Most consumers are now either quarantined or practicing social distancing. Although this has led to a drop in daily travel and physical service interactions, it has led to a corresponding boom in online deliveries and the use of digital communications and home entertainment.
The changes in consumers’ lives that COVID-19 crisis has brought about are many – being more open to try new products and services and abandon previous ones that are suddenly no longer relevant.
Post the lockdown, there will be countering forces at play. On one hand, consumers will need to buy appliances for their comfort and effort reduction to counter both the summer heat as well as be better prepared for the future. On the other hand, social distancing norms and overall pandemic fear may keep people away from stores for some time.
There is also the added uncertainty around the lockdown withdrawal, given that the scenario is dynamic. There will be significant changes in buying behavior after the lockdown.
With subdued sentiments and an aversion to higher discretionary spends, a change in investment priorities among consumers is also expected. Buying behavior, both in terms of purchase behavior and value propositions being sought, is clearly expected to go through changes, therefore, in the coming times.
Key technology trends
Digital transition. As the online channel will see more traction than offline, given the social distancing norms, digital transitions are expected in a big way across verticals – from consumer engagement to lead generation to customer service.
Launching online sales channels to digitally connect with consumers, alongside creating multiple digital consumer touchpoints to enhance sentiments, will be the new way of doing business. Similarly, remote servicing is here to stay and many digital advancements can be expected in this field.
Automation. Manufacturers, who had earlier been reluctant in adopting automation systems, will now rethink their strategy and leverage automation technologies like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) as a means to cut costs during this economic turmoil, and revamp their operations. The automation work done today will pave the way for a better future tomorrow.
Product and benefit focus. Health and hygiene is now a relevant theme and a matter of utmost concern for consumers, for example, germ-kill proposition and anti-bacterial features. Effort minimization is also a theme, which will find resonance with consumers who may be worried about a second wave of infections and lock down.
Environment consciousness is on the rise, and we will see more consumers inclined toward eco-friendly appliances. Brands will have to recognize more such potential themes that consumers will identify with.
This requires reviewing of the current portfolio and coming up with new features for short term and new categories or product ideas for long term along these themes. IoT, effort minimization, low contact operation – all these and more – have to be evaluated.
Logistics. It is another area that can gain from contactless technologies and may see innovation in the long term.
In this new era, it is becoming more and more evident that brands need to re-orientate or re-invent its products, services, and communications to fit the COVID-19 landscape. And we must review, update, and rapidly adapt, wherever needed, to ensure that we remain relevant to our customers. The COVID-19 crisis has indeed presented us with an opportunity for revaluations, innovation and transformation.