Nikhil Ramaprakash , Vice-President - Online Marketing , Urban Ladder
Urban Ladder, one of India’s leading online home decor players, is betting big onthe furniture e-commerce market in India, which it believes will grow five-fold to Rs 1,000 crore by 2016.
The company, with a slew of new initiatives and marketing tools, harbours ambitions of becoming the country’s largest home and furniture brand in a couple of years.
Discussing these and much more, Urban Ladder’s Vice-President of Online Marketing, Nikhil Ramaprakash,got talking with India Digital Review’s Romit Bhattacharyya.
What is your take on the status of the online furniture market in India? How is Urban Ladder placed here?
There is immense potential in the furniture and home decor market since 85% of it is still unorganized. In the next 2 years, we want to be the largest home and furniture brand in India. The online furniture market will see huge growth in the coming years. The furniture e-commerce market in India is at Rs 200 crore at present, and is expected to grow 5 times its current size to Rs 1,000 crore by 2016.
We want Urban Ladder to be the preferred shopping destination for furniture and home decor products. Along with exceptional products and great quality, we want to be the brand that customers trust and love. We have achieved this so far with exceptional customer focus, and responding to customer needs, whether it is services like free assembly and delivery or taking product feedback and implementing required changes. We are confident we will continue to claim the spot of the leading online furniture company in the coming years as well.
How fruitful do you think is digital marketing in a country like India?
Being an e-commerce company, the digital medium is an important element of our marketing mix. Social media tools are also becoming increasingly popular for content discovery. Digital marketing gives continuous visibility, and thus, good brand recall, andis more measurable as well. More importantly, these platforms (Facebook, Google, etc) are used almost everyday by most people, and is more personal since it gives customers a chance to interact with us.
What are the main challenges you face in reaching out and engaging with the digital audience?
Furniture is a complicated product to buy. It’s a high touch and feel product, and is non-standard. It’s also a higher ticket purchase than most other purchases. To give our customers a better experience of buying furniture, we understand that the front-end experience of the website and mobile apps should help the consumers easily discover, navigate and browse the selection of products. It should also help consumers get true and rich information around each product, and make them get a sense of both how the product looks and fits in their house. Very importantly, it should give them a sense of trust. We believe superior technology/digital solutions will help solve many problems of online, such as visualization, and touch and feel. We have launched a bunch of initiatives in this direction.
What is your total budget for marketing and promotions? How much of it is for digital?
We will not be able to comment on this.
How do you maximise the ROI on your marketing spends?
Good visuals are critical in the online marketing space, ensuring we get the attention of customers. This, supported by very targeted reach of our audience, ensures we reach the right customers. We also use organic tools such as email marketing extensively to ensure we maximise the ROI on our marketing spend.
How do you integrate your online and offline marketing efforts?
Our offline campaigns are focused on communicating the brand story and ensuring we are seen as an innovative par excellence brand. Online marketing is focused on showcasing our products and ensuring we target the right audience impacting our business.Digital marketing should be highly targeted and focused to ensure we are not unnecessarily reaching out to people not in our target audience.
Getting the right mix of both online and offline, and ensuring your campaign speaks for what your brand stands for is equally important.
How much importance do you give to social media platform when it comes to marketing?
All our customers are typically active users of social media, so we have stuck on social media channels with a mix of quality engagement and super-fast responsiveness. Facebook has proved to be one of our most successful marketing channels; similarly, Google and email have been quite impactful for us as well. Content discovery tools such as Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Blogs, etc. are becoming increasingly popular, and will contribute a lot to brands in the coming future.
What are some of the key marketing initiatives that you are most excited about?
We are working on several initiatives to make the process of discovery easier for the customer, and to help them find products best suited for them. We are working on numerous personalisation tools that will help customers discover products which are in sync with their taste and life-stage.
The mobile app has become an integral part of our marketing strategy as well, since a lot of customers use the app to shop and discover new products. We are working to create engaging content on the app that ensures stickiness, and return-users on the app.
What are the major areas of investment for the company in the near future?Are there any expansion plans in terms of both reach and services?
We strongly believe that in the long-term, innovative technology will play a key role in solving complex e-commerce problems, such as touch and feel gap, etc. We are working towards solutions in augmented reality and product visualization to help customers make easier purchase decisions. We have launched two apps – Living Spaces & Urban Storage, specifically to help customers, who are buying sofas and wardrobes from us. Urban Ladder will also focus on building the company’s brand.
Our focus will be on three core areas:
Innovation in design
Building India’s most loved consumer brand
Innovation in technology to make home shopping extremely easy