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How Uncertain Times Have Ushered In A New Digital Era
Indians have clocked almost four hours per week per person on video-on-demand, and searches for “best movies” have increased by 35% on YouTube, in the report by Think with Google.
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The past few months have been exceedingly challenging, overhauling the very mechanics of our lives and transforming it in every possible manner – right from the way we work, learn and communicate, to the way we shop, pursue wellness and derive entertainment. Notwithstanding this, our zest for life as consumers has impelled us to swiftly embrace new technology and adopt new behaviours for our survival, proving that the human spirit is indomitable and capable of surpassing what once were regarded to be conventional limitations, that defined the boundaries of the sundry facets of our existence.
In the meantime, life through intermittent lockdowns and restrictions has been far from endearing, and consumers across age segments have found a new oasis of life in the digital world. With many brick-and-mortar stores remaining shuttered, the consumer’s adoption towards usage of digital channels has accelerated, registering a 47% uptick in data usage as per OpenVault's Broadband Insights Report. Accustomed to the ‘anything, anywhere and on-demand’ trend in need-fulfilment, the Indian consumer is undergoing a pronounced transition, gravitating towards a hassle-free, convenient lifestyle. In a nutshell, the ongoing crisis, through which consumers are seeking agile ways of working, has orchestrated a new cadence in life while setting several ecosystem-level changes in motion. Think with Google has stated that this is corroborated through growth in online searches for daily essentials, grocery delivery, medical consultation, movie streaming, online trading platforms, and several other needs.
Shopping in e-carts
As the global pandemic marks a tipping point for adoption of e-commerce and mobile commerce platforms, online searches, for example, for “pharmacy near me” (+58%) and “grocery delivery near me” (+550%), among others, have seen a substantial surge. According to a survey by National Retail Federation in India, 9 out of every 10 consumers have changed their traditional shopping habits, and more than 50% of them have ordered products online that they would have normally purchased at a store. A study by Facebook and Boston Consulting Group reveals that India shows the highest surge in preference for e-commerce, amongst other top nations such as China, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. Furthermore, consumers are more mindful of what they are buying; there is a growing desire to shop local, and some are also making deep cuts. Keeping safety in mind, consumers are adopting many digital and contactless services including curb side deliveries and drive-through services. Industry estimates suggest that while the gross merchandise value (GMV) for India’s e-commerce industry is yet to recover fully, order volumes have reached close to 90% of the pre-crisis levels. Consumers are seeking convenience from products and brands that simplify their lives as well which are aligned with their personal values.
A new peak in online learning and skilling
With close to 1.1 billion children in 107 countries affected by school closures according to Unesco’s assessment, people are opting for online learning, and there is a rise in enrolments in courses related to telecommuting (21,598%), virtual teams (1,523%), decision-making (277%), self-discipline (237%), stress management (235%), technical drawing (920%), and also for learning to play the ukulele (292%). The count of Indians enrolling for business fundamentals has risen to 281% while that for communication skills is 606%. Taking cue from this trend, Harvard University has offered 67 new online courses to students for free during the lockdown.
A high note in entertainment
The ongoing crisis has catalysed the growth of over-the-top (OTT platforms) – streaming media services offered directly to viewers via the internet. According to a study by BARC, amid the lockdown, 2.3 million new members joined Netflix, pushing the company’s total revenue to $5.77 billion, up from $4.52 billion. Furthermore, Hotstar has seen 300 million active users and over 400 million downloads as against 150 million active users and 350 million downloads just before the lockdown. The need for entertainment among consumers is yet there, just the means to fulfil that need has changed. Indians are using the latest in streaming and video conferencing technology to go on online dates and host virtual streaming parties. Indians have clocked almost four hours per week per person on video-on-demand, and searches for “best movies” have increased by 35% on YouTube, in the report by Think with Google.
Home workouts that are making gyms sweat
With stay-at-home measures in place, fitness coaches such as pro-bodybuilders, cross fitters and Zumba and yoga instructors promptly began practice at home and started conducting online classes for their clients during the lockdown period. Topics such as pilates have seen a manifold increase in search volumes, and with online classes being location agnostic, customers of fitness centres are joining virtual livestream classes hosted by fitness studios in other cities. With restrictions easing, sale of yoga equipment too has registered exponential growth
Moving the needle in telemedicine
Telemedicine has witnessed a huge surge in adoption during the ongoing crisis, with wearables playing a key role in diagnostics. Several patients are monitoring themselves on a regular basis to measure certain vital signs. According to online consultation portal Practo, e-consultation for health care has increased by 500% between March and May 2020. During the period, about five crore Indians have accessed health care online, with an average frequency of two online doctor consultations per month per user. According to the analysis, 80% of these patients were first-time telemedicine users, and about 44% of them were from non-metro cities.
The pall of uncertainty seems to have cast its shadow across the globe, and few consumers expect to go back to their old behaviours any time soon. The new habits formed are expected to endure beyond the crisis, permanently changing what they value, how and where they shop, and how they live and work. Consumers in fact are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact. They are willing to have higher engagement with brands that they can trust and are willing to pay a premium if required. Consumers show greater preference for all things that feel local and their safety benchmark makes them prefer no-touch technologies that involve payments without signing, the elimination of door handles, and touch-less faucets in washrooms. Businesses will need to take immediate cognizance of these rapidly-evolving trends in order to thrive and stay relevant.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.