As India reopens, this ‘new normal’ could well become ‘the normal,’ from where consumers may never go back
By Nikhil Rungta
A few months ago, who would have thought that big-ticket summer releases like Gulabo Sitabo (Hindi) and Ponmagal Vandhal (Tamil) would premiere on TV, streamed on an OTT platform in your living room over microwave popcorn? This became viable with the massive uptick in streaming through the lockdown, when consumer behaviour and consumption patterns evolved rapidly.
Now, as India reopens, this ‘new normal’ could well become ‘the normal,’ from where consumers may never go back. The way we consume everything has changed — education to entertainment, and shopping to health and wellness have all been ‘digirupted’. This also means marketers and advertisers will have to adapt and adopt a new way to reach, attract and influence consumers. Looking through the consumers’ lens, here is how brands can pivot to meet fast-changing expectations.
New retail reality
With stores likely to remain open-shut-open, and physical shopping no longer a certainty, Covid-19 has propelled us into the age of ‘hybrid experiences’. Brands will have to consider models that can move offline-to-online and back just as seamlessly.
So, what could a shopping trip look like in the near future? During a period of restricted mobility, it could begin with a click, instead of a drive to the mall. Retailers will have to lean on immersive tech-driven experiences to turn browsing into buying, convenience, utility and creating a seamless digital path to purchase.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been on the radar for advertisers, but more so in mature markets like the US. In post Covid-19 India, the use cases for such experiences have shot up. AR — which most smartphones support and does not require additional hardware — can be immediately explored to reimagine shopping experiences. AR native ads, for instance, could enable virtual try-ons for accessories like jewellery, and even clothes, when consumers are reluctant to step out. From shopping for your wedding to choosing furniture, AR ad experiences could be engaging and useful for consumers, effectively driving purchases from anywhere.
News and emerging channels
Consumers continue to stay on top of the latest news, with McKinsey reporting that Indians expect to spend more time consuming news online. Through this crisis, advertisers have had reservations about brand suitability and coronavirus content, complicating the ability for news publishers to monetise new visitors. But as consumers continue to flock to trusted news publishers for updates, and with Covid-19 becoming part of our everyday lives, advertisers must reevaluate what could be a significant opportunity.
Blocking coronavirus content would only serve to limit scale and force brands off high-value, high-traffic web pages. Research has shown that having your brand adjacent to serious content on credible news sites does not erode favourability.
Even before the pandemic, brands were exploring the potential of programmatic CTV and programmatic audio advertising. But these channels just became more attractive with the OTT explosion — KPMG research noting that “habit formation could result in accelerated growth in consumption and monetisation”. CTV could become a crucial channel for successful video advertising with impressive benefits, from reaching younger audiences to effective targeting and delivering highly viewable, non-skippable video campaigns.
The programmatic audio opportunity also just got bigger. According to Kantar and VTION, music streaming platforms saw a 42% increase in time spent on their platforms in March 2020 — interestingly, after an initial dip when commuting ceased, users began streaming throughout the day! Programmatic audio can enable advertisers to reach these engaged listeners in a brand-safe, ad-blocking-free environment.
As India begins unlocking, advertisers in India will have to make strategic shifts and identify new opportunities, acting now to stay relevant and get ahead in the months to come.
The author is country manager, India, Verizon Media