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How Indian delivery app Swiggy combated the lockdown blues

Swiggy IPL campaign

Leading Indian food delivery brand Swiggy evolved its model during the pandemic lockdowns to keep pace with the ongoing shift in consumer mindset, and brought the focus on building trust and reassurance contextually for the category.

The company decided on “being there for anything the consumers needed right from sanitizers to pizzas”, says TS Srivats, vice president, marketing, at Swiggy, while sharing the brand journey in the last few months.

The lockdown during the last few months brought mixed news for food delivery brand Swiggy. While the early months of Covid-19 were an intense phase with the brand trying to overcome countless challenges to keep the operations optimally running, the easing of the lockdown July onwards brought back demand and resurgence. Accordingly, the brand pivoted its offering and added the layer of trust and safety to its existing aggregator model of restaurants as well as expanded beyond its core offering of food delivery.

Safety - the need of the hour

The initial phase of the pandemic months saw a dip in the number of restaurants that were operational and also the number of orders being placed. To combat the fear factor and also reinstate the consumer confidence, key safety practices like no-contact delivery increased delivery partner hygiene, and best safety standards tags for restaurants were introduced while also communicating these measures and the right food handling practices to the consumers. Over time, through the WHO and other sources, consumer awareness around food ordering has spread, resulting in a resurgence of demand. More recently, the cricketing and festive season added to the surge in orders.

Consumers are seeking brands that they can rely upon without any worries, especially with safety, hygiene and reliability taking precedence in all brand engagements, says Srivats.

Pivoting the business model beyond 'food delivery'

The ‘new’ normal made brands across categories look beyond their existing core offerings and look at the new hotspots of demand. A nimble-footed Swiggy also launched new offerings such as Swiggy Instamart and HealthHub, as well as rapidly expanded services like Swiggy Genie.

Swiggy Genie is a new offering that was launched to let consumers pick up anything from groceries to laundry to sending across home-cooked food or supplies to friends and family. “We have seen Genie is also helping small business owners deliver goods to their customers, right from small cafes and restaurants to boutiques.” It has been received well, and currently it is present in 65 cities in the country, shares Srivats.

Swiggy’s Instamart offering was launched with the USP: instant delivery of groceries and daily essentials within 30-45 minutes to cater to the needs of time-pressed, convenience seeking urban consumers. The hyperlocal delivery offering has unlocked a new dimension of convenience in the times of social distancing for consumers as well as earnings for the delivery partners, shares Srivats.

Other newer subcategories identified to fill need gaps include Swiggy HealthHub, where Swiggy collaborated with leading restaurants to assist them in creating delectable healthy options of popular dishes.

Repositioning the communication strategy

From a marketing point of view, this was a period when the types of initiatives we undertook and the campaigns we ran were focused on doing our bit for the consumers and the restaurant and delivery partner ecosystem, rather than traditional brand campaigns, says Srivats. All throughout the crisis, the communication was crafted keeping the consumer sentiment in mind. The pre-lockdown and early lockdown focused on the hygiene and safety precautions, later moving to convey the consumers how ordering-in is safe and what precautions could be followed.

For example, in an effort to support the severely impacted restaurant industry, Swiggy launched the ‘At Your Service’ campaign. Promoted mainly through its social channels, the objective was to instill trust amongst the consumers and encourage them to support their local restaurants by ordering-in or to help the restaurant community recover.

Another initiative, ‘Foodoshop on Instagram’ was launched which comprised Instagram filters with food dishes with patrons sharing their ‘lockdown miseries’ about missing their favourite dish or restaurants using various filters.

The unlock phase and beyond

In the unlock phase, the communication gradually turned to winning back the consumers’ trust and reminding them of the familiar and delightful Swiggy experience. In addition to paying tribute to the delivery partners’ heroic efforts during the challenging times, Swiggy collaborated with Universal Music India and Havas group to launch ‘Shukriya Kare’ - a thank-you anthem for all delivery partners of Dunzo, Grofers, Medlife and Swiggy.

Recently, the brand was also back with its quirky and well-crafted IPL (Indian Premier League) campaign comprising TV adverts as well as contests and games, and exciting offers through the season.

A brand with a heart

The ‘Hope not Hunger’ campaign was launched to help the needy. As a part of this initiative, Swiggy partnered with various commercial kitchens, NGOs and state governments to provide daily meals to thousands of underprivileged, daily wagers and stranded migrant labourers who had limited access to nutritious food during the 21-day lockdown in April. “We raised over Rs 10 crore and distributed over 30 lakh meals to people in need during the period”, informs Srivats.

The 2020 Report Card

Thanks to a resurgent demand and a repositioned go-to-market offering, Swiggy is once again on a strong wicket. As per Srivats, “the pan India food delivery has nearly recovered to the pre-Covid order value. In many markets, it is at 95%, some even over 100%." With offices resuming operations, the brand expects an uptick in orders placed from work, with some of the office going populace to migrate back to the metros. In addition, Swiggy witnessed a 30% increase in orders during the cricketing season this year, he adds.

The big marketing lesson learnt

Shares Srivats, “Consumers gravitate to brands they trust in times of a crisis. Times like these are a litmus test for the value and trust of any business. With the backing of technology, logistic prowess and a deep understanding of hyper-local trends the brand managed to emerge as an essential service during the lockdown and subsequent unlock phases. As we approach full recovery, we are focused on strengthening our offerings and working towards enabling greater convenience for our users.”

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