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"There won’t be uniform type of recovery across the entire spectrum"

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 its 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.

Amitabh Pande, Country Marketing Manager, IKEA India, is against the idea of using ‘new normal’ for our current state of being. According to him, the reality is that we live life in continuum. Pande lists his key expectations for 2021, the new possibilities and how brands are now better equipped to manage situations than before.

Outlook for 2021

In terms of expectations, the one phrase I would not like to use is “new normal”. I feel it’s a bit of a self-indulgent phrase that over-simplifies reality (there was an old normal and now we move to the new normal!) and pretends to make us feel in control. The reality is that we live life in continuum, where every event or disruption is another bump in an ever-evolving journey that is about constant change. We always live in the present continuous and, therefore, 2021 will be the next year of the present continuous. As businesses and brands, all we can do is understand the current reality and ‘respond’ to it (not react) in a meaningful way, coming from our purpose and thinking of our customers as people first, consumers later.

I feel we exaggerate the idea of trends sometimes. In the current situation, we can only take things as they come. There will continue to be setbacks through 2021. There won’t be a uniform type of recovery across the entire spectrum. It will continue be a bumpy ride and there will be trial and errors. For instance, just 3 weeks ago, we were celebrating the good news of vaccines coming in and possibly seeing the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And then 2 weeks ago, with the new virus strain from UK, are we back to square one?

I do, however, feel brands will be better equipped to manage situations than before. While the pandemic initially sent everyone into a major shock, brands are now more proactive and attentive to the changing environment. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

People have discovered possibilities at home that they never thought had existed and their love for their life at home. At IKEA, we see a huge interest coming back, in investing back in the home with new, easy, inspiring and affordable solutions. It will be a positive impact on the home furnishing industry, at large.

E-commerce and digital has been triggered and will continue to dominate. Offering people options is something that will be beneficial to brands.

At IKEA as well, we now offer our customers lots of choices to shop with us in an omnichannel way. Customers can choose to shop at the Navi Mumbai and Hyderabad store, of course. Or choose the Click & Collect service, wherein customers can shop online and pick up their purchase at a designated date and time from the store. Alternately, customers can shop completely online and get our complete range delivered to their doorstep in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. Or get our parcel range (under 20 kg shipments) home delivered in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat.

Consumer behaviour trends

Home will become the center of living for people, which, in turn, will direct people to focus more on improving their home and investing time into caring for it. There will also be an uptick in people going digital, owing to convenience. More companies will adopt an e-commerce approach as well. In order to meet the consumers where they are at, brands will strengthen their digital backend. New industries will emerge at a larger scale, bringing outside home products and services inside home, for instance, ed tech, personal trainer via video call, doctor consultation over the phone, learning from home and other such verticals. More such needs for ‘out of home’, ‘inside the home’ and those needs that exist at the intersection of the two will be taken into consideration by companies. Brands will be more receptive to emerging consumer needs, and businesses will look at cost reduction, upskilling and more cost efficiencies, through transformations like operating without an office, automation owing to lack of manpower, so on and so forth. On the other hand, need for new skills will spin off employment opportunities like job portals, rise of freelancing, etc.

Learnings from 2020

2020 has been one of the most important years during the lifetime of a whole generation. Not because the world has not been disrupted before, but because the entire world (and I mean everyone) has not been disrupted before all together at the same time. And of course, the pandemic and its health impact on millions of people is a terrible tragedy, but the glass half full perspective is that it has resulted in a reset among people at large and made us more thoughtful on things we have taken for granted in our lives. If there is one belief that has been challenged completely in the last 10 months, it is that ‘human beings are the most superior race’. Being brought down to our knees by an organism that is not even a living thing does something to a species that has felt invincible and unstoppable for centuries. I think it’s safe to say that we are finally realising that we cannot get away with anything. We are being forced to re-evaluate our ways of living on this planet, expanding our presence at the cost of nature, consuming the limited resources, creating a society that is unequal and even irresponsible. I would like to believe that we have been set on a more humble, reflective and conscientious path, in terms of how we live.

This new journey that we have been set on has a couple of key tenets.

First and perhaps the most important one is truly understanding the fact that ‘we are, but one species in a larger ecosystem’. And what it means to live with this realisation. From this comes, the second most critical learning of questioning “consumption”. As I see it, consumption has been the fundamental building block for all modern economies. To the extent that so many of us believe that consumption = happiness. Brands and businesses are built on growing consumption year after year. But once we start questioning this fundamental growth driver, then how do we move forward? This is a key question we all need to answer. One of the learnings that we have had is about moving from ‘consumption-led growth’ to ‘purpose-led growth’. What this means is being clear on the purpose of our brands. Why do we exist in this world? At IKEA, our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. And that’s what we strive to achieve as we drive growth in our business, for our customers, our co-workers, our partners and the community. Linked to this is about looking at people as humans and not only as consumers. What do they really need and how as a brand, can we satisfy their needs.

The other learning has been sheer agility and resilience that both businesses and people have shown, not only surviving during these times, but thriving and moving forward, coming out stronger through it all. We often under-estimate this aspect of our own selves. And it’s something we will need a lot of, going forward.


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