The current global health crisis has required us to adapt to the unexpected. With the very fabric of our social interaction being torn apart, and our economy left struggling to keep up, we have had to learn how to reinvent ourselves as well as our businesses. As we all try to cope with this, many organisations have learned that in order to survive, they need to adapt to a world where we are connected online almost exclusively and entirely.
The shift to digital is highly evident across sectors like retail, finance and health. In the initial months, with the lockdown imposing restrictions on movement, retail shops and stores suffered a major hit because of their heavy reliance on walk-in customers. In response, many retail businesses jumped on the tech-wagon to continue serving their customers and keep their businesses running. A number of doctors have moved to online consultation to people in need, while maintaining a safe distance. E-pharmacies are also transforming the pharmacy market in the country.
The banking sector has also scaled up their use of technology. Banks like HDFC and the State Bank of India among others, quickly ramped up their digital offerings to provide seamless experiences to customers. Recognising the potential for people to buy cars due to a lack of public transportations options available, HDFC recently announced an industry-first partnership with Hyundai to offer end-to-end online auto financing services.
All of this also means there has been a shift in terms of how businesses reach their consumers. Not surprisingly, data released by Nielsen and BARC reported that in the month of April, internet usage in Indian cities went up to 54 percent. As people stay at home, they’re more exposed to digital advertising as compared to traditional mediums such as out-of-home (OOH) and print. As a result, businesses have been responding by diverting their energies and resources to digital platforms, as that is where the consumers spending more of their time.
Innovation fueled by the pandemic
While a number of industries and businesses were propelled to improve their digital operations, others that were already driven by technology embraced the opportunity to innovate and provide simpler, more relevant experiences to customers. From integrating at an operational level to finally engaging with the customer, technological innovation has been at the core of several industries. These industries are integrating technology in their line of business to cater to the current demand and also looking into the future to establish sustained business models in case it happens again.
Businesses like Zomato and Swiggy that provide food delivery services from restaurants, diversified their business models, or at least escalated their plans, by including additional services such as delivering vegetables and groceries so that people wouldn’t have to step out into the risk of the outdoors.
Another great example is the OTT sector, which is one of the few industries that has innovated exceptionally in this time and benefited from unprecedented growth. A November 2018 report by the Boston Consulting Group noted that the OTT segment in India, currently pegged at $0.5 billion, is poised to grow to $5 billion by 2023. This opportunity has only magnified under lockdown.
Streaming platforms are continuously enhancing customer experiences with new content, and are also hosting major movie releases digitally, which would otherwise happen on the big screen. Disney+ Hotstar is an example worth mentioning here. While theatres may be opening soon, the platform has capitalised on people’s general wariness to venture out of their homes by launching the Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex, announcing the livestream of seven big-ticket Bollywood movies that were slated to release in theatres.
Automotive businesses, which saw significant drops in their sales, have picked up the pace again by optimising technology to create virtual launches and innovative sales experiences online. Hyundai made quite the splash when launching the all-new Creta by bringing the complete event experience online. The brand’s launch of its new Tucson through a Twitter live stream received massive attention from audiences. Further improving their customer experience offerings, auto brands such as Mercedes-Benz are also digitising their sales options to ensure immediate, convenient, and contactless transactions.
Technology companies have not been immune. For example, Microsoft has been continuously adapting their tools to help organisations to keep employees connected as more people work from home.
Consumption patterns in a tech-enabled future
Along with enabling innovation and ensuring sustainability, technology is increasingly determining consumers’ buying behaviours. While this wasn’t triggered by Covid-19, the pandemic escalated the pace and increased the amount of choice available to consumers, making them more cautious about where they spend their rupees.
Customers are spending more time in the virtual space and are actively seeking information that defines their purchase behaviour. As this behaviour evolves and strengthens, businesses will have to get better at how they deliver these choices to their consumers.
One way this will translate is through a greater integration with Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR). Finally, digital transactions, which have been on the rise in recent times, will also witness exponential growth. According to a research report by RedSeer Consulting, digital payments in India are expected to grow over three-folds to Rs 7,092 trillion by 2025, on account of government policies around financial inclusion and the growing digitisation of merchants.
Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see how technology becomes even more ubiquitous in our lives and livelihoods, as the Indian industrial landscape continues to brave these unprecedented times.
The author is the managing director of Twitter India