Report: Changing consumer behavior & journey during COVID-19

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COVID-19 brands

Facebook India in association with Boston Consulting Group has released a new report, ‘Turn the Tide’ that focuses on how COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior and shares guidance for brands to build for the new consumer journeys.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have caused significant disruption for people, communities, brands, and businesses. In order to guide brands to adapt to this rapid transition, and enable them to ensure business continuity at this crucial time, Facebook India and Boston Consulting Group came together to understand consumer behavior shifts and outline the opportunity for businesses around the altered path-to-purchase.

Sandeep Bhushan, Director, and Head, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India said, “As business after business joins the dots to understand consumer shifts in both mindsets and behaviors as a result of COVID-19, we have invested in studying the new paths to purchase in continuing our commitment to enabling growth for businesses both large and small. The ‘Turn the Tide’ report outlines the opportunities that businesses need to embrace in the context of new consumer journeys and category needs. In response to consumers embracing the digital medium, brands need to focus on solutions that are relevant for the new normal such as hyper-localization, creating virtual experiences, re-looking at the media-mix to build efficiency, or building messaging around new habits such as DIY and the increased focus on health and hygiene.”

Facebook and Boston Consulting Group will also share vertical-specific guidance to help businesses gain almost real-time insights, enabling them to 'Turn the Tide'. 

The report delves into key consumer-shifts based on three societal-truths that have emerged as a result of the pandemic - social distancing, increasing focus on health and hygiene, and increasing income uncertainty. Within each of these shifts, the report finds that there are three kinds of behavior change movements that are being observed - a reversal of past trends, acceleration of existing trends, and formation of new habits.

Nimisha Jain, Managing Director, and Partner, Boston Consulting Group said, “We are experiencing unprecedented shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviors - 80%+ consumers will continue to practice social distancing and are bringing the outside inside, over 40% of consumers are dialing up on health and wellness spends, e-commerce adoption has already advanced by 2-3 years - to name a few. These aren’t just temporary surges, and many will last longer and become more defining traits. Our analysis reveals that only 1 in 6 companies emerged stronger in past crises - players who show the agility to reinvent their value propositions, go-to-market plans and business models to address these demand shifts will be the ones that set themselves apart from the pack”

The reports especially calls-out the massive acceleration in digital led by social media, the emergence of micro-market opportunities, an increase in value consciousness leading to more utility-led shopping, consumers embracing digital even in historically offline categories such as education, health, and fitness, the increase in spending on e-commerce in the coming months even for traditionally offline categories, a definite increase in spends on health, hygiene and wellness, and a rise in do-it-yourself (DIY) trends.

The Facebook-Boston Consulting Group recommendations to help brands surge during the COVID-19 crisis:

Based on the report, here are some steps brands can take right now to win in the new normal

<1> Build Social connect in Social distancing: Engage with consumers in their context.

People, creators, and celebrities are on social media platforms in an unprecedented way, and brands have an opportunity to leverage this massive engagement to build stronger dialogues and deeper connect with users.

<2> Focus on Hyper-Localization: Connect with consumers where they are

Micro-targeting can help brands get the first-mover advantage with the country being divided into different zones with distinct restrictions.

<3> Bring alive experiences with Digital Access: Virtual launches and product demos

As people turn to virtual experiences for every facet of their life, it becomes important for brands to build for this new customer journey. We are already seeing more brands explore Facebook and Instagram ‘Live’ to connect with their followers and customers. Now brands are thinking about using social media platforms for new product launches too. 

<4> Optimize Portfolio for Value creation: Segmenting consumers to drive differential value

With the consumer becoming more value-conscious, it becomes important for brands to segment in order to optimize and offer what is relevant for the segment.

Also Read: COVID-19: Brands unlock the potential of social media activations

<5> Relook at Media Mix models to drive growth: Align to the new media landscape

As brands, and especially those with traditional product categories, start spending more online, they would feel the urgent need to understand truly incremental outcomes by the platform as well as cross-platform efficiency. This would increase the need for industry-leading digital measurement standards such as custom mix modeling (CMM) by Nielsen that Facebook had piloted last year.

<6> Build your online presence: Own platforms and influencing marketplaces

The study revealed that Indian consumers may spend higher on e-commerce, even for traditionally offline categories. The surge in preference for online channels is sharper in India than in China, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines. This is the right time to build your online presence.

<7> Strengthen CRM solutions: Messaging for post-sales communication and other digital CRM tools

It’s essential to seamlessly solve for customers needs to eliminate friction in the path-to-purchase. Conversational digital solutions such as messenger/chatbots and other digital CRM tools can prove to be beneficial right now.

Other key recommendations and guidance can be found in the ‘Turn the Tide’ full report.

Some examples of brands leveraging digital during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Hyundai India leveraging branded content influencers on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook and Instagram have become a natural home for partnerships between people, influencers, and brands to come to life. With over 400Mn Indians connected on the Facebook family of apps every month, social media serves as a means to social connect in times of social distancing, and hence gives an opportunity to brands to leverage this massive engagement to build deeper connections with consumers.

Hyundai India partnered with Facebook for the launch of Hyundai Aura and leveraged Branded Content Ads using Influencers. Select posts of some Influencers were used to reach out to the brand target audiences at scale on Facebook and Instagram. 

This Influencer led branded content ads to lend authenticity to the campaign and created multiple pieces of differentiated content that could appeal to many. The results were encouraging awareness and favorability. With Branded content ads, advertisers have the ability to promote creators' organic branded content posts as feed and story ads, thereby reaching new audiences and measuring impact. It especially becomes relevant because of the constraints of physical, in-person content creation. 

Eno leveraging Facebook to reach rural audiences through micro-targeting 

An increase in brand penetration for large brands is always challenging. Mass brands that need to grow in rural require even sharper micro-targeting and message customization.

In order to drive incremental reach and consideration for Eno in Rural Clusters, the brand mapped the internal business to geographic pin codes (via census and postal Pin code directory) identifying rural clusters to be targeted.

These clusters were then mapped to the Facebook audience. The brand tied up with Facebook to customize communication in vernacular, tying the brand objectives, rural consumer understanding, and platform best practices. 

Aditya Birla Health Insurance Bringing Alive Digital Experiences

As consumer journeys get altered, it becomes important to build new digital experiences for people to connect with them. Aditya Birla Health Insurance wanted to empower and motivate families to prioritize health and that led to a campaign to help people in lockdown to reimagine a healthy lifestyle. 

With 100+ Facebook Live sessions across topics - Yoga, Fitness, Nutrition, Mental Wellness, Medical Doctors & Financial Planning - for 7 weeks till date, the brand leveraged the strength of Facebook Live & health influencers to reach audiences through a daily dose of interaction, helping India stay fit during the lockdown from the comfort of their home.

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