Engaging the post pandemic customer

The pandemic has been a disruptor for businesses across sectors and has had drastic impact on lifestyle of both urban and rural Indians. 

The lockdown triggered businesses to slowdown, or shut completely, with people losing jobs and forced to move back to their hometowns. The resultant economic uncertainty and the looming health crisis, further altered consumer patterns drastically, with people becoming more conscious about purchases and consumption.

From preference for online shopping instead of in-store to avoid physical contact, use of digital payments, conscious buying after reading about the product labels, to focusing on experiences instead of products, cautious socialising and leaning towards natural or chemical free products, are some of the key changes in

While these changes in consumption patterns are induced by the pandemic, they may not be that temporary. The fear of a looming global recession, its impact on the national economy, the COVID threat which is going to be around for a while, are all set to impact the way we ‘buy’ and ‘consume’, long after the lockdown! And for brands, it is vital to understand these trends and to engage with the new consumer through relevant messaging and narratives.

Here are some key shifts that brands need to make in terms of engagement:

1. Digital is where the action is: From digital brand identity to social media and influencer reviews, the new age consumer today makes a lot of purchase choices based on brand conversations on the digital media. The pandemic has further moved most of the retail to the digital platforms, with everything from groceries and daily essentials to health and wellness, grooming and cleaning services being booked online. Under such circumstances, brands need to not only create product centric digital campaigns also invest in a strategic influencer marketing outreach, including digital PR and presence on new age digital infotainment portals, associate with unique digital content creators and explore opportunities in the emerging podcasts/ audio and on demand video streaming platforms. Digital should no longer be just an ‘additional’ aspect to marketing, it needs to central focus of all marketing activity!

2. Fin-tech brand presence is vital: While digital brand engagement and retail is set to thrive, there has been a massive boom in fintech as well, with people opting to go cashless, mostly using e-wallets, even for in-store transactions so as to minimise physical interaction of any sorts. As a result, leading retailers, both online and offline, are collaborating with multi-channel payment gateways to ensure the new consumer feels secure about transactions on their platforms. These efforts, however, need to be effectively communicated as a strong brand messaging, highlighting the brand’s commitment to its customers and the collective fight against contagion, thus building brand credibility and trust. For fintech brands, on the other hand, this is a golden opportunity to leverage the accelerated adoption of cashless transactions and the same needs to be highlighted through effective and relevant messaging using apt PR and communication campaigns. From educative messaging to highlighting the benefits and multi-channel collaborations, fintech brands can create an impactful market presence by proactively enhancing communication outreach.

3. Ethical businesses are valued: The pandemic has suddenly opened our eyes to the unpredictability of life, the need for solidarity and humanity, and the significance of being ethical and kind. While there have been millions who have suffered because of the illness and the impact of the lockdown, a lot many good seminarians have also come forward to do their bit for the less fortunate. These include brands, organisations, individuals, and government organisations. Ethical business are thus being valued over other factors when it comes to purchase decision in the new normal and hence, it’s important for brands to be viewed as one that indulges in fair play, is ethical and considerate, now more than ever. And this can be effectively done using impactful PR and communication outreach.

4. Experiential marketing is the way forward: Given the shift to the digital space during the lockdown, most consumers are now craving the in-store experience of visiting malls and stores, ones the lockdown is over. Even as modern retail cautiously opens up to welcome consumers, brands with strong in-store presence need to leverage this opportunity with creative experiential marketing outreach, keeping social distancing and safety norms in mind, to not only engage with consumers but to also create a sense of normalcy, trust and a feeling of being valued. These will go a long way in making consumers feel welcome by brands when they finally walk into a store after months of lockdown.

Last but not the least, the post lockdown consumer is set to be a much more conscious and responsible when making purchase decisions and will drive the development of healthier product categories, ecologically safer alternatives and a value driven premium product categories. In tandem, brands need to re-evaluate their marketing and communications strategy, maybe even product design, in order to sustain the new marketplace.

Anindita Gupta is Co-Founder, Scenic Communication