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BW Businessworld

Of Drifts, Trends And Shifts

Behaviour, initiatives, and deeds will be under the microscope and remembered, rewarded too, and the cornerstone to navigate uncertainty and foundation to re-build.

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Amidst a high-octane debate, India finally reopens for business and revival. Not too late, but neither early. While we deliberate the timings, we are ignoring the important debate i.e. how will businesses restart, and consumers behave in a changing ecosystem. 

Triggers define trends 

Predicting trends is fraught with risk. Noise can be ignored, signals read, but forecasting the time and the intensity of the trend is strenuous. Foretelling the curve arduous. Most trends die down as drifts. Some live as ‘niche’ for a year or two. Very few accelerate into mass adoption. 

Those which do are often non-linear, sticky, and lasting.

Businesses need to scan an innovative approach and (yet) robust outlook. 

How do you sell to reluctant customers, extract from unyielding wallets? Restaurants need a new ‘serving’ mix. Airlines fly with ‘worried’ patrons. Event managers haven’t much to showcase; no one likes Zoom weddings. How do exhibitors pull in ‘apprehensive’ viewers? Who do the gurus preach to?    

Disappearing customers, unyielding wallets 

Business must concentrate on consumer experience, connect emotionally with customers, and collaborate honestly with vendors. Behaviour, initiatives, and deeds will be under the microscope and remembered, rewarded too, and the cornerstone to navigate uncertainty and foundation to re-build.

Similarly, they must create a partnership, incubate allies, focusing on ‘local’ strategy and capitalising on their strength. The strong will invest; even acquire local actors to orchestrate portfolios of ‘glocal’ brands. 

Logos will have less meaning; storytelling will revolve around values and purpose. Authenticity and heritage will be the nucleus of the sales pitch, emotion and data will drive eyeballs. 

The ecosystem is indifferent and business vulnerable as 70% of demand gets postponed, 20% purchases erode. “Work from home” will mean lower footfalls, uncertainty means ‘hiding’ customers.

The demand side will change too. In several ways. 

Anxious consumers will redefine the relationship. A Crux study across 16,000 consumers insights that people under crisis are risk-averse and go from a ‘gain’ mentality to a ‘maintain’ mentality. Impulse buying may be a thing of the past, as disposal income dissolves.  People will stay with “tried and true’, shun “novel and trendy”. 

Circular economy may take off. 

Lives changed, behaviour hardened 

Transformational outlook and new habits will have lasting implications. A Crux insight highlights the Indian consumers take 48 days to acquire a new habit. Even, the laggards and non-believers are ‘coaxed’ in.  A quarter of online shoppers made their first online grocery purchase during the lockdown. 

Interactive, ‘real-time’, experiential may become a norm. Advancing technology, particularly in robotics and AI, and intense proliferation will shrink the globe further. Education, e-sports, learning, travel, holidays will mean remote but experiential. A Crux study highlights that about 40% of ‘services’ will be delivered from home by 2025. 

Doctors and health providers, in anticipation, have started ‘in camera’ sessions. Banks pioneered, and other providers irrespective of hue are aggressively swimming with the flow. This is accentuated by evolving circumstances and lifestyles. 

The ‘home at work’ is ‘priming’.  The collateral benefits linked to cost-saving and efficiencies will only hasten the pace.

The ‘shrinks, advisers and the gurus’ will see their career reviving. Distress, agony is an existential threat. Mental anguish will be a result of slump and despair. Fear of the ‘unknown’ will pull.

Signal to the future. Convenience is the new currency, privacy issues notwithstanding.

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.

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Dr. Vikas Singh

The author is a senior economist, columnist, author and a votary of inclusive development

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