What we can learn from the beginning of Asia's coronavirus recovery

What we can learn from the beginning of Asia's coronavirus recovery

Wherever you live, news broadcasts across the globe have one thing in common - the comparison of cross-territory information about the impact of coronavirus. Such data helps generate expert forecasts and predictions as to how the situation may play out in individual countries and around the world.

However, a similar application of marketing data could prove equally illuminating. It may even be instrumental in helping brands and companies survive the financial crisis brought on by the pandemic. The benefit of our global network is that we can see how the situation is playing out in the markets that are starting to open up again, such as in Asia, as well as those that are stabilising but still in lockdown, such as in Europe and those like the US that are now hitting peak crisis.

Right now, modelling the economic recovery means looking at markets such as China, Korea and Taiwan, which have all been praised for their response to the virus and are now the markets best placed to take advantage of a recovery.

Our Hong Kong office, for example, has witnessed brands migrate much more quickly to an e-commerce-only model during the lockdown. Skincare and luxury jewellery brands, in particular, have seen a significant acceleration in demand via e-commerce.

For many brands, the increased use of their e-commerce channels may become the new normal post-crisis and could even offer an opportunity to exit or divest in more costly traditional channels. Kantar’s consumer survey in China, conducted in February 2020 found that 42% of those surveyed said they will buy more frequently from e-commerce platforms post-crisis.

Brands also need to model how consumer media behaviour has changed, to help them decide when, where, and how to best advertise their brands. Nielsen data shows that TV viewing in China rose from 70 minutes to a staggering seven hours and 40 minutes per day. Similarly, consumption of digital channels and social platforms such as TikTok has risen globally, whereas print and OOH are seeing huge declines.

As restrictions are lifted these behaviours will start to change again but they may not go back to where they were pre-crisis.

Consumer priorities for what they look for in brands will also have shifted. The prediction from our European offices is that luxury brands, for example, will need to shift to more responsible consumption, with luxury brands needing to pay attention to quality, craftsmanship and experience. Understanding the customer and what they believe in will be more important than ever.

Global organisations have a distinct advantage in that they can apply individual market learnings to other territories, using data and insights to remove assumptions and guesswork as they plan for the recovery phase. Even non-global organisations should be analysing trends in similar sectors and across their competitor set while leaning on their agency partners for further insights and strategic guidance.

A March 2020 report from McKinsey & Company shows that the Chinese population is starting to regain confidence in the economy and their purchasing behaviours are reflective of that. It found that the majority of those questioned will resume the same or higher levels of spending in some categories over the coming months as the country recovers from the virus.

Any recovery, however, will likely come initially from brands focusing on individual domestic marketplaces rather than combined global business, as consumption is still dramatically reduced and varied across different markets, while supply chains will remain disrupted for some time.

The power of data is that it enables companies to track the recovery in key markets, creating a template for other countries to apply.

Global businesses should be analysing their own data in a way that allows them to know when other markets will reach a similar economic upturn, helping them revise marketing strategies for the rest of 2020.

Increased consumption of TV and online video content has given brands the opportunity to reinvigorate their creative and tell longer-form stories during the crisis. As we enter recovery, they will need to know when it will be the right time to be more confident about returning to braver creative with relevant storytelling across a wider variety of media platforms.

The recovery will bring added scrutiny to each company’s data governance and taxonomy. Such cross-market data analysis is only possible where there is a centralised, structured approach to collection and storage.

Effective measurement is built on the requirement that all markets and agencies use the same terminology and language structures when talking about the business, products, and campaigns.

Further, storing the data in a global tech structure and removing any tech silos means that data can be harnessed more effectively across business divisions and markets.

Those brands who have already invested in this space will have the agility to make smarter, data-led decisions and should navigate the recovery phase with greater success.

Brands that are ineffective will remain hindered by uncertainty and less agile when it comes to rebuilding their businesses.

Rob Foster is a senior consultant at The Observatory International

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