2020 has given us very few reasons to smile. This last quarter is definitely going to be one of the most compelling of those reasons. Packed with Navratri, Dushhehra, Diwali and Christmas, it will be the much needed respite from the depressing slumber that the rest of the year has been, filled with disappointing, shocking and demotivating events all over the world.

China dealt with the pandemic induced slump right alongside one of its biggest festivals, CNY. But the saving grace was that all the preparatory shopping for the lunar year celebrations were all done before the virus peaked. However, an interesting term was coined by the Chinese netizens i.e. “revenge buying” to mark the onslaught of shopping and consumption post the lockdown to make up for the lost time and opportunities.

For India, the festive shopping season could prove to be a “revenge buying” frenzy since it’s the biggest opportunity to indulge ever since the virus hit the shores. Of course there is going to be a lot of positivity around, however, the outcome is not just about the shopper intent but also the ability to purchase. The latter has taken a hit because of job losses, pay cuts etc.

But, with people slowly choosing to move on with their everyday lives and events like weddings, university admissions etc. with the virus in tow, not letting it spoil their party it would be interesting to see how the festive extravaganza fares. There would be some trends that will go on to define the festive quarter to a great extent.

– Lack of planning

Traditionally, festive shopping is pre-planned and a lot of purchases are postponed through the year to happen on Diwali or Dussehra in lieu of the festival. This year however, has been in stark contrast to the usual trend. As per a Festive Season Consumer Survey, India 2020 conducted by InMobi, a whopping 71% shoppers claimed to be undecided with regards to what they want to shop for this festive season. In fact over 50% of the respondents said they would only start planning a month before Diwali this time around because of the general sense of uncertainty.

This could be a blessing in disguise for brands. Since most purchases are undecided, brands can make their way into the planning stages of the consumers’ purchase journey and build consideration for themselves. It will be interesting to see if brands come with in-game, innovative shoppable ads, responding to the shorter path to purchase and the urge to impulse buy.

– Offline Shopping to be super targeted

While the overall shopping sentiment would be indecisive, once the shoppers do decide what to buy, especially from physical stores, the journey from the store visit to the final billing will be very short. Shoppers will decide to visit brick and mortar stores for their festive purchases only once they have made up their minds about the product after rounds of research online. This will be a behaviour mainly fuelled by the safety concerns and precautions surrounding the pandemic.
In an interview, Shashank Pathak, center director for WestEnd Mall Pune talked about how most shoppers who came to the mall before Ganesh Chaturthi headed straight to stores of the brands they wanted. The pre-chaturthi festive season saw almost 95% conversion. The clarity in decision making is going to make the shopping journeys shorter, for the time being. This is a cue for brands to interact with the consumers before they make up their mind about their final purchase, before heading to the physical retail outlets. This will be especially important for categories such as electronics, fashion & home improvement.

– A chance to indulge others, rightfully

Festivals have always been big on gifting, to others and to self. So how different is festival season 2020 ? There’s more empathy and more reflectiveness in the air. It’s going to affect the consumer behaviour in a couple of ways; one, people will spend more on gifting. It’s going to be their way of being there for one another. To quote the InMobi study again, 52% respondents said that this time around, they’re going to shop mainly for others i.e. family members living with them, friends, other relatives, especially home appliances and gadgets. Most purchase for self was centered around clothes and accessories.

The burning question thus is, what happens to the content creators?

– Possible spike in home improvement products

Another trend that would possibly define the shopping landscape this quarter is shopping for home decoration products to bring the celebrations home. Mostly, customary card parties, elaborate family gatherings etc. will be put on hold. People are going to try and amp up the festivities within the confines of their homes. With WFH extended in most companies, secondary decision makers of the house will also be at home to participate in the decorations and preparation hands on. This would mean more spending on products that will make the at-home experience better.

Other than that, big ticket TV properties will act as loyal sidekicks of the festive season, perpetuating the ‘home is where the heart is’ behaviour for a little more time. Upcoming properties like IPL, Bigg Boss, FIFA are going to make sure that even after Navratri or Diwali, home continues to be the hub of intimate rituals like small gatherings, TV viewing and meals with the family.

– Silver Linings Ahead

Economy is counting on this festive season to positively impact the consumer sentiment and overall health of the retail sector, online as well as offline. As the incumbent memes have already declared, India has reluctantly got into a phase of ‘dekh lenge’ with COVID-19. Although there will be fear and paranoia, which will obviously tweak the way we traditionally bring in festivals. But it’s the much needed escape for both, brands and consumers, that can be a win-win situation for both, if leveraged correctly.