Indiaplaza’s Social Media Strategy – Interview with Mr. K Vaitheeswaran (Founder & CEO)

With new e-commerce sites springing up everyday, cut-throat would be an understatement to refer to the competition in the online shopping scene. And this has lead to e-commerce sites selling products on very low margins, some times even in loss. This has lead them to explore marketing avenues that are low cost and effective.

And what better than Social Media?

In this interview, Mr.  K Vaitheeswaran, Founder & CEO, – one of India’s oldest e-commerce websites talks about how Social Media is helping their business grow.

What was your goal when you first started out with social media marketing? Do you think you have achieved it?

We did not have any goal for social media. We started because we were not clear how to set social media goals. We just felt we had to be there so we started off. I think we have made good progress so far but there is much more to be done. To start with, we must set some social goals

You have a blog which is updated regularly. What was your objective behind starting a blog?

Again the honest answer is that we started a blog because everyone else had one. Over time, we realised that a lot of our customers visit us through our blogs because the content is fresh and topical. It has certainly helped us.

You are one of the few Indian brands using Pinterest. Please share with us about your approach towards Pinterest and how has the response been.

I think it is early days for Pinterest. My personal view is that over time Pinterest may become more amenable to social shopping because of its visual nature than Facebook. Right now we are still exploring how best we can use Pinterest.

Apart from your official Facebook page, you have another page to handle your customer complaints. What made you create a separate page for customer complaints instead of managing just one single page for branding and customer service both?

Around 18 months back when we just started our Facebook page, a lot of our customers started using it to contact us. We were still finding our feet on Social, so we felt that it is better to provide one separate Facebook page for customer complaints and the standard Indiaplaza page for branding. I am not sure how long we will continue this; at some stage we may bring it all in one place.

How has the Timeline change affected your Facebook marketing efforts? Do you think enforcing brands to adopt Timeline was a good move by Facebook?

Not really. We are not happy with the Timeline format and we wish we would go back to the format before Timeline.

Not many brands are keen on adopting Google+ owing to its ‘Ghost Town’ status. In your experience, how effective is Google+ as a marketing channel?

We have been using Google+ but the response so far has not been encouraging. But we will continue to see how we can make it work for us.

You have presence on almost all the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Blog). How about adding YouTube into the mix?

We are working on YouTube but we need to have an approach to producing videos that is scalable before we jump on to it. We should be using YouTube regularly by the end of 2012.

Have you explored recruiting talent using sites such as LinkedIn?

Yes. Two of our recent hires were located on LinkedIn and then we contacted them, made them an offer and they joined us.

In your opinion, what type of content keeps the community engaged to your brand?

Content that is topical and interesting – contests, quizzes, questions, stories, trivia are all attractive tools to engage the audience.

How do you handle a disgruntled customer? What is the average time taken to resolve a complaint received via social media?

There is no difference in our approach to handling customers who approach us on Social as opposed to other customers, there is a set process based on complaints and we follow that. The only difference is that our responses on Social are visible for the world to see. We try and respond within 2-4 hours to every complaint on social.

Do you offer discounts to in order to pacify him/her? If yes, at what level are such decisions taken and how is it passed on to the ground staff?

Like I mentioned earlier, handling customers is a standard company process and there is nothing special we do to customers who approach us through social.

How difficult is it to handle all the social media sites you have a presence on? Do you use any tool/service to manage the conversations going around on so many different places?

We use a few conversation tracking systems to track our presence on social media sites. It is not difficult since there are many easy-to-use tools available today.

What are the key metrics you look at when calculating the ROI of your social media marketing efforts? What tools do you use to calculate it?

We use only one metric for all our marketing activities – orders. The tool we use is Google Analytics.

You have presence on a wide range of social media sites. How do you track sales and sign-ups coming from these social media platforms?

We do nothing without measuring it and it is the same for social also. We track traffic, sign-ups registrations and orders from all the social tools we use. The measurement system we use for all of these is Google Analytics.

Do you have a dedicated team handling your social media marketing? Can you introduce us to the team that is behind your social media efforts?

Yes we have a small group of people who manage digital media for us and a couple of team members focus on social media.

When compared to other marketing channels, how much of your budget is allocated to social media?

Our entire marketing budget is itself frugal. We started India’s first online shopping company in 1999. We have been through two busts and we are still around. The reason is frugality. Given this approach, we do not have any specific channel splits as such. What we know is social is getting more and more important every day.

Does the social media team work on silos? Or do top management or even developers and other team members know what is being promised.

I personally visit our social pages daily and closely monitor our tweets. The social team works closely with every other team in the company to ensure prompt and helpful responses.

Apart from social media, are you exploring other digital marketing channels such as PPC Advertising, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Mobile Marketing?

Yes, we are exploring all these digital channels, although right now mobile marketing usage is still the lowest.

If you do a cost-benefit analysis, how does social media fare against other marketing channels?

It is very cost effective in terms of how brand awareness is built and also drives traffic. Also, as we get better at using it smartly, the returns are much better than any other channel. The challenge is that I feel many companies are still unclear about social and tend to focus on irrelevant metrics too much – for example many people feel that a company that has higher Likes on Facebook is a better company without knowing that Likes can be gamed.

How do you see the future of social media marketing? Do you think it will evolve into something else or will it be completely replaced by another avenue?

I think over time it will evolve into a strong recommendation ecosystem and customers will draw references from it before shopping. The future is social shopping but we are unclear yet how it will actually look.

Takeaways from the interview:

  1. Pinterest may become more amenable to social shopping because of its visual nature than Facebook
  2. Content that is topical and interesting engage the audience.
  3. Returns on social media are much better than any other channel.
  4. The future of e-commerce is social shopping.

If you want us to interview your favorite social media expert or brand, feel free to let us know in the comments below.