Diwali 2023: The Ideal Season For Brands and Retailers

How can brands approach Indian consumers for this festive season?


10 November, 2023

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Diwali is considered to be the biggest holiday season in India. It is the festival of lights that symbolises the victory attained by light over darkness. Each region of the country celebrates this festival in different ways. The people also associate this occasion with many stories and gods such as Ram, Sita and Laxman, Lakshmi, Ganesha, and Krishna. On this holiday, the people of India embellished their homes with oil lamps and candles. Furthermore, they design their houses’ floors with rangoli and, for a specific period of hours, they fire a variety of crackers. This is also the time when consumers would purchase food, sweets, new clothes, and many more.

Therefore, this festival season is the largest retailing opportunity a brand can get to grab the attention of Indian consumers. Each state of the country celebrates this occasion in different ways. It is commemorated in a period of five days with the main day on the 12th of November, 2023.

The Indian buyers spent over $33,8 billion in real stores on the festive season sales in the pre-Diwali period of 2022 (from 22nd to 30th of September). E-commerce platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon earned $5,7 billion as turnover which is 15% higher than that of the sales before the pandemic. It is expected that the festive sales will touch INR 3,5 lakh crore in India.

Based on ‘The Marketer’s Guide to the Festive Season 2023’ of InMobi, it is found that around 84% of consumers will be spending more on online shopping than last year. This result was driven by the discounts and offers available only on the particular app for the festive season. Over 54% of the respondents chose to combine offline and online shopping experiences. The top most interesting categories for them were apparel and accessories, home appliances and gadgets, and beauty products. Additionally, 66% of them claim to spend over INR 25K for this festive season.

Even though only 31% of the consumers are thinking of spending more in 2023 (36% in 2022), according to YouGov, the spending propensity of Urban Indians is 96,43 in 2023, which was 94,45 in 2022. A euro accounts for INR 88,89 and, according to an ICICI Securities report, the average salary of urban Indians was INR 20.030 in the 2nd quarter of 2022 and INR 21.647 in the first quarter of 2023.

With a lot of opportunities lying around this Diwali 2023, here are the key strategies that the brands can opt for.

Made in India

Indians love and are proud of their culture. They prefer their traditions over the others. Over 40% of consumers are preferring to buy products from domestic brands rather than imported ones. Around 84% of online video content viewed in the country is not in English.

A brand should focus on reaching the Indian audience as a whole by creating patriotic content featuring multiple regional elements and languages. It is also crucial to collaborate with the content creators and influencers from each region to reach smaller cities. The domestic brands are offered with many initiatives such as “Made in India” and “Vocal for Local” to promote craftsmanship and production from India. Brands such as Anita Dongre, Nupur Kanoi, Divya Seth, Raw Mango and Rahul Singh were involved in the Made in India campaign of the Fashion Design Council of India in 2020. The homegrown brand Sabyasachi did a Diwali-special ad campaign for its Mangalsutra (wedding chain) jewellery collection in 2021. A homegrown label, KALKI, launched its Diwali campaign with the Festive Edit ‘23 collection.

On the other hand, international brands should work with Indian cultural scholars to figure out a collection that honours the season’s traditions. For instance, Dior staged its Fall 2023 show in Mumbai, India highlighting the craftsmanship of India.

Looping in AI

According to experts, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are expected to lead the digital marketing industry of India which accounts for $8 billion. Using it to create relevant content for specific regions and communities can drive customer loyalty. The AI can also support cutting production costs by utilising virtual avatars and digital endorsements of celebrities. Indian actress Mouni Roy has her avatar influencer named Tia Sharma.

Around three out of five consumers believe that the AR and VR experience have driven them to the festive mood and support their purchasing motives. The technology has the ability to refurbish and create new Diwali-inspired icons and motifs. The brands can rework these motifs with their identity and release them with a build-up surprise.

Labels like Kanchan Fashion, Ajio and Meesho are using virtual assistants and recommending personalised products to their customers by using this technology. The brand Zim did a campaign named 'Make Color Not War' in May 2023. It featured the AI-designed global leaders’ faces covered with colour powders for the Holi Festival. It reached many people and the AI was used by the general public. A fashion designer from Lucknow named Gunriddh Sial has been generating models and designs from this technology and received major applause from the social media.

