View from India: Digital unlocks new avenues for marketing and advertising

Disruption caused by the pandemic has pushed us into a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Product launches and purchases are no longer the same. Industries are feeling the pressure in one way or another. Consequently, the marketing and advertising industry is orienting itself more towards digital marketing to keep pace.

India is home to new-age business models such as payment app Paytm, ed-tech company Byju’s, and  the food delivery restaurant aggregator Zomato. The pandemic’s thrust on digital payments, contactless procedures and lockdown restrictions has made the masses reach out to these business models. Their services, which were initially restricted to a community of users, have become a must-have for everyone. This category is expected to grow.

Speaking at the ASSOCHAM Virtual Summit on Branding and Marketing, Saugata Gupta, managing director & CEO of Marico Ltd, said: “Low cost of failure and quick go-to-market products could urge companies and entrepreneurs to experiment with newer models. FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies are working on test-trial models that yield results within 30-40 days as opposed to the traditional six-month wait-and-watch period.”

The marketing and advertising sector is orienting itself more towards digital marketing and social media platforms. Data has become a source of strategic advantage. The information emerging from the data has led to precise marketing, through which new consumers may be brought into the fold. Business models are built around data. It could probably lead to a stage of personalised make-for-me products. Besides niche offerings, social media, crowd sourcing and online marketing research could determine the organisation’s agenda. “The viral word-of-mouth channel could lead to a wave of new online shoppers through tech tools. They help in monitoring consumer behaviour, real-time feedback and return on investment (RoI). All this leads to a situation when campaign cycles have become shorter and products are more agile,” added Gupta.   

In a digital set-up, the tools empower marketers to reach out directly to consumers. Digital transformation must be from the top. However, companies require a clear vision of the business model and then build a brand strategy for RoI and the right unit of economics.

Data assimilation could lead many companies into direct-to-consumer (D2C) selling. This helps drive sales, and companies can create a better customer experience and stronger customer relationships. D2C can be seen as a means for companies to create sustainable businesses.

Another aspect is that most products today are launched through the omni-channel or multichannel wherein purchase happens online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks-and-mortar store. Companies don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to product offerings. They are likely to rely on tools for analysing market trends to position themselves accordingly.

“Ever since the pandemic, there’s a huge shift in the buying trend, where the accent is on online shopping. New brands have sprung up to cater to the shifting preference,” noted Thomas Varghese, chairman of ASSOCHAM’s National Council on Branding and Marketing, and business head – textiles at Aditya Birla Group.   

An economic downturn has compelled companies to streamline their budgets. It may not be possible to solve the VUCA environment, but one has to live with it. So, the marketing and advertising industry has had to rethink its strategies to sustain itself in the trying situation. “The rate of online consumption is growing at a fast pace,” said Basudev Mukherjee, assistant secretary general, ASSOCHAM. “Technology is the facilitator. Digital tools and social media have helped big and small sellers to reach out to far-flung consumers.”

A financial risk is something many companies may shy away from in the VUCA situation. On the other hand, short-term profits may probably click with them. “Most companies that were evaluated on their profitability are now focusing on acquiring more customers. Advertising companies are scouting round for new tools to make the products innovative and more agile. Customer-centric data throws light on customer preferences,” observed Sam Balsara, chairman and MD, Madison Group. Hopefully the advertising pie will not just increase but also perhaps grab eyeballs for innovative offerings. 

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