Flipkart, aiming to double its apparel sales by March 2017, will use insight gained from predictive analysis and machine learning to provide inputs on the latest fashion trends and consumer preferences to sellers on the country’s largest online marketplace.
The initiative will enable sellers, especially those with annual sales of less than Rs.20 crore, plan their inventory efficiently and list popular products.
For Flipkart, which adds as many as 1,000 brands and sellers every month in the fashion category, it is important that merchants understand what consumers want. This is because Flipkart itself cannot hold inventory since the company cannot sell products on its own, as it violates the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) norms.
Indian laws bar foreign investment in e-commerce websites that sell directly to consumers but allows in marketplaces that link sellers and buyers.
Flipkart, which acquired Myntra for about $350 million in May last year to boost its fashion business, is also adding layers of so-called social commerce.
Flipkart has introduced Ping, a chat service where consumers can discuss and buy products, as well as the image search feature on its app, said Rishi Vasudev, vice-president for fashion retail at Flipkart.
Incidentally, Myntra is also increasingly focusing on user engagement through a community-driven approach.
Such initiatives will help Flipkart sustain the 12-15% month-on-month growth in the fashion category, said Vasudev. Rishi Vasudev, who was earlier the chief executive officer at Calvin Klein India, joined Flipkart in November last year.
“If I know that print is going to be big next season, I can feed that information to my sellers and help them develop those products,” said Vasudev.
“In fashion, you can’t make things which have sold well because by the time you move into the next season, the fashion trend would’ve changed, unlike the other categories.”
Flipkart will also connect merchants with suppliers of fabrics, among others initiatives, to streamline production, and help them access capital through tie-ups with financial institutions.
The company has also rolled out initiatives such as thematic stores (Flipkart, at present, has three: travel, women, and sports and fitness) to engage targeted consumers with content and style tips and is looking to add to the current count of 15 brand stores as well as premium stores for brands such as GANT, Quicksilver and Kenneth Cole.
It will also look to recruit large format retailers to sell on its website to boost its offering.
Fashion is a key focus area for online marketplaces because of high margins of about 10-25% as against about 5% in the electronics segment.
Rival Snapdeal has also made significant investments in fashion. In April last year, Snapdeal acquired fashion products discovery platform Doozton.com.
In February, Snapdeal bought Exclusively, an online retailer of premium and luxury fashion as the company looks to grow its fashion business to a $2-billion segment this year.
Flipkart has an advantage over other marketplaces in the fashion category through its acquisition of Myntra, which is separately eyeing gross sales of $1 billion by March-end, Mukesh Bansal, the former chief executive officer of Myntra, who has now become the head of Flipkart’s commerce platform, said in May.