In these times, brands need to build on the foundation of trust: Hemant Mehta, Kantar

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On the launch of ‘The New Indian Consumer Report’, Mehta, MD, Insights Division & CSO, South Asia, Kantar, shares insights on consumer behaviour & strategies brands should adopt in the ‘new normal’

The Covid-19 pandemic not only affected businesses all over the world, but has also led to significant changes in consumer behaviour. In an attempt to gauge these effects and impacts, Kantar has released ‘The New Indian Consumer Report’. The report captures critical aspects like consumer mindset, category consumption, entertainment, shopping and online behaviour, social media consumption, health and fitness habits, and sentiments on returning to the ‘normal life’.

In a chat with exchange4media, Hemant Mehta, Managing Director, Insights Division & Chief Strategy Officer, South Asia, Kantar, shares the key findings of the report, the main shifts in consumer behaviour, strategies that brands and marketers need to adopt for effective communication, and other insights.

The report has been formulated as a result of a study with a sample size of 10,000 urban consumers in 15-55 age groups; across 15 Indian states.


What have been the key takeaways from the report in terms of consumer sentiment and behaviour?

What marketers and brands need to recognize is that they are dealing with a consumer who has changed both in terms of behaviour and values. The consumers are extremely worried about their health, and today, security and safety are paramount. There is also an added element of economic uncertainty, apprehensiveness and worry about job losses and salary cuts. The other aspect that the brands have to recognize is that the consumer is re-bonding with the family and there is a larger purpose as far as the community is concerned.

The consumer is a lot more knowledgeable when compared to before the pandemic. They are spending time researching on what is important to them and have also acquired and learnt new skills during this period. This is an important aspect that brands need to pay attention to.

The third behavioural change is that the consumer is seeking convenience. With restricted movement, consumers now expect products and services to be delivered to them, and this will have a big impact on the distribution of products or services. Also, the needs of the consumers – be it education, work and even transactions – are now managed digitally. The consumers have collectively undergone a spree of changes which are getting ingrained.

Therefore, brands need to recognize these changes and tailor their offerings or strategies to deliver to their audience. They are now talking to an evolved and educated consumer and brands need to build on the foundation of trust by giving consumers what they need at this point in time. Brands now will need to justify why they are better than other brands as they are talking to a different consumer.

They also need to build a strategy to see where they will find the consumer and how to reach out to the consumer through the media and distribution channel. It’s a very anxious consumer from an economic perspective, as our surveys show that 72% of urban Indians have been economically impacted by Covid. Consumers are looking at managing their wallet, budget and lifestyle that they lead with lesser money. In that case, brands need to see how they can add value so that the consumer selects them and this is the key message for marketers.


The report also states that brand loyalty has taken a beating, can you elaborate on this?

Brand loyalty has taken a beating due to two main factors. During the lockdown, access to products was a big concern. In this scenario, if a consumer’s regular favourite brand was not available, the consumer looked at and experimented with other brands that were available. Then came the second phase where there were salary cuts and job losses. This led to consumers looking for value and balancing their budget. It’s not like trust has eroded, but there were extraneous circumstances which forced consumers to experiment with other brands.  That is where brand loyalty has taken a beating. But I am sure that once things stabilize, people will go back to the brands that they trust.


How would you compare the sentiment in metros viz-a-viz non-metros?

If you look at the overall sentiment, metros have been impacted more. In the smaller towns, the economic opportunities weren’t impacted as much. The dependence on corporate sector in metros is higher and people here are far more cautious and worried.

There are two distinct things that we noticed: People above 45 are worried about their jobs and the continuity of their jobs. On the other hand, the youth entering the workforce are worried about two things, job opportunity and whether they are skilled enough to be absorbed in a company and if there is enough demand.


How do you expect the consumer sentiment to evolve in 2021?

I wish I had a crystal ball and I could give you an answer because we are living in uncertain times. The situation is evolving on a daily basis. If you go by some of the indicators that we see in terms of how the economic activity has picked up, there are reports that companies have rolled back salary cuts. There are also reports about government stimulus. Personally, I believe we will see a positive movement coming back. If you were to ask me whether it’s going to happen in the next three months or six months, I will be very circumspect putting a timeline. All indicators are looking positive as people try to get back to their daily lives, but again, it’s an evolving situation. However, if we have another wave or there is a spike in the new cases, this will impact the sentiment.

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Ritika Raj & Simran Sabherwal

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