Coronavirus, the bane of all things known to business. It’s been about four months (for us in India) since the first lockdown. A lot seems different, whether it’s advertising, communication channels or consumer behaviour. Businesses have adapted really fast to stay relevant! The constant inspiration for innovation is a result of thought-leaders and businesses owners identifying patterns that are slowly and surely helping them adapt to market shifts.
So where does it all begin? I’d like to say ‘The Internet’, but my preferred word would be ‘social media’. Social media has become the digital crutch of daily sustenance. In India alone, the surge of social media usage has risen up to 82% in q2 of 2020 according to YourStory.com and WPP’s stats, which constitutes a near-average of 4 hours of screen time per day! You’re wondering what people are doing? Watching things and buying things!
In the past year, the US has seen an 84.7% hike in purchases using social media, as opposed to purchasing made on retailer websites that feature at 57.9%. However, this also highlights that people are focus-buying things, which means that in Mar-Apr 2020, online and offline sales of food and beverages ranked at 75.5% compared to 2019, health and beauty rank second at 25.1%, while footwear and accessories rank at 22%. The ones going in negative are fashion and apparel, and home, jewellery and luxury, which rank at -40.8% and -65.3% respectively. On a related note, it is thoroughly interesting when I hear a Spotify ad constantly replay how the J.W.Marriot luxe hotel chain is now delivering meals home, sanitization et al.
Adaptation is the constant lesson here, and while “essentials only” purchases have caused businesses to simply dip investing in digital ad insertions by 22% in India in q2 2020. However, according to The Economic Times, businesses have started to identify the right investments mediums and caused a slight rise in ad insertions in June 2020. Ad volumes on mobile platforms were dominated by e-commerce, entertainment and social media brands, contributing to nearly 40% share of the digital ad transactions in the April-June quarter this year. Fun fact: the top contributor to digital ad volumes in q2, 2020 were coaching classes, and e-education, by nearly 3% share of total digital ad volumes. Lockdown doesn’t stop school, kids, but for the adults whose NRI uncles suggested free ‘Harvard online courses’ via WhatsApp? - That probably started off as a planned ad activity too.
Point is, ‘digital dependency’ may have a thousand meanings, but when it comes to content consumption, brands are definitely targeting the large Influx of digitally lined-up customers with no qualms about interacting with them directly. In fact, the very habit of video streaming, for example, is what brands are leveraging on when they make video content, egging customers to interact, promote and share video content as a part of customer retention and relationship-building activities. OTT still remains the most consumed media product, so despite the lockdown, this is why Youtube has still managed to be the publisher of 11% of the total ad volumes in India in both q1 and q2 this year! According to KPMG’s 2020 report, brand marketers want to interact and engage with various niche segments of their target market through ecommerce ads, in-game ads, social media ads, OTT ads, and more.
As the world turns increasingly digital, and brands are expanding to cater to a global audience over OTT media. Is it likely that cinema makers will premiere online instead of in a cinema hall? Sure! Will homemade content exude “authenticity”? Sure, why not. Will real-estate tours, museum experiences, e-learning and business relations all be virtual? Yes, most likely. Will people invest in news platforms, gaming, eCommerce, online blogging, reviews and brand promotions through other people personal efforts? Yes, and as authentically as possible!
Incidentally, ‘authenticity’ also rings the much-adhered to ‘empathy bell’ in the church of content hubs. So social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are forced to really do some soul-searching on ‘information authenticity’ during this period. While fake news spread like wildfire during the worst possible time, many of these platforms have now made it their business to fish out fake accounts, dangerous misinformation and have even gone a mile ahead to create a resourceful space for people to reach out for help. For instance, Facebook built the ‘community-help’ function to aid accessibility to resources against local disasters, Youtube launched the #WithMe campaign to encourage users to share skills, hobbies and knowledge from various users across the world, even TikTok placed a little banner at the bottom of its interface providing information about COVID related matters.
Adaption is a must, but in a critical time like ours, innovation is highly reliant on technology for aiding cost efficiencies and revenue enhancement opportunities, says KPMG. WFH is actually saving businesses a lot of money, so many useful technologies to create efficient processes. The focus is now on investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand consumer behaviour and improve loyalty in times of uncertainty.
The time for brands to digitally transform is now, and it is best to strike when the iron is hot because it was any species who walked the earth who could redefine “adaptation”, it’s us, humans.
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