Situations change and influence strategies as well as customer behaviors. The holy grail of digital marketing may no longer be valid in this COVID 19 era, especially for small businesses that already faced challenges from the big boys. The pandemic is also a great leveler and opens up new opportunities. You too can change your customer marketing approaches to be fluidly adaptable to this changed situation.
1. Spending is affected
Some have lost their jobs and are not likely to find new jobs with the same pay scale. Others work on reduced pay. This means spending capacity is affected and people are likely to look for maximum value when they spend.
As per the WTO survey, it shows merchandise trade will plummet by up to 32% in 2020. The global lockdown has led to a surge in panic buying of grocery and food items with non-essentials being relegated to the least priority position.
Supermarket and grocery store sales rose 22.4% but as physical distancing and fears of infection gain ground, people will likely shift to online purchase models. Retailers who are still selling from physical stores would do well to implement online purchase and doorstep deliveries.
Rakesh Jain in Mumbai already ran a provision store and then opened a store on Amazon to sell mobile accessories before the COVID outbreak. It was not difficult for him to add a grocery line to his online presence and then disseminate the fact in his circles in the neighborhood and Mumbai. He hired a delivery van to go around and make deliveries of food items during the lockdown period. His sales of grocery and food items surged. Not one to let the opportunity go by, he also added hand washes and masks to his line. His mobile accessories division had zero customers but his essential commodity division flourished.
Underlying this is the need to be adaptable to changing circumstances, maintain a good presence, and show care for concerns of people, for which social media is a perfect fit.
2. Social media and marketing in COVID era
Facebook statistics as reported on NapoleonCat show an increase of 50% in the use of social media. It is a simple enough matter to be active on social media sites not just to show concern for people and offer helpful guidance but also to offer assistance and profit by it. Take the case of Rajesh above. He already had a social media presence and used it to good effect during the pandemic.
He announced the availability of groceries on his site and then listed grocery items in stock every day. His followers and friends in his Mumbai group spread the word. He went a step further and offered to arrange doorstep delivery in certain areas. Practical help is what people need, not just advice and his offer of supply soon resulted in a steady stream of orders received through WhatsApp. It is service and commerce rolled into one. Both sides benefit.
Acting on the principle of “Engage, Repeat and Referral” he launched schemes on Facebook for local sales, offered rewards to those who referred customers to him, and had discounts for repeat customers. Then, he offered a bulk scheme with reduced prices if people in the same neighborhood got together and ordered at one time. Plus, he accepted direct payments into his bank accounts. Understanding customers and showing practical empathy is important in this COVID era.
3. Listening to what people want
Social media is no doubt a good listening post to understand what people want during the lockdown but you need to ask. This is what Rakesh did and the answers were encouraging enough for him to focus on pursuing a promising avenue. There were people running community kitchens who required inputs in bulk and at competitive prices. Some asked for credit. He made the best possible arrangements.
While some customers may vanish once things return to normal he has likely built up a solid base of customers that will ensure that his business flourishes. Apart from supplies, he also offered employment on his social media pages, requesting those interested in the delivery of groceries to start working for his business.
Since he was earning profits he decided to give away some groceries free of charge to those in need and spread the word. Helpful people pitched in and arranged for such items to reach the needy.
This is just one example of how, despite the lockdown, you can become like a chameleon and adapt to changed circumstances. You can be helpful and sell and make profits at the same time. While the pre-COVID trend was to try to attract customers to fit into your pipeline, the changed situation is one of adapting your strategy to suit customers and gain in the process. The effects last once the pandemic subsides.
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