“On being Social” – Social Media in Indian Retail

panel 4-social media

“Are you social with your customer?” ”Do you deliver brand value to the customer via social media?”, “Do you use it to increase sales?”.  These were the three provocative questions posed by moderator Ajay Aggarwal to the panel “On Being Social” @ ReTechCon 2013.

The eminent panelists were Jeetendra Joshi, Director-Marketing, Martjack; Abhishek Gupta,Head Marketing, The MobileStore Limited; Deepshikha Surendran, Head Marketing, Inniti Retail Ltd.; Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO & Head New Business, Pepperfry.com and Seema Kakkar, MD, Remanika.

Jeetendra’s view was that social media cannot be viewed as an ‘independent’ channel – but has to be integrated within the overall brand / marketing strategy.

For both Abhishek and Seema (Mobile Store & Remanika respectively) social media represents a way to keep customers engaged. In the case of Mobile Store – there is a natural fit – due to the increased share of sale of smartphones and devices.  In Remanika’s case – the need to “go social” was driven by the brand expectations of their target customer segment.

For Pepperfry – their business model is about selling a niche product (i.e. home products, furnishing and décor ) online.  While the channel has a natural affinity for going social – their target customer (mid 40’s or older) does not. They attract 1 mio visitors a month to their e-comm site – as against the 60 mio people in India who are on FaceBook.  “Social media is an excellent way to inform people about our speciality – says Kashyap – “and is a fantastic feedback tool especially for a young company which needs instant feedback and instant service recovery”.

For Croma – social media is among the many channels that they use, including ATL (Above The Line – i.e direct) spends on press, media and outdoor.

“For us, social media is about delivering our brand promise – “We  help you buy” – and making it come alive. The key to our social media strategy is to take it slow and measured and ensure brand consistency across online and offline channels” – Deepshika.  

Some of the things that Croma does:  “We are brand agnostic – so for us translating our brand promise into something tangible involves building on the theme “occasions when you use your gadgets”, she explained.  “For example – we have a constant photo contest – which could run to colour as the theme during holi, and lights as a theme during Diwali”.  Similarly, we pick up issues of relevance e..g June 5th was environment day and we agreed to contribute for every sale of a ‘green’ gadget from our stores.  For us Social media is about engagement – not about creating sales; and customers respond with their views on how, where and when they use their gadget. This translates the “we help you buy” promise into reality.

“How do you deal with negative customer feedback?”: The unanimous view was that the worst possible thing a brand can do is to delete negative comments on social media.

Abhishek –  “WE have 900 stores and sell 200,000 handsets a month.  There are going to be slip ups.  Customers (and their friends) can and will be nasty on my FB page. Do I have an option to delete the comment? Sure.  Can I afford to do that – No”.

The solution?  “Deal with the problem the customer has. At the very least acknowledge it and apologise. In many cases, having done this, we’ve had customers go back online and post follow up comments that they were “happy we did not delete the original comment”.

“We’ve found that, not deleting negative feedback gives us a chance to convert that customer into a advocate of our brand – and that is worth the effort of engaging with customers and working hard to resolve service issues”.


“What’s a good social media strategy for a small business, who are starting out?”.  The view was that “there’s no benchmark or thumb rule”.  The key would be to think long and hard before committing to social media because it’s a high effort channel – even if its relatively low cost as compared to other ATL channels.  Face book is the one channel worth using from an engagement perspective – others such as You Tube / Twitter are a function of how much capacity the business can commit to managing the channel.

“How do you stay relevant in social media?”

“Tailor your medium to your customerwas Seema’s view.  Many of the 15 to 20 year olds prefer FB to twitter so we follow suite.

– “Keep your team young!” –  was Abhishek’s advice.

How do you measure ROI? Most of the panelists felt that social media isn’t mature enough to measure ROI using sales related metrics – most of them use engagement metrics. One dimension of this – on FB – “Measure the number of people ‘talking about’ you and not the number of ‘likes’ – said Ajay.  “After all, it is possible to buy likes” – chimed in Deepshika and Seema.

In summary – “Be consistent and honest while being social with your customer”:  was moderator’s Ajay’s Aggarwal’s session summary “On Being Social”.


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