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A Guide to Getting the Most from Online E-Commerce Sales

E-Commerce has transformed the way we purchase items in India. This is especially true now during the festive season. In the days before online shopping, Dussehra and Diwali time meant taking the family out for making purchases, both big and small, whether it was clothes, mobile phones, household appliances or even automobiles.


That has been changing in the past few years, with E-Commerce sales growing at an annual rate of 51 percent, the fastest in the world (according to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation). Increasing smartphone usage and 4G connectivity has further accelerated adoption of this new mode of shopping. In addition, the current global situation has resulted in fewer people willing to go out and shop these days.


Given that there are going to be major online sales in the coming weeks, I have put together a guide to help you make the most of your shopping experience during these sales, by saving money and choosing the right products and deals.


This guide shall focus on Amazon India and Flipkart, the two dominant players in the Indian E-Commerce space. Amazon has the Great Indian Festival and Flipkart the Big Billion Sale coming up in the following days. The tips and resources below can be applied to either company’s current or future sales.



Things to look out for before the sale:


1. Don’t buy something during a sale you would not have bought otherwise


This is the first and most important thing to remember whenever a sale happens. We are inundated with deals and offers in all sorts of media, from the newspaper to emails to app notifications on our smartphones. There are some items whose prices are heavily discounted during the sale season, and we are tempted to buy them, simply because of the human tendency to never want to miss out on a good deal.


But just remember this line when you see that item which is tempting you,


“If you had not originally wanted it, you are wasting money by buying it now”


So say there are a nice pair of shoes which are running at 80 percent discount, and now cost Rs. 2,000/- instead of the list price of Rs. 10,000/-. Originally you would never have considered this product, thinking it to be overpriced. And anyway, you already have 4-5 shoes in your collection, including one similar to the style of the shoe on sale. By buying it now, you think you are saving Rs. 8,000/-, but actually, you are spending an additional Rs. 2,000/- you did not need to spend, and you now have an extra pair of shoes which you will most likely not wear very much, since your existing shoes already fulfill your needs.


If on the other hand, you wanted this shoe for a long time, and it is now on sale, go ahead and buy it, since you have a need for this product and the utility it provides.


2. There will always be another sale


E-Commerce companies are always trying to get you to buy more. They promote their sales aggressively to get you to buy things you would not have normally considered. One tactic they use to influence you, the customer, is by using words that create a scarcity mindset like ‘Never before price’, ‘Discount ending soon’, ‘Limited period offer’ etc.


The human mind is driven more by a desire to avoid loss than achieve gains. When the e-commerce companies use the above words, they are subconsciously telling your brain that if you do not buy the product at the great prices they are at now, you may not get such an opportunity later. Your mind, of course, does not want to lose out on the opportunity of ‘gaining’ a good deal, so it justifies making purchases you did not originally want.


However, there is no shortage of sales during the year. You do not have to buy a product simply because it is on sale now, especially if the sale price is not very tempting. Amazon and Flipkarts’ major sales happen during Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas and the Year End, Republic Day, Valentines Day, Holi, April(Summer Sale) and July (Amazon Prime Day). In addition, there are smaller sales every month that focus on a particular product category like fashion, home appliances, mobiles etc.


3. Beware of Halo Products and Prices being inflated during the sale period


As stated earlier, there are a few products which are heavily discounted during such sale periods. These are the so-called ‘halo’ items, whose tempting prices drive customers to the site. What is not very well known, however, is that many products are not really discounted any more than they normally are. It is the ‘halo’ effect of the halo product that rubs off on all the other products on the site, and makes the customer buy more than he would have originally wanted.


For example, in the upcoming Flipkart Sale, the iPhone SE is on sale for Rs. 26,000/-, which is a very good price, considering that it normally retails for Rs. 38,000/-. That would push a customer to check out the site. When he is on the site, he will see other products and deals, and perhaps make a purchase of some other items, thinking that everything is at a good price.


In addition, the prices of some items may be inflated by the seller. Then the seller shows a good percentage discount, and the customer is fooled into thinking he is getting a good deal, whereas he is actually paying the same as he would any other time.


To know if the price you are getting is a good deal or not, I recommend using the website https://pricehistory.in


On this site you can check the price trends of any product on amazon or flipkart by copying and pasting the product link. If you are using the Flipkart or Amazon app, tap on the share button when you are at a product page, then select ‘Copy’. Then go to the site https://pricehistory.in in your browser and ‘paste’ the link of the product you selected. If the current price is lower than the past few months, you can be sure that you are getting a good deal. If not, it means that the so-called ‘Sale Price’ is not really a bargain.



How to make the most from the sale


1. Create a wish-list to be informed about prices


To avoid buying something you do not require and keep a track of the items you really do want, I recommend preparing a wish-list, especially a few days in advance of the sale. Your wish-list will contain the items you are looking to purchase, so you do not have to search for them during the sale period.


Creating a wish-list has another benefit; you will be notified if there are any sales on your item at any time, not just during the sale period.


To create a wish-list and add item, follow the steps below:

  1. Flipkart: When you are on a product page, click on the heart icon at the top right hand corner to add the item to your wish-list. You can remove the item from your wish-list after you have purchased it.

