How brands can build for Covid-19 and beyond

While responding with urgency to the pandemic and the need to re-build businesses, understanding the consumers’ changing behaviours and mindsets is critical to help ascertain which changes will be permanent

Updated: Jul 16, 2020 06:41:03 PM UTC


Image: Shutterstock

The world has changed dramatically in the last few months. Our priorities and our concerns now reflect our heightened needs of well-being, economic sustenance, and social connections. Mobile connectivity has created gateways to content and communities while the massive digital acceleration has made this access available to a majority of the world, allowing for more communities and businesses to connect in ways not thought of before. Whether it is education or healthcare, information or entertainment, immersive mobile experience has brought access and continuity to the lives of billions despite the physical constraints.

Digitally influenced purchases are on the rise

While responding with urgency to the pandemic across multiple fronts and tackling the dynamic choices we are all facing to re-build businesses, understanding the consumers’ changing behaviours and mindsets is critical to help ascertain which changes will be permanent. This is crucial so businesses can build structurally around those changes, while responding tactically to other concerns and opportunities.

The ongoing Facebook India-Boston Consulting Group research study, ‘Turn The Tide’ helps unbundle consumer shifts to three buckets: Reversal of past trends that have now led to bringing the outside in-home, and have also resulted in the increasing value consciousness amongst people; acceleration of ongoing trends—significantly increased mobile influence in every aspect of life; and formation of new habits such as DIY and those around health and hygiene. Of these, the acceleration of the ongoing trend towards digital adoption, and the rise of the smart shopper are clearly structural and have deep implications for business processes and results.

Industry specific deep-dives into India’s largest consumer categories—consumer packaged goods, apparel, and smartphones—all of which have deep offline retail networks, further confirm that digitally influenced purchases have increased significantly by 15-20 percent in urban consumers in just three months. This figure is now up to 70 percent for mobile phones and 55-60 percent for apparel. What’s interesting is that even when consumers are choosing either offline (mass retail) or online (websites, ecommerce) channels for fulfilment, they are now engaging with brands and businesses on their smartphones. These interactions span reviews, expert and influencer opinion, and business pages and ads, among others.

Driving Business Impact

In response to consumers embracing the digital medium, businesses now have the tools in three response sets to build for the new consumer journeys across the path-to-purchase:

Pre-Purchase: With physical distancing and safety concerns, a significantly reduced number of consumers are likely to walk into a store to experience the product and make a purchase. Therefore, more virtual experiences need to be built to replicate in-person experiences.

Purchase: With the unprecedented shift in consumers’ media consumption towards mobile, it is imperative to re-evaluate media mix models to target consumers efficiently. Whether digital-native or traditional, every business needs to ask afresh the question of incremental outcomes by platform as well as cross-platform efficiency in driving both brand image and sales. Industry-leading cross media tools such as custom mix modelling (CMM) by Nielsen can help businesses allocate the right media mix across digital and traditional media for sales uplift in traditional trade.

Businesses are also using new channels to fulfil consumer demand. With the rise in demand for in-home snacking during lockdown, Cadbury Chocolates went direct-to-consumer leveraging their own website to bring consumers’ favourite snacking brands right to their doorstep.

Post-Purchase: With physical distancing, it’s even more essential to stay in touch with the customer and continuously eliminate friction in the path-to-purchase. Conversational solutions and digital CRM tools can help to engage with the consumers at every stage of their journey, including post-purchase. To illustrate, Vodafone now drives customer connect at scale with a Whatsapp service solution.

Crises are known to transform consumer behaviour. The clearest long-term business impact of Covid-19 is likely to be around increased digital consumption and influence. The foundation of the strongest post-Covid businesses is getting established right now, and the businesses that build for this change in their consumer strategy will be best placed to win.

Sandeep Bhushan is the Director and Head of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook India

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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