Shreyas Kulkarni

"About 25% of our traffic since last year's lockdown is from new users in small towns": Pepperfry's Kashyap Vadapalli

In a quick chat about his new ads, the CMO talks about busting the psychological barriers of first-time buyers.

“The new sofa doesn’t fit! Didn’t you buy it online, whom will you go after now?” asks a triumphant looking “uncle” to a young couple trying to fit a newly ordered sofa in its home. But, his flush of victory is short-lived when the young man calls Pepperfry who’s delivery person replaces the sofa in a jiffy and no questions are asked.

This scene is from the online furniture marketplace’s new ad. There is another ad where the uncle has ordered a dining set from Pepperfry and is alarmed when one chair is missing from the six-chaired set as shown on the website. It’s a false alarm because the uncle spots the delivery person who is about to place the sixth chair. “Get what you see,” says the ad’s title. L&K Saatchi & Saatchi is behind the two spots.

On the first viewing of the ads, one would assume Pepperfry is trying to convince the uncle (read older TG) to come over to the online side. After all, they still prefer face to face conversations at the local furniture wala.

“Not really,” replies Kashyap Vadapalli, Pepperfry’s chief marketer and business officer. “We were using older TG as a representation of the more traditional methods of buying and the younger TG (couple) as a representation of the modern methods of buying,” he explains.

We are seeing new users come to our platform as people were forced to shop online because of the lockdown says the CMO and goes on to add, “When there are new users buying furniture online… we need to help them with barrier-busting or trust-building messages.”

While it’s easy to remark all of India is buying online, Vadapalli tells us that while they cover metros, “most of their market focus is Tier 1 Tier 2 towns.”

We wondered if this could be attributed to the metro-dwelling folks who returned to their home towns and villages last year.

Says Vadapalli, “That would be a minor reason,” and adds that people residing in the smaller towns are shifting their behaviour from offline to online. “They might have done it for electronics and fashion earlier but this pandemic has forced them to do it even for furniture".

When did this behaviour shift? It happened around August last year he tells us. “It has continued right through the year.” He went on to add that Pepperfry is observing the same pattern this year too. “… When I look back after 25th May or 1st June. The last 20-25 days, the same pattern repeats.”

Also Read: Studio Pepperfry footfalls are back to last year's levels says its chief marketer Kashyap Vadapalli

While traffic peaks and ebbs during seasons, keeping that aside Vadappli reveals that about “25 per cent of its platform’s traffic since last year's lockdown comes from new users living in largely small towns.”

Psychological barriers

Speaking about his new users’ hesitancy of buying furniture online, the major question they have in mind he tells us is about how the product will look when they receive it.

“For every product, we tried to give a dozen images from all kind of angles, give zoom in shoots of textures, tried to give 3-d images,” he explains and yet the question persists.

The second question these new users have is about the fit: Will the item go with my surrounding? “Say it’s mentioned sky blue but it turns out to be navy blue… people would like the exact colour shade,” remarks Vadapalli.

This was the reason why Pepperfry brought back its “no questions asked, money back” policy; to ease new users into the online buying ecosystem.

It was first introduced in 2014 and was offered till 2016. In 2017-18 the online furniture marketplace said it will only take back a product if there is a problem with it. “We felt moving a three-seater sofa into somebody’s house and that person saying, “Hey, I don’t like it,” and we taking it back is a big loss-making proposition.”

What are people buying?

Last year, we witnessed people buying office furniture for home and we assumed it’s not the case anymore. “At this stage, most of the purchases are study tables, office desks, standalone chairs, bean bags… That definitely has seen an uptick again,” reveals the CMO and he further says that people are also buying “floor lamps, decors, carpets.”

He mentions an interesting observation from April this year where the sales of big-ticket items such as sofa sets, dining sets, wardrobes had taken a backseat from their normal averages. “In the last two weeks, we’re kind of seeing them coming back to their averages.”

But that is not it. When asked about Pepperfry’s B2B segment, the CMO told us it’s not a big segment for them because “we’re a marketplace and not a manufacturer.” But, what the marketplace has observed is small businesses like “cafes, clinic, homestays prefer to pick up products from us because of the variety we offer.”

“We saw an uptick of it last year and we expect the same to happen this year as well,” he signs off.