Vikram Ahluwalia, Director – Marketing, SRL Diagnostics says that in uncertain and unpredictable times, the most humane thing we can do is be empathetic
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has touched every aspect of our lives, both at professional and personal levels. As the pandemic confines billions of people in their homes – keeping customers away from brick and mortar retail stores, businesses are caught off guard with the new challenges to tackle. Diagnostics Industry, despite being at the centre of the disease management, is no different. Even though there has been a surge in Covid-19 testing during the last few months, that hasn’t been enough to offset a decline in all other types of laboratory tests. Today, we are living in a world where volatility and uncertainty have become the New Normal. Hence, companies are adopting strategies to efficiently tackle the new challenges, and these must be implemented at unprecedented speed to emerge as winners from this crisis.
Owing to the ongoing crisis, a lot of the businesses worldwide have undergone massive transformation, including consumer behavior. The intense compulsion to adapt to this change has in fact, led the entire digital ecosystem across companies to have catapulted over five years ahead in their consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of just three months. While the timely implementation of the digital service experience is being duly appreciated, we cannot deny the value of personalized services right away. The importance of a human touch will always be valued highly. Reliable connectivity, a mature E-commerce ecosystem with faster deliveries is enabling the digitally savvy population to quickly shift to online for their shopping needs. However, the pandemic has resulted in a slight shift in the paradigm of what we consider to be essentials. Hygiene products have entered this category, whereas industries like apparel have shifted to discretionary. And with more consumers spending time online, marketing communications and consumer touchpoints are now moving to the virtual space. The current crisis has also made it hard for any industry to market aggressively without being accused of insensitivity. So, a softer tone with more relevant messaging emphasizing consumer wellbeing, highlighting the safety of staff and the quality of the product is the need of the hour for any B2C service industry. From messaging around a mother’s protective shield to highlighting the need to care for restaurant staff, online food platforms have understood this well and have launched campaigns that would convince customers to start ordering again.
As social distancing is going to remain on everyone’s mind for a while, in diagnostics space, home collection services are expected to grow. What will set companies apart is, the human aspect that comes in the form of touch, empathy and even soft skills, involved in the home collection services. Testing laboratories are embracing methods that not only expand their reach within the audience but also engage with them mentally and emotionally. A full-stack integration of various marketing, social media and digital tools are increasingly gaining traction. Lab websites are also proactively updated with new details, as there are limitations to traditional advertising in the current situation. Though social media and SMS campaign marketers in diagnostics are trying to remind consumers of the safety precautions taken during a home collection and can disseminate information to a larger set of people.
For years now preventive healthcare was by and large losing out the attention it deserved, the pandemic, in just a few months, has resulted in a change in consumer lifestyles, with an increased focus on preventive care remedies. There has been a surge in demand for immunity-boosting supplements, including chyawanprash, Ayurvedic medicines, vitamin C, fish oils, multivitamins and mineral supplements, as consumers pursue different ways to combat the virus and shift priorities on inner wellbeing. This has also helped diagnostics companies in moving the consumers’ focus towards immunity check-up packages. These tests assess a patient’s immune status and can assist both the patient and doctor to estimate his/her risk of infection and its outcome.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affirmed businesses, that those who have already been investing in Industry 4.0 technologies are better prepared in scenarios like these. Therefore, large diagnostics players like SRL are gearing up to ride the trend wave and serve their customers by introducing mediums like Whatsapp for Business to share test reports. This also has been useful in reducing patients’ waiting times and hence minimizing crowd in the public waiting areas of labs, thus safely implement social distancing.
Marketers have always faced these challenges and changes, yet they now face it with greater vigour and urgency than ever before. These challenges called for a radical transformation, in fact nothing less than a paradigm shift in the art and science of marketing to meet the universal challenges of emerging times and sustaining a competitive edge. The key is to be cautious, yet bold enough to stare right into the eyes of a storm. Digital service excellence is the need of the hour, but it is equally important to keep the human aspect of the service intact, hence we have to combine the best of both worlds. These are uncertain times for consumers and companies alike, and everybody is apprehensive about the unpredictability of the future. The most humane thing we can do in these trying times is be empathetic for the humanity’s sake.