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There will be a rise in sales this festive season: Sunil Narula, Panasonic Life Solutions

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.

Also read: We’ve seen 25% surge in demand for pre-owned cars in July: Amit Kumar, OLX Autos

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 conversation with Adgully, Sunil Narula, Vice President - Marketing, Panasonic Life Solutions India, explains why he remains optimistic about the festive season this year and how Tier 2 and lower markets are seeing a revival in economic activities in the unlock period. He also sheds light on the consumer sentiments in the new normal. 

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?

COVID has taken all of us by storm. The sentiments have no doubt been poor as the whole economy has slowed down and people are living in constant fear. There is an environment of trepidation and uncertainty, a lot of people have lost their jobs, quite a few have taken salary cuts and a lot of businesses have closed down. Post the process of unlocking, which started in May, we could see a revival in economic activities, which was led by the Tier 2 and lower markets. Fortunately, even amidst a lot of gloom, the smaller markets and rural India largely remained unaffected from the impact of COVID-19 and could see a good bounce back as soon as the unlock was announced by the Government in a phased manner. A good harvest in April also led to improved cash flow of rural consumers, which helped in the revival of economic activities.

The festive season began with the advent of the Ganesh festival in West and South India, while the impact of the pandemic is still there. It has kind of become a part of our lives and we have adjusted to living in this new normal. With the peaking around the corner, we see a decent festival season ahead of us. There has been a revival in construction activities and we anticipate that as we approach the festive season, people will be looking at shifting into their new houses and thus spark the revival in consumer spending. The online channel will play an important role in the revival of consumer goods sales as it ensures buying from the comfort of our homes and contactless deliveries. Our product categories of Fans, Lighting, and Water Heaters have already seen an increase in the online pickup.

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?

As one of the leading market players, we constantly monitored the market trends, consumer behavioral patterns, basis which we redefined our marketing strategies. With this lockdown, we witnessed that most of the consumers started engaging via social media platforms and other digital mediums to shop online and communicate their queries or concerns. We rapidly adapted to this change by channelising our resources through digital and social marketing mediums. In this festive season, we see that the digital space will remain dominant, which will further pave the way for a new communication strategy for actively meeting demands and staying connected with consumers.

With the unlocking process taking place across the country, we expected better footfalls in market places, especially in lower-tier markets. Besides the digital push, we are also looking at increasing our retail visibility by focusing on in-store branding and by improving our POSM presence. We are also using digital and social media in improving our connect with electricians, who are our key influencers for our ECM range. Our programmes will focus on improving the skills of electricians, bringing additional business for them through multiple initiatives, and also increasing their income through our renewed incentive programmes.

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?

We have been slowly moving to a digital-first approach, this not only makes products available to consumers as soon as possible, but also create a parallel system to the traditional distribution system. We have already listed 90 per cent of our fast-moving and higher selling items on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. We also work with modern format retail outlets like Metro Cash and Carry, Walmart, etc. They have been moving to e-commerce as well. We have been supporting them in this move, which is also driving sales for us.

During the lockdown, work from home has shown different trends to us. People want to buy a lot of DIY stuff online. People bought more pedestals, table fans than ceiling fans, as there were no electricians to install. Similarly, we saw a fast movement for spike-guards, extension cords, etc., as compared to multi-pin sockets.

Parallelly, while people may not be venturing out for explorations, they are still venturing out to complete the desired essential activities. However, we believe the ecosystem of traditional distributors will not vanish anytime soon.

We are working with a multipronged approach, by aligning our products in a combination of online and offline channels for the convenience of our customers.

Having said this, we would still see an increase in footfalls in traditional markets as people have stayed indoors for months and would like to venture out, albeit with caution. Our dealers have also prepared themselves to serve their customers, using the home delivery model, as in lower-tier markets, the consumers still believe in shopping from their old traditional stores rather than venturing out to online shopping.

All in all, there will be a rise in sales this festive season, the methods may change a bit and the consumers will be doing it with caution. The luxury segment or the non-essential space, where we have a small presence, may not see a big offtake this festive season as we see consumers conserving cash during the time of uncertainties.

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