Last week, Shopify India released an exclusive industry trend report, the Festive Shopping Outlook Report 2021. The report is based on their Consumer Insights survey 2021. It put together data against the pandemic’s background even as the Indian retail sector keeps witnessing radical changes in consumer behavior and purchasing pattern (1).
The survey was conducted between 15th September 2021 to 20th October 2021 amongst 800 metro and non-metro shoppers from India. It highlights the changing consumer shopping preferences heading into this festive season. These trends will determine India’s retail sector’s course by ramping up consumer strategies and aligning themselves to the new order.
Below are nine major trends that Shopify’s Festive Shopping Outlook Report 2021 highlighted.
Festive Shopping Trends 2021
High Consumer Confidence in E-retailers Leading to Significant Changes in Advance Festive Shopping Tradition
There has been a lot of consumer confidence boost for e-retailers thanks to their last-minute discount deals and short-lead, express delivery advantages offered by e-tailers.
According to Shopify India, two in three Indian shoppers have not yet started shopping for the festive season during the survey period. It sharply contrasts the pre-pandemic traditional behavior where festive shopping usually kicks off at full swing at least a month in advance.
Smaller Indian Towns are Emerging as Key Online Shopping Growth Hubs
Multiple factors, including increased smartphones and internet penetration pan India, brands opting for the D2C business model, customer-friendly return policies, and enhanced last-mile delivery services, have played a key role in bringing millennial shoppers from smaller cities of India to opt for online shopping.
It is also worth highlighting that online shopping has been primarily prevalent amongst the consumers of tier-I Indian cities over the last decade. However, as the pandemic accelerated digital adoption, it also drove the growth charts up in tier-II and non-metro cities.
As per Shopify’s consumer outlook report focusing on the festive season 2021, 53.5% of millennial shoppers from non-metro cities have indicated a strong preference towards online shopping.
Customers are Pushed Towards Tech-enabled Family Shopping Experiences as Health and Safety related Concerns Still Prevails
Despite increased vaccination, consumers are still wary of physical and offline shopping. Meaning, online retailers can increase e-shopping appeal by offering convenience, value for money, and other personalized offers.
One thing that has remained buttoned down is that Indian festive shopping continues to be a family affair.
More than half of the survey responded that most people prefer involving their family members even when shopping online.
Local Businesses are Winning Big as Consumers Focuses on the Advantages of Shopping Locally
At least 58% of respondents stated that they prefer to support and shop from small businesses online during the festive season. It contrasts with the usual customer preference towards high-end brands when it comes to festive shopping and gifting.
Small retailers have won people’s attention and loyalty by providing a range of value for money options, personalized experiences, and individual attention. These benefits, combined with the consumers’ sentiments towards encouraging local businesses, have led to high sales at these local, small establishments.
Festive Gifting is Now Focused on Utility
Today’s consumers lean towards high functionality and utility gifts instead of standard festive dry fruits or sweets (Agreed, no one wants to receive that Soan Papdi Dabba).
Home confinement last year has made people realize the need to enhance and upgrade their homes constantly. Again, it is no surprise that the festive shopping lists of 2021 are topped by home decor and furnishing, with more than 50% of survey respondents indicating their preference to spend on gifts under this category.
There are Big Budgets for Electronics and Less for Jewellery
Even though gold and other precious metal jewelry have been traditionally considered auspicious, status symbols, and traditional festive gifting favorites for Indian shoppers, they seem to have fallen out of favor this year.
Instead, the coronavirus pandemic may have inspired people to put their money on tech gadgets.
Notably, the survey suggests that electronic gadgets are more likely to command this festive season, with about 42% of respondents showcasing increased interest in them.
Online Shopping Boom is Staying Long-term
As per Shopify’s 2021 survey on festive shopping, 76.9% of Indian consumers have indicated an extended preference for online shopping this festive season because of its numerous conveniences (2).
While festive shopping has traditionally been an offline retail event, pandemic-induced restrictions to combat the COVID-19 have forced most retail activities to shift online. And despite the ease in those restrictions, low COVID-19 caseload, and increased vaccination rates in India, there appears to be a sustained preference for e-retail.
