The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted businesses worldwide and industry-wide. Companies have had to incur huge losses due to hampered business operations amid quarantine restrictions, travel bans, event cancellations etc. A lot of uncertainty is floating around resulting in negative economic sentiments among the people. Amid this crisis, companies are eagerly revisiting their branding and communication strategies at priority with an intention to keep up the morale of their employees and develop a positive outlook with customers. It is important for marketers to understand this dynamic consumer market to effectively revamp marketing strategies and gear up for the post-covid world.
Understanding Consumer Patterns
The lockdown has given a shock to the existing system with changes in consumer behaviour, mindset and attitudes. MIT Sloan Management Review reported some interesting trends with one being a decrease in shopping frequency and increase in the average basket size. The biggest beneficiaries of this trend have been grocery delivery brands. These brands have set out to put order cut-off times and specific delivery hours. Some have even executed minimum order value on deliveries. This has pushed the consumers to order more quantities at once and within the time frame due to the fear of losing out.
Consumers are also showing “willingness to try new brands” citing reasons such as “favourite or regular brand was out of stock”. FMCG companies like Unilever, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Dabur and ITC Limited are struggling to keep up with the increased demand of consumers who are “stocking up products” due to the lockdown. Due to this, consumers have had to try newer brands which has opened opportunities for unicorns companies to develop a market base.
Changes in consumer shopping patterns coupled with changes in product availability necessitates their increased willingness to shop new products. These products might not be usually on their lists or they try brands they would have otherwise hesitated to. Understanding these emerging consumer patterns is essential to developing a relevant marketing strategy.
Long-Term Loyalty or just Immediate Respite ?
Given the unprecedented situation, brands and companies worldwide are struggling to cope with conditions that go beyond the playbook. So are the consumers. Desperate times call for desperate measures. While the lockdown might be forcing consumers to explore beyond their usual shopping lists, it is important to gauge the longevity of these consumers.
Repeat Purchase and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) have long been key metrics for marketers. These metrics are used to analyse the market share and brand value as results of marketing campaigns. The normal standard one would believe is to see whether the consumer is willing to defer a purchase due to non-availability of the preferred brand. However, few companies are willing to put their consumers to this test. Covid-19 has perfectly and naturally set the stage for this test. Brands are pushed into the rink irrespective of their willingness where their marketing efforts are put to a reality check.
Healthcare products like Dettol and other pharmaceutical companies have been the biggest gainers of this. But industries like fashion, entertainment and few categories of consumer goods are most exposed, primarily due to the nature of products.
Empathy Over Economy
There is a lot of unrest and confusion among consumers and businesses. People are more concerned with how you conduct your business than what your business is. Your consumers’ image of your brand during this time will strongly impact on how successful your business is once things begin to normalise. Consumers are looking out for brands that are empathetic to the current situation, feel socially responsible and are going all-out to stand with the affected.
Messaging, brand positioning and design can play a key role in how consumers view your brand. These marketing strategies are a strong way to communicate the brands’ outlook. Just showcasing the product is not enough anymore. Consumers have more disposal time at hand to interact with the brand. As a result, brands are using this time to communicate the core brand values and build a community around their brand identity.
Strongest examples of this are the aviation and hospitality industries where we see companies showing larger concerns for the industry rather than their own interests alone. We see companies marketing dreamy holiday locations in an attempt to sell the underlying thought of their product and stay relevant.
One cannot stress enough on how brands need to revisit, redo and refresh their marketing strategies. All traditional marketing concepts and theories are irrelevant in the current situation in their original forms. Companies are analysing their marketing efforts to suit the current situation. Those who will come out successful at the other end of the tunnel are the ones who will adapt and innovate with the situation and restrategise. There is no other way.
Turn your conference rooms into think tanks. Open your boards to newer ideas. And market yourself like you never have. Because in the end, all that matters is who you are and what makes you so unique.