Health and hygiene will continue to be an important factor as customers : Flipkart

Health and hygiene will continue to be an important factor as customers : Flipkart

It has been a year since the pandemic started and also a year since India was forced to go into lockdown. During the lockdown, for the first time, people had to do manage without a lot of things that we had started to take for granted. This resulted in some interesting changes in trends of people's buying behaviour. Mumbai Live spoke to Hari G. Kumar, Vice President, Large Appliances at Flipkart to understand these changes and how things stand at the moment.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q1. If you could share some insight on buying trends for the people of Mumbai in the last year?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the customers’ lifestyle has changed vastly. Given the increasing time spent at home and limited external interactions, there has been a drastic shift in consumer consumption patterns across the country, including Mumbai. Customers are increasingly seeking products that help them strike a work-life balance. This has led to an increase in demand for automation products like dishwashers, washing machines, floor cleaners, etc. There has also been a growing demand for multi-functional appliances that can carry out various tasks to save customers’ time.

With the pandemic necessitating the need for an increased focus on health and hygiene, customers are opting for ACs with UV filters and air purifications capabilities while opting for energy-efficient appliances.

Q2. What were the new categories that witnessed a strong uptick during the pandemic?

With continued work and learning from home, customers are opting for home automation products, especially appliances that help them carry out their tasks seamlessly. From microwaves having 73 auto cook menus to curd maker refrigerators and quick wash washing machines to dishwashers, customers across the country are relying on e-commerce for these home appliances. This led to almost doubling the demand for home appliances in the last year. Other home appliances categories like juicer mixer grinder, hand blender, kettles, toaster, vacuum cleaners, OTG, water purifiers, induction cooktops etc have also seen significant growth. Amidst the many evolving lifestyle characteristics, we saw an interesting trend of experimenting with niche kitchen appliances such as electric tandoor, hand blender, waffle makers, pizza makers, popcorn makers, cotton candy makers etc., as people look to enjoy restaurant delicacies at home. This segment has seen growth by over 200% in the first few months of 2021 as against the same period last year.

When it comes to AC’s, customers are opting for COVID ACs which have air purification functionalities. While these functionalities existed even before COVID, it is witnessing greater traction since the pandemic with the growing focus on health and hygiene. Energy-efficient appliances have also been one of the deciding factors while making a purchase with a jump of up to 40 per cent in the demand for 5-star high capacity, high energy-efficient AC's, while refrigerators adoption too reflected a similar trend.

As far as refrigerators are concerned, we are witnessing a greater demand for multi-functional appliances with curd maker, convertible features as the top call outs. Customers are mostly preferring a convertible refrigerator owing to the less use of a freezer and the need for more storage space as they continue to work and learn from home. In addition to this, we have also seen an almost 20 per cent increase in the adoption of No Cost EMI since the pandemic.

Q3. How is the demand from Metros different from that in the Tier 2 and 3 cities?

It is really interesting that the above-mentioned trends are not only concentrated in metros but smaller cities and tier 2 and 3 cities are also contributing to this growth. This clearly indicates a change in sentiment and buying preference in the smaller towns. For products like microwaves, juicer mixer grinder, hand blender, kettles, toaster, vacuum cleaners, OTG, water purifiers, etc., we have seen uptake from tier-II and beyond cities for these products with about 2X increase in demand coming from these markets. For home automation products, consumer demand from tier-3-and-beyond markets accounted for almost half of the overall demand in this segment.

In the niche kitchen appliances segment, while the demand from metros has been encouraging, the demand from tier-2,3 cities has increased to 55 per cent, registering a 2x growth on a yearly basis in the first few months of this year. This has also led to an increasing number of brands launching new products in the new kitchen appliances, translating into a 2x growth in launches. Interestingly, cities such as Guntur, Kottayam, Agartala, Cachar, Medinipur, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur and Bankura are among the fastest-growing cities for niche appliances.

Q: How do you think the trends would shape in the year 2021?

There is no doubt that the pandemic bought an enduring shift in the buying preference of customers. From COVID ACs to UV filter wardrobes, health and hygiene will continue to be an important factor as customers look for solutions that eliminate viruses, disinfectant properties while buying products and will play out in 2021. With work from home and ‘hybrid’ working becoming the new normal, home automation will be key for people which in turn will continue to boost the demand for products in this segment. The whole purchase journey will continue to evolve and the need to remain safe, healthy and self-reliant will continue to prevail.

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