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On shop-floor activities take centrestage for consumer durable and appliance makers

NEW DELHI/ KOLKATA: Actor couple Kajoland Ajay Devgn may well be cajoling you to buy Whirlpool fridges and washing machines on television, but the US appliances maker is increasingly betting more on inconspicuous shop-floor attendants and sales representatives to boost its sales in India. 

Whirlpool's ratio of spending on below-the-line activities versus mass-media advertising was 70:30 last calendar year, while it was 50:50 in 2011. Close to 90% of below-the-line budget goes into shop-floor activities. 

And Whirlpool is not alone. Most consumer durable and 
appliance makers including Videocon, LG, Samsung and Panasonic are steadily increasing their investments on shop-floor activities such as sales promotions, in-store branding and product demonstration as they find it a highly effective way to push sales. 

"Unlike, say, toothpaste, consumers of appliances are not frequent buyers. If we invest on advertising but don't do enough on the point-of-sale, it would be hara-kiri," Shantanu Dasgupta, vice-president of corporate affairs and strategy, 
South Asia, at Whirlpool, says. "Even as overall A&P (advertising and promotions) budgets remain tight due to a low demand scenario, absolute spends on BTL will actually increase in 2013," he adds. 

Videocon, the country's third largest durable maker, has tripled spends on BTL activities over the last two years, and now almost half of its 200-crore marketing budget goes into BTL activities. "Most of the marketing spends are invested on in-store branding and shop demonstrators who can explain technology and brand's edge over competitors," CM Singh, chief operating officer at Videocon, says. 

The country's estimated 40,000-crore consumer electronics industry reported flat volume growth last year, with white goods such as refrigerators, ACs, washing machine and microwave ovens reporting fall in sales. The reasons for this included a slowdown in consumer spending and substantial price increases due to rising input costs and devaluation of the rupee. 

However, the industry is expecting a 5% volume growth in sales this year after five straight years of bleak demand, as there has been no substantial price hike this year with commodity prices having stabilised. 

To make the most of this expected revival in demand, white goods makers are focusing more on the shop floor, retail point-of-sale activation and training sales attendants at places where actual purchases are clinched. 

"The focus on product demonstration at the shop floor is a growing trend across industry, whether it's audio video products, home appliances or smart devices," Mahesh Krishnan, senior VP - consumer electronics at Samsung India, says. 

Japanese consumer electronics major Panasonic, which increased its marketing budget to 400 crore this fiscal from 350 crore last, too is spending almost half of it offline including shop-floor activity and road shows. 

"Product has become the hero and differentiation is key to success, which can be addressed more through BTL," Panasonic MD Manish Sharma says, adding that focus on experiential marketing is on a continuous upswing. 

LG now spends around 45-50% of its overall budget on BTL line activation, while 
GodrejAppliances plans to spend almost 40% of its 130-crore marketing budget on BTL this fiscal.