Alok Kohli, Business Director – DSM India says that even as consumers control discretionary spends, marketers should prepare for the long haul as a W-shaped recovery may be most likely
The unexpected coronavirus outbreak has completely disrupted business operations as we knew them just months ago. Unprecedented challenges are confronting most businesses worldwide. Conversely, unseen opportunities are also arising for some verticals.
Despite market uncertainty and depressed demand, marketers with their ear to the ground stand a better chance of surviving and thriving in the post Covid-19 world. As brands pull back on spends, there is a need to make every rupee spend deliver on its ROI. Savvy marketers should see how conversations are evolving around their brands and categories.
For instance, in the new normal, is shopper or consumption behaviour changing? The case of toilet paper sales during Covid-19 is well known, the shopper behaviour changed but ‘consumption’ didn’t. While there are no cut-and-dried answers in a volatile and evolving market situation, broad overviews can be deciphered from the ongoing crisis. To begin with, consumers are eliminating discretionary spends and focussing on essentials, immunity and do good categories are getting tailwinds. Understanding how it changes for your brand category can help tailor conversations.
Due to lockdown restrictions, brick-and-mortar outlets and malls are expected to have lower footfalls. Even with restrictions being eased, customers will limit in-store shopping in the near future. As a result, e-commerce and digital platforms will witness soaring sales. Apart from digital platforms, mom-and-pop stores have bounced back strongly too. Customers now prefer the convenience and relative safety of shopping in small grocery and convenience stores. Being close to residential enclaves, small kirana stores offer ease of access and quick deliveries while being relatively devoid of the rush seen in large formats.
Considering the expanding Covid-19 crisis, it has become imperative for marketers to relook at their overall communications approach towards consumers. It is important to reach the target audience with empathy, tact and mindful marketing. Accordingly, brand communication must be tweaked by taking into account consumer apprehensions and preferences in the emerging new normal.
Though the current pandemic is global, its impact remains extremely local. Therefore, while speaking to consumers and managing the brand, marketers need to consider customising the campaign as per specific segments/regions. For instance, in driving our messaging to make it more relevant for different Nu-Shakti segments, we executed customised conversations with consumers. In the recent immunity building campaign, we have been highlighting the role of various micronutrients important for building immunity. Thereby, the benefits of providing nutritious home-cooked meals that address micronutrient deficiencies are explained in detail to information seekers. Simultaneously, in empowering the young mother’s community, our Mother’s Day campaign recognised their role in the pandemic. Both campaigns were well received with significant engagement.
Also, the importance of honest conversations with consumers cannot be discounted. I was floored by an e-commerce brand that stated supply was disrupted and they would take orders only after inventory was received. In contrast, others took orders and delivered when they could. There is no right or wrong way here, but my respect and loyalty for the first brand moved up quite a few notches. Transparent conversations, especially in trying times, build brand trust.
Finally, marketers must prepare for a W-shaped recovery. As the WHO asserted recently, while the Covid-19 curve may have flattened in some geographies, a second wave is most likely. Therefore, the world cannot afford complacency. Instead, consumers and marketers need to prepare for another wave that may take some time in peaking.
Consequently, marketers should be ready for the long haul, basing business models or recovery plans on a W scenario. Being forewarned is forearmed. This holds equally true for marketers and consumers.