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Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO of DViO Digital
Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digital adoption.
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A look at consumer behaviour and marketing trends in Covid-19

Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digital adoption.
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  • Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO of DViO Digital writes how Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of adoption and achieved in two months what we may have otherwise done in 20 years.
  • She further writes what can brands expect and which way to steer their business.
As a marketer of brands and businesses across a variety of sectors, I have been keenly observing the shifts and changes as they happen through the pandemic crisis that engulfs us today. Also, being an integral part of board room discussions for clients (read: “Zoom-room”!) conversations on "what next" for businesses, some key observations and patterns that we see emerge!

While the degree of changes in all the above may vary, change is certain. What we do know is that we are entering an anxious new territory. What I do know is that businesses will need to be brave and demonstrate tremendous agility to survive and thrive in the coming times. Those who keep a keen eye out for their consumers and their changing lives will know exactly what to do or how to pivot, if and when required.

Let’s pause and look at the things we are doing differently and ask ourselves whether we are likely to continue doing differently:

  1. Are we likely to travel differently?
  2. Are we likely to buy differently?
  3. Are we likely to work differently?
  4. Are you likely to consume entertainment differently?
  5. Are we likely to eat differently?
  6. Are we likely to socialise differently?
  7. Are we likely to exercise differently?
  8. Are we likely to do healthcare differently?
  9. Are we likely to study differently?
The most dramatic change of all has been adoption of digital technology. The earlier shift to digital was at best a reluctant experiment for most businesses.

Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of adoption and achieved in two months what we may have otherwise done in 20 years.

So when travel, malls, retail outlets, universities, offices, gyms, healthcare clinics and restaurants return, what changes are they are likely to see?

According to a recent McKinsey report:

  • Net consumer optimism has declined. Consumers are spending more on essentials and not on discretionary categories.
  • Consumers are shifting to online and digital solutions as well as reduced-contact channels to get goods and services.
  • Consumers also want to see an ongoing emphasis on cleaning and safety.
  • Even though many countries have lifted stay-at-home restrictions, most consumers still feel the pull toward a “homebody economy.”
Among other trends that we may observe, the low-to middle-income groups are likely to cut down on their spending more deeply than the middle-to-high income groups, who are not likely to cut down on their spending but spend on things that really matter to them and become more mindful of their spending.

So coming to my original point, brands and businesses that have their ears and eyes open to their consumers will know which way to steer their business.

What to expect

Travel: As travel opens up, people will choose to go to places that they can drive to and not need to use a public transport vehicle (flights, trains, buses). Thus, your typical weekend destinations will benefit and local tourism economy will flourish. Homestays, Airbnbs and resorts spread over large areas with lower density of people and more private areas will do better.

Luxury travel is likely to take a new meaning. The aftermath of the shocks we encounter in life is typically pause and reflection. So also with this crisis, spiritual retreats, yoga retreats, wellness centres, meditation camps, and places that take you closer to nature are likely to take on the new definition of luxury.

Buying and retail: E-commerce will become the norm, if it hasn’t already. The deep adoption that’s already happened renders it impossible to revert to earlier ways of shopping.

With growth of e-commerce, the cost of going to market (GTM) for most brands in essentials, FMCG and wellness will reduce dramatically. More players will enter the market, offering stiff competition to established brands. The rate of innovation on products will be like never before

Most will enjoy experimenting with new products with brand loyalty becoming a transitioning phenomenon. Customer reviews will become the new currency to build loyalty.

For reasons I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, products that cue health and wellness, natural, immunity building and organic will do particularly well. The world will see more people turning to vegan and practising conscious eating.

As people spend more time at home, home décor brands are likely to innovate and offer products and solutions to refresh homes on a regular basis.

Healthcare and Hospitals: Telemedicine will finally become a reality. Doctors and hospitals would have adopted the digital wave like they probably never imagined.

Remote robotic surgeries will become the norm, and this technology will also open up a global market for the healthcare and hospitals industry.

Fitness: Home fitness will take centre stage. Fitness apps and online fitness classes will see an uptick. Products and equipments that encourage home fitness will also see higher demand on marketplaces. End-to-end online fitness solutions including delivery of health food will emerge.

Entertainment: Lastly, home entertainment businesses--OTT and music streaming platforms, and online live concerts—will see growth.

Advertisers and media planners will be working in an entirely new media ecosystem. OTT advertising, content partnerships, digital audio, and so forth.

At last digital based economy will become a real thing that means real business. Paying for digital experiences will become a reality. Of the pandemic shouldn’t have been a part of this deal.

What marketers should know

These testing times call for us marketers to go beyond business as usual. These are times for us to rethink, reinvent, and experiment with models of marketing.

Zero touch searches

I do believe voice search will evolve faster and so will adoption of voice search devices.

At DViO we have been rapidly optimising our clients’ businesses for voice search. When the industry is already projecting 50 % of searches using voice, it’s may be prudent to get your businesses optimised for voice.

Content for context: Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, there has been a dramatic change this year in the lives of everybody on earth. Never before has humanity unanimously experienced feelings of fear, stress, concern for loved ones and anxiety about the future.

So clearly, the old ways of communicating with consumers will be out of context, and will likely sound alien to most people. Any communication from brands needs to be viewed through the lens of the current lives of consumers.

The questions that brand managers need to ask themselves are: “Am I helping? Is my communication working towards improving the lives of people--even if only a tad? Is what I am sharing adding value directly or indirectly and addressing the concerns of my consumer?”

In order to align with these questions for our customers, at DViO, we are working to personalise every piece of communication to an unprecedented point of detailing the digital landscape.

Authenticity: For brands, this is also the right time to pause and reflect on their raison d’être. Purpose is like the North Pole that helps navigate through the roughest of seas. Whatever shifts you plan to make to your communication and marketing strategy, go back and make sure it aligns with the core purpose of why you exist in the first place.

Consumers will catch inauthentic communication faster than you can imagine. Anything you to do to simply "look good" simply won't fly.

Changes in the media landscape: Online video, social media, and news content will continue to enjoy high consumption. But in addition, the media landscape will witness a new ecosystem of channels, which includes OTT, digital audio, content partnerships etc. Media plans will need to be kept flexible to adapt to changes on the go.

Lastly, brands that win in the long run will connect authentically, demonstrate care for communities, and spread the much-needed positivity in the world today.