Google's Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) kicked off on Wednesday after a glittering launch ceremony in Gurgaon.
The event, which will run from December 10 to 12, allows brands to offer their best deals on www.gosf.in for 72 hours.
The number of brand partners for the event has jumped up significantly since Google launched the event in 2012. While total brand partners were around 90 in 2012, in 2013 they were 270 and the number has jumped to 450 for GOSF 2014.
Traffic on GOSF website and partner websites is expected to see a huge surge since last year. This is reflected in the response to the pre-party event launched by Google, 14 days back. By the end of the third day itself, GOSF has crossed five million users. In 2013, about two million users logged on to gosf.in. Across all the partner sites, combined traffic had crossed over 16 million users and most players witnessed about 350 per cent growth in daily sales.
Hours after GOSF went live at midnight, e-commerce portal ShopClues witnessed a huge upswing. Within the first 90 minutes, the website saw a 200 per cent uptick in traffic and close to 250 per cent increase in sales. "In three hours, we had done sales for nearly 3 regular days on the site," said Sanjay Sethi, Co-Founder & CEO, ShopClues.com in a statement.
The core objective of Google's initiative, like that of Flipkart's 'Big Billion Day' held on October 6 this year, is to get more and more new internet users to turn online shoppers and amass first-time buyers in one go for e-commerce companies. That's specifically important for India because there is huge headroom for growth in the number of online buyers.
Two years back in 2012, when Google hosted its first GOSF, India had only 8 million online shoppers, though the number of internet users totaled 150 million. The number of online buyers is expected to rise to 100 million which will be larger than that of any large country.
This year, several brands such as HP, Lenovo Group, Tata Housing Development Co, Van Heusen, Motorola Nexus and Karbonn Mobiles have launched their products exclusively at the festival.
Among the list of exclusive launches are two from Google itself: Chromecast and Nexus 6. Chromecast is a pen-drive looking device that can bring all the entertainment viewed on smart phones and other devices on to the television screens. The device which has already been launched in 25 other countries, will be available for Rs 2,999 and will be available on Snapdeal.
Rajeev Das, Head of Marketing and Product Development at Tata Housing, launched a housing project, The Cascades, located in Bangalore. Tata Value Homes, a project located at Boisar near Mumbai with a starting price of Rs 16 lakh was launched at the event. Tata is taking bets on the online platform to drive sales. "While about 25 to 30 per cent of customers are booking homes online, about 70 per cent of our leads, a number of them from NRIs (Non Resident Indians) are being generated online," said Das.
Brands that are participating in exclusive launches are quite upbeat about sales picking up.
"Google has been able to create the buzz and excitement around the event. We think we are invested into the future and will see how it works," said Bimalendu Tarafdar, General Manager, Marketing at Madura Fashion and Lifestyle which is participating for the first time in the Google event.
Van Heusen, a brand from the Madura Garments Family, launched its Stellar Collection of apparels at the event, which will be available on Trendin.com, the official store for all Madura Garments brands. Van Heusen designed the Stellar Collection for an exclusive launch on GOSF.
GOSF has also launched the Rs 299 offer with deep discounted products, free shipping and cash on delivery options to grab first time buyers. Brands that will participate in this include Philips, JBL, Benetton etc.
While most e-tailers including biggies like Amazon, Snapdeal, Shopclues and Jabong have hitched on to Google to see a jump in sales, India's largest e-tailer Flipkart has decided to stay away from the festival.
Some brands, however, have launched products exclusively on Flipkart even though it is out of Google's sale initiative.
Ganaraj Kamath, the National Product and Distribution Manager at Lenovo launched The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, which will be available exclusively on Flipkart for Rs 49,000.
The site which had been participating in GOSF for the last two years is set to compete with Google by offering discounts on its mobile app from December 8 to 12. The shopping fest hosted by Flipkart will be called Big App Sale. However unlike its 'Big Billion Day' in October this year, Flipkart has not spend heavily on advertising and marketing of the Big App Sale.
"Flipkart staying out won't matter because the phone will be available on Google's Playstore as well," said Amit Boni, General Manager at Motorola India who launched Nexus 6 at the event.
However there are questions around the support infrastructure being well-equipped to handle the surge in traffic during such big sale events. Last year, Google India's GOSF website crashed within minutes of the opening and the sale had to be extended by a day.
Similarly, Flipkart's 'Big Billion Day' faced multiple issues especially with order fulfillment and logistics, because of which customer service took a big hit. Couriers were jammed because logistics companies faced capacity issues and couldn't handle the rush.
India's e-commerce economy appears dwarfed when compared to that of China. Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba sales totaled $9 billion on its 'Single's Day' held on 11th November this year. The event came less than eight weeks after Alibaba's record $25 billion public listing in New York this year.
Compared to that, the biggest such event by an e-tailer, Big Billion Day, organized by Flipkart this year on October 6, led to the site getting a billion hits on the day, achieving $100 million (Rs 615 crores approximately) in sales in 10 hours.
Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Google India, said: "The measure of the success of GOSF will be the number of new users buying online." He added: "India needs many more such events."
Vivek Jayaraman, Global Product Manager at Google India, said the scale of the India market is yet very small as compared to China and customers need to be handled very differently. "While for most countries ecommerce is an evolution, here in India it is yet a revolution," said Jayaraman. "Things like cash-on-delivery, which Indians love, are not heard anywhere else in the world."