With a new one-two app punch, Walmart is going after Amazon’s video as well as ecommerce businesses in the hotly contested Indian market.
Flipkart, the Indian ecommerce company majority-owned by Walmart, has rolled out a free — ad-supported — video service and an Instagram-like social shopping feature on its Android app.
Both features will be available to all of its 160 million customers, according to media based in India and the U.K.
The new “Flipkart Video” service on the app offers Bollywood and regional-language movies and shows from content providers including Viu, TVF, Arre, Dice Media and VOOT. At launch, at least, the service does not include original content.
Flipkart’s free video service will compete with paid services including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and regional OTT platforms. Prime, launched in India in 2016, has produced several original shows for the market, along with offering “a rich repository of Indian-language content,” according to YourStory.
PTI New Delhi reported that Flipkart’s service will be ad-supported, though others say that few ads were visible in its first few days.
When it announced the coming video feature in early August, Flipkart said it views it as a means of attracting customers in smaller towns outside of major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru.
Ecommerce — and competition for online consumers — has burgeoned in India with the advent of cheaper mobile phones and internet access.
"Most consumers' first touch point with the Internet is through online video content and statistics suggest that video content and entertainment play a key role in bridging the gap for consumers to come online and experience e-commerce," a Flipkart spokeswoman explained to Reuters.
In a statement, Flipkart said that the video offering “is focused on three primary aspects, keeping in mind our understanding of the market: free, curated and personalized. We believe that our customers shouldn’t pay extra for premium content."
Flipkart’s second new feature, called “Ideas,” is a feed that lets users browse through images, videos, Gifs and other content generated by influencers and brands, and shop for products from its tab.
Users are asked to select at least five areas of interest, such as food, travel, fashion, health and fitness and parenting. The app then begins highlighting related brand and influencer content.
Brands already on the Ideas feed include Apple, Cadbury, Fujifilm, Wildcraft and Syska, according to YourStory.
Ideas is beating Facebook’s Instagram itself to the Indian market.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s would-be Instagram competitor, Spark, was available in India for a short time, as well as other markets, but was discontinued this past June due to lack of use by consumers, according to Yahoo News.
If these features are a hit on Flipkart, might Walmart try similar app features in other markets? That likely depends on the mega-retailer’s assessment of the competitive scenarios.
In the United States, Instacart, as well as the big video streaming services, are already well established — and Walmart U.S. does have a video offering, as well as a shopping capability, on its app.
Earlier this year, Walmart abandoned the idea of creating its own streaming service, which would require a massive investment to compete with budgets and content production capabilities of existing streaming leaders.
Instead, the retailer is focusing on building up and producing original content for Vudu, the streaming service it acquired in 2010. In May, Walmart began offering non-edgy, mainstream content that appeals to its core customer base.
“As a service supported by advertising and in-app purchases, rather than subscriptions, Vudu has an interest in going broad and young with its content,” noted Forbes. “Plus, the service is designed to facilitate additional sales. While their toddlers watch ‘Blues Clues,’ parents will be able to ad a crockpot or new set of gardening tools or whatever else pops up at the bottom of the screen to their Walmart carts without interrupting the show.”