  2. Amazon: When you are on the product page, scroll down to the ‘Add to Cart’ Button. There will be an ‘Add To Wish List’ button below. Click on it to add that product to your wish list.


2. Be prepared to buy some other brand


Sometimes, there is a very good deal on a product which is similar to the product we were originally looking for, but from a different brand. For instance, as seen below, the RealMe 43 inch TV is on sale for Rs. 19,999/-. Now, this is cheaper than the Xiaomi 43 inch TV I was originally looking at, which is selling at Rs. 21,999/-. In such cases, when the functionality and utility of both products are similar, you need to decide if you are willing to try out another brand for a better deal, or go with your original product since it's the one you originally wanted.


Personally, I feel if you are uncomfortable with a new brand, and comfortable with your earlier choice, go for the earlier choice (in this case the Xiaomi TV). If however, you are indifferent regarding the brand, go for the better deal.



3. Buy Fulfilled by Amazon/Prime Fulfilled and Flipkart Assured Products


‘Flipkart Assured’ and ‘Fulfilled by Amazon/Prime Fulfilled’ products can be identified by the ‘Assured’ and ‘Prime or Fulfilled by Amazon’ badges on the product page. This means that the product is stocked, shipped and delivered by Flipkart or Amazon themselves.


This is useful since it means deliveries will be faster, delivery tracking will be available and returns will also be easier since it is all handled in-house by the company themselves.


If a product does not fall under that category, it means it is being sold by a third-party seller on whom the onus is to fulfill and ship the order. These third party sellers may try to select cheaper shipping options, which take longer to deliver. In addition, product returns will be more of a hassle since you will have to ship the item back to the seller by going to a courier yourself, instead of having it picked up at your doorstep.



4. Prefer buying directly from Amazon or Flipkart Sellers instead of Third Parties


Flipkart and Amazon are online market-places, which means any third-party can list their products on the site and sell them. The quality of the product and service provided will vary depending on the seller, and there are many unscrupulous sellers who sell used, fake or defective products on the site.


That is why I recommend purchasing directly from Flipkart or Amazon themselves. You can find out if a product is sold directly by Amazon if the seller's name is ‘Cloudtail’, ‘Cloudtail India’ or ‘Appario Retail India Private Limited’. For Flipkart, its products are listed under the seller name “RetailNet’.


Of course, sometimes you will find a product which is being sold by a third-party seller. In such cases, if the product is ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ or ‘Flipkart Assured’ it should be safe to buy as the stocking and shipping of the product is done by Amazon or Flipkart themselves.


If that’s not possible, look for a good seller rating. For Flipkart it should be above 4.0 (out of 5), and for Amazon it should be over 80 percent (out of 100).

5. Check the Replacement and Refund Policy


Sometimes, even after we follow the correct steps and take the necessary precautions, we may find that we have received a defective product. That is why, before purchasing anything, it is important to see the Replacement and Refund Policy. Depending on the item, it can be returned and a full refund issued, or replaced with another piece, if returned within the replacement window (normally 10 days).


For both amazon and flipkart, if you scroll down on the product page, you will see something written like ‘10 Days Replacement’ which indicates that you can replace a defective product for a new one within 10 days of taking delivery. If an item is ‘Non-Returnable’ it means that you cannot return it, and cannot get a refund. This normally applies to items like undergarments, masks etc. But I would recommend checking each product’s replacement policy before you buy it, so that you are not inconvenienced later.


5. Discounts on Credit/Debit Cards - Terms and Conditions Apply


During these sales, there is normally a credit/debit card offer available. That means if you make payment using a certain bank’s credit or debit card, you will receive an additional discount (normally 10 per cent), over and above the existing discount on the product. However, in order to get such a discount applied to your order, you need to make a minimum purchase (normally Rs. 5,000/-). This is a way of getting you to spend more so that your order hits the minimum criteria to be eligible for the card discount.


Also, there is an upper limit on such discounts per sale. As seen below, there is a 10 percent discount on all SBI Cards if the purchase quantity is more than Rs. 5,000/- . Here, the maximum discount per card is Rs. 1,750/-. That means if you order something worth Rs. 25,000/-, you will only get a maximum discount of Rs. 1,750/-. And if your order is Rs. 5,000/- you will get a discount of Rs. 500/-.



6. Check the customer reviews carefully


Don’t simply buy something because it is on sale. Your first primary requirement is to get the best product you can for your money. One good resource to know how a product performs is via the customer reviews on each site. Normally, a higher score would mean that the product is of a better quality. However, I would recommend you look at the negative reviews more carefully. A negative review does not necessarily mean that the product is bad per se. A negative review could be due to factors like poor shipping experience, user error or simply not having realistic expectations from the product.


Either way, do your research carefully before deciding on a particular product. Youtube is another good resource for seeing how the product will look and perform.



Conclusion


Congratulations, you are now in a much better position to make an informed purchasing decision for the next sale. By following the above steps, you will select the best deal, not make unnecessary purchases and enjoy the process and convenience of online shopping. I hope you have a great shopping experience and find the right product for yourself.