Contactless Payment Continues to Dominate India
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to opt for contactless payments, leading to a boost in digital transactions, cash seems to be losing its top space in the Indian economy, still known to be cash-heavy.
More than 50% of survey respondents stated that they prefer payment processes via UPI instead of other transaction forms. It is interesting to highlight that the high preference towards UPI remains consistent across virtual and physical shopping experiences.
In other words, the survey suggests that Diwali 2021 is set to see the smarter, tech-savvy consumer generation of India that is highly dependent on mobile connectivity and technology. These young people now seek value and convenience above everything else and have moved past traditional festive shopping trends (5).
Now it is time for you, the business owner, to set up your business strategies to gain the maximum from the shopping boom amid the festive season.
Keep reading to know how you can deck up your store to conquer the market this festive season.
Business Tips for Festive Season 2021
While we are primarily focused on small retail businesses with an online presence, most of these tips will work well for any company looking to make the most out of this festive shopping rush.
- Holiday strategy internal meeting
- Set your budget
- Research ongoing trends
- Create a marketing plan
- Build a timeline to implement your business strategies
- Create a solid social media strategy
- Stock up your inventory ahead of the festive rush
- Set up an email campaign
- Strategies for your digital and conventional advertising
- Optimize your online store
- Plan sales, offers, and discount days
- Hire seasonal workers
- Set schedules for staff members
- Decorate your store and landing page with a festive vibe
- Ensure smooth check out
- Borrow if needed
Now that you have a summary in your hand, start mapping out your business strategy for this festive season.
As a business owner, you need to start preparing for the shopping boom in advance so you can run your store efficiently during the entire season. In addition, when you plan and run in advance, you also get to review and check any hiccups that may occur and stay prepared in case you need hours or days to revamp your operations (6, 7).
#1 Include Your Staff
Now before you start planning and executing your holiday sales strategies, meet with your staff. It is essential to include their input in this entire process.
You can ask them what they have noticed in the last festive season, what did they experience? Or what does they think was successful or failed miserably? You also need to discuss holiday schedules if needed.
In addition, if your staff puts extra hours to help you with the festive sales, incentivize employees working overtime. You can also consider hiring some extra hands for those additional hours. Well, this will depend on what kind of business you operate.
However, regardless of which business you run, ensure to treat your employees during the festive season.
In can include:
- Organizing a festival party
- Giving out bonuses
- Gift exchanges
- Offering holidays
- Setting schedules, work flexibility, etc
#2 Stock Up on Your Inventory
There is nothing worse than running out of your best-selling product and having to turn down a new customer.
Of course, it is not easy to estimate the number of supplies you will need for the festive sales. However, one good way to do it is by checking the orders you received last year, checking out the latest consumer trends, and using them as a benchmark.
Try talking to your suppliers and figure out if you can get discounts by purchasing large quantities. It is also a standard practice to order 5% extra “just in case.” The aim is to have extra stock to meet your customers’ demands hassle-free in case of any product damage or loss during the logistics.
Also, consider ordering early to avoid extra costs related to express shipping.
#3 Update Your Online Store
With the online shopping rise, it is more important than it has ever been to ensure that your website is well updated to handle the festive season (8).
Here are a few things to consider:
- Ensure your customers can easily find your most popular products
- Conduct A/B tests for festive listings
- Ensure if your website is user-friendly
- Update your business information if necessary
- Ensure smooth checkout procedure
- Ensure your website can handle the high traffic volume
- Run tests before any big shopping day, so there are no issues like delay in payment processing or website going down, etc
- Layout an action plan in case you experience any crash or downtime
#4 Give Your Store a Festive Vibe
Whether it is a physical store or an online store, it is time to get ready for Bharat’s biggest festival!
In addition to spicing up your business, your decoration can also be a deciding factor in attracting prospects.
The more the decoration, the more you can excite your customers!
You can introduce new elements to the shopping experience, which can change the atmosphere of your entire store. In certain cases, a careful and calculated decoration can even lead to impulsive buying from customers.
