Marketers! Brace for the pandemic impact
By : Pravin Vijay
Assistant Vice President-Marketing
Corona outbreak is one of the biggest and dreadful black swan events that has ever happened in the history of mankind. It is spreading at a rapid pace too, impacting almost all the countries and industries globally. The extent of economic impact and recovery however could vary for each industry. Hospitality business is almost shutdown completely, whereas Telecom service providers are hit marginally. There has been some disruption to the Telco’s supply chain and operations with the shutdown of retail stores and call centers. But analysts believe that Telecom industry will stand to gain in short term from the increasing use of data and in the long run from an apparent shift in consumption behavior.
Market turbulence from shifting consumer behavior
Marketers need to prepare themselves for a new world order, where consumers are being impacted by the growing concerns of pandemic outbreak and economic recession.
With the enforcement of outbreak containment measures like lockdown and social distancing, consumers irrespective of age group or financial status are going to increasingly choose, buy and avail products and services digitally. It is no longer just another choice of channel to engage or a channel preferred only by the millennial segment, but has emerged as a lifeline for Gen-C to stay connected and survive in the world as we are seeing during this pandemic crisis.
Consumers will get choosy and buying decisions are driven more by ‘the need of the hour’ and ‘value for money’ than by comfort and luxury. Analysts predict that sales of big ticket items like cars, home, travel plans is expected to come down by more than 50%.
Crowd fear is pushing consumers to favor delivery and consumption of services – shopping or dining or entertainment more at home. This will tempt even the local stores to establish home delivery and digital infrastructure to support taking up orders online and for receiving payments online.
And then consumer preferences are also expected to change on a short notice as this is quite an unprecedented time, even one fake news could drastically change the consumer demand.
Brace for the impact
Marketers need to think about ways and means to keep the customer engagement on during this difficult time. They cannot keep communicating usual marketing messages as if nothing has changed around; that can potentially hurt customers and make them disengaged. At the same time marketers cannot remain silent and wait for Pandemic crisis to get over to engage with customers, which can potentially lead to customers leaving them. It needs a balanced approach.
Here are a few things marketers can do immediately:
Stay connected with consumers: Reach out to consumers proactively. Regular updates can show you care and are there for them. Also hear customers out – keep channels of engagement such as emails or digital channels open, to understand what your customers need, their changing behavior and wants, and how you can help them during this challenging time.
Be sensitive to the emotional context: Carefully craft marketing communication not only for the business context but also for the emotional context. Also when you are trying to approach consumers for marketing, please take their emotions and sentiments also into consideration. Treatment also need to vary accordingly as per the emotional state of mind. Consumers will feel more connected when we stay relevant and orchestrate experiences respecting their emotions.
Predict and act fast: As consumers tend to change their behavior and needs often even on a day, marketers need to keep their prediction engine always on to forecast these changes and act accordingly. You need to adjust your offers and services quickly as per the predicted behavior change. This needs adoption of technologies like AI/ML.
Prepare to emerge stronger
Engagement with consumers’ today demand contextually sensitive communication and actions based on the need of the hour. However marketers also need to prepare for post-pandemic era, understand the market realities evolving like shifts in consumer buying behavior and growing affinity for digital channels and get ready to adapt to the dynamics quickly and smoothly.