Five months ago, the globe was unaware of something such as SARS-COV-2 or COVID-19 or Novel CoronaVirus. We slept in one world and woke in another. Amidst a lot of apprehensions, the market has witnessed rapid changes in recent times. There has been a major shift of the marketplace from offline to an online ecosystem owing to the shift in consumer behavior, buying patterns and demand.
One of the many challenges faced by marketers will be to foresee the customer needs, wants, expectations and buying decisions from here on and accordingly plan their marketing campaigns.
Although the pandemic has disrupted traditional ways of doing business, it is crucial to maintain fluidity in the work and as well as devise new ways to reach out to customers.
These are some of the changes in marketing that is prominently being followed by leading brands during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis: –
1.Increase in Digital Content:
Digital experience is replacing in-person experience. Many non-essentials commodity businesses are coming to a standstill owing to the fact that customers are limiting their expenses to essentials only.
Movies like Gulabo Sitabo is heading straight to OTT platforms for its release instead of releasing in theatres. It is evident that customers will be glued to their phones and desktops. All these facts and figures denote that brands now need to be on their toes to consider all the touchpoints relevant to their customers and make the most of it across digital platforms.
A lot of production activities have been halted giving rise for media companies to produce digital content more. Brands are benefitting from this scenario. Many of the not-so-popular companies also have gained popularity in the time period. Houseparty app is also gathering limelight because of ease-of-use and appealing features. OTT platforms are also making changes to their business plans to accommodate the huge demand for streaming video content online.
E-commerce majors that have been hit by the blows of the pandemic are finding new ways to stay in touch with their customers. This is a time to build customer loyalty for the long term. E-commerce majors like FirstCry, Nykaa, Myntra, BookMyShow, Flipkart, Amazon etc have moved to experiential marketing. Myntra has launched several quizzes, informational content, and gaming to connect with customers. BookMyShow has been live-streaming musical events, comedy shows, and panel discussions. Many businesses will need to restructure their business model to provide safety to their customers. Zomato is already preparing for a contactless dining experience with elimination of need for menu cards, bill books and avoidable interactions with the staff. Enhancing your brand as a purpose-led-one will be beneficial for your business.
3.Horizontal and Vertical Expansion of Businesses:
Swiggy has partnered with brands like HUL, P&G India, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., Dabur India Ltd., Marico Ltd., Vishal Mega Mart Pvt. Ltd., Adani Wilmar Ltd., Cipla Ltd. to supply branded essentials. Swiggy ‘Genie’ is one such initiative by the company towards new vertical expansions. It is general additional revenue by reaching out to retailers as well as customers.
Zomato has also followed suit and started delivering essentials through the ‘Zomato Market’. Flipkart entered the streaming platform by launching ‘Flipkart Video’ with the campaign Entertainer No 1, encouraging Indians to entertain from their home.
Automobile companies like Fiat and General Motors are using their car plants to create ventilators while Maruti Suzuki is also working out a plan to use their facilities to produce ventilators and PPEs.
Luxury fashion brands like Louis Vuitton are using their perfume distilleries to manufacture hand sanitizers.
This pandemic has given the brands the necessary push to revamp their marketing strategies and explore new possibilities.
4.Content marketing and change of Strategies:
And when it comes to content marketing, brands always need to walk a tightrope. And here is the catch! Content marketing worked wonders when Gillette came up with its ad campaign for Super Bowl commercials and failed miserably when Miracle Mattress started Twin-tower ad commercial post 9/11.
Aggressive marketing and cold sale pitches to cash in on the buyers in such situations will pose the brand image as insensitive and push the buyers further away and staying aloof will disconnect the brand from its customers. This short-sightedness will cost a lot more in the long run.
The Cost per impression on Facebook ads has dropped substantially. So, most brands have moved to Social media platforms for promotional activities. When content is in abundance, it is easy for brands to lose their edge. Brand differentiation comes into play in such a scenario and for that brands should not shy away from spending money on building credibility and relevance among the customers.
Below are some of the examples of brands killing it with content related to their product and at the same time promoting social distancing/stay home and supporting the lockdown: –
5. Data marketplace a possibility in the near future
An instance of how data played a key role during this pandemic is Apple providing data of users’ mobility from Apple maps that helped government and health officials to draw insights about the pandemic. Similarly Aarogya Setu app also became very popular in India, an initiative by the Govt of India.
Post-pandemic, data will be of essence. AI and machine learning are going to be the driving forces behind many businesses to thrive. The brands who have already performed their Business-IT alignment will be ahead in the race. Even in fashion industries, AI can be integrated to detect upcoming trends and customer preferences. It will also enable brands to hyper personalize their products. For example, Starbucks’ Deep Brew Platform makes coffee suggestions based on previous purchases, taste profile, weather etcetera. In the recent scenario, AI-powered companies are having a seamless operation of business. It is only a matter of days before AI is integrated into every industry becomes of utmost importance.
The pandemic has only shown how fragile and interconnected the system is. So, when the world goes back to work next month, there could be changes in Labour rates, data security, policies, governance, supply chain rules and so on. No amount of preparedness could have seen it coming. It is needless to say; the business is going to be “as-usual”. But then, it wasn’t the case too during the dotcom crash or global recession either. The Dotcom crash paved the way for the elimination of expensive and inefficient marketing tools and social media marketing took the forefront. Global recession found loopholes in the then existing financial system.
Now, digital disruption from time to time is no more an option but a necessity to stay afloat in the business. And if the brands are to survive this crash, this is the time to expand and diversify. In the words of Warren Buffet,
“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”
So, when the competitors are slowing down, the aim should be for expansion as putting all the eggs in one basket has never been a wise option. The result might not have an immediate return on investment, but the key is to look for the bigger picture. Always!