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Saahil Kumar, Head-Marketing, Sennheiser IndiaSennheiser India
The market is opening gradually and brands are rushing to address the pent-up demand
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We’re witnessing an overwhelming response for our premium offerings from smaller markets: Saahil Kumar, Sennheiser India

The market is opening gradually and brands are rushing to address the pent-up demand
  • As the markets are opening up gradually, brands across segments are working on addressing the pent-up demands. Consumer sentiments are slowly changing.
  • The festive season is round the corner, and many brands are coming up with innovative campaigns to make sure they are relevant to consumers.
  • Saahil Kumar, Head-Marketing, Sennheiser India talks to us about the brand's journey, and how it stayed connected with its consumers in the last few months.
  • He also says that along with demand from bigger cities, there is a lot of demand for their premium products from smaller towns too.
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The last few months have brought about a huge change in consumer behaviour. With people stuck at home, and consumer sentiments generally being on the negative side, people have been careful about spending their money.

When the pandemic hit, many industries came to a standstill, production was stopped and consumers were not buying anything. However, with restrictions being lifted gradually, some of the demand is coming back to the market and demand is going beyond just essential items.

So how are brands that are non-essential products reaching out to their consumers and making themselves relevant in their lives at a time when consumers are frugal?

We recently caught up with Saahil Kumar, Head-Marketing, Sennheiser India, who spoke to us about the changes in consumer behaviour during the past few months, and his expectation from and plans for the upcoming festive season.

Excerpts:

Q) The past few months have been difficult for organizations across the world. It has also brought about huge changes in consumer behaviour. What do you think are some of the biggest changes during the lockdown?
The on-going pandemic has changed consumers’ buying behaviour within the matter of a few days. As per a report by McKinsey, consumer optimism in India has declined since COVID-19 progressed. As restriction begins to lift, consumers continue to be worried about family safety. However, there has been a 44% increase in spending on home entertainment gadgets and consumers are increasingly turning to OTTs and music streaming apps. There was a major shift from spending on discretionary products to spending on essentials and health and hygiene products. Consumers are cautious about spending on non-essential goods and are willing to pay more for a proper sanitation procedure in public places.
Even the way of communication has changed drastically as digital solutions such as video conferencing and digital education has become the new norm. People are moving less yet being more efficient at work.

Q) How are you preparing, as a brand, for the post COVID world?
This pandemic has led to drastic changes in our lives. Coping with stress, anxiety, panic, running households and working ends up taking a heavy toll. Several brands are taking cautious measures before making any decisions in this dynamic market. The over planning of post COVID-19 decisions may turn out to be futile. What will become most important is how agile and resilient brands will be. This will play a huge role in determining how we move forward at the earliest and our ability to bounce back stronger.
This is the time for putting efforts and see if a brand can provide truly meaningful experiences to serve people. It presents us with an opportunity to come up with innovative ways of marketing and engage with our consumers in the most creative ways.

Q) Did marketing take a greater purpose during the last few months? Was there a change in your marketing strategies during these past few months?
Marketing has definitely taken a greater purpose during the last few months- considering the drastic changes in human behaviour owing to the on-going pandemic. During such unprecedented time, we have ensured to communicate with our consumers on quality, reliability and durability. Safety of the customers is of the utmost priority to us. Consumers have shifted their preference to online purchases; however, we are investing in omni-channel approach to provide customers on all the available choices for shopping. We are avoiding allocating spends for traditional BTL and events as consumers will avoid such gatherings and focusing more on engaging with customers digitally. Most of our planned events and other important announcements took place via digital platforms
Currently, we are understanding consumer behaviour to evolve our long-term strategies and are pro-actively reaching out and identifying consumer needs while understanding emerging patterns.

Q) What is the consumer demographics for your brand in terms of gender, geographies etc? Have you seen demand from smaller cities pick up in the last few years?
On the consumer demographics front, our customers are those who understand the dynamics of sound quality, who consume digital content, are fitness enthusiasts, and love outdoor activities such as cycling, running etc. In terms of geographies, while our focus is on consumers in Tier I cities, we are seeing traction from small markets as well.
As opposed to the contrary belief, the smaller markets have a huge appetite for premium segment products. Our premium range of products such as AMBEO Soundbar and Sennheiser MTW-2, have witnessed an overwhelming response from these markets. Consumers in India are developing the taste of good sound and are ready to invest and experience the unparalleled sound quality we provide.

Q) How are you looking at the festive season from a marketing perspective?
The market is opening gradually and brands are rushing to address the pent-up demand and are looking to incentivize both offline as well as the online channels. As per a report by IMF, India is expected to grow at 1.9% in 2020 before jumping to a 7.4% growth next year. There have been some early signs that show quick recovery for premium and luxury brands. Hence, brands are optimistic about recovery. Even consumer spending and consumption is expected to surge, however, the preference for buying can shift to online or stores in clean and sanitised areas like malls.

During the festive season sale, brands will promote special festive promotions to recover from business losses in early 2020 and to stimulate buying. Additionally, they are being careful but not pessimistic while forecasting for stocks and preparing the supply chain for the festive season. To continue with the supply chain for the festive season, Sennheiser came up with a special edition wireless headphone- HD 458BT with a special price and our stock sold out within two days during Amazon Prime Day sale. We also leveraged Amazon Freedom sale which received an overwhelming response on other products from the consumers. We are optimistic about the upcoming festivals as well.

Q) What were the challenges you faced as a marketer during the lockdown months?
Like any other brand, the pandemic led to dynamic changes at Sennheiser. Even the way of working and conducting businesses drastically changed. We started engaging with our customers via our social media platforms to keep them motivated in this challenging time. As a marketer, the major challenge for us was to reduce spending on ATL activities while continuing to engage with consumers.

Like any other industry, Sennheiser too has been navigating through the challenges. Every industry is impacted due to these unforeseen circumstances. However, in these challenging times, Sennheiser gave paramount importance to education. To support our customers, partners and stakeholders, we initiated a campaign called #DontStopTheEducation. Under this campaign, we had conducted more than 100 webinars (locally and globally put together). Our product managers are doing a brilliant job of training professionals in Hindi as well as regional languages. We also conducted local Round Tables involving prominent personalities from India- sharing their journey, career progression, learnings and experiences over the years, challenges faced, their workflow, approach, strategy, tips and tricks.

Q) What have some of your biggest learnings from this experience been?
The COVID-19 has disrupted how the world functions. We are currently dealing with a grappling health crisis which has impacted the economy radically. The biggest learning according to me is to never stop learning and upskilling yourself. This is the right time to learn a new hobby, follow your passion and enhance your skills which will not only be beneficial for you but will add to the overall productivity of your company. Another important learning experience is to constantly innovate. With the latest technology and AI in place, we can analyse the consumer consumption pattern in the new normal. With that analysis brands should be agile and resilient enough to evolve and meet consumers’ needs.

Sennheiser has given paramount importance to education. The company encouraged its employees to enhance their skills through various available online courses and even gratified those who completed their course. Small steps and initiatives like these will prove to be useful in the future.