E-Commerce Platforms Battle For Lowest Price: Where Should Indians Shop Online?

As online shopping continues to grow, the largest e-commerce platforms are ready to compete for the lowest prices.
E-Commerce Platforms Battle For Lowest Price: Where Should Indians Shop Online?

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in India, e-commerce traffic and revenue experienced a sharp decline as deliveries were restricted to essential supplies only. Now, with delivery services able to transport packages again and the general public more inclined to shop online than in crowded shops and stores, online retail is surging and will continue to do so with holiday shopping on the horizon. As of June 2020, e-commerce has grown by 117%, according to a study done by Unicommerce.

The benefits of online shopping are plenty - cheap prices, delivery right to your doorstep, and the ability to compare products and costs across multiple websites and brands. But, do all e-commerce sites price their products equally, or are there certain platforms that are better for specific products?

To find out, the experts at ValueChampion analysed four of the largest online retailers in India and compared prices on 70 different products across seven verticals. Products were compared using standard pricing without any discounts, shipping fees, or credit card rewards.

Key Findings

  • Amazon and Flipkart consistently have the lowest pricing across most categories, with items priced 9.8% and 5.9% cheaper than their competitors, respectively.
  • While Amazon and Flipkart closely compete in most categories, Amazon has the lowest pricing on clothing as well as games & hobbies. Flipkart is the cheapest for health products.
  • While Amazon and Flipkart are dominant in India, smaller competing sites still offer top value in certain categories. Paytm Mall is the top option for hygiene & self-care products, while Snapdeal has the best prices on books and literature.

Largest Platforms Have The Best Prices

In India, the highest number of consumers flock to Amazon and Flipkart. Both websites see well over 200 million visits per month and users spend an average of over seven minutes on each platform. It's easy to understand why consumers prefer these two e-commerce giants: they provide the best deals.

Amazon's pricing was the best or tied for best in four of the seven verticals in our study, most notably in electronics, where their prices were 16.7% cheaper than average. Flipkart reigned supreme in three categories, with their most economical prices offered on household items at 14.7% below average.

Average Cost of Products By Shopping Category
Average Cost of Products By Shopping Category

On 36 of the 70 items we studied, both Amazon and Flipkart had the cheapest price or were tied for the cheapest price. Products from Amazon were priced nearly 10% lower than average, while Flipkart offered pricing close to 6% below average.

Price Comparison of Popular Items in Each Category
ItemCategoryFlipkartAmazonSnapdealPaytm Mall
Samsung Galaxy M21 (64GB)Electronics₹15,900₹13,999₹14,999₹14,695
Allen Solly Men's Polo ShirtClothing₹719₹599₹696₹637
Pedigree Adult Dry Dog FoodHousehold₹1,839₹1,665₹1,845₹1,850
Nivia Storm Football - Size 5Fitness & Games₹379₹379₹379₹550
The Intelligent InvestorLiterature₹401₹401₹270₹340
Dabur Chyawanprash - 2x Immunity - 1kgHealth₹268₹306₹599₹325
Vaseline Intensive Care LotionHygiene & Self-Care₹310₹205₹390₹197

The two smaller retailers that we included in the study, Snapdeal and Paytm Mall, were unable to compete with the affordable prices of their larger competitors across most categories. Snapdeal's pricing was the lowest on just seven of 70 items, but their average cost was only 1.8% higher than their competitors. Paytm Mall, on the other hand, offered the best price on 10 items, but their average costs were 20.3% more expensive than the competition.

Snapdeal Offers The Best Deals On Literature and Paytm Mall is best for Self-Care Products

Despite attracting less than 5% of the traffic of Amazon and Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm Mall each offered the lowest pricing in one of the seven categories we analysed.

For consumers seeking an online book retailer, Snapdeal's prices in the literature vertical were 10.3% below average and over 5% cheaper than any of the other e-commerce websites in our study.

Price Comparison of Popular Literature
ItemFlipkartAmazonSnapdealPaytm Mall
The Intelligent Investor₹401₹401₹270₹340
Indian Polity₹538₹538₹450₹650
General Knowledge 2021₹126₹133₹150₹185
Think Like a Monk₹270₹325₹275₹299
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life₹195₹320₹186₹290

For those in need of self-care supplies - such as soap, deodorant, and toothpaste - amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Paytm Mall's selection of hygiene products is best, costing 13.3% less than the competition.

Price Comparison of Popular Hygiene and Self-Care Products
ItemFlipkartAmazonSnapdealPaytm Mall
Dettol Soap - 4 Pack₹275₹200₹270₹186
Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion₹310₹205₹390₹197
Philips Hair Dryer₹676₹676₹844₹700
Set Wet Deodorant Spray - 3 Pack₹299₹347₹505₹378
Himalaya Herbals Purifying Neem Face Wash₹135₹120₹199₹118

What Does This Mean For E-Commerce in India?

Despite the industry giants leading the way with the most affordable e-commerce items, the competition between the two may still cause price reductions for Indians to take advantage of, especially as more people rely on online shopping. Normally, cost reduction from large companies is caused by smaller retailers offering more affordable prices on everyday items; this is because larger retailers like Amazon and Flipkart want to not only maintain their place in the market, but leverage their size to capture customers who originally were impartial to smaller retailers like Snapdeal and Paytm Mall.

However, as the popularity of and reliance on online shopping continues to rise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Flipkart and Amazon will continue to compete against each other to acquire customers.

Monthly Traffic to India's E-Commerce Websites
Monthly Traffic to India's E-Commerce Websites

This trend is evident over the past six months, as Flipkart has seen an 83.2% increase in traffic since May, compared to a 45.8% increase for Amazon. This rapid improvement has brought Flipkart to within 1% of Amazon's October traffic, at 288.5 million visits, compared to May, when Flipkart was 21% behind Amazon in terms of traffic, with 157.5 million visits.

Unfortunately for Snapdeal and Paytm Mall, the increase in traffic to Flipkart and Amazon has caused a decline in visits to their platforms. Since May, Snapdeal's monthly traffic has decreased by 6.2%, while Paytm Mall's monthly visits have decreased by 6.1%.

However, Snapdeal has reason for optimism in terms of site traffic, as they offer a dedicated credit card with an enticing 6% rewards rate and a 5% discount on all Snapdeal purchases. Amazon and Flipkart have dedicated credit cards available as well - each offering 5% cash back on site purchases - so both companies can expect continual increases in traffic from consumers taking advantage of the excellent card benefits.

Methodology

To arrive at our conclusions, we collected the best selling products across the most popular shopping categories available on the most-trafficked e-commerce sites in India. The products in this study were limited to those available on all four platforms, and all products analysed were the same size, weight and quantity. After narrowing down our collection of data, we arrived at 70 products across 7 different verticals. Once the data was organized and sorted, we analysed which company had the cheapest pricing for each item, each category, and overall. Pricing comparison was done using the standard price, without any discounts, shipping costs, or credit card rewards applied.

Mike Wagenman

Mike Wagenman is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion India, specializing in insurance. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Business from Rider University, and his prior work experience includes data, revenue, and business analysis in the international travel and technology markets. Mike has worked with clients around the world to help identify financial value and find the most optimal way to achieve success.