In this column, The Drum asks marketers across categories and geographies to share their experience of combating the Covid-19 crisis, the learnings along the way, how they tweaked their go-to-market strategies and what their new playbook looks like as they seek growth. This week Prashant Verma, vice president marketing, at Grofers, shares his learnings and lessons. Verma oversees the marketing portfolio at Grofers. The online brand, founded in 2013, has positioned itself as India’s largest low-price supermarket in the grocery sector.
Emerging online grocery purchase behaviour
Covid-19 has brought about a significant shift, due to the rapidly changing consumer behaviour over the last few months. In the early days of the lockdown, there was a lot of fear and anxiety amongst consumers, especially related to essential services such as grocery shopping. As social distancing was followed across the country, the online grocery category in general witnessed a massive surge in demand during the lockdown.
This trend is going to stay as a large number of customers who shopped during the lockdown have already transitioned towards online shopping. We are seeing 64% first-time online grocery shoppers with near 20% first time online shoppers. Over 70% of the customers who came in the first month of the pandemic are still shopping on our platform. Moreover, people from Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets are moving towards e-commerce, and e-grocery in particular, as we have seen a spurt in demand from non-metro markets as well.
The new-age marketing playbook
Since demand was coming in naturally from all quarters in the last few months, there was no significant need for demand generation. Thus our marketing playbook at Grofers was also designed to ensure a seamless customer experience in order to serve the society at large, along the following pillars:
- Empathize with customers and communicate with transparency. This was practised by regular updates to consumers on delivery slots as well as campaigns around our corona warriors – ‘the delivery superheroes’.
- Educate new-to-online grocery shoppers by building customized onboarding journeys
- Empower customers with real solutions that solve their problems - including delivery in a safety bag, initiatives like society shopping that serve multiple customers in a limited time.
- Support causes and deliver essentials to the ones who were most in need during that period - daily wage workers, the elderly and the young ones without parents.
Value rocks and rules
As the lockdown opened and consumer behaviour changed from fear to acceptance of the new normal. In the last couple of months, value for money has taken precedence over other category drivers due to shrinking incomes. With the tightening of household incomes, customers are increasingly looking for products that can add to more value for the money spent, leading to a further rise in penetration of our own brands. Several new product launches have been lined up in segments like home and hygiene products, staples, personal care and detergents.
Our marketing strategy is to live up to the promise of ensuring that customers get their essentials at the lowest possible prices. We will continue by providing value throughout the festive season. During this time, we also ran our flagship event Grand Orange Bag Days (GOBD) to deliver this value to our customers.
In terms of the media mix, digital has now taken a central role for us with a 70% share of spends. We are also witnessing a 4X improvement in ROI due to the natural adoption of online grocery.
Pivoting the business model
We didn’t pivot. As a technology company, we innovated extensively across our supply chain and the consumer app to address the rapid surge in demand. We closely worked with our manufacturers for seamless supply of our own brand's assortment and increased the procurement capacity of our own brands by 2X. We also partnered with other delivery firms to get their fleet on board and moved to an apartments-led-delivery model. We are actively working with Societies and RWAs (resident welfare association) to ensure that we are able to serve more households in these difficult times. We also have new app features that enable easy onboarding as well as allow consumers to edit their order multiple times before delivery, we now have a society shopping & delivery model that allows us to serve multiple customers together.
Our focus will be on doing our bit to help the economy get back on track by working with more MSME vendors and smaller Indian manufacturers and help them with national scale.
The big marketing learnings during Covid-19
- Resilience to overcome unexpected hurdles, agility to execute fast and building transparency with our customers were amongst the most important learnings from this period.
- It is important to build long-term trust with customers by innovating on your feet in order to solve real problems for them. Brands that can build trust through meaningful acts during this period will create long-lasting relationships with its customers.