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BW Businessworld

Wedding: Made In Heaven

Millennials and Gen Z do not want to indulge in exhibitionism, rather they are looking to spend on experiences that would make their D-Day meaningful and memorable

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Indian weddings are a large affair in India. A guest list of 3,000-4,000 is not unusual. The wedding involves a minimum of three events before the actual ceremony, often followed by a reception. However, social media culture has upped the ante, particularly after the dreamy weddings of celebrities Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli, Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas, and Reliance Group heiress Isha Ambani. Brands that are part of the $50-billion India luxury market have started recognising this shift and are investing in nurturing the new consumer.

It is increasingly common for affluent Indians to spend on outfitting family members and even guests for the occasion — all the better to show off on social accounts. Brides and bridegrooms are becoming conscious about how weddings are documented, and with the aim of a uniform aesthetic, close family will also choose looks from the same brand.

While some, on the other side, do not want to indulge in exhibitionism. They would rather spend on experiences that would make their special day meaningful and memorable. For instance, a bride today might not see merit in spending on an expensive outfit but would definitely spend on curating a travel experience to an exotic locale for a set of close friends to mark her wedding day.

According to Varun Chadha, CEO, Tirun -- the Indian representative of the Royal Caribbean Cruises -- everyone wants a memorable wedding, one which is different from the regular. “The desire to seek new experiences defines modern consumption, and when it comes to weddings, cruises offer the best opportunity to have a varied palette of experiences. Whether it is a huge gathering or a small intimate affair, a cruise wedding offers the perfect venue, offering a high novelty quotient.”

Luxury brands realise that millennials and Gen Z are consumers of the future, so they have shifted their focus on them now. A rising class of great importance are the HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet), affluent millennials that have high disposable income and a propensity to spend on luxury items, experiences and services. To them, personalisation and authenticity are important when making purchasing decisions. According to leading fashion designer, Gaurav Gupta, “Luxury to millennials is unique. It does not have anything to do with acquisition - it is an experience. They like to invest in a meaningful narrative rather than a superficial image.”

According to Ramola Bachchan, the organiser of the Runway Bridal - Wedding Show, an annual wedding exhibition -- trends like eco-friendly and sustainable design are important and are gaining popularity among young consumers. She believes digital media has helped her company increase consumer engagement and reach more consumers and brides to be.

“Weddings in India are important, no matter what the scale might be... We have noticed that there are a section of people, who do not want to take the traditional route and prefering spending the same amount on an experience like a vacation. Keeping this in mind, our exhibitions are curated.” The show features the latest trends in bridalwear, jewellery, accesfor sories and other wedding services.

Talking about how the consumer has evolved, Sunil Gupta, MD & CEO, Avis India, said: “New-age consumers are astute and are no longer encumbered by the traditional need to ‘own’ the things that they use. They are more practical and realise that many items purchased during weddings are not used frequently. As a result, they are investing in unique experiences such as a destination or theme wedding. Many would-be couples make rental bookings for premium vehicles such as limousines to cater to onground transportation requirements of their guests. At Avis India, we have already registered a 20 per cent growth in bookings in the premium rental category and expect this trend to surge in the future.”

The growing shift towards personalisation and authenticity is beneficial for brands. Personalisation of services allow large markets to be segmented into smaller, addressable niches and paves the way for innovation, while the demand for greater authenticity improves the quality of service delivery and the end-customer experiences, he added.

Similarly, Chadha of Tirun believes that standardisation and personalisation are the name of the game today. “Seems like an oxymoron, but in fact they work together-you standardise experiences so there is consistency, and then personalise to meet demands of the consumers. Lets say, for our ship from Singapore, Indian food was a demand from consumers since India is a big source market for Singapore. We roped in Chef Ranveer Brar to deliver an authentic Indian cuisine experience, and have been appreciated for it.”

Digitally Yours Since millennials inhabit the digital realm, brands have started investing in the digital medium in order to form relationships with them. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are being leveraged to help in creating effective customer engagement. “Avis India has a digital-first approach with consumers. Currently, we generate over 70 per cent of our retail revenue from our mobile app and website. Emphasis is majorly on user-generated content, native advertising and branded content to maximise engagement,” Gupta added.

“Tirun witnesses maximum engagement across social media and the website. We have witnessed a 30 per cent increase in our digital queries this year, and a 25 per cent rise in online assisted conversion. Considering the same, 50 per cent of our budget is allocated towards digital platforms,” said Chadha.

Forevermark, the diamond brand from the De Beers Group, recently in a jewellery fair in Mumbai, leveraged digital technology to enhance the presentation of their collection. Their ‘Tribute Collection’, was presented through the Tribute Kiosk, which allowed visitors an opportunity to create their own virtual ring stack and place an order for it. To further enhance consumer engagement, De Beers is using virtual reality to understand store design by logging the consumers areas of attention. Once they understand this, the physical store is designed with a greater focus on key areas, where consumers expressed interest.

Stephen Lussier, chairman, Forevermark, said in the future, VR will become more about giving consumers a one of a kind experience. “For instance, through VR they could be taken to Botswana, and given a sense of where the diamond on their finger comes from. They could also be shown the positive impact of the work done by the De Beers Group around the mines.” In addition, the De Beers Group also uses digital technology to build a long-term connect with their consumers by focusing on enhancing aspects such as authenticity and trust through their Blockchain platform.

According to Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO, Diamond Producers Association, “Blockchain relies on distributed and decentralised public ledgers to limit the modification of data once it is logged. ALROSA and De Beers Group are using the TRACR pilot programme, which aims to apply blockchain technology to track diamonds through the value chain. TRACR is a shared database of transactions that can give each individual diamond a unique ID that stores its weight, colour, clarity and transaction history. This would mean that participating companies could trade, and consumers can enjoy diamonds with complete confidence about the origin and quality of their diamonds. This development is of importance for India too as it is the largest diamond processing hub.”

Technology such as Blockchain being adopted in the diamond industry/jewellery sector is a testament to the fact that brands are cognisant of consumer needs and are working towards establishing a long term connect with their consumers.

Just as personalisation and authenticity are important, ethics and sustainability have come to bear great influence on purchasing decisions of Millennials. This group of consumers want to align themselves with brands they believe are giving back to society and enriching the community in some way.

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