Industry experts decode how to stay ahead of changing consumer behaviour during COVID-19

On the CEO Lounge Digital Roundtable, a panel discussed how consumer behaviour & preferences are changing due to COVID-19, and how to respond accordingly to stay relevant in the new reality

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 25, 2020 9:21 AM
CEO Lounge Digital Roundtable

COVID-19 has completely changed the way of people live with malls, cinema halls, food outlets being shut, working from home becoming the norm, and with only essential shopping and uncertainty over jobs, spending is likely to remain low in the days to come. 

Consumer-facing companies urgently need to gauge how consumer behaviour and preferences are changing to respond accordingly and stay relevant to the new reality. To discuss this, CEO Lounge organised a digital roundtable on ‘Staying ahead of changing consumer behaviour’ which was moderated by Sunil Lulla, CEO, BARC India.

Amuleek Singh Bijral, Founder & CEO, Chai Point, Farokh Balsara, Partner and Regional Leader - Consumer Products & Health Services, Ernst & Young, Neeraj Bahl, MD & CEO, BSH Home Appliances India and Vivek Srivatsa, Marketing Head, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors were the panellist.

“People are spending more than 5-10 million dollars in the kitchen excluding appliances and that is the kind of people pledging money to the kitchen and they now understand the need for good home appliances like mixer-grinders and others,” said Bahl. Speaking about his own organisation, he shared that the company has already provided 90 days stock to over 1500 engineers, two masks per day for the next 90 days and 500ml of sanitizer for everyone. We have already procured for our offices, our employees, sales consultants, and also insurance will see a big change.

He further added, “The market is changing and we see the channel shift. Even in Bangalore, people don't visit stores, they make orders online and in the coming days, I assume consumers would like to visit a standalone store rather than a multi-brand store to avoid the crowd. It will start slowly but over a period of time these things are going to improve.”

Speaking about Chai Point which is an Indian tea company and cafe chain, Bijral shared, “We are a young company and we are trying to figure out the scenario. It's a highly unprecedented scenario and it has allowed us to focus on the basics. Obviously there is an immediate impact on revenue and that can't be helped in the time the lockdown is fully over and people actually walk over to the stores. Our online sales have reached about 65 to 70% of the pre-COVID era for the same set of stores, which is especially if I look at the trust factor, which is hugely important in the F&B category it is broadly encouraging for us.”

He further shared that the company is primarily doubling upon delivery. “Our goal really is to ensure that our offerings on the online store increase dramatically. We are fundamentally a beverage anchored business but now we are making a deeper foray into food because we have realised that work from home scenario calls for an additional level of convenience, which the F&B players like us can offer,” said Brijal. He also shared that due to lockdown, maids were not allowed to work hence it was putting extra burden on people to manage food as well with office work. The company introduced 10 new food products and plans to launch more in the coming weeks.

The company also bought second-year renewal of ISO 32,000 certification which is one of the highest safety standards. “We initially went for it thinking that it's a part of our legacy and we need to keep on building on it. But the COVID experience has made us feel that is not only just a classic legacy but a very key competitive differentiator where we need to explain to our customers that safety is something which is systemically embedded in our company,” explained Bijral.

The COVID-19 lockdown has impacted business across sectors and one of them is the automobile sector. Speaking about the industry and trends, Srivatsa shared “It's an unprecedented time and lot of learnings. I think there's a clear need that people would want their own personal safe property going forward. Several surveys and studies across the world have shown that there's going to be an increase in preference for personal transportation and that could be clearly seen in India as well. So, broadly, we're working in this direction, how to make our car ownership much more democratized, how do we make it easily accessible?”

The company is also working on differentiated kinds of ownership cycles be it subscription models, a low EMI approach so that people can get into that ownership cycle very fast. In terms of safety, Srivatsa said that Tata Motors was the first 5-star GNCAP manufacturer with the Nexon. “I can proudly say that Tata Motors is one of the manufacturers that will always put safety right upfront. We put money behind the claim, we prioritize safety in our cars.”

He further shared that a big part of the consumer buying journey of automotive in the past was extremely physical which can be digitalised now. The company is working on Technology Building intervention to make that possible, exploring virtual showroom Skype calls for face to face interaction to reduce physical interaction.

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