With eBay into cross-border trade & marketing, Pavan Ponnappa shares insights on communication strategy for interaction between their sellers & buyers on the platform, leveraging digital for marketing to help make the most at these challenging times.
Pavan Ponnappa, Head – Marketplace Experience, eBay sheds light on eBay as a platform that aims to enable sellers in India to reach global markets, marketing tips in the e-commerce space, and challenges faced during a crisis period.
Please take us through the marketing strategy for the platform. How much does digital occupy in the plan?
It’s an interesting time with changing consumer behavior. If you look at what we primarily want to communicate to our sellers in India, it is how eBay as a platform would make it easy for the sellers, to be able to sell the products to the global audiences. Given eBay’s presence across almost every country in the world, it behaves like a platform for sellers looking to bringing their businesses back on track & provides a global reach for local businesses, extending the global footprint for the sellers.
At this point, we are largely focussing on digital with most people indoors and consuming more & more digital content. In the current context, it is certainly a good fit. So, in the foreseeable future, that is our direction. It will evolve as we move forward.
Please take us through your communication strategy during COVID-19?
The manner in which the World & India are looking at COVID-19 & responding to the situation, are quite similar. The impact of the pandemic is not restricted to any geographies. eBay, as a company, globally, had made sure that we communicate what is happening on the ground.
We’ve been able to leverage the information about how each market is, and how the geopolitical and the economic situation in each country is, to decide on what kind of policies we need to have in place to support the sellers.
We also need to ensure how are the buyers & their purchase-experience, being handled and serviced.
From reach & outreach in communication with sellers, & India perspective, I can say that we’ve spent a lot of the first part of this quarter, actually reaching out to sellers through seller meets on ZOOM.
On a day to day basis, our teams work very closely with the sellers.
Specifically in the Indian context, when we went into lockdown, it was a total lockdown with all services being restricted including logistics and services, unlike other countries where eBay operates. From that point of view, there was a great deal of understanding & support that we were able to offer to our sellers, make them understand, where we are at each stage. So, timely & continuous communication helps.
You can over-communicate and sometimes it is better to do that than leave sellers wondering as to what is happening.
What is the insight & the rationale behind the #LocalToGlobal campaign?
The campaign is primarily about two things. Firstly, showcasing the opportunities offered by global markets. In our context, eBay has a very strong presence in the US, UK, Australia. The objective of the campaign is to showcase the Indian sellers & what they have brought to the platform, being successful over the years, in the whole process.
As a cross-border trade business, eBay has been working with the sellers in India for almost a decade or more. A lot of the sellers have seen success and grown their business, manifold.
The insight has been largely around the fact that India today has a lot of products that are relevant globally.
A lot of our local products are in demand, globally. Hence, the intent is to bring forth the local products to the global markets and help align with the current call to action to get businesses back on track. This is also a great opportunity for sellers in India to not just sell their products in the country, but also, to take it to global markets.
How do you view the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the e-commerce Industry?
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the business, as a whole. Over the period what we have seen in the quarter, has been a lot of shift in consumer preferences & behavior. There has been a much faster scale in terms of buyers looking to buy more products online. If you look at outside India, this growth has probably been more accelerated. In a similar context, due to the challenges faced in the logistics, during the initial days of the lockdown in India, the growth was relatively less in the country.
But in terms of the global markets, there has been a huge uptake in terms of buyer interest for various products, and these are not restricted to just work from home.
They are extended to hobbies’ products which is quite interesting as people would think that buyers are only into the essentials, at this time. However, they have been looking to redo their vehicles at homes, & getting more into hobbies during this period.
From a seller perspective, the challenge has been as to how these sellers continue to operate their business in the current situation. We, at eBay, look at it as how we can help sellers during this period and enable them to get back on their feet.
Please take us through the distribution strategy for the brand. With the ongoing pandemic, what are the top challenges faced during the crisis?
One of the significant factors, different for India versus the rest of the world, was logistics. Most of the other countries across the world did not put a lockdown in the logistics.
Even considering the cross-border trade, logistics remained one of the top challenges, that is, to be able to get the product from the seller and deliver it in the host country, & making sure that the entire supply chain is operating without any limitations.
The second aspect was communication. Here, we aimed to ensure that all of the information is flowing in an effective manner from the sellers to the buyers. We have all the information available on the site for the buyers to understand the circumstances prevailing in India.
A lot of the buyers right now, have come back and expressed support for the sellers, understanding that businesses at this time are facing challenges. Buyers and sellers have understood each other very well during this crisis period.
What is your regional marketing strategy at the moment? The relevance of Tier 2, Tier 3 cities as the target audience for eBay India.
In India, we believe that apart from the opportunities available, the products have a regional-specific significance. If you take Agra, for example, there are specific product lines like footwear, marble tabletops which are very specific to that region. So, we are also attempting to reach the sellers outside of Tier 1 & Tier 2 markets.
Given the size and diversity of the country, it is not possible to cover every city & the region. But we try and make sure that we have our presence in most of these important regions to reach out and enable our sellers to sell on the platform. Similarly, when we look at it and tie that back to marketing, we want to make sure that whatever communication we do through our campaigns, is not related or restricted to a metro city.
I think that’s where digital media & social media channels allow us to reach out to this entire audience that is in Tier 2, 3 cities.
What is the impact on the revenue during the current economy? Elaborate if any.
From the profitability standpoint, focus on EBITDA positiveness is very important. So, we use a lot of earnings that we generate from profits to use in building the marketing channel spends.
With Unlock 1.0 over the nation, what are the top 3 changes observed in the consumption trends?
Consumer behavior has seen a shift in terms of preference towards e-commerce because it offers a much more convenient, hygienic and safe way to buy products and use them
Every country has a certain preference. You would see that certain international markets continue to see buyer spends happening in beauty and cosmetic products which you’ll see lower in some parts of Europe than that in south-east Asia, Korea, Japan & China.
One of the areas, we have seen a spike in, is in auto such as in North America. You would assume that automotive products aren’t selling at this time. But buyers are looking at this as an opportunity to redo and renovate and the interiors & exteriors of their vehicles.
Is digital innovation the only way forward in the Post-COVID-19 world?
Digital will occupy the largest share in the communication marketing outreach as compared to any other channel and it is only getting more on month-to-month & quarter-basis.
As far as marketing is concerned, most of the companies have already shifted their spending to digital media. Social media channels provide many ways of engaging with consumers as opposed to traditional media channels.
Top 3 tips you would like to share with the industry leaders in e-commerce marketing especially in the C2C marketplace during the crisis period?
We’re looking to learn to build our market and communication channel with sellers.
Marketing is all about understanding the situation & building your communication to adapt to the nuances in the communication so that you have an instant appeal to an audience that is not so short-lived.
So, we need to find a balance between that instant relevance and being lasting based on the way, trends evolve in the future.