'Pandemic has given rise to protectionist sentiments among consumers'

e4m Conclave: Preeti Reddy, CEO- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, shared that brand loyalty has taken a beating due to restricted movements, limited availability and cautious spending

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jan 21, 2021 5:51 PM
Preeti Reddy

The social suffering seen by people during the pandemic has given rise to protectionist sentiments in the society, Preeti Reddy, CEO- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, said during her presentation at the 20th edition exchange4media's flagship event, e4m Conclave.

Reddy said that 61% of urban consumers are buying more local brands. Further, 79% are in favour of buying India-made products even as they may not be willing to pay more for these things.

The presentation was based on a survey conducted by Kantar covering 10,000 consumers in the age-group of 15-55 years across urban India's top 35 cities. The survey looked at brand usage, attitudes, demographics, and a whole host of other topics.

"Beyond health, consumers need economic immunity, therefore there was a rise in protectionist sentiments towards buying made in India to support the community economy. For companies and brands, being Indian is not only about origin it is also about the contribution to the Indian economy and making India Atmanirbhar. That sentiment has really resonated with consumers," she noted.

Due to restricted movements, cautious spending, and limited availability, brand loyalty has taken a beating. Brands, Reddy said, have to work harder to retain customers. Shopping behaviour has seen a considerable change as digital has become a way of life.

In terms of online usage, online education topped the list followed by online entertainment and news. There was a huge growth in engagement for online videos as it also offered much needed personal space to consumers.

She further shared that almost 60% of surveyed individuals want to get back to colleges and workplaces as they are feeling claustrophobic at home. Also, the heavy sense of togetherness is losing its sheen. "Consumers are together but they are alone and they are yearning for that lost my space," she stated.

As per the survey, people are restricting themselves to smaller siloed personal circles.

Another consequence of the pandemic is that gender narratives are going back in time. Men in the 35+ age category are anxious as many of them have lost their jobs. In the case of women, they have managed to strike a balance between work and homely duties. The pandemic also gave rise to new women entrepreneurs.

Building immunity has emerged as one of the key focus areas for consumers. Therefore, categories that focussed on immunity have grown. Chayanwanprash, she said, has seen tremendous growth.

The survey claimed that 72% of India's urban population actually claimed to be economically impacted by the pandemic. "When we sliced this further, we saw two India's emerging. One that is highly impacted and another which is a little more insulated. The highly impacted were the lower socio-economic classes in the smaller towns in East and South zones where the extent of the loss was higher."

The economic uncertainty has led to financial prudence as consumers are fearful of the economic impact of Covid more than health and well-being. "Overall sentiment is negative and cautious and that's different from the beginning months of the pandemic when consumers were hopeful that everything will be back to normal."

Reddy said that the consumers believe that the situation will worsen in time both on the economic front and their personal finances. Therefore, discretionary spending is being deferred while only essential spends are being made.

According to the survey, Reddy noted that there has been a shrinking in spaces as consumers are prisoners at home with limited space. Further, housewives had to bear the brunt of work from home and study from home. "They were hassled and overworked since husband and kids at home, lost her space and time," Reddy said.

The pandemic has also led to positive changes, said Reddy. One of them being consumers learning new skills. According to Kantar, 72% of Indians learned new skills like cooking, new languages, and new tech skills.

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