player is probably an attempt to put pressure on Myntra's promoters to do the deal, Murthy opines. "This is to perhaps show Myntra what can happen if Flipkart really chooses to compete with them. Of course, if I was Myntra, I'd ignore this and go on with my life," he smiles.

Reportedly, merger-related discussions between Flipkart and Myntra have been stalled. The Wall Street Journal attributes this to Mukesh Bansal's (Myntra CEO) desire to keep his company independent after the merger. The converse view, says the publication, is that the companies will be better placed to put up a fair fight against Amazon, a new entrant in the Indian e-commerce space, if they combine their respective resources.

To Seedfund's Murthy, Flipkart's campaign looks like an attempt to resuscitate the deal, as both companies are majority-owned by the same investors.

However, this campaign, he feels, may not quite do the trick. "It's trying to position a bland online store as a place full of cool fashion," he critiques.

Question is - Is the consumer ready for this leap of faith?

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