• Snapdeal, Amazon no match for Alibaba on sale day; Chinese e-commerce giant clocks $1 bn in 20 minutes

Twenty minutes was all it took for Alibaba to clock its first $1 billion (Rs 6,100 crore) in sales during China’s biggest online shopping event, the ‘Singles Day Sale,’ on Tuesday.

Alibaba Group had crossed $7.7 billion (over Rs 47,000 crore) in sales by 8 pm Beijing time, a full $1.7 billion (over Rs 10,400 crore) more than the estimated size India’s online retail industry will reach in 2015, according to research firm Gartner.

Snapdeal and Amazon, in India, also had their own sales on Tuesday, maybe hoping that some of the Singles Day — it is China’s version of Valentine’s Day — magic will rub off on them. Snapdeal’s Savings Day sale featured hourly deals and steep discounts across categories. Amazon India restricted its sale to users of its mobile application in an attempt to increase app downloads. Shoppers on the app had offers like a chance to win 11 months of free shopping of products worth Rs 11,000 per month.

The two companies were still collating data on how much they had sold until the time of going to press and hence declined to share sales figures with ET.

But price comparison and couponing portals registered an uptick in traffic to Snapdeal. Consumer traffic to Snapdeal through cashback and couponing site CashKaro was seven times higher compared to regular days by 3 pm. Conversion of clicks from the site to transactions on Snapdeal was about 25% higher than normal. Price comparison portal MySmartPrice, which typically gets traffic of six lakh a day, saw a 200% increase in click-through traffic to Snapdeal, until 4 pm when the data was collected, as compared to the pre-Diwali sales on October 6 when Snapdeal sold goods worth Rs 600 crore.

The two portals denied that they chose the date keeping in mind China’s Singles Day, a day of massive online sales organised by Alibaba for the first time in 2009.

Since then other Chinese sites have also organised sales on the same date every year. “We wanted to create a special day for the app and reward our app users. We chose 11/11 due to the unique nature of the date,” said an Amazon India spokesperson. The sales events organised by Snapdeal and Amazon India on Tuesday were much more low-key compared to the Singles Day sales organised by their Chinese counterparts. A chunk of customer buzz that was generated was negative.

Snapdeal’s social media feed on Tiwtter and Facebook were filled primarily with rants and complaints from customers. “Whenever I click on any products it says “The product is not available”…and it takes like ever to checkout and pay for a product,” said Parthiban Annadurai on Facebook. These issues proved helpful for competitors. “We witnessed an incremental shift of over 25% to other e-commerce portals among shoppers, mainly between 7 am and 9 am, and 11 am and 12 noon on tuesday,” said Rohan Bhargava, co-founder of CashKaro. But industry watchers said it is unfair to compare the performance of Indian sites with their older Chinese counterparts.

“The Chinese companies have been doing this for some time. They have perfected it,” said Harish HV, Partner at financial advisory firm Grant Thornton India.

N Chandramouli, CEO at Trust Research Advisory, said Snapdeal has in fact been smart about the sales.

The article appeared in the Economic Times. The article can be found here.