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The way we work, communicate, socialise and shop is undergoing a period of radical and swift change. Planned strategies are now obsolete as the marketing landscape has completely altered. Ewan McKay, Marketing Manager for the Webhelp UK region, looks at the current key sectors and those struggling to manage during this period of significant disruption.
Let’s be honest – there has probably never been a stranger time to be a Marketer. With the arrival of COVID-19 the old rules have been broken, and time served marketing strategies lie in tatters. Added to this, as is often the case in times of uncertainty, budgets are being frozen or cut back.
Businesses are looking for ways to regroup and consolidate as they ride out this storm – and as a consequence new channels are being developed and marketing activity is swiftly being prioritised to support new areas of activity.
The spotlight firmly remains on how companies are conducting themselves during this difficult period, as Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer for the Webhelp UK region, notes:
“It’s hard for brands to find the right way through this, as they are in the unenviable position of balancing customer benefit against operational stability, and with the growing media attention it’s easy to fall foul of public opinion.”
As a consequence, marketing now has a vital role in reflecting and sharing the human side of organisations and shining a positive light on how they have supported their people and customers during the pandemic.
Late last year, Polly Ashdown, Marketing & Communications Director, took an in-depth look at why Webhelp aims to ‘Think Human’ and how behaving in a more human way is a vital part of growing brands and building good customer relationships, a topic which is only increasing in relevance, as COVID-19 affects our most basic of human needs, connection.
In fact, the more we work, play and socialise online, the more demand for connectivity and productivity hardware and software rises. Devices like smart home speakers and laptops, monitors and wireless network routers have been flying off the shelves. Understandably, IT and networking services are in high demand, along with technical support and infrastructure engineering. And, according to the Parliament Street think tank, a third of businesses have even hired external IT support to cope with the Covid-19 crisis.
And another simple human need – sustenance – has massively influenced the food supply market under the COVID era. Online grocery was already a growth area – the market value doubled between 2016 and 2018 as many consumers got used to ordering their essentials on digital channels.
However, the pandemic has forced even more of us to switch to online food shopping, with major UK providers like Asda and Sainsbury’s launching feed the nation campaigns, to look after the needs of this new influx of customers. I’d agree with the Business Insider forecast that this fresh market will expand into Q2 and beyond, and that Baby Boomers – typically slow online adopters, will begin to expand into other sectors as their confidence in online shopping increases.
But, maintaining supply chains, protecting CX delivery and meeting the expectations of existing customers has never been more crucial. And, sectors where demand is booming (like those above) are facing the unexpected challenge of radically increased customer contact volumes. This can put a huge strain on existing infrastructure, and compromise all-important CX delivery. We are working with our clients across these sectors to make sure that robust solutions are in place to help with increased customer contact and sales volumes.
At the other end of the scale, unfortunately, several sectors are facing an uphill battle, as COVID-19 puts limitations on public outside activities, and creates massive downturn in vacationing and spending habits. The financial services industry has been hit hard, as we will discuss in a forthcoming blog – but perhaps the most visible damage has occurred in the travel and mobile industries.
Due to changes in our living habits, the smartphone market has shown significant losses – as people shelve their phones for more home based solutions. In fact, there is a worry that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a 10-year low in smartphone sales. This forecast is not surprising, as the crisis has weakened the launch of the 5G platform, which was vaunted to be the next big thing in the industry.
But all is not entirely gloomy, as Andrew Hall, Director – Strategic Engagements Webhelp UK Region, recognises:
“There are shockwaves spreading through the smartphone industry right now, and the containment of COVID-19, and the relaxation of lockdowns are critical to this market – however, if consumer confidence in 5G can be rekindled, we may see a bounce back in sales in the second half of this year.”
Plus, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that COVID-19, has created chaos for the international travel industry. According to The European Commission hotels and restaurants in the EU, will lose at least half their income this year and, unsurprisingly, tourism revenues fell by 95% in Italy and 77% in Spain in March.
However, forces are starting to mobilise to safeguard and revitalise the industry, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, is spearheading a plan, calling for funds from Europe’s economic stimulus packages to rescue hotels, restaurants and tour operators from collapse. Plus the travel association ABTA, is calling upon both the UK Government and the industry at large, to take action to ‘save future travel’.
And crucially, businesses will have to publicly manage significant disruption, while maintaining service levels and keeping positive customer perception high. Marketing will have an important role in landing all of these messages, and making sure that customers, who are quick to vote with their feet and wallets, remain connected and loyal.
Finally, how these industries will emerge from the current crisis is still uncertain, however, good Marketers must watch carefully for the trends, opportunities and avenues that the new normal may bring – and use that insight to quickly capitalise on them.
Webhelp will spotlight the path to recovery in travel and the financial sectors in future instalments of our Game Changers and Crisis-Curve series. Plus, Helen Murray – Chief Customer Solutions Officer for the UK region, takes an in-depth look at the channels that will flourish in the post COVID-19 world here.
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