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Customers are not going back to pre-2020 shopping behaviours: Arjun Bhatia

Shrugging off the disruptions of the year gone by, businesses and agencies are looking for a strong revival in 2021. Over the next few weeks, Adgully – as part of our annual TRENDING NOW endeavour – will be presenting the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of 2020.

Arjun Bhatia, Chief Marketing officer,, highlights the various changes that have taken place in consumer behaviour post-pandemic and how marketers need to be ready for these changing patterns.

Outlook for 2021

Post-pandemic, the way customers discover, review and buy products and services has changed forever. Even after the pandemic dies down, customers are not going back to pre-2020 shopping behaviours. Marketers need to be ready for these changing patterns and focus on following:

Personalisation at scale within your digital channels: Digital now doesn’t remain the top of funnel awareness-building medium. You need to close sales and depending upon your product/ service complexity, you have to get “personal” without having a physical interface. So, start thinking about what are those digital elements that bring personalisation for your customers, you seamlessly pick the conversation from one touchpoint to another for each prospect that comes your way. Which comes to my second point…

Conversational Marketing: Chatbots, immediate call backs, connecting with a human voice at the right time, all backed by AI/ML, is already there and regardless of the size of the company your competitors are already doing it. My sense is that it will get accelerated, allowing brands to meet customers on their terms: on the devices, platforms and time schedules that they prefer.

Get real with Social Media: Engage with consumers and co-create your brand stories with them as the protagonist. Consumers don’t always want expert advice, at times they want peer advocacy. Social media offers the platform and marketers need to leverage it. With content consumption seeing even higher numbers in current context, UGC is getting utmost importance and is seen as authentic. It also leads to social commerce, another emerging trend, which is going to go mainstream in the next 3-5 years depending upon your industry. Look towards China for its scale and success.

Great expectations

As I mentioned earlier, we have taken a leap of 5-10 years when it comes to our media consumption, working and socialising and shopping habits… all thanks to 2020. Habits won’t shake-off… this is the new normal. I expect offline recovery to be still tepid and hence, online will get centrestage, so marketers need to plan and execute that. E-commerce will continue its blistering pace, more and more brands will have to define their online commerce strategy, build deeper capabilities to sell Direct to Consumers and gear up their entire business functions from sales, marketing, logistics, customer support, returns, after sales service and product demos to support consumers virtually.

Key learnings from 2020

Events of 2020 hit everyone suddenly – both at personal and professional levels. In terms of business, my biggest learning was to keep trying out to find new opportunities with this crisis. For example, in the matrimony business, meeting someone is a natural progression in your life partner search that suddenly stopped for a brief while. We had to quickly fill that up with solutions like Video Calling, and safety features like SecureConnect, to ensure that the match finding process doesn’t stop. We got tremendous response to this service within days of its launch.

Size and Scale of the corporate doesn’t matter anymore, while the technologies always existed to decimate the barriers to grow, the customer acceptance to companies with lesser physical presence was moving at a slower pace. The pandemic reversed that as I now see lot of large-sized companies with dominant retail presence, but lower online connect struggling versus their smaller-sized competitors winning consumers thanks to much more nimbler tech-enabled approach.

Lastly, the value of personal connect with your seniors, peers and subordinates has become even more important to me, because that’s what generates ideas, gives alternate viewpoints, solves problems – something we never realised pre-2020. Keeping the engagement high across your colleagues is a must, no matter what the distance is.


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