Newspapers are plump and multicoloured again. Commercial breaks are loud and entertaining again. SMSs and emails promise discounts, freebies, and cashbacks. You don’t have to check the calendar to know that it’s the festive season in India, traditionally, the best time to shop. And in a year where festive shopping just might be lower than ever due to the pandemic, brands, marketplaces, even banks – are doing their best to ensure their share of this pandemic-affected wallet.

India is estimated to touch $6.5 billion in online sales, with early reports of having touched $3.5 billion in the first week itself. This is despite being the only Amazon market to have more or less stuck to its original Prime Day schedule, and addressed pent-up post-lockdown demand in August itself. How will the season play out?

The big e-commerce sales have taken over all advertising channels. Whether Amazon’s Great Indian Festival or Flipkart’s Big Billion Days, Myntra’s Big Fashion Festival or Snapdeal’s Kum Mein Dum, you just can’t miss them. Early previews for loyalty programmes started the shopping season as early as mid-October. and more. Bank and payment gateway offers have ranged from discounts and cashbacks to zero-interest EMIs. Contests like Croma’s My Wish and the evergreen Amazon Wishlist have helped consumers express their shopping ambitions.

In an interesting twist, this time, local stores are a part of the e-commerce mix, as online players have come under increased last-mile delivery pressure, and consumers are keen to support local businesses wherever possible.

This year, more than ever, social media is helping brands make deeper connections with their consumers. The Facebook Festive Playbook is quick to spell out the role of “The Facebook Family,” the triumvirate of WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.

Source: The Facebook Festive Playbook

Their research suggests that a staggering 80% of the festive shopping done by millennials and Generation Z is influenced by Facebook and Instagram. The apps also lead the way in the actual discovery of offers.

Source: The Facebook Festive Playbook

Early research suggested that festive staples like apparel and jewellery would move down in importance, and be replaced by the likes of gadgets, electrical appliances, and gift vouchers. Current reports seem to agree, as Amazon reports having sold more iPhones on the Preview Day of the Great Indian Festival than it did in the whole of last year’s sale. And the week’s papers run headlines like “Out Of Stock: Chains, Ecomm Run Out Of Appliances” and “Festive Demand Outstrips Supply.” In fact, instant bank discounts have already dropped, in response to the overwhelming numbers claiming them.

Source: InMobi “Understanding the Festive Shopper Journey in the New Normal”

It’s interesting to see that India’s festive shopping season has now synced up with Amazon’s global Prime Day. For years, Prime Day used to be called “Black Friday in July,” but this year, it kicks off a longer holiday shopping season, marked by round after round of sales through Thanksgiving all the way to the New Year. Amazon’s global Prime Day sales, too, are reported to have risen 45% this year, to $10.4 billion.

In China, where the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed, brands and retailers are doubling down on Singles Day – undisputedly the largest shopping festival in the world– with new brands, new products, and exciting gifts.

We believe this wave of festive shopping will slowly make its way offline as well. The reopening of theatres will have shoppers return to malls after a 6-month hiatus. Nesters will finally take a break from their at-home trials and services, and begin, cautiously, to browse and shop in stores again.