The coronavirus crisis is yet to be solved and hence, the lift of the shutdown is still far from reality. However due to this prolonged period of shutdown, the current business landscape is going through some drastic transformations -- marketing, finance, HR, or operations -- every function of a business is experiencing a paradigm shift. Digital marketing is a huge component of any business's marketing operation. Coupled with the fact that how remarkable the prominence of digital agencies is in the country, having a solid understanding of how this pandemic would go on about shaping the landscape of digital marketing would be crucial in planning and strategising the future days for these agencies.
In the subsequent paragraphs, this very phenomenon is looked into from operational, financing, and organisational perspectives.
Rise of e-commerce: Since people are locked up in their home, all activities including all business operations have gone online. And quite naturally, at this stage, this shift is only going to continue. As a result, all brick and mortar businesses are bound to shift their operation online. "We will see a rise of e-commerce and online operation shift for the brick and mortar-based businesses. As a result, there will be a rise of work in website design, e-commerce development and overall digital marketing activities for SMEs," says Mashfique Khalid, managing director of Lie to Eye, a leading advertising agency of the country.
Rise of MarTech and AI: Similarly, due to the increased technological dependency in the Covid-19 seized world, business owners are now realising the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning even more. And in near future, this inclination will only go up. As explained by Mark Anupom Mollick, senior software engineer and business development coordinator at Code Crafters International Ltd., leading software solutions firm, "In the post-pandemic world, innovation and technology will get added priority. As a result, marketing technology and artificial intelligence assisted advertising will be aggressively pursued."
Reduction in revenue and cash flow: Revenues are being seriously affected simply because the number of clients has gone down significantly. Restaurants, salons, boutiques, who used to do digital marketing previously, have stopped doing so. As a result, the agencies simply don't have a large enough clientele to serve in the first place. A chief operational officer at a leading agency of the country explains, "Revenue has taken a huge toll. On an average, each agency is seeing a hit of around 30-40 per cent of revenue drop, be it from cancelled campaigns, from retail businesses closing down, or from reduced client activities in general." He also discussed another key reason why the numbers are being affected - "Unlike the agencies, many client companies don't have the modern facilities in place for their finance team to work effectively from home. As a result, the past dues are released at a slower rate resulting in cashflow drop for the agencies."
What is concerning about this issue is that this phenomenon will lead to a lot of salary cuts, layoffs, or furloughs in pretty much every agency since they simply won't be able to support all their employees amidst all these number cuts.
Reduction in marketing expenses: Expanding on the preceding point, due to the cut in revenue and to sustain profitability, the agencies will undoubtedly have to cut down of expenses as well. And a fair portion of that cut will be made from their marketing expenses. Mashfique Khalid explains: "The marketing expenses will be curtailed for the next fiscal year. Due to the overall economic recession that the country is going to face, the digital brands are likely to cut the budget down to mitigate the losses. Retainers and campaign budgets are likely to be greatly affected by this. A "More for less" approach might set in."
Increase in productivity: Even though initially there was hesitation as to the implementation of work-from-home, surprisingly, remote working has been found to be raising productivity. In fact, according to an article published in Bloomberg, the average working day has increased by two to three hours worldwide. In addition, remote working has successfully eliminated all the distractions of workplace which has resulted in sharp increase of productivity. Ahnaf Zabee, a digital marketing expert at a multinational company of the country, explains, "Previously, we used to chat away with colleagues a lot, get distracted from time to time. But now that we are working remotely, that does not happen anymore. In addition, meetings are very timely - there is no scope for late entry in video calls. So naturally, overall productivity has gone way up."
Continuation of work-from-home: Building up on the previous point, what this added productivity means for the future is that even when the shutdown gets lifted, agencies will still continue to avail online tools to communicate, collaborate and deliver their tasks from home. The hesitation to implement work from home that was prevalent before is not going to be a concern anymore. Hence, agencies will not fail to utilise this opportunity to maintain high productivity even when the pandemic is over.
In the post pandemic era, the marketing scenario is going to change. The big corporates will look to boost their sales with push marketing, while the medium and small sized ones might reap the benefits of digital marketing. One thing the pandemic period would have taught all the organisations is that digital marketing is the future of marketing with increased usage of digital platforms around the world. Therefore, for the remaining pandemic period, the digital marketing agencies need to adjust themselves with the dynamics/limitations/opportunities of the existing situation because failing to adjust with these alterations will only bring upon demise. So, it only makes sense to plan ahead so that adapting to all these changes does not get overly stressful and panic-inducing
The writer is a third-year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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