“After a depressing 1st half, we are likely to see cautious optimism this year”

The great Indian Festive season has started amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know what kind of a washout the first half of 2020 has been when it comes to businesses and even personal lives being completely disrupted. Given the strict Government directives on maintaining social distancing, the huge crowds of shoppers that usually throng the markets during this time might be a lot less this year.

In normal circumstances, brands look at the festive season as an opportunity to gain maximum ROI, leveraging the consumer sentiments during this time. However, the unprecedented conditions have dampened the economy so far. While some are sceptical about businesses picking up during the rest of the year, we are also seeing a general mood of optimism.

Amid such a scenario, Adgully has reached out to marketers and publishers across India to gauge the sentiments during the festive season this year as part of our special series on ‘Festive Mood’. Over the next few weeks, we will be bringing the views and insights from various markets on how marketers and publishers are endeavouring to trigger a revival and give a boost to festive sentiments.

In this interaction with Adgully, Sumit Sehgal, CMO, Sheela Foam, speaks about the market sentiments this festive season and how his company is preparing to woo consumers and the digital-first approach to marketing.

How do you see the consumer sentiments across the nation this year? Which markets are seen as leading the rebound and how? What factors will drive growth this festive season? How much do you see festive sales getting impacted due to COVID-19 this year?

Whilst the consumer sentiment remains low, the festive period is a good momentary period to forget the COVID scenario and indulge in the celebrations. After going through a depressing phase in the 1st half of the financial year, we are likely to see cautious optimism this year. The only constraint being lower disposable incomes this Diwali.

For us, initially the smaller markets were showing growth, but now the growth is visible everywhere. With the changed social scenario, home products like furnishings and appliances will see higher sales. The overall demand this year is likely to be the same as last year and this will be driven especially by a certain segment of the market which has seen a rise in disposable incomes due to savings over the last 5 months on fuel, entertainment, apparel and travel.

Almost 90 per cent of our stores are operational now in the leading markets and we are seeing good demand levels across. Some brands which create a credible hygiene story, which is manifested in the product, are likely to see higher take up rates. All Sleepwell and SleepX mattresses come with NeemFresche technology, which was launched 2 years back, to provide comfortable and safe sleeping solutions to our customers.

What kind of integrated marketing activities are you planning for the festive season? On which platforms will you be investing your ad spends more and Why? What kind of digital push are you looking at?

We are planning multiple initiatives, considering the change in consumer behaviour during the lockdown period. Digital First will be the way to go for both our brands – Sleepwell and SleepX. We will be scaling up the Sleepwell@Home service in the larger markets to provide a safer and differentiated experience to consumers in the comfort of their homes.

We are also exploring possible associations with some tentpole properties to remain salient during the festive season and be the top considered brand for the consumer.

On SleepX, we will be launching our new campaign, which will further strengthen our position in the mattress category. Foreseeing an increased demand for home furnishing products, we will be launching a new product line for the festive period.

Do you see retail footfalls increasing during the festive season, given that people are still not venturing out for shopping in a big way? What alternate routes are you looking at to shore up sales – such as e-commerce, online purchases, D2C initiatives?

Given the lockdown conditions and prolonged use of mattress in these past months, consumers are happy changing their mattresses, especially with the added benefit of selecting and buying from the comfort of their homes. We have launched an exchange offer, where consumers can change their old mattress for a new Sleepwell mattress. This offer is also available under the Sleepwell@Home program.

Market shopping will surely see an increase, giving us a semblance of the old times, though the footfalls may not measure up to the last season. Brands which adopt a safe and hygienic shopping experience are likely to get a larger share of footfalls. At Sleepwell, our retail stores are now ‘Safe Zones’, where we have implemented the highest hygiene standards and take complete precautions so that customers feel safe during shopping.

Online shopping will see a big jump as is the trend worldwide. We will be scaling up our visibility on digital, including an aggressive e-commerce push for Sleepwell and SleepX. We are also in the midst of Diwali planning with Amazon and Flipkart, which are likely to see sales much higher than last Diwali.


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