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After a long wait, there is an air of festive excitement, and businesses across various consumer categories are hoping to make the most of this much-needed positive sentiment in the post-pandemic world. The Indian consumer is also equally excited and getting ready to spend, with the major local festivals – Navratri, Dusshera, and Diwali – round the corner in the coming weeks.  

To make the most of this exhilaration, leading players - both online as well as offline - have launched their discount sales in India in a big way. According to a recent Forrester report, the Indian festive season will generate US$9.2 billion in online sales, up a whopping 42% YoY from 2020. 

From the marketing ecosystem point of view, this would mean increased spending in both offline and online channels by the chief marketing officers, Jitender Miglani, senior forecast analyst at Forrester shares with The Drum. Elaborating on how the connected ecosystem will pan out, he adds, “marketplaces will be spending more to attract user traffic to their websites, manufacturers will be spending more to promote their brands, and sellers on marketplaces will be spending more on-demand generation campaigns.”

The festive line-up

  • This year Navaratri will begin on October 7, Dusshera will fall on October 15, and Diwali will be celebrated on November 4. 

  • During this month-long festive season, possibly the busiest time of the year, retailers and brands offer heavy discounts and attractive offers on their products, as consumers typically wait to make their major purchases.

  • Like every year, two of the largest online retailers, Flipkart and Amazon have launched their online sale events Big Billion Days (BBD) and Great Indian Festival (GIF) respectively to grab the attention of the consumer during this period.

The changing habits of the Indian shopper

  • One of the biggest changes brought about by the pandemic has been the speed and rate at which people have taken to online shopping. Buyers are much more comfortable now with online shopping than ever before. 

  • As per Miglani, "several inhibitions of online buyers have been removed in the post-Covid world, leading to much faster adoption of digital payments."

  • Online shopping is safer, saves time, and is easier than going to online stores – all of which has led to wider adoption of digital even in the non-standard categories such as grocery, apparel, and general merchandise.  

Big change: the online sales growth beyond the metros

  • Interestingly while pre-pandemic, most of the market growth was driven by buyers from the metro and tier-1 cities, that is no longer the case points out Miglani. Online retail sales will see strong growth this year, driven by consumers in tier-2 and -3 cities.

  • As per the study, users from tier-2 and tier-3 cities are contributing significantly to the market growth. As per the estimates, around 75 million online buyers will participate during this festive season, of which 50 million will come from tier-2 cities and beyond.

The evolving category play

  • The growth in the smartphones, consumer electronics, and large appliances categories will be strong since consumers typically wait for the festive season to upgrade their devices to coincide with new product launches in India. 

  • Even though smartphones remain the largest category however grocery is growing fastest, which is again a post-pandemic development. 

  • As per the study, grocery will emerge as the fastest-growing category, as most of the festive-themed categories within grocery move online, aided by the increase in basket size during this period. 

  • With the economy reopening, occasion-based clothing shopping is coming back even if in a small way and as a result, fashion, the third-largest category, is expected to do better this year, compared to last year.