Can PR help restore declining customer confidence ahead of Diwali

It's that time of the year when shopping should be at its peak with customers using their Diwali bonuses to buy, buy, buy. But the latest Thomson Reuters-Ipsos PCSI Survey (  The Indian Primary Consumer Sentiment (Consumer Confidence) Index (PCSI) for October shows that consumer confidence has plummeted by 6.6 percentage points over last month as consumers are worried about personal finances for day to day running of the household, savings and investments, at the same time, there is concern for job opportunities and performance of the economy.

In such a situation can PR help to restore spending confidence? Ramakrishnan Prayag, director, Kaizzen Communication, believes that PR can boost consumer sentiment, "The Government doesn't recognize or give value to the role of PR in building up the consumer sentiment. Proper announcements by the government on ongoing economy-boosting measures can help build confidence"

With rising petrol prices and poor performance of the rupee, not to mention the ongoing rift between the Government and the Reserve Bank of India, a proper PR plan would have helped at a time when the government is keen to show economic growth in the run-up to elections 2019.

Adds Prayag, "The Government should use its PR machinery through an awareness campaign driving the point that consumer confidence is high given the big festival sales."

Sales as PR push for building customer confidence

According to Sonia Sarin, group manager, business communication, Madison World, "Sentiment dropping before the festivity is not good news for brands who were looking forward to increasing their sales graphs end of this quarter. Certainly, PR can be instrumental in improving consumer sentiments.  Consumer sentiment should get uplifted with the festive offerings and they should feel assured of not getting financially impacted by the rational and impulse buys post-festival. The whole idea is to make the brands accessible, affordable and meaningful for the consumers during the festival season. To state an example, I personally feel that the Amazon Great Indian Festival or Pepperfry Mega Diwali sale campaigns are impactful to keep the festive sentiments up for the consumers. Festive Sale, easy EMI on credit and debit cards, zero interest are some of the decent offerings this season."

Some of what Sarin says is borne out by the latest Inshorts-Ipsos Diwali Poll that shows while shopping is muted this year, festival sales can still drive sales. The survey shows that unlike the norm and the trend, Indians will not go ballistic with spends this Diwali and will be discretionary, only 15% will loosen their purse strings and have a no-holds-barred spending, this Diwali. In further good news, shoppers are cutting down on firecrackers purchase, with 59% of the over 1,00,000 respondents saying they will say no to crackers.

At the same time, 52% of Indians surveyed say they will shop to snag great deals – for festival offers and discounts and a whopping 32% are undecided about shopping this Diwali.

"Clearly, two key themes seem to be emerging in the survey: cautiousness about spending and opportunistically looking forward to schemes and offers; and holding back on firecrackers with unanimous support for SC’s decision, on the same,” said Krishnendu Dutta, Delhi & Chennai Cluster Lead, Ipsos India.

“The undecided, are the ones sitting on the fence and will need a nudge with great offers, to shop,” commented  Azhar Iqubal, co-founder and CEO, Inshorts.

Deepak Kapoor, assistant manager, brand & corporate communications, Godrej Group, recommends a common sense approach to consumer PR keeping the appetite for bargains in mind, "Brands should position themselves as offering products and services that are of good quality and affordable. Given the high voltage product launches that take place in the Diwali season, it's also key for the brand targetting festive shoppers to stand out from the clutter."

Kapoor flagged off home interior firms, e-commerce and car launches as examples of sectors that can break through to the Indian customer.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly event and subscriber alerts.