The recent trend of retail locations as go-to destinations where shoppers are entertained in glittering brand palaces and subject to meaningful immersive and sensory experiences is on pause for the #stayathome global consumer masses.
In many countries around the world, shoppers are only allowed out for purchases essential to sustaining life, such as food, drink and medicine – everything else is only available through online channels.
Our homes have become our offices, our schools, our gyms, our playgrounds. TV viewing figures are up. Digital media engagement is up. Out-of-home media engagement is significantly down. In-store shopping as a pastime is gone for now, and brands in categories that are not typically purchased online are facing the tough choice of disrupting their own retail channels or sitting things out in the hope that old world retail returns. Paradoxically, the everyday essentials that are experiencing a spike in consumer demand are those categories which typically have been slower to convert to an online selling model.
There are unexpected winners and losers during the crisis for sure. Transportation behemoth Uber is experiencing a 60-70% reduction in demand in cities hit hard by COVID-19. Corona beer experienced its worst quarter since the last global recession with an estimated loss of $150M in revenue.
In contrast, Peloton demand is rising exponentially, and Microsoft Teams usage is experiencing similar exponential growth with a 40% uptake in usage in March alone. MS Teams is being used collaboratively by front line medical workers, stock market brokers, TV stations, and happy hour socialites alike. It is playing an essential communication role foreseen by Bill Gates in his poignant 2015 TED Talk suggesting the world’s next challenge would not be terrorist or nuclear, but airborne infection.
Beyond the connectivity that services like MS Teams has to offer, technology has other big roles to play in dealing with the effects of COVID-19. China recently experimented with robot food and medicine delivery in Hubei province, an idea already well tested in 2019 by Domino’s with its Nuro tie-in. We've also witnessed the emergence of smartphone health passports as a method for some countries to help contain the virus. Proximity marketing campaigns have been used by marketers successfully for years, so smartphone users have some positive experience with these techniques already.
With consumers focused on basic physiological needs, standing six feet apart in a line is hardly the basis for an engaging shopper experience. However, research shows that 92% of consumers believe brands need to keep advertising, proving there is still an appetite for engagement. Furthermore, a high proportion of millennials believe that marketers have an important role to play during the crisis and want to see communications that address the situation in their tone and/or focus on brand initiatives.
... research shows that 92% of consumers believe brands need to keep advertising, proving there is still an appetite for engagement.
Companies will be judged long into the future by how they treat consumers during this time. Finance companies offering payment holidays and landlords offering reductions in rent have been commonplace. Airlines and travel companies refusing refunds for products not fulfilled will not be forgotten.
Marketers need to be innovative and creative in their communications with consumers. Brands are creating content in new and exciting ways. We are seeing a lot of content around inclusion and shared experiences with many brands electing to entertain and lift everyone’s mood. Budweiser decided on nostalgia in re-airing their iconic “Whassup?” TV commercial, this time around underpinned by a social campaign with the hashtag #togetheratadistance.
We are seeing the emergence of a new world order in global business. For brands that are super-adaptable to change there are unprecedented market opportunities. No companies are too big to fail during this type of crisis. As a consequence, it has never been more important for marketers and also marketing service providers to remain relevant to the changing needs of the customers. Having the ability to change message, change channel, read the mood of the nation, react accordingly and reengineer your marketing is going to decide whether your offer cuts through.
As a nimble end-to-end provider, INWK is uniquely positioned to help brands adapt during these unprecedented times. To learn more about how INWK can help with you cut through and connect with consumers, connect with us today.
Vice President, International Business Development