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How businesses stayed in contact in a touch-averse world

Navigating a touch-less world

Businesses that are successful in the long term are built on the pillars of trust and one of the ways this trust historically has been built is via human interaction with the brand and its various touchpoints. Covid changed all that.

How did businesses solve this mega-challenge in the new touch-averse world? By relooking at the consumer journey and create novel approaches to nurturing ‘contact-less’ relationships with them. Sapna Arora, chief marketing officer of Olx India writes about how some of them navigated the ‘no-touch’ journey in the post-Covid world and increasingly went digital

Auto consumer shopping journey went touch-less

In the pre-Covid era, the consumer journey for an Indian automobile buyer typically started even prior to buying a car commencing with on-line research, that led to him visiting multiple dealerships to understand the best deals available and also to test-drive. The consumer happily indulged in window-shopping online and offline for financing and insurance. Visiting showrooms was a celebratory affair - it was a must for the final closure and negotiation of extended warranties and accessories etc.

And then Covid changed the contours of the industry. In a first in the Indian automotive industry, zero domestic sales were reported in April 2020. After some months of getting used to the new normal, automakers got down to setting up digital sales channels in preparation for reduced customer footfall and adapting a more phy-gital approach to car sales.

The manufacturers came up with digital platforms that completely negate the need to visit a dealership. Leading OEMs such as BMW, MG Motor, Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, Honda Cars, Volkswagen, Volvo, Tata Motors joined the bandwagon. Some of them also branded their digital channels. For instance, Mercedes Benz became ‘Merc from home’, Volvo was ‘Stay Home Store’ while Hyundai was simply ‘Click to buy’.

The users could now view the available stock at the dealership of their choice (360-degree external and internal views of the car), check the ex-showroom price and explore options and offers. All the dealerships had been integrated onto the platforms. Consumers could take a virtual tour of the cars and also schedule test-drives using these platforms.

Money matters went online

Another sector that underwent a lot of change was the financial services comprising of Life and Health Insurance. Life insurance products saw an upsurge after Covid. From being seen as ‘push’ products earlier, post-Covid, the category started being seen as more critical and the companies saw enquiries and purchases increase manifold after the dip. People became conscious of their mortality and therefore of the need to plan ahead for their loved ones. Interestingly life Insurance was being sold by private players largely online even pre-Covid but to ensure that they do not miss out on increasing demand, brands tweaked their strategies to further expand their reach by appointing more online distributors and adding more agents.

FMCG went fast and furious on e-commerce

The FMCG sector, the fourth largest in India saw a significant and inexorable rise of e-commerce post-Covid. While the neighbourhood grocery stores were a force majeure during the initial days of lock-down. as the situation settled and e-commerce players got their systems back in order, the acceptability of e-commerce for FMCG and even groceries skyrocketed. Owing to the pandemic and increased adoption of e-commerce, many leading FMCG players doubled their sales on e-commerce sites in 2020 and the trend is likely to continue.

As per market estimates, e-commerce platforms are expected to reach $100 billion in sales by 2024 and could become bigger than modern trade in just five years. Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the country’s leading FMCG company recently saw the share of online retail to its total sales volume grow by two times to close to 6%, rising from 3% in 2019. Ecommerce sales at Nestle India surged 97% in the September quarter and comprised 4% of its local business.

There are some common post-Covid trends being seen across industries. Many of them have adopted digital/online channels both for selling as well as for fulfilment and have launched new products/ services to take advantage of the new opportunity areas. The war with Covid is far from over even as a new, potentially dangerous strain has emerged in the UK and it is far from clear what the efficacy of vaccines will be. Marketers would be well advised to stay on their toes.

Sapna Arora is chief marketing officer of Olx India.

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