By Kashyap Vadapalli
The saying, ‘you can develop any habit or thought or behavior that you consider desirable or necessary’, encapsulates 2020 perfectly. Today, as I look back at the year from the lens of a CMO of a leading online furniture marketplace, I see an absolutely new horizon. The year has taught us to ensure agility and plenty of room to adapt, at all times. While the year threw plethora of challenges our way, it also suspended a bag full of opportunities.
The pandemic, followed by a nationwide lockdown in various countries, especially in India, led to significant shifts in consumer behaviours. And I believe some of these behavioural traits are here to stay. For instance:
We all went digital
While digital transformation has been taking place since years, the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital adoption globally. It significantly disrupted consumer buying space and the way individuals consume digital space. Two key by-products of the lockdown were: (i) With offline retail being shut and consumers’ growing apprehension towards stepping outside due to safety concerns even after relaxation of regulations, there was an inflection in ecommerce and digital penetration. (ii) With restrictions on movement, individuals resorted to digital platforms and social media for entertainment purposes. Both resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of FTUs (first-time-users) across online marketplaces as well as digital channels.
Furthermore, during the unlock phase, in order to stay abreast in the market, SMBs, mom-and-pop stores, kirana stores as well as well-established brands started selling on online marketplaces or adopting multi-channel strategy. This unparalleled inclination towards digital channels will act as a vital framework in strengthening India’s e-commerce landscape in the years to come.
With consumers on digital channels and social media platforms, how could marketers resist themselves? Taking cognizance of this pivot, marketers were quick to tailor their strategies to stay relevant to consumers. Pepperfry also opted to emphasise on its owned platforms during and post lockdown, like the website, email marketing, push notifications and social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
We will be seeing more multi-pronged marketing strategies from brands in 2021 where digital will play a pivotal role.
Relevancy and personalisation is trending
As a marketer, one of the key functions is to understand the consumer sentiment and ensure that your communication does not carry an insensitive tone. For instance, sending out emailers regarding sale during April 2020 would have been irrelevant and insensitive.
During the lockdown, brands quickly shifted their messaging to make it more relevant, interesting and engaging. It was more consumer-focused and aimed at addressing their challenges and interests. For instance, during the lockdown period, online food delivery companies like Swiggy and Zomato were tweeting about how there’s nothing better than home-cooked meal during such times; online furniture companies like Pepperfry were sharing tips for furniture maintenance, DIY interior décor, safe ways to rearrange your furniture and so on, on their social media platforms. Additionally, brands also tried engaging with their customers through interactive content like webinars, masterclasses, quizzes, open-ended questions, surveys, contests, polls, et al. These alterations were not only relevant for consumers but also helped in positioning the brand as a consumer-first brand.
Given that every category has a number of players fighting for ‘the’ spot, relevancy and personalisation is what helps you break free from the clutter. Furthermore, given how millennials and Gen Z associate themselves only with brands that are aligned with their thoughts and beliefs, it is important for brands to understand that jumping onto every trend is not important, filtering the relevant one and personalising it for your audience is key.
OTT is the new thing
Given how the lockdown has led to a rise in consumption of content on OTT platforms, brands have seized the opportunity to reach their consumers that were beyond the realm of traditional mediums. Another reason why we saw brands weaving OTT platforms in their marketing strategy was the fact that these platforms cater to a vast diversity of tastes and preferences of audiences, including vernacular experiences, drawing a bigger and wider audience base for brands to tap upon. The year 2020 saw a 200% increase in time spent on OTT and the subscription revenues have gone up prominently too.
While pre-COVID there were limited brands that were utilising this medium to connect with their user base, post-lockdown the number has grown significantly, be it through ads being played before the movie/series or brand content integration in OTT series/movies. With the emergence of more platforms in this space, it holds a string of opportunities for marketers to initiate rewarding connections with meaningful messages.
The author is chief marketing officer, Pepperfry