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Redefining Consumer Connect through Digital Transformation, in the time of pandemic

Brands need to realise that while the lockdown may be over, the pandemic certainly isn’t and given this environment ,what’s most important is to retain and win customer trust and loyalty.

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Consumer Connect through Digital Transformation

Great marketing makes for great success, and time and again it’s been proved that a strong marketing strategy is the key to achieving business goals. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 took everyone by surprise – no business was prepared a disruption of this magnitude and the management teams had to quickly rethink their strategy to deal with the situation while ensuring business continuity. As consumers the world over changed their behavior and the rate of digital adoption accelerated, most organisations went back to their drawing boards to quickly adapt and adopt new digital transformation strategies. Consumers were embracing the digital and e-commerce environments for everything – from consuming news and views to buying all they needed for themselves and their homes, sitting securely within the four walls of their home. With a vaccine still far out, there in the horizon, social distancing the new safety norm, shifting consumer behaviour, and new media consumption habits, brands need to evolve in tandem and adapt their marketing plans and strategies accordingly.

While prioritising business continuity and keeping a pulse firmly on the emerging trends and behaviour patterns, what is crucial is that organisations also be mindful of consumer sentiment given the fear factor that’s taken root during the pandemic. Brands need to realise that while the lockdown may be over, the pandemic certainly isn’t and given this environment what’s most important is to retain and win customer trust and loyalty. Below are some aspects of the business that will help strengthen the consumer connect essential for business success.


· Understand the consumer decision journey

Track emerging trends, shifting consumer behaviour, and do your research garnering insights from your customer base. Then collate all findings to arrive at your digital transformation strategy aligned to the new reality. It is crucial to understand your customer’s need, their emotional state, changed perceptions and buying pattern, and most importantly, what makes a difference to them. Brands need to focus on understanding customer needs and work on strengthening trust through customer-centric actions.


· Transform into a Purpose-Led Brand

While we all battle our inner conflicts and the fear the invisible beast has caused, staying indoors and following safety directives are the only ways to beat the coronavirus pandemic and ensure ones well-being. Owing to this trend, brands need to be able to break through the clutter to keep audiences engaged in their narrative and offerings.

While digitisation generates great opportunities for brands and consumers to hold a dialogue, consumers have become very choosy about the content they consume given their short attention span and the colossal amount of content at their disposal. Therefore, companies need to create interesting new-age content for consumers i.e. videos highlighting interesting facts about the brand or the company, DIY videos, brand and product journeys amongst others. If there is a company making cooking appliances, the most organic way to grow consumer engagement is to create easy to follow videos and tutorials of dishes using their products. Similarly a sewing machine company can create interesting sewing tutorials for those wishing to learn/upgrade this skill. These offering should address levels ranging from novice to expert. Such videos not only captivate the customer’s attention but strengthen and create a loyal community online. Brands that have a great story-telling format, earn great testimonials and feedback, must leverage

these across their social media platform and websites for growing consumer connect and credibility. Innovative marketing strategies will ensure in building lasting relationships.


· Building strong engaging connect with consumers

With health and safety taking precedence over all else, there are various challenges that arise in meeting customer needs, and one has to strategically think about how best one can meet and overcome them with limited resources and social distancing constraints. With people refraining from stepping out of their houses, the time spent on their mobile devices and online platforms including e-commerce portals has grown substantially vis-à-vis pre-Covid times. This is where companies need to be active across their digital and social media and be the company’s interface with consumers. Done right, this will go a long way in creating a community of loyal customers and increasing consumer base.

Some ways of engaging include online contests, interacting quizzes, interactive “Did You Know” series, or encouraging consumers to share quirky pictures of products in use, or then getting them to walk down the memory lane to “First Ever Memories” of particular products. Companies can also offer gratification to consumers who help grow engagement in an organic manner.


· Channelising Marketing Budgets effectively

While companies may be tempted to cut back marketing budgets, it would be foolhardy to do so as it could boomerang and come back to haunt them later. Surveys and reports indicate that brands that remain invested in marketing during a crisis are more likely to drive business continuity and thrive through the situation to emerge stronger and more resilient. What businesses and organisations can and must do however, is re-think their marketing budget allocation to align with the approach best suited in this environment, with digital and direct to consumer approach being a priority.


· Offline to Online – New Phygital World

With offline buying rising and falling in tandem with government led regulations, consumers are also adopting the online route. In fact, one could say both are taking turns in leading sales making it all the more important for businesses to maintain that fine balance between online and offline if they want to succeed. Today, almost every brand has online channels and partners with e-commerce platforms to cater to the consumer on a platform of their choice. Having in-depth product information on website and e-commerce platforms is no longer an options, but a necessity in order to provide the latest information to existing and potential consumers.


· Pave the Safe Way – Direct to Consumer

Businesses need to assure customers of the safety processes being followed to ensure everyone’s wellbeing – i.e. contactless deliveries in sanitised boxes in the permissible zones, speedy resolution of issues that customer may be facing etc. Consumer’s loyalty to a brand also depends on the agility with which the service team responds to the need of the customer in the best possible manner. The convenience of being able to converse in the language of their choice helps in further creating a consumer connect. Organisations need to focus on self-service bots on websites and widely used messenger applications, to stay connected with consumers.

With majority of consumers preferring to buy from the comfort of their homes, organisations have prioritised direct to consumer selling, some of them setting up their own e-commerce portals and others partnering with the leading e-commerce portals. This not only helps consumers buy from comfort and safety of their homes, but can also fuels offline sales, by providing detailed relevant content about products on e-commerce platforms.


· Winning Over Consumers

With income uncertainty, and in some cases imminent salary and job cuts, consumers gravitate towards brands offering a great value proposition. Bundled offers, value add-ons, free gifts across product categories like lightning, kitchen and home appliances, and more, work very well. Consumers expect mindfulness from brands and brands need to be cognisant of their presence across mediums to be able to tap a larger audience and scale up business. Building virtual experiences for the customer to build brand salience and set examples of how the company is taking care of its customers by staying in touch while giving exposures to the products virtually has worked very well for brands like ours.


Having said that, the future will be all about how nimble and resilient organisations are, and how they Reinvent – absorb, create and win the new realities; Reimagine – business possibilities – identify shifts, capture new white spaces; and Restructure – build the organisation for a new future.

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.


Rahul Wadhawan

Vice President, Digital at Usha International

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