Miscellaneous Gifting

Exchanging gifts among friends and family is a crucial part of Diwali. It expresses gratitude and love towards the loved ones. Therefore, in this period, the sales of products under categories - clothes, beauty products, electronics, home decor, firecrackers and sweets - have increased.

Instead of firecrackers, one can promote environment-friendly earthen lamps and candles to its consumers. Renowned labels like Marks & Spencer, Jo Malone, Maison Martin Margiela, Tom Ford and Loewe have been producing themed-scented candles. The brands can launch a capsule collection comprising Diwali-inspired candles and lamps. Brooklyn-based Indian brand DS & Durga has a special candle named ‘Rama Won’t You Please Come Home.' Many other Indian brands named Aman Spa Candle, Armatuer, Claymen, and Suit Number Eight have been creating special candles and fragrances that can be ideal for this occasion. The perfume label Bombay Perfumery collaborated with skincare brand Pahadi Local to drop the Devdar Spring candle to bring the festive vibe.

The CEO of Lladro India, Nikhil Lamba, has stated that the sales of home decor items such as vases, trays, plates and clocks have seen a 60% growth during the festive season. There has been an increase in people preferring luxury items to gifts. With this, Luxury Swiss chocolate maker Laderach’s special Mumbai boutique launched in August 2023 got exceptional reviews. Moreover, the label is planning to unveil 5-6 stores in the next 2 years. The French luxury pastry label, Maison Laduree, has created Diwali-special treats and gifts for its Indian customers.

This quarter’s sales of second hand luxury watches have risen by three to four times higher than the previous quarter.

Encouraging the audience to buy handcrafted and handloom products, and donate their old products to be upcycled and/or recycled by the brands can be a thoughtful strategy.

Occasional Collection

The fashion and beauty brands can launch Diwali-themed collections. It does not have to be an entire collection focused on the occasion, but an influence for a single product too. In 2012, Chanel released a limited edition Indian make-up collection titled Bombay Express Summer that included a nail polish called Diwali.

Retailers and e-commerce companies such as Nykaa, Myntra and Ajio announce various offers, discounts and specifically curated collections as per the customer’s needs and wants. Indian brands such as Nalli, and Manyavar do promotions and advertisements dedicated to this festive season.

Estée Lauder India launched a Limited Edition Diwali Gift box in 2018. The collection was launched worldwide. Pandora released a Happy Diwali Dangle charm made of sterling silver. Gucci gave a golden and crystal makeover for its seven-decades old product, Horsebit 1955 bag. It is available at the brand stores in India.

Influencer Marketing

Every Indian has their favourite influencers and celebrities. There is a huge fan following and craze for pop culture in the country. Therefore, marketing using influencers and celebrities is one of the effective strategies, especially during this period. Brands collaborating with influencers have hiked by 21% from 2021 to 2023 during Diwali. Due to this result, there have been over 67.000 posts on around 22K networks of influencers which generated 5,3 million likes and 3,7 million video views. 66% of Indian consumers think that their favourite influencer can be a key driving factor in their purchasing decisions.

Bollywood actress Ananya Pandey is the newest brand ambassador of Jimmy Choo. She is the face of the brand’s Diwali capsule collection campaign. Additionally, she starred in Swarovski’s Diwali-special campaign. Shoppers Stop Limited is looping in its brand ambassador and actress Sanya Malhotra to feature in its ethnic wear brand Kashish’s Diwali campaign. One has to mention that the Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone was named the brand ambassador of Louis Vuitton in October 2023.

Bonus: T22 Cricket World Cup

2023’s Diwali overlaps with the most anticipated T22 Cricket World Cup which happened in India. Cricket is the most viewed sport in the country. It binds the people together and heightens their pride and love for India.

At this time, brands and retailers have to use emotionally-driven content to be unique. It has to be about union and celebrating India. 70% of the urban population in India chose short-term subscriptions that are specifically for events to streaming platforms. Brands can tie up with TV channels and streaming platforms to promote their products by launching engaging advertisements that are broadcast in between the matches.

Using the cricket players as the main face of the campaign can increase engagement. Adidas unveiled a campaign named “3 Ka Dream” featuring the cricket players of India as a way to support the team in bringing the World Cup home. Flipkart released a campaign advertisement starring Bollywood celebrities and cricket players such as Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni to promote the Diwali festive season sale.

Cover Image: Ananya Pandey on Swarovski Diwali-special Campaign, courtesy Vogue India.