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How Urban Company’s continued focus on safety and targeted communication is making people open their doors to the brand
Urban Company is already seeing a resurgence in demand in most of its servicesYoutube/screenshot
Tarun Menon, Director-Marketing, Urban Company told us about all that the brand is doing to win back consumer's trust

How Urban Company’s continued focus on safety and targeted communication is making people open their doors to the brand

Tarun Menon, Director-Marketing, Urban Company told us about all that the brand is doing to win back consumer's trust
  • Despite it being a year when people are social distancing and staying away from socializing or meeting friends and relatives, Urban Company has managed to convince people about the safety of its services, thereby resulting in people welcoming them into their homes.
  • It is this focus on safety and also the brand's continuous reiteration of its safety protocols in its communications that has won people's trust. It is already witnessing a resurgence in demand in most of its services categories.
  • Tarun Menon, Director-Marketing, Urban Company spoke to us about all that the brand has been doing to get back into the hearts and homes of its consumers in this difficult year.
Home services marketplace Urban Company (UC) has a good run so far this year. Not only has it seen good recovery in business during the various unlock phases, the platform also expects to see its revenue double in the current fiscal over last year.

While the first few months of the lockdown meant that there was a complete shutdown for its business, owning to the fact that it offers in-home services, things are slowly falling into place now as consumers are again opening up to the idea of letting people into their homes. What is helping the brand get back on its feet is the fact that it has been focusing on offering safe at-home services and has been using its marketing campaigns to convey messages around how safe its services are. With the help of a brand ambassador like Ayushmann Khurrana who people connect with instantly, the brand has been able to win over its consumers’ trust and is already seeing positive results.

In a recent conversation with Ad & Media Insider, Tarun Menon, Director-Marketing, UC walked us through all that the brand has been doing to get back into the hearts and homes of its consumers.

The year so far

The year has been challenging for most businesses across the world. However, what differentiates the ones who have been able to bounce back from the ones that are still struggling to find their footing is their agility and the rate at which they were able to adapt to changing consumer sentiments and demands.

Owing to the fact that UC offers in-home services, it meant that it would take the platform some convincing before people opened up their doors to the platform’s partners. However, things have been moving in a positive direction for the past few months as the brand has been witnessing consistent growth. Urban Company Co-founder Varun Khaitan stated in a recent interview that despite the months of lockdown, they are already crossing their pre-COVID peak by more than 30%. He also shared his optimism about seeing 2X growth in FY21 over FY20.

On how things were right after the lockdown, and during the early phases of Unlock, Menon told us, “The first 2 months were quite a struggle, like all other businesses. However, the first categories that started to pick up were the ones that could be deemed as essential services, like plumbing, electricians, carpenters and subsequently appliance repairs.”

Across the width of categories that UC is present in, there are some for which the pandemic provided tailwinds to and there were others for which the negative consumer sentiments acted as headwinds. UC had launched men’s grooming and haircuts at home in the last quarter of 2019. “That is a category that has seen tremendous growth in the past few months and its actually buoyed our business significantly,” Menon added.

However, the platform has had to work tremendously hard on categories like Salon at home, owing to the fact that it is a high proximity service. That’s where its advertising has helped it win its consumers’ trust back.

The brand launched its ‘UC Safe Salon campaign’ which comprised TVCs featuring TV actors like Neena Kulkarni and Shweta Tiwari who had themselves availed UC services. The aim was to spread the message about how safe its salon at home option was.

“Following the launch of the campaigns, we've seen resurgence across all categories, some obviously moving faster than the others. And it's a function of sentiment and maturity across categories. To give you a sense of where we are relative to July, our salon category has grown by about 50-56% and that's been on the back of structural problem-solving, to deliver on the core quality of experience and safety. We’ve re-skinned the way we talk about ourselves in our communications,” he explained. The team built video communication for each of its services on its app to assure people about their safety protocols. And all these videos featured Tiwari. People responded to the videos, owing to the fact that Tiwari as a brand is relatable and trustworthy. The effort has also been towards coming up with offerings that drive value for consumers in the salon category. “Initiative like Super Saver Week and Salon Spree have helped us meet our monthly targets for the salon category,” he added.

He also added that the pandemic provided tailwinds to the men’s grooming category which has seen around 57% growth since July and is coming close to the salon category in terms of volumes.

Of new users and markets

While the salon at home category had been a winner for UC, it launched its Men’s grooming services right before the lockdown. And owing to the fact that salons had to be shut for a long time, once the unlock process started, the brand saw a lot of demand for the men’s grooming services. And all of the people using these services are new users. It is also witnessing good demand for other services like painting and professional cleaning.

And is the platform witnessing more demand from smaller cities? “A significant portion of our business still continues to remain in urban cities. However, our focus has also been on building demand in Tier II cities. We have tried to build relevance at a regional level through our influencer marketing programs, specifically in the salon and men's grooming business. On the salon business, through the month of September, we've worked with about 165 micro-influencers who have a following between the range of 5000- 50,000 but are locally relevant. The aim has been to drive resonance of salience on the message that UC salon services exist in your city, to reiterate our safety protocols and to introduce our roll-on waxing,” explained Menon.

UC has also been trying to talk to the slightly older audience, to again assure them about the safety of their offerings, however, the demand is still being driven by the younger audience.

Marketing strategies during and post lockdown

Usually during the times of crisis, marketing budgets are the first to be cut off. For UC too, the marketing budgets were put on hold for the first two months of the pandemic. “However, once we saw some supply return to the platform, and there was a certain demand to supply ratio where demand was lagging, we activated our marketing budgets. It's been about tracking our numbers and coordinating with the rest of business to identify moments, categories and regions, in terms of building where demand needs to be built,” he explained.

It is also spending its marketing monies in a phased manner. “Today we might be slightly below par to where we were pre-pandemic in terms of our marketing spends and that’s a conscious choice. We are spending and have invested on IPL. However, right now its more about optimizing our spends with a view of what the cost of conversion is, and build that based on the structural changes we’ve made to our business, to focus on quality and safety. The larger belief is that if we get these two things right and are able to drive it in a credible, demonstrable way when it comes to experiences, that in turn will lead to repeat business, and even word-of-mouth,” said Menon.

TV and Digital continue to be the biggest spends for the platform. During the IPL, the brand launched a campaign with its brand ambassador of 2 years, Ayushmann Khurrana.

The vision for Urban Company

UC, which was formerly known as UrbanClap, was founded in 2014 with a handful of service professionals. In the last 6 years, the platform has diversified its business and has also expanded to global markets like Australia, Singapore, and the UAE.

So where will the next phase of growth for UC come from? “There are several things we have been discussing, like introduction of new services within each category or the tier-ization of services to appeal to different price points and consumer sets. The company's ethos is to pilot, learn, iterate, fail fast, and then deploy. So there are active pilots across each of these, whether it is service expansion, depth of service or segmentation exercise,” shared Menon.