The current crisis will hit harder on the consumption habits of the young, many marketers predict. As Mohanty explains, in an aspirational society like India where a generation doesn’t even recall scarcity or rationing, this pandemic has been a rude wake up call, one that will leave a lasting impact (much like famines and wars did on previous generations).
Does this mean premium brands will fade out unless they change tracks? One needs to read the purchase behaviour carefully to read the trends, say marketers. Santosh Iyer, head of sales and marketing
at luxury car market leader, Mercedes Benz
says that the demand for new cars may not be as buoyant as it was. There may be down-trading between segments—those considering a Mercedes model may settle in for a top-end variant of a Skoda or a Skoda buyer may end up buying a top-end Hyundai
model. But one is unlikely to opt for a cheaper trim level within a segment. “Buyers in the luxury segment won’t compromise for a lakh or two,” he points out.
However given that customers will weigh the price-value offering more closely than before, brands will have to be mindful of the lines that lie between budget, premium and luxury. According to a recent Google
report on search trends during the pandemic, a shift in consumerism is unfolding as modern internet users are becoming increasingly conscious of their choices and demanding truly transparent and timely information from brands.
Jatin Ahuja, founder and managing director at Big Boy Toyz (BBT), a multi-brand showroom for pre-owned luxury and super luxury sports cars says, “It’s no longer about people opting for cheaper or premium trim levels or models, its value for money driving buying behaviour. If one can get a car worth Rs 1 crore for Rs 65 lakh, in all likelihood one will opt for the latter,” says Ahuja.
Brands have to listen in carefully to the customer’s voice, not just watch her wallet, say market researchers. It is time that brands define their premium values with greater care and sensitivity, and as Mohanty says many premium categories are also experiential categories, which need touch and feel. Social distancing will change that so how they communicate what makes them differentiated as compared to the rest of the category, will need to change.