Here are a few tips to decorate your store:
- Use bright colored string lights
- Seasonal colors (saffron)
- Earthen diyas, rangoli, etc
- Put up cute Diwali ornaments
- Create signs with festive graphic designs
- Update your landing page, newsletter, and other marketing materials with a festive design
#5 Festive-themed Marketing Strategy
The festive season is the time of the year where customers will be anticipating fun offers and promotions from businesses.
Be creative with your festive season promotions and do something unique to attract customers.
#6 Offer Personalized Promotions to Loyal Customers
As per available data (9), loyal customers spend 67% more than new customers on average. In addition, you will need to spend more resources acquiring new customers compared to persuading loyal customers to come back.
It is especially true during the festive season.
Based on their purchasing history, you also already know what appeals most to your existing customers. Use the available data to build personalized campaigns and convince your loyal customers to purchase from your store.
You can offer exclusive online discount codes, promotions and offers, personalized gifts, or exclusive gift redemptions.
#7 Run Last-Minute or Time-Limited Sales
Organizing last-minute or time-limited online sales is one way to boost your sales during the festive season.
It will allow you to increase your discount or offer an exclusive deal for a few hours and during the day before Diwali, like offering 30% to 40% off for one hour or at midnight, etc. You can also do it two to three times or a day or multiple times during the festive season.
For instance, Hostgator used this strategy to make millions of dollars of revenues in its Black Friday sales (10).
Below are some tips for you to run time-limited and last-minute sales:
- Use countdown timers and pop-ups to alert users about your sales
- Use different discount coupons to track particular popular deals or time slots
- Promote your sales on your website, newsletters, and social media channels
#8 Try Virtual Reality
As we have already discussed previously, the world is witnessing unprecedented online behavior amid the pandemic. People want to look for new ways to browse and purchase new products from the safety of their new homes. And businesses that can offer the same are set for long-term gains.
#9 Update Your Payment Options and Return Policies
It may be good for your business if you reconsider return policies during the festive season. There is a potential to gain an advantage over your competitors with extended warranties, generous exchange policies, and free returns. You can also consider adding more payment options.
#10 Be Conscious of COVID-19
While it goes without saying, we have still decided to include this in our list.
This year, you are more likely to make adjustments to your marketing materials, channels, and offers to keep your customers safe and appeal to their new priorities post-pandemic.
Analyzing Past Year’s Data
- Check your best sellers, products, and services last year
- Find which of your marketing campaigns had the most significant impact on your sales and why
- Busiest days of the season
- From where did you get the most traffic and inquiries
- How had you measured the year’s success
It is recommended that you start analyzing this information as soon as possible. You will end up guessing the success of your campaigns without proper tracking and analysis.
Below are some of the most prominent marketing channels you can use:
Social Media Platforms
You can opt for regular posts to promote your products – both organically and inorganically, communicate with your audience about any important dates and events.
Do you remember visiting a site and then coming across their ads on almost every other platform you visit? Yes, that’s called retargeting. Well, it is among the most effective options for ads to promote your business during the festive season.
Pay Per Click or Google Adwords
Run a campaign on Google to maximize your sales this festive season. It will allow your business to remain visible on Google search results; hence, keep aside an additional budget for it.
Plan your blog posts and leverage SEO as per your festive promotions. Promote your products with SEO that your customers search for most during the festive season.
It is another main way you can communicate with your customers while also promoting your products.
You can consider segmenting your customer database as per their purchasing history and send newsletters accordingly.
Optimize Your Website
Below are the things you need to consider:
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
- Make sure your website has less than 4-5 seconds of loading time
- If possible, offer in-store pickup or online ordering options
- Ensure you disclose all the necessary details upfront
- Test to see if your website can handle any surge in traffic
- See if there are any broken links, any issues with the checkout process, or inquiry forms
Organize Your Inventory
Below are the things you need to consider:
- Get enough stock
- See if your suppliers and wholesalers can provide you with needed products in case you need restocking
- Offer special holiday promotions or gifts like corporate packages
- Create new product categories as per the festive theme, including gift boxes, ideas, and wrapping
The Indian retail sector is witnessing a rapid transformation. Follow the tips mentioned above to improve your sales this festive season.