Digital Marketing: The Post-COVID World – Part 2

This is the second part of a 2-part post on digital marketing in the post coronavirus world. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention; some version of this statement has existed for centuries in cultures and languages across the world. With the changes taking place in the world as a reaction to COVID 19, now is as good a time to see this in action from the perspective of brands and how their marketing has to evolve to keep up to date with the times. It is safe to assume that changes will be needed in the marketing strategies behind different brands and products, as consumer behaviour will probably undergo some significant shifts, being influenced both by medical prudence, and by economics.

Part I: Needs Must

Those brands and products that seek to serve people’s needs find themselves in a comparatively comfortable position right now; they can count on relatively stable demand for their products. People need to continue buying flour and soap and bleach and these brands can continue to count on this demand not being significantly influenced in the aftermath of the coronavirus. However, it goes without saying that this is a double-edged sword, while demand might not go down significantly, it will probably also not go up significantly; as a result, any brand that gets ahead in its digital marketing approach and gets large numbers of customers on board with time will probably see itself at a significant advantage as people tend to continue with the same brands and methods with regard to these products once they have built their habits.

What can be done to make this transition? Brands may seek to assess individual consumer/household demand online through things like surveys to gauge how much each person needs. As mentioned already in the first part of this post, the idea for many could be to look to market periodic boxes, which seek to cover for the aggregated demand for a variety of products in one go. The idea, after all, is to promote the ideas of convenience and safety to the end consumer and reduce overall trips to the market. As regards how this demand is serviced, brands will probably try different strategies like tying up with large existing online retailers, to possibly using the existing supply chains with local Kirana stores being brought in as part of the process. Some could focus on this idea of supporting both local businesses as well as the end consumer; could this be a good angle to take on digital marketing? Only time will tell.

The challenge with many such brands in the marketplace of needs is that once things start getting home delivered, and the quality across brands is more or less consistent, it is hard to differentiate one brand from another. There is a chance here of not being able to break into any segment of the market that has already gone to a competitor, but also with the possible advantage of easier retention of customers for longer periods once acquired.

More and more brands will also have to compete on the price of course; economics will continue to remain at the core of consumer decisions, and of course, the end consumer may in many cases come out the other end of this pandemic with a reduced desire to spend more than is needed. It seems inevitable that brands will have to find ways to not just deliver but to try and absorb delivery costs within the overall selling price of these periodic deliveries. To meet these needs and to share in the benefits of scaling, brands in different segments of the market may start marketing, selling and delivering together; for instance, food brands tying up with home supplies and FMCG brands, both of which together use a particular delivery brand/channel for logistics. Perhaps all of these will eventually have to move to a joint strategy of digital marketing to get end consumers; it is after all logically sound to expect customers to want to procure their necessities at the best possible price, with the fewest possible clicks. It is an interesting new playing field, with new rules, and there are both significant gains to be made, or losses to be suffered, depending on how these brands adapt to this change.

Part II: Changing desires in a changing market

In sharp contrast to the brands seeking to address consumer needs, those marketing towards the desire and luxury end of the spectrum will have greater challenges facing them in convincing consumers to part with their cash in the post-Covid world.
A significant reason behind consumers buying such products is the desire to differentiate/distinguish themselves from others around them; however, in a world where people go out less frequently, will they still want to spend their money on such products? This is especially true for those that come out of this pandemic with a reduced ability to buy- they may choose to not spend on the latest phone, or that new dress in this market; they will in all likelihood be more sceptical of taking holidays. Office wear and ‘formal’ clothes may also see a drop in regular sales in a world where more and more people seek to work from home. In this market environment, these brands will have a harder time convincing people to spend money, especially the middle classes.

There are definitely changes needed in the way these products are marketed and sold online. There has been healthy price competition in the digital space for a while now in most of these product categories, and thus newer, more innovative marketing strategies might be needed to continue to have healthy sales.

We may see brands move towards fewer product line releases during a year, with significant promotion taking place on digital platforms before the release; this strategy is already used well in the technology sector, particularly with devices like personal computers and mobile phones. It is also safe to expect technology to find its way more and more into the marketing of products; newer technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality can find a greater space in the marketing behind these products, similar to how some online retailers of spectacles are already using their digital spaces to try and show the consumer the product on their own face to gauge things like fit and look. Expect more such technology as a core part of the digital marketing of more brands, with greater integration possibly with social media channels for real-time posting, and to get comments and feedback from friends online. The idea can be to help create a more real-world experience, without ever leaving the digital world. Those that make the customer feel at ease in this digital space, and successfully manage to convey that feeling through the myriad digital marketing channels at their disposal may find themselves at the forefront of how to market and sell in the changing marketplace today.

Out with the old, in with the new

Brands at the end of the day have a simple target, sell. In a world where consumer behaviour stands to be altered in a significant manner, there is a necessity to make some significant changes in how to sell. Whether brands want to or not, there will be a need to invent and evolve their strategies to successfully navigate the choppy waters that many of them are facing today.

Maybe there are new product categories needed, in addition to new marketing strategies; maybe there is a need for not just more technology, but smarter utilisation of technology geared towards a more seamless experience in the digital world. In any case, consumers will certainly continue to need a marketplace to serve their needs and desires; who remains to provide that service may well be decided by the ability to ditch the old ways and invent new ones.