Digital breakthrough: Consumer durables brands finding ways to expand reach

E-commerce and the growing influence of digital on purchase behaviour for consumer durables is offering brands such as Prestige, Crompton & Greaves, Philips and several local and hyperlocal labels a new way to expand their footprint. By using the digital influencer route or working closely with local retailers to help first-time internet users discover and buy their brands. While most brands are still taking baby steps in this space, this is where the future brands will be built believe experts.

This marks a big shift. Time was when television and catchy jingles were how durables pitched themselves. Think of the popular line “Jo biwi se kare pyaar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar” (He who loves his wife cannot deny her a Prestige) that marked Prestige’s journey in the pressure cooker market. Now ask how many are aware of its move into smart appliance and the answer will probably be, barely a handful. Digital is where these brands can build value and recall in the future say experts.

Today 28 per cent of consumer durable sales is digitally influenced and this is estimated to reach 63 per cent of total sales, amounting to $23 billion by 2023, of which $10 billion will be online according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Google India ‘Digital Powers Consumer Durables: A $23 billion Opportunity by 2023’. The report projected a healthy growth rate for consumer durables (televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, microwaves, water purifiers and small kitchen appliances) of 13 per cent to reach $36 billion 
by 2023. 

A sale is ‘digitally influenced sale’ if the buyer uses internet during any stage of purchase cycle. Digital influence varies by product categories today with it being 33 per cent for high average selling price (ASP) durables like ACs, Televisions, Refrigerators and Washing machines and 20 per cent for lower ASP products like small appliances, water purifiers  and microwaves. The number of digitally influenced consumers have doubled over last 4 years. 

Currently a large part of the research in consumer durables space usually happens across the reviews section of popular e-commerce platforms, review websites and YouTube.  S Swaminathan, CEO and co-founder, Hansa Cequity adds that there is a need to digitise the services (of durables makers) as well in order to improve their reach. “A lot of brands in this space are rapidly scaling up their digital presence thanks to e-commerce platforms, however, digitising servicing and maintenance post sales with something like a digital warranty card for example would make a huge difference to their usage,” said Swaminathan.

This is one of the new ways of keeping customers loyal in the digital age say experts. The report says, during the purchase phase, low price, convenience and choice of multiple payment options are some of the largest drivers of online conversions. However, absence of in-person guidance and lack of ‘touch & feel’ are the biggest barriers. In the post-purchase phase, the report interestingly calls out that nearly 1 out of every 3 online buyers provides product reviews online post purchase and both, in-store digitally influenced buyers and online buyers look for other offerings from the same brand after completing the 
purchase.

The report suggests that nearly 2 out of 3 digitally influenced consumers say that online reviews are a significant influencer in their purchase decisions. This is another space for advertising. But Swaminathan added that advertising tends to be limited to traditional mediums (for most) in specific regions and their digital presence is quite an “early stage”. 

The report adds that in the pre-purchase phase, approximately 80 per cent of digitally influenced consumers are undecided about their choice of brand and spend typically 2-3 weeks on research before making the final purchase. Brands need to drive focused interventions at the individual consumer level across journey touch points to leverage the short research window of 2-3 weeks, the report added. 

There is also an opportunity for influencer marketing in this space. “The overall spends on influencer marketing in consumer durables is still single-digit which we see growing rapidly in future. The top categories are e-commerce, mobile, FMCG, travel and financial products. Instagram and Twitter are the preferred media platforms,” said Sanjay Vasudeva, Founder & CEO, Buzzone Influencer Marketing who sees tremendous potential for such products on digital platforms.