Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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COVID has changed the way customers interact with brands and with other customers and marketers must therefore change the way they interact with customers and with each other.  Digitization is in full swing with adoption at a speed we would not have envisaged in January quipping about how we all had “2020 Vision” finally.

Here are some quick takeaways of the biggest changes.

Availability Trumps Loyalty.

With the disruption of supply chains, customers had to prioritise their choices based not on loyalty or habit, but on availability.  They experimented with newer channels like digital, but also new brands and retail formats.  Those changes are not being rolled back.

On the other hand, in categories where safety is a criteria, customers are keen to reward brands they trust and have welcomed brand extensions from these brand champions.  Subject to availability, of course.

The accelerated movement towards digital has other repercussions, many of which were all ready in progress.  For example, marketers can no longer use asymmetry of information or availability as a differentiator.  The customer is connected in real-time to other customers, prospects, the brand and business.  Traditional levers such as reliability and historical track record are now longer as powerful as they once were as references and data can also reduce trial risk.

Targeting The Long Tail

Marketers have traditionally approached India through the lens of geography (metro vs rural vs small towns) or income (high/middle/low).  The penetration of digital opens up newer markets (say affluent people in rural India) and reduces wastage as just-in-time distributed inventory models become feasible.

The Bots are Here.  How do we use conversations as a platform to drive customer experience?

With the rise of Digital and the improvement in the capability of Artificial Intelligence, bots can automate routine tasks and also use predictive power to act as a concierge to enhance the customer experience.  As marketing automation moves to the next level how do we stop ourselves from automating the inefficiencies? How do we realise the power of new efficiencies led – not just supported by – technology?

What does all this mean to marketers?

  • The lead time for all customer communication has shrunk
  • The traditional on-and-off campaign model has evolved to become a continuous omni-channel conversation with all stakeholders
  • The customer is sensitive to ‘trends’ and brands must respond in real-time.  They are also quick to respond to any negative information and brands are expected to react immediately whether the situation was in their control, or not
  • Ability to crunch vast quantities unstructured customer data can be a brand differentiator if it can be leveraged to understand their preferences better
  • Consumers still buy from brands they like – and this is achieved through participative, omni-channel storytelling

 How does this change the way marketers work?

  • The lead time for campaigns, delivery and customer response has shrunk, with the expectation of everything happening in hours, not days.   Marketers need to move their internal processes and systems to near-realtime, which will require automation, ML and AI.
  • Omni-channel campaigns have multiplied the number of external agencies involved in a campaign – significantly increasing the communication load of the marketer
  • Even as powerful machine learning and analytics is available to dice and slice data, marketers are dealing with the task of simplifying ever-more complicated dashboards for upstream consumption
  • Customer data – structured and unstructured – is becoming the new marketing gold  – and marketers must take steps to protect this both for legal and business reasons
  • Marketers are responsible for ensuring that the large, distributed salesforce is in-sync and aligned with business priorities and the latest messaging

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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