Recession Proof In A Digital Economy

As a natural consequence of the pandemic, companies have no choice but to review their strategies. Driving digital and being mindful of the changing consumer needs is of prime focus.

In what can easily be described as one of the toughest years for the Indian business & economy landscape, digital has come to the rescue of marketers. Obliterating the lingering thoughts of whether digital transformation is a must for business longevity, the pandemic has silenced them and how. While the digital mandate is not new, it has simply been brought to sharp focus. It would be fair to say that the paradigm shift towards digitalisation was already underway, the current events have just accelerated the marked shift in spending towards digital businesses.

But are the opportunities enough to beat the expected recession? How has the digital economy made an impact? How is the consumer behavior driving this digital shift?

Ankur Ogra, Head Brand & Acquisition, Grofers, Anurita Chopra, Area Marketing Lead- OH, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Bhuvana Subramanyan, Chief Marketing Officer, Randstad India, Charu Malhotra Bhatia, Vice President - Marketing, Brilloca, Hitesh Malhotra, Chief Marketing Officer, and Uma Talreja, Customer Care Associate, Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, Shoppers Stop attempt to answer these when we speak to them at the 16th edition of BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook.

Bhatia believes that this can be described nothing better than ‘disruption’. The transition in business realities and in the game of advertising, that would have taken decades, has happened right now. “It will have a long term impact and is here to stay. We, as marketers, are capturing the change in consumer behavior, revisiting our plans, and contemplating ideas to stay ahead of the curve”, she adds.

Talreja expresses how no company was prepared for a time like this but being agile is the only way out. “This is a time to understand the changing consumer needs. Hence, the role of digital becomes even more important today. As marketers, we must attempt to provide consumers with comfort & balance that they are looking for”, she adds.

The fastrack or compression of this digital economy, from 5 years to 5 months, has indeed impacted the consumer behavior. Malhotra expresses, “It may be a good phenomena but I am unsure of its long-term play-out.”

Subramanyan opines how the entire digital economy is ruled by consumer behavior. “For marketers, working closely with technology garners better call for action. With consumers demonstrating newer patterns, the digital game for all of us has just begun and there is a lot to do. We as marketers, need to be preemptive of the lay of the land and look at scalability”, she shares.

With the changing times, Chopra indicates 4 key trends that have emerged- Duality & multiplicity being first, consumers being choiceful of their shopping destination, focus on essentials and indulgence due to the festive season.

While the pandemic hit all sectors woefully, Ogra expresses how the company was at a rather positive end. “Talking of changing consumer behavior, we saw a surge in demand since March. In fact, demand was not an area of concern at all. Our prime focus was on getting orders delivered at the right time & in the right state. Second, average order size per cart went up, while the frequency of orders declined. Third, categories like sanitisers, instant foods, hand-washes, etc. increased by nearly 3x. However, demand for staples remained as is.

Talking of discretionary spends, people are not spending as much as last year’s Diwali. People are now looking for value in a big way.”

To conclude, there emerges a hybrid consumer behavior. Marketers can capitalize on this opportunity by humanising their marketing strategies, being empathetic, being present on the platforms where their consumers are, investing in their consumers (patterns, data, behaviors), staying agile and collaborating with likeminded brands.