Wharton, NJ , August 31, 2017 – Shoppers have been trained to assume that they are already getting the lowest prices when shopping at a brick and mortar Walmart store or online at Amazon.com, but are they really? While internet searches allow consumers to comparison shop with the click of a button (or even just by speaking it to Alexa and Google Express) it is becoming even more crucial to be a well-educated shopper.
According to an extensive study done by Placed, retailers selling higher ticket items in a one-off purchase are at greater risk of losing sales to Amazon through “showrooming”, or the act of investigating an item in a brick and mortar store and then purchasing it for a lower price online. However, customers shopping for a larger number of items at a lower price in one trip, for example during grocery shopping, would not typically spend their time comparing prices online to save money on things like coffee or grains.
This revelation bodes well for marketplaces such as Amazon and other grocery e-tailers who rely on the busy shopper who would like to just trust the price, fill their cart, and obtain delivery of their necessary items as a matter of convenience. Yet it also emboldens the old adage: “buyer beware.”
Zifiti.com, an online marketplace, celebrates incredibly Indian products and connects Indian ex-patriots to thousands of products from their homeland. The incredibly Indian online portal based in the US is a friendly and convenient platform for buyers to source the Indian products they seek and for sellers to be connected directly to their desired target audience. Zifiti’s CEO Shinu Gupta states, “Our efforts to disrupt the marketplace model is not limited to changing where people shop for Indian groceries, but also how much a household ends up paying to acquire those hard to find Indian items while keeping it easy and convenient.” Gupta goes on to present a challenge stating that a shopping trip on his site would result in an overall lower cost than if you purchased those same items on Amazon.
Challenge accepted! In an effort to reveal the true cost of shopping for household necessities at the online behemoth, our marketing team at Pro Source Clicks chose a list of items at Zifiti.com that are well known to a typical Indian consumer and ordered them to be shipped to a zip code in WI. We then finalized at purchase at Zifiti to confirm pricing and made sure our cart met the requirements for free shipping. Here is our final order – total cost $51.40:
Next, the team did a Google search for those items and were surprised to see that the main items appearing in the sponsored “Google Shopping” area were much higher in price than what they paid at Zifiti. For example, Brook Bond coffee, 100 g, was showing as $11.40 at the low end and $19.96 on the high end compared with Zifiti’s $3.99!
Finally came our Amazon shopping experience. Similar to traversing through the jungle for which it is named the process required cutting through the mess that comes up when you perform a search. “Nirav Cream of Rice (Rice Soji) Idli Rawa – 4 lbs” netted zero results so we tried derivatives such as “Cream of Rice 4 lbs,” and “Nirav Rice Soji” and finally got results with just “Sooji Rava”. This process was cumbersome in our attempts to determine how the items were named. Results for more commonly used items such as “Toor Dal” were so numerous from so many sellers that it was overwhelming. Sorting by relevance didn’t help, so we sorted by price, lowest to highest. The least expensive option was $13.99 for the same size as the Nirav version we purchased at Zifiti so we took it. And, so went our shopping spree, often times taking 10 minutes or more to cull through the results to find just one of the items we were looking for. In some cases we even went back out to Google to find the link to the product in Amazon! While using the search engine we discovered that some products were also carried by other Indian grocery ecommerce sites at a lower cost than Amazon, but still higher than Zifiti. Additionally, some of the items were either out of stock or only available for in store pick up.
One hour later we checked out with 7 of the 9 items spending more than double the money on less products! 2 popular Indian items, Boost Energy Drink and Princess Delights Puffed Snacks were unavailable. For certain items we had to purchase different name brands, but always picked the same quantity. We also always chose the least expensive shipping method without having to pay for membership with Prime. Our grand total at the largest marketplace in the world was $106.76 compared to our total with Zifiti of only $51.40!
Overall our experience with Amazon was frustrating, slow and overwhelming compared with our shopping experience at the Indian Marketplace Zifiti which was quick and simple in addition to being less expensive. Back in 2014 Digital Commerce 360 had already laid claim to the fact that Amazon was choosing to score higher margins on certain products where they concluded, scientifically, that price wasn’t a determining factor in consumer choice. It must be the case that Amazon doesn’t experience much competition in the Indian products marketplace currently. That being said, as brand awareness for Zifiti grows and supply and availability increase, it will ultimately be the demand of South Asians (the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US today) that will drive the use of comparison shopping for daily necessities and force competitive pricing.