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‘Use communication budget to create impact & win consumer respect’

By N Jayalakshmi | June 15, 2020

Renowned retail expert, Dr. Dwarika Prasad Uniyal, who is also Professor & DEAN - FLAME University, and the bestselling author of ‘Managing Retailing’, shares with Retail4Growth, his take on consumer behaviour trends post Covid-19 and what brands and retail solution providers can do to address the challenges and more importantly how brands can win back the consumer trust, confidence and respect and improve salience. Presented below are excerpts from the interview.

 Dr. Dwarika Prasad UniyalWhat have been your key observations with regard to shopper behaviour during lockdown? What kind of shopper trends can we expect going forward, in the post lockdown phase?

Research suggests that consumer behaviour trends that began with the lockdown will continue well into the post lockdown phase, even as restrictions are lifted. Consumers will continue to prioritise personal and family safety over everything else.  For example, according to a Mckinsey report of consumer sentiment survey, the overall consumer optimism has declined as the Covid-19 crisis progressed. As these markets research  reports indicate, there will be cut-down on spends, except perhaps on essentials and online entertainments, and there will be a greater inclination towards digital shopping and low-touch activities. Essentially the impact of the pandemic on consumer lifestyle and spends will last for some time and it will reflect in their shopping and buying behaviour.   

What would be your suggestions to brands as far as instilling trust in the shopper and retaining loyalty is concerned?  Maybe crafted a new brand narrative that can reflect in the store/ packaging/other communications?

These are difficult times for all brands. As India unlocks itself gradually, brands and retailers have to move very cautiously. Brands have to ensure that they engage with their customers. Don’t push for sales, don’t create artificial and pretentious campaigns to woo them. Customers are wounded, mentally and physically and the last thing they want is for a brand to tell them how much they care. Customers want brands to stay subtle, keep the healing hand ready when needed. Also brands need to work hard with smaller and mid-size retailers to ensure their shops are ready with physical distancing, help them with sanitising facilities and develop a supply chain to ensure online delivery (non-platform centric). Brands have to create new packaging which can withstand sanitizing norms, ensure that their warehouses are also sanitised and that the whole supply chain is geared to ensure no transmission happens.

They have to train their employees to follow the norms. Brands have to show their human side and not the customer valet grabbing side. They need to spend money on CSR, engage with campaigns which ensure deep respect for the professionals who are fighting against this pandemic - doctors, healthcare workers, migrant labourers, employees, Govt. employees, police, NGOs and grassroots workers. Spend your communication budgets on actually doing something for these people. This is the time to not just communicate, but also do something which creates an impact. This will automatically create respect for the brand and increase brand salience.

Read the full interview in the June 2020 edition of Point Of Purchase magazine.

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