The online adoption has been documented by many but, tangled within the digital web, are a bundle of small and big shifts that could bring about lasting change in the way customers and brand engage with each other.
Bulk buys and value packs
According to EY and Nielsen reports, the post pandemic consumer is buying more on every purchase expedition. According to K Ramakrishnan, managing director-South Asia, Worldpanel Division, Kantar, people are buying in larger quantities and that explains the volume growth that several brands have seen during the Covid-19 months.
It is not as if Indian consumers did not buy in bulk at all in the past; they did, but only when the value proposition was appealing enough. However there is a difference this time around. People want to cut down the number of trips to the store and want to stock up to avoid a situation like the one they faced in the early days of the lockdown.
Hygiene issues and fear are pushing consumers towards larger, bigger shopping carts. This is a sharp change from their pre-Covid-19 behaviour and is likely to stay for the long term.
Budget trails and brand loyalty
A Nielsen report on the evolving consumer dynamics in a post Coronavirus
world (July 2020) notes that consumers are staying away from discretionary spending, a trend that has significantly increased since its April study. The KPMG report offers a similar insight. “Consumers will be diligent in terms of their financial stability and companies
need to adapt this new way of thinking,” it said.
The consumer is trapped within several layers of anxieties (economic and health) and has become extremely sensitive to price and need. Priya Lobo, CEO Ormax Compass, says that everyone is asking two questions before making a purchase: Do we really need it? And is the purchase worth the price? Brands have to factor in this reality in their approach to consumers.
The budget conscious and anxious consumer is evaluating purchase options more carefully. And this, according to Shashank Shwet, partner–Customer Experience and Design Thinking, EY India has created a small window of opportunity of brand switch where new brands can find their way in (if they promise better value, safety and such). “If they are able to hold the trust of the customer, they may well displace old loyalties,” he said.
Rooting for local
The clamour for local has grown over the past few months but is this likely to influence consumer behaviour?
According to the Nielsen report, there is a rising sentiment towards local but the understanding of local is a nuanced one. “Manufacturers need to understand the nuances of consumer perception of local and highlight their connection with Indian consumers in their communication,” it noted.
Ramakrishnan says that in the surveys his teams conducted, things that have been used for a long time are being seen as national or local brands. Hindustan Unilever’s Surf or Mondelez’s Cadbury are perceived to be Indian brands, for instance. Local may be the flavour of the season but what or who is truly local is still up in the air.