2018: Consumer & Retail Trends We Saw & What To Watch Out For in the Coming Year
2018. A year of pop-ups, coffee, (way too many) beer brands, food at unbelievable prices (many thanks, delivery companies and your investors)… and a China takeover. Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Jaipur, Goa, Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad… no matter where you go, there’s certain consumer behaviours and trends that follow.
So where are India’s millennials* spending their recreational time and money?After crunching through a year’s worth of data and trends, here’s the top 10 that dominated LBB in 2018.
- Embrace Omni-Channel For Distribution: While this isn’t a new trend per se, we saw a lot of seemingly offline or online first companies embrace omni-channel in 2018. H&M went online. Le 15 added pan-India delivery of its famous macarons via their website. Nicobar really grew offline .The Label Life went offline through partnerships and its own stores. Pernia’s PopUp Shop went offline. Nykaa, holy shit, expanded offline and how.
The verdict’s out- while e-comm is here to stay, very few companies can deny the importance of offline as a channel for distribution and $$. Consumers? They’re loving finding brands wherever they go.
2. Year of The Beverage: Coffee’s really had a year, huh? From cold brew coffee brands (none have hit significant distribution, barring Sleepy Owl) to coffee companies that opened cafes (Blue Tokai doing so all around India), to ‘nitro-coffee’ search queries, there’s much brewing in the coffee department. Tea as well! Brewhouse Ice Tea (which launched on LBB.in/shop) has taken over every other convenience store. Chai Point went from having small kiosks to decked out cafe spaces. &Stirred launched cocktail mixes. A bunch of companies followed Raw Pressery’s footsteps in the cold pressed juice category.
3. Fairs, festivals & Pop-Ups FTW: Pragati Maidan trade fairs, Surajkund Mela, Jaipur Lit Fest, India Art Fair etc. are still a hit. As are Lil Flea, Soul Sante, Pet-fed and Grub Fest. As are micro-community festivals- think of those that happen in homes, community centres, and more low-key locations- your organic bazaars, Jashn-E-Rekhta, India Story, outdoor movie screening festivals and more.
Fashion, food, decor- there’s ample opportunities for small and first time retailers to not only get sales, but also sample their products- in relatively cost-effective ways- to targeted customer cohorts. And the good news is no matter what the scale, consumers are turning up in droves.
4. 1 word- China: There isn’t a single female (apart from me) in my office who hasn’t shopped from Shein or Club Factory or Miniso (which, fun fact, isn’t a Japanese brand). Every recommendation about Miniso on LBB crushes it with comments, pageviews and saves. Though Shein and Club Factory seem to be targeted towards a tier 2,3 audience, they’ve found a cult in city-dwellers as well.
Word from the wise- don’t dismiss these companies as low price substitutes. They’ve done a phenomenal job of capturing transactions from impulse-driven shoppers; the hook being unique, funky designed products and the pull being great prices.
5. #InstagramSeller: Emergence of the independent brand as a force to be reckoned with: Tamara, Abharnam, Happypique, Manjal, Margazhi Designs, Zahana, Pratima Jukalker, AsHe, Yuvika Goli, Nakhrewaali, Alicia D’Souza. These ‘brands’ may/may not have a website, definitely don’t have a store, but are totally raking up orders while galvanising their fans and community through IG. Some of the most saved and consumed recommendations on LBB were about IG sellers. While customer trust still seems to be a big area of concern when buying through IG, these new-age ‘IG brands’ are growing strong and steady.
6. Retail is an experience, not merely a destination: Fabindia has done a phenomenal job in giving their stores an uplift with the addition of experience centres. As have Nykaa, Pepperfry, Urban Ladder, FoodHall, Script- from hosting workshops and classes, to becoming a venue for comedy & music performances, experience marketing is (finally) catching up with retailers. In full disclosure, most of these brands have worked with LBB to get sign-ups and registrations; and the user response has been phenomenal, with each session packing up.
7. Value Matters: ‘Budget’ (which, to be fair, means different things to different people) still seems to be a most commonly used filter, and tag for top performing recommendations on LBB. It’s at the intersection of ‘budget’ and ‘unique design’ that magic happens- vis a vis audience response and engagement. We see this especially in female-focussed brands and categories like Indya (“budget” festive and indo-western wear), Daily Objects (faux leather products), Beserk (“budget” jewellery) and N Square Studio (Urban Ladder pricing; better design) to name a few.
