'Fly. Buy. Dubai.' This was an iconic statement for the Dubai Shopping Festival and it worked wonders.
The shopping festival has since seen a tremendous boost to the economy and it continues to rise. India does not 'technically' have a shopping festival, per se. Why? Because any time is reason enough to BUY!
The latest lure is a tiny four-lettered word - SALE - be it in stores or online. This word makes us salivate and has our wallets tingling. 'What if we don't get it again at this price!?' That is the eternal conundrum.
Sale periods are cyclic across the world. There are the much awaited Black Friday sales that begin after Thanksgiving (which falls on the last Thursday in November). Shoppers crash stores for down-marked goods of all types. There are Winter Sales for Christmas shopping across Europe and the rest of the West. Pre-Chinese New Year sales begin early in the year in the East and Pacific-rim countries. But India has a perennial sale somewhere or the other, online or offline. It's no wonder that Indians are considered moneyed. We need to have the latest! Be better than the 'Mehras' next door. We shop, literally, till we drop.
We shop for festivals and given the diversity of this country, there is one almost every month. We shop for our birthdays, for birthdays in the family, for friends' birthdays, and anniversaries. We shop during wedding season; we shop for a plethora of special occasions... we basically shop for no reason! Actually, we shop for every reason! Given the diminutive sizes of our homes in this real estate market, it's a wonder that we have any place if all to store our purchases.
With Social Media postings gaining top-of-mind recall, the new tendency is not to repeat clothes. This is another bane to our existence and that makes us purchase more clothes. Fashion Weeks across the country are another infusion to our sartorial tastes, the need to have the latest; be the best in fashion.
So what does shopping do to us? And what does that word SALE do to our mindsets?
The largest circulated newspaper, The Times of India, Mumbai (10th Oct. 2018) had 10 full pages of sale announcements on the first day of Navratri and all before the Masthead! In all, 20 full-page ads in a 30-page newspaper and I am not talking of the half page ads for that day.
Advertising is not cheap! Such is the power of our religious festivals and the power that people 'will buy'. Online shopping and midnight online sales offer a plethora of options. Flipkart, Snapchat, Amazon, airlines, hotels, stores, even housing - and the list is endless - all offer buyers an everyday discount option right into your mailbox.
A study noted that within a fortnight of a person's death, their emails would be clogged with spam and hence, rendered unusable. Such is the power of email and the hope that marketers cling to, to affect a buy.
Are sales effective and sustainable?
Before malls were introduced to the country, Sale periods were relegated to Diwali and New Year and people planned their purchases around this time. With the introduction of malls, Sales followed suit, but now, sales are around the year; what changes is the percentage discounted at a sale.
Moreover, discounts are now a prerequisite, even when a product is newly launched, in some cases, just to ensure conversions. Should brands start investing their energies to figure out how they will still get the customers in the middle of 10,000 sale propositions? Sale doesn't guarantee sell; yet this route seems to be abused and customers get fatigued. Hence, are sales sustainable?
The Psychology of Shopping
Psychologists' talk of shopping as "an emotional desire brought on by a trigger set forth in your brain which causes you to have a want so deeply, you give in to the emotion." The fear of loss is deeper than the desire for gain.
So are there factors to an impending buy?
Arouse Curiosity: Curiosity is a very powerful motivator. It evokes a latent desire to look for potential future unavailability in a purchase.
Build Anticipation: A sneak peek into what you are going to get is a trigger to a purchase. There is a reason why ad 'teasers' work. Anticipatory marketing builds an appetite for what's next.
Be Specific: Talk of new introductions to a specific audience increases desire.
Pricing purchases: Sometimes a high price inhibits a sale; in the same manner too low a price may trigger questions of its reliability. An iPhone for Rs. 1.25 lakhs is a desire. Applying the same specs in a homegrown brand and the perception may differ.
Credibility: Big-ticket stores build anticipation for a sale. Some brands never have a sale, and that adds to their credibility.
Authority figure's Testimonial Marketing: A known public figure as the Brand Ambassador denotes that your brand can be trusted hence, the likes of film stars and cricketers in commercials. Similarly, someone acknowledging a brand is value to that brand. Dove soap commercials rely on testimonials.
Social Media: Of course, making a noise on social media is worthy for a product to be bought.
Fear of Missing out or FOMO: We are constantly on the lookout for better things, places to hang out and vistas to visit. FOMO could be a drain on the finances, but that is left for another day.
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Ultimately, what is effective in a purchase is Consistency, Honesty and Integrity. People buy not merely because of a brand name but the durability of a product. We form our beliefs when we know it is true. We buy because of that belief. No Sale tags can infiltrate our desires.
Till then, Shop till you drop!
(The author is chief marketing officer, Syska Group)
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