21 Dec 2020 22:47 IST

Survival of the ‘Digitest’

Covid has upended how consumers engage with brands online, making old ways of marketing obsolete

There have been many pandemics in the history of mankind and, as warned by experts, one more pandemic was more or less expected. However, the impact of the current pandemic on commerce and consumer behaviour is prodigious. Prolonged lockdown, stay-at-home restrictions, and the WFH model, have forced the consumers to explore newer ways to communicate, entertain, shop, play, learn, collaborate and so on.

With these changing habits, in 2020, global e-commerce sales growth jumped up significantly in just the initial three months. The overall retail shares are matching the 2023 predictions already.

The shift in consumer behaviour has already formed into habits, and the new ways of doing things have largely taken the digital route. For many industries now, digital is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ channel but has become a ‘must-have.’

Safety, convenience, and availability, catalysed the change towards digital and the consumer is also looking for an improved experience from brands online. Brand loyalty has become more fickle, and brands are forced to rethink their digital strategies.

Industries, where large gatherings of people or close human interactions are essential, such as sports, events, and tourism were the first ones to get affected. They have been experimenting with innovative ways to connect to their consumers. One great example of an interesting initiative is of the travel agency company Thomas Cook. They held an entertaining virtual event, keeping holidays at the centre stage of the discussions. It was a great success, and many people advance-booked their holidays for the future through the event. IPL this year largest sporting event executed across many digital touch points.

The Covid-19 experience has exposed many of our fallacies.

1. Assuming that the future is extrapolation, but Black Swan events happen.

2. Being confident in what we believe we know without considering the unknown

Here are some things you should work on to be at your ‘Digitest’ — digitally ready to fit the new norms and be the best at what you do.

Persistently evolve

If you look at the Darwinian theory, it states that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection phenomena wherein some small, inherited variations work towards increasing an individual’s ability to fight, endure as well as reproduce. This aptly applies in every walk of our life.

For brands, it’s about who changes fast with the shifting times where consumer’s evolving needs are at the centre, and digital is the most dominant mindset. Thus, in other words, it’s about the survival of the ‘digitest’ in today’s world.

Measure the change

Every hypothesis that is tested and implemented needs to be measured periodically make necessary modifications, if required. Only when you know about the intensity of the change, you can work on your strategies and be in sync with your customer’s habits while driving positive results for your brand.

Map the consumer journey

Customer’s expectations are always higher and keep changing too. Providing a seamless experience throughout the process when they connect, interact and purchase from you is critical for survival. A customer journey map comes in handy here. These maps tell you all the possible details you need to know about how your customer feels and behaves at various stages.

It's definitely a complex process to create these maps. There are multiple tools available for a budget and to suit specific needs that can help you with this. These maps are crucial to understanding how your customer connects with you, where and what makes them divert from the journey and many more such aspects that can be very helpful to design correct strategies.

Be where your customer is

There are multiple touch points through which a consumer can connect with you. To add to that, we now have digital touch points to provide the desired convenience and flexibility. Despite the platform or source or channel, you, as a brand, should be present where your customer is. If you are not, the chances are high that they will divert towards your competitors. Some great examples of this include health insurance companies adding video consultation benefits, real estate brands offering virtual tours, virtual gyms.

Remove friction

For any brand to sustain and grow, it is essential to keep an eye on any drops in the consumer’s journey, identify roadblocks that caused it, and remove any friction in the way. Focus on maintaining a seamless customer journey and always be ready to make necessary alterations whenever required.

In a similar context, local kirana stores realised that the long waiting hours in a queue and payment through physical currency adds to the discomfort of consumers and friction in the process. They quickly adapted the contact-less delivery system and e-payments. For many bigger organisations such as Uber and Domino’s, safety has been the centre point of their communication these days. Similarly, numerous brands took a hard look at their digital assets and have reduced the number of steps that are required to complete a transaction.

Transformation requires scale as well as skill, and the agility to adapt fast and keep at it.

(The writer is Founder and CEO of digital marketing and digital consulting agency Logicserve Digital.)