Smartphones and Electronics are one of the hottest selling products in India, especially on e-commerce stores like Flipkart and Amazon. With so much competition, brands come up with innovative marketing campaigns to outdo the competition. These marketing campaigns are at times utterly negative (Ahem!) or follow a bizarre flash sale process that doesn’t even let the customer buy the product. While I would not highlight much about the brands doing negative campaigning, let’s talk more about the questionable sale process followed by a lot of brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, and a few others.
What is a Flash Sale?
Like almost everyone in India is expert in cricket, almost everyone knows what is a flash sale? It is nothing but a brand putting in a limited number of devices for sale as per the roster. The ugly part here is that almost every flash sale is successful with 100% products sold in a matter of seconds or nanoseconds for a few. Shockingly it happens every time.
I remember getting an email from a brand that claimed to be successfully sold out in flash sale on Amazon in a matter of few seconds. Everything was rosy apart from the fact that I had almost never heard about the brand itself, forget about the device. When asked about the numbers of units sold, I got a nasty response from their media agency. Refer to the image below.
You can very well assess the real picture here.
Flash Sale the Xiaomi way!
Xiaomi was the first brand to introduce Flash sales in India and they’ve been fairly successful in creating a hype or fake unavailability. The Redmi Note 4 became the highest seller thanks to these flash sales (of course in the latter part, it was available offline too). Xiaomi’s low budget Redmi 5A is still being sold through Flash sales and is “sold out” each time, despite being more than a couple of months old, while the company claims that Redmi 5A had sold more than 1 million units in less than a month.
I’m still approached by a lot of people who want to buy the Redmi 5A, but the phone is only available at a premium at retail stores rather than these flash sales. Not sure who is getting benefitted by such flash sales.
Seeing that many numbers of units being sold are raising a lot of questions. But Xiaomi India’s Head Manu Jain often tweets about the units sold out completely in flash sale. Here for an example the tweet shared by him on the recently concluded Redmi Note 5 flash sale.
After the amazing success of Redmi Note 4, we had put in a lot of effort to increase supply of Redmi Note 5. This was the biggest ever sale in India!
Gear up for the next sale on 28th Feb! pic.twitter.com/qbOWYxClFZ
— Manu Kumar Jain (@manukumarjain) February 22, 2018
This looks perfectly fine till the time we analyze a few things here :
- Xiaomi has been operating for more than 3 years now in India. Are they still not able to assess the demand?
- Even the stocks are very limited at the Mi Home stores which exclusively sell Mi products. Users have gone on to say that they have visited a Mi home multiple times but the products were always out of stock and hence led to a negative experience.
- Does this fake demand/hype creation not supports black marketing of phones. But that is another story, needs a dedicated piece on it
Let us have a look at another tweet shared by company’s official account
Hey, Mi fans! A million thanks and more for incredible anticipation for India's all-rounder and India's camera beast. Sale starts at 12 noon on https://t.co/cwYEXeds6Y & @Flipkart. Are you all set? #GiveMe5 pic.twitter.com/KccsVBHRGq
— Redmi India (@RedmiIndia) February 22, 2018
I’m sure they had a fair idea of the demand and that was proved by the number of people interested to buy Redmi Note 5 or Redmi Note 5 Pro still Xiaomi chose to sell only 300,000 units. Isn’t it a bit too hard on their Fans or users? For a number one brand (as per IDC for Q4 2017) it is surprising that they can not assess the demand or is the company itself not sure if they will be able to sell all the units hence offering a lesser number of units in each sale?
Mi TV 4 Flash Sale
Moving on from the smartphones, Xiaomi also launched its Smart TV, MI TV4, in India and like the smartphones even the Mi TV was sold through a flash sale, a first in India may be. Interestingly the smart tv with a starting price of Rs. 39,990 was also sold out in a matter of seconds. He proudly tweeted as well “Gone in 10 seconds”.
Gone in 10 seconds!#MiTV4 – the world's thinnest and most beautiful TV sold out in <10 secs!
Thank you, Mi Fans for your amazing response. Don't worry if you missed it. Next sale is on the 27th 😊 pic.twitter.com/3Pg8GBxUTF
— Manu Kumar Jain (@manukumarjain) February 22, 2018
Great job there (Clap clap clap)! But then again it raises a lot of questions about the way things work in these flash sales. The team at TheMobileIndian investigated this “sold out in less than 10 seconds claim” by Xiaomi and here is what they had to say:
#Xiaomi recently claimed that its latest #MiLEDTV4 was sold out in less than 10 seconds. But does it actually make any sense? Watch this video to know more.
Posted by The Mobile Indian on Friday, February 23, 2018
Interesting isn’t it. No wonder a lot of people are questioning this marketing strategy from Xiaomi. The company now has enough infrastructure, exposure and market understanding that they can easily meet the demands by selling an ample number of units, be it their power banks, mobile phones or the LED TVs. There was a time when OnePlus used to follow this restrictive strategy and would only let people with an invite to buy the phone. However, after a couple of iterations they gave up this stupid invite system and now the OnePlus 5/OnePlus 5T is one of the highest selling devices on Amazon.
While the marketing think tank of Xiaomi credits their disruptive marketing strategy behind their success, a lot of people still prefer a brand that is easy to do business with. This conventional approach always helps in a stable brand reputation and a much better customer experience prime examples being market leaders Apple, Samsung and Nokia (during good old days).
I think its time for brands like Xiaomi and Honor to do away with this flash sale approach and try to serve a larger consumer base who are willing to buy their products yet are not able to thanks to these “Flash Sales”.
On a side note, as a consumer, I would be happy to see the number of units available on the e-commerce website so that I can plan on my purchase. Also, this gives an extra layer of transparency and adds up to the brand’s image.