Anirban Roy Choudhury

How Flipkart merged offline with online during the Big Billion Days sale

“You can drive your performance and so you spend on us.”

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram get a large share of advertising dollars from brands across categories by selling the idea of performance marketing. These platforms allow advertisers to pay only after the targeted action is performed — the action could be a click, lead, sale or whatever else the CMO wants. Television too, has been toying with the idea of t-commerce. Back in 2014, during the Super Bowl, fashion retailer H&M ran an ad campaign featuring English football legend David Beckham. A few selected Samsung SmartTV owners got the option to buy whatever Beckham was wearing just by pressing buttons on their remote.

Recently, Flipkart too, attempted to use television to drive commerce. “The task for us was to get new to e-commerce shoppers to Flipkart during the Big Billion Day sale,” says Anand Chakravarthy, managing director - India, Essence, a GroupM agency. “We had the insights that viewers who watch soap operas aspire to look like the protagonists in the show. Often they take photographs of lead characters and go to the tailors to get something similar stitched. We tried to marry this insight with Big Billion Days and get new shoppers on Flipkart,” he adds.

The Flipkart Big Billion Days sale was active from September 29 to October 4, 2019. On September 30, the QR code appeared on ZeeTV during a couple of its primetime shows, Tujh se Hai Raabta (8:30pm) and Kundali Bhagya (9:30pm). Once the QR codes were scanned the user was led to a curated Flipkart landing page with a list of products ranging from apparel to electronic appliances to personal hygiene.

Anand Chakravarthy
Anand Chakravarthy

The target audience of this initiative were 22 to 40 years old females residing in tier II and tier III towns of India. Do they know how to scan codes with their cameras are they savvy of that technology? The Aston band (the horizontal strip that appears at the bottom of the TV screen during a program) asked viewers to scan the QR codes using their mobile phones. However, it did not explain how to do so. “That part is taken care of by the payment apps, such as Google Pay, PhonePe and others,” says Chakravarthy. He believes that his target audience is already scanning QR codes to make payments. “It is an easy technology and cameras on most smartphones, even the ones ranging as low as Rs 8000, come with an in-built QR code scanner. So, the user just needs to scan it and that is it,” he states.

However, when we tried to scan the codes at our office with different phones, it was certainly not as easy as pie. While phones from certain manufacturers failed to read the code, few used in-built apps, such as Google Lens to read the code. Certain newer smartphones offered an option on the screen when the camera was focussed on the code. As per the data shared by Essence, the one-day-campaign reached out to 31.9 million people. The agency or the brand did not share any data on conversions. “We got a good response. It was for a very short period of time and largely focussed on the Big Billion Days. Our next step is to evaluate results in granular depth and look at how can we scale this up for a longer-term association,” shares Chakravarthy.

Not so long ago, in April 2019, Comcast-owned US broadcaster, NBCUniversal, which owns and operates CNBC, NBCU and NBC Sports among many other channels, ran QR codes during programmes. The initiative called ShoppableTV, as per reports, fetched 50,000 scans within the first five minutes.

Ashish Sehgal
Ashish Sehgal

Ashish Sehgal, chief growth officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, believes the innovation of placing QR codes during programmes offers television the opportunity to take viewers online and perform an action. “Usually, only the digital medium offers such options. But digital does not have the mass appeal that TV has,” he says. Seghal believes that this can extend to other categories of advertising and spread across channels. “The only thing is, we need to make the television audience habituated to this,” opines Sehgal.

He expects, tier II and tier III towns to be more responsive to an initiative like this. However, he feels that if the initiative is done on an English movie channel for a brand, such as BMW or a real estate brand, even the metro audience would respond. “We are looking at this as a revenue option. This won’t be pure-play advertising, but if we manage to convert leads at a large scale we will look at other options. For example, we can tie up with e-commerce platforms and work on a cost per sale model,” reveals Sehgal.

An Aston band ad during prime time on ZeeTV costs around Rs 60,000 per 10 seconds. The Flipkart QR codes ran multiple times during both the shows. If sources are to be believed, then this was done at a “nominal cost” as a test case for the broadcaster as well as brand, to have a deeper understanding. “The advertiser is happy with the association and there is no other data to share or draw a comparison,” says Sehgal.

Vikas Gupta
Vikas Gupta

“This activity was an innovative way to showcase the plethora of shopping options on our platform,” says Vikas Gupta, vice-president and head of marketing, Flipkart. Adding further, he says, “We showcased top products across categories such as mobile phone, fashion, electronics, home and kitchen, while audiences watched their favourite TV shows. This was a great example of merging online with offline, and communications with commerce.”

Both Chakravarthy and Sehgal believe that this innovation can expand across categories, such as makeup, jewellery, automobile, real estate and other categories.

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