Festive strategy: Digital shoppers in focus as firms eye sales turnaround

The three-month period from Ganesh Chaturthi to Onam, Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra, and Diwali is an important time for most consumer-facing businesses
Customers of Tanishq, the Tata group-owned jewellery brand, in Mumbai, were greeted with special messages on their mobile phones over the weekend. They were invited to participate in online aartis of the city’s Lalbaghcha Raja and Pune’s Dagdusheth Ganpati — both popular Ganesh pandals in Maharashtra. The YouTube window that led to the aartis was prominently branded by the jewellery chain, and a message from the company emphasised it was with people at all times. 

Tanishq is just one example of what firms are doing this festive season, marred by rising Covid-19 cases and people afraid to shop and eat out. Brands in consumer goods and retail are responding to the challenge by showing empathy, improving their safety, health and affordability quotient, and devising unique go-to-market strategies to woo people this festive season.

The three-month period from Ganesh Chaturthi to Onam, Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra, and Diwali is an important time for most consumer-facing businesses. But for some, including those in durables and retail, it remains the most critical period in their accounting calendar, constituting a third of their sales.

Stay-at-home consumers need to be nudged, admits Nilesh Gupta, managing director of electronics retail chain Vijay Sales, a point endorsed by Anand Agarwal, chief financial officer at V-Mart Retail, a fashion and lifestyle retailer.

Consumer engagements, Agarwal says, will be more direct and digital in nature this season compared to previous years, when marketing budgets were higher.

For instance, most fashion and footwear brands from Bata to Biba to V-Mart are pushing a combination of casual and semi-formal wear this festive season. 
Casual clothes and shoes such as chappals and sandals are targeted for home wear and semi-formal clothing and footwear are meant for festive occasions. Wellness chain Kaya, in contrast, has come up with ‘contactless facials’, innovative skin peels and hair services for those prepping up for the festive season, even as safety concerns are addressed.


“The trend we saw during festivals such as Eid and Rakhi was that semi-formal suit sets and festive kurtas were in demand. This is even as casual kurtas were picked up earlier in the lockdown by consumers,” says Siddharath Bindra, managing director, Biba Apparels.

Vijay Sales, on the other hand, has opted to use its social media channels to announce its offers for Ganesh Chaturthi, including tie-ups with Samsung, LG, IFB and Apple, among others. There will not be print and outdoor ads this year, says Gupta. South India-based electronics retail chain Pai International has come up with scratch cards to lure customers with a minimum of 2 per cent and a maximum of 100 per cent cashback. 

The company has launched WhatsApp video calling to give demos of products to customers in the safety of their homes, along with free home delivery.
Media industry experts say most brands this festive season will have a greater bias towards the digital medium as online adoption rates for most activities increase sharply. A study by EY shows that time spent on smartphones has steadily grown in the last few months, touching 4.3 hours per day now from around three hours before the lockdown began.


S Subramanian, managing director, Preethi Kitchen Appliances, says a good 20 per cent of online shoppers for its products are those who’ve had their first-ever experience on an e-platform. In contrast, there is a shift in the way offline consumers shop from traditional outlets, he says. The purchase decision is made through a digital search and visits to stores are meant to close the loop.

Preethi, for instance, has rolled out an initiative called 'Close to You' to tap festive shoppers. The direct-to-consumer (D2C) initiative combines digital shopping and doorstep delivery in a bid to make the shopping experience as safe and convenient as possible.

Experts say the D2C programmes, which began as a response to distribution challenges in the lockdown months by consumer and retail firms, will get a leg-up in the festive period, as virus fears prevent people from venturing out too much.

“Yes, online is definitely doing much better and e-commerce is the way forward for us. We are using customer relationship management effectively to reach out to our loyalists and keep them informed. 

Besides that, we are also using whatsapp video calls to show the range to our customers who are not comfortable coming to stores, but would like to see the collection,” says Bindra.

Food companies, especially chocolate and bakery product makers, which use the festive season to sell gift packs, are playing up the health factor, pushing immunity as well as a dose of Indian culture. Cookie maker Unibic, for instance, will be replacing certain ingredients in its products, such as butter with desi ghee, even as it maintains their overall taste and goodness.

“There will be an element of having the appropriate ingredients which convey the meaning of health and nutrition, as today people are becoming conscious after the pandemic,” says Sreenivasulu Vudayagiri, chief executive officer of Unibic.

Experts say more brands are expected to join the festive season fray this year as the Dussehra-Diwali period kicks in. The launch of the thirteenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in September may goad a few more brands, especially in the mobile handset space, to time their launches around that time, analysts say. 

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