COVID-19 & the digital reawakening
In February of this year, I used to get agitated by the commotion from a nearby construction site. In a month or so, the noises stopped. The construction site is now barren with fungus growing on the edges of the bricks and rods.
I can assume you too had your moments of nuisances and ecstasies, which are now just tales of yesterday. The pandemic is swiftly changing the existing trends. In a video by The Economist, experts claim that it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to go back to being normal. Like the construction workers, many blue-collar jobs will be less in demand making it difficult for them to make ends meet.
Nevertheless, the struggle is for everyone. The ‘new normal’ is still new to us in many different ways. One affirmative assumption is that the digital shift is going to get embedded in our daily lives. Businesses who hadn’t pivoted to digital media before immediately stepped into social media platforms and businesses who were already socially active would try to be relevant than ever before.
But the responsibilities don’t stop at just shifting toward digital media. As they enter the digital platforms, brands are expected to do more. Here are a few pointers, which brands could undertake to connect more with their consumers.
Embrace the cause marketing
It was just last year when I wrote a blog post titled ‘Sharpen Your Cause Marketing’. The blog post was fundamentally based on a report by DoSomething Strategic, who did a survey on their 1, 908 members aged between 13-25 years about their awareness of 88 retail and consumer brands and their support of social causes. The results were as follows – 66% say that a brand’s association with a social cause creates a positive impression of that brand, 58% say this association spurs them to purchase from that brand.
Only 12% had “top of mind” associations between brands they are related to and a social cause. Lastly, brands associating with causes only reached up to 24% even when provided a list of social causes.
In times like this, I realize my research findings have become more relevant than ever before. Now, it has become crucial to maintaining brand equity. In a report by Nielsen, it is stated that ad creatives with COVID-related messages are more appreciated by consumers than the brands who prefer to go silent. By the end of March to mid-April, COVID creative units escalated from 251,000 units to 492,000 units. This 96% increase in COVID-19 focused ads indicated that brands couldn’t afford to be silent in the long run.
Consumers are now very observant. Being homebound, media consumption has increased by 60% and they are watching closely what brands are up to. They expect their preferred brands to take a stand against the virus by helping those in need. Yet one may argue that in the tumultuous wave of COVID-19 ads, a brand’s message is likely to get lost. In such cases, authenticity is the key. When a brand genuinely shows empathy for a cause, they are more likely to get resonated with their consumers.
Capitalize on e-commerce
Once it may have been rather delightful when a cheerful salesman welcomed us wholeheartedly into their retail stores. These days the entire scenario is daunting. There is a major shift in consumer behavior. Consumers prefer their essentials to be at their doorstep without coming to direct contact with a salesman or a cashier. Meaning, they want to purchase online.
According to a report by Google, searches in “online grocery shopping” and “grocery delivery” spiked 23% year after year in the USA. In another report by McKinsey, online shopping rose 15-20% in China, while in Italy, the e-commerce purchase of consumer products escalated by 81 percent in just one week. The scenario in Bangladesh is no different either. Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB), told The Business Standard that, ‘”There is no doubt this is a tough time for everyone and also for the e-commerce industry. However, a trend we have observed is that a segment of consumers that did not previously think of using e-commerce services to meet its daily needs has now shifted its position.”
In this unprecedented time, businesses should capitalize on e-commerce for one and one purpose only, that is to reach their consumers where they are safe and sound. Unlike the days gone by, the purpose is to go to your customers rather than bring them to you.
Following our previous point, businesses need to support people’s current livelihood by effectively using technology to improve the online-to-offline experience. For instance, Pathao, which was forever known for its ride-sharing service, has implemented several new services in its app for the consumers’ convenience. Among the services, the one that has created a major buzz is the relaunched Pathao Tong, which allows consumers to order their groceries online. Meena Bazar and Shawpno, which were always popular as grocery stores, have digitized themselves through MeenaClick and Shawpno.com.
Furthermore, the outbreak of the virus has led many workplaces and educational institutions to turn to Zoom, Google Meet, and Trello to optimize both economic and educational activity. The governments of Australia and Singapore use WhatsApp to provide COVID-19 updates.
Debunk the myths
The responsibilities of businesses don’t stop in providing charitable reliefs and encouraging social distancing. They are also expected to spread genuine awareness of the virus. In the stream of misinformation, consumers might drown in fear and apprehension.
By providing credible sources to consumers to prevent them from unnecessary panic, businesses may be cited as reliable and trustworthy. On the other hand, to help reduce their anxiety, some efforts could be made in creating light-hearted content to cheer their mood.
Yet the question may arise, whether these are going to last or remain as long as the virus is here. Analyzing from the circumstances, the changes in consumer behavior, business models, and the overall situation is permanent. To back up my theory, here is a video by Ola Henfridsson from Miami Herbert Business School, who says that the changes are for good.
Therefore, we must adapt as quickly as possible to the changing scenario. Our adaptation may result in the thriving of our businesses and more connectivity with our consumers. Yet adaptation comes only by letting go of what we were used to and embracing the new normal.