8. #FitSpo: Cultfit, Boxfit, Cleanse High, Potens Gym. Organic, sugar-free, keto (which incidentally was a top-searched term on Google), healthy, vegan, high-protein- this trend ain’t going nowhere! Healthy menus are becoming omnipresent at restaurants- and not just the hipster ones. While brands and cafes like Gouri’s, Yoga Bar, Sequel (Mumbai), V’s Bakeshop (Delhi NCR), One O’Eight (Pune), Cafe Sienna (Kolkata), Happy Healthy Me (Bangalore) may not have hit critical mass, they’ve most definitely built a cult around their brands. Loyalty goes a long way.
9. Are Private Clubs The ‘Co-Working Spaces’ of 2018–19? Maybe, for the 0.01%: We saw The Quorum open its doors in Gurgaon, and Soho House launching in Mumbai. While these are only 2 examples at their scale, I’d extrapolate this to the continuing emergence of niche communities. And it’s happening across cities. Some communities come together based on common interests, while others based on professional equivalence. They’ve also become interesting ways for large-scale advertisers and sponsors to micro-target their campaigns and activations. Co-working on the other hand? Not so much for the independent freelancer, “likeminded people” and up and coming startups anymore- they’ve morphed into office spaces for reasonably well-funded companies.
10. The most obvious one: On-Demand: Dunzo (which really grew its India footprint post their Google raise), Swiggy, Zomato, UberEats, Foodpanda- their offers and deals for city favourite dishes and restaurants have been a crowd pleaser this year. This space is heating up, driven predominantly by offers, exclusive tie-ups and discounts as opposed to convenience. What it has also led to is a decent uptick in delivery-only joints this year- across all budgets, cuisines, and cities.
So who’s crushing it?
Well, LBB for sure. But us aside:
Brands that go wherever consumers are: consumers are on content platforms, and they’re offline. Great case in point is PlumGoodness- built a strong community on social media, used that to galvanise sales online and offline.
Unique design at an H&M/Ikea price point: Miniso’s done a great job of delivering on this at scale. As has Chumbak to some extent. There is a hunger for brands that are “different”- a sentiment growing at the same pace as mass brands’ scale.
Super focussed catalogues: Consumer brands who take a focussed segment/problem statement, and go deep. Examples of companies that have done this well in my opinion are Sugar cosmetics, Brewhouse Ice tea, Blue Tokai coffee, Indya to name a few.
What’s Coming Up in 2019?
If there’s 3 things I’d bet on if I were a retailer/consumer startup:
A. Bet on your real users: Influencer marketing (often equated to sending free shit to people with followers on IG/TW- not the same thing!) is here to stay. It makes for a great strategy to kick off a new product or campaign launch. But with more and more users spending more and more time- and sharing more and more content- on IG, TikTok, Whatsapp(and whatever’s left of facebook), I’d invest in and bet on them. Customers and their micro-networks are connected better than ever- take advantage of that.
Also, friendly reminder here: Instagram’s choking up, and like Facebook, it’s going to get expensive to grow audiences organically.
B. Women: I cannot emphasise on this audience enough! We see an uptick in tech products that are female focussed (Bumble), platforms that foster & support female-led enterprises (eg. Etsy, LBB’s marketplace), and products directed towards women (eg. beauty and skincare products). Enterprises that are build around principles similar to Bevel (targeted audience + targeted pain-point + specific solution= BOOM!) could see success at scale in a country as diverse as India; and I foresee this happening especially with women as an audience segment.
C. Optimise For Cheap Distribution: Traffic, footfall which was earlier restricted to malls, expensive markets, and Amazons of the world is now being disrupted by cost-effective marketplaces, recurring pop-ups (co-retail, FTW), and easy delivery. This is anecdotal, but quite a few of the products I order from independent brands and businesses reach me in an Uber or Ola. Cities are connected better than ever- you don’t need your customers to come to you, you can go to them.
What Bira’s done to beer as a category, I anticipate happening to a few other incumbent products and categories. They may start as urban-first phenomena, but don’t underestimate the power of compounding.
More on what’s coming up in 2019 in our next Consumer Trends blog.
Have insights you’d like to share with us? Drop a note in the comments section below.
*Millennials: this is a clarification. Millennials and hipsters are not mutually inclusive cohorts :). I’ve seen them being used interchangeably, which is not correct. Millennials is an age classification- and refers to people born between 1982–2004. Please note, this data reflects the markets/cities LBB is currently present in.
**Amendments have been made to this post since it was published