The Financial Express

COVID-19 and Ramadan

Communication strategy across the industries

Mashfique Khalid | Published: April 29, 2020 23:03:32 | Updated: May 08, 2020 21:58:22

Source- Kantar research, LTE, ISPAB and GWI Source- Kantar research, LTE, ISPAB and GWI

Bangladesh is going to face a big blow from the storm of Covid-19. Business and trade have already started to suffer. With Ramadan in an unprecedented period, consumer-oriented businesses need to think strategically to focus on people's core needs and pivot operations accordingly for revival. As such, a solid communication strategy has become critical to bridge the gap between businesses and consumers during the nationwide lockdown.

TRENDS OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR: During the nationwide lockdown, consumer behaviour and mind-set have changed drastically. With more time in hand, people are spending longer hours in their devices. Household internet consumption has increased by more than 30.0 per cent in Bangladesh. Additionally, media consumption has also increased by more than 40.0 per cent (Global Web Index). As a result, digital contents are getting at least three times more impressions than before (LTE Media).

Initially a large number of people hastily made a lot of 'panic purchase' due to fear of running out of essentials. According to a study of Kantar, 60.0 per cent consumers feel the situation demands them to be even more pro-active about financial planning and security for the future. Consumers are now extremely cautious about their expenses and making sound purchase decisions.

With an upsurge in fake news and misinformation and a general lack of awareness, there emerges a state of fear. During Ramadan, religious sentiments pose more challenge in fighting this invisible enemy. People need verified information coupled with pandemic positivity more than ever. The businesses need to understand consumers' current psychology and strategise on how to make their lives easier during Ramadan while also spreading messages of optimism.

Communication Strategy across Industry

FOOD & RESTAURANTS: Restaurants have been affected severely by the pandemic. Across the nation, walk-in restaurants are in shutdown. Ready-made food and frozen food industries are facing a similar feat as most key grocery shops and departmental stores have closed. These businesses, however, need to build an engagement with the consumers. 

Globally and locally, many food businesses have shifted to home delivery alternatives in-house or through partnerships with delivery services. If businesses can ensure healthy meal preparations with safe delivery, they should focus on contactless and hygienic delivery procedures in their communication. This will be particularly crucial during Ramadan as the demand will increase for prepared, ready-made and frozen products. Delivery communication must remain area-specific to ensure optimised the advertisement expenses.

If the business is unable to provide delivery, they should strive to keep consumers engaged through entertaining content. They can play around with food cravings and how they are missing their customers. Sharing recipes of meals that can be prepped easily at home can also be effective. Interactive story contents including polls, questions, quizzes, rating meters, etc. can be highly engaging. Special food vouchers and offers that can be redeemed after businesses re-open can create high engagement during this period.

HOSPITALITY & TOURISM: With a major decline of business in aviation, tour operations and hotels, the hospitality and tourism industries are the most negatively affected one by COVID-19 with an estimated loss of Tk 57.0 billion already, as claimed by TOAB. With the rapid spread of the virus, many had to cancel tours and vacations. In current context, businesses need to maintain a consistent emotional dialogue with the consumers through engaging contents focusing on nostalgic walks down the memory lane, creating bucket lists of places to visit post-lockdown, etc. Even crafting small participation campaigns like asking the consumers to share their previous travel stories and photos would drive heavy user-generated contents.

As historical data shows, during a global crisis like this, foreign travel laws become unpredictable and it takes time to return to normalcy. So, businesses must focus their communication on local travel. Hotels can create content on short getaways for long weekends and Eid as people will seek an escape from the monotony and be interested in short trips.

FINANCIAL SECTOR: Banks, financial institutions and insurance companies are facing a downturn at present. The sector is, however, likely to recover gradually in post-virus period. Generally, after an economic recession or crisis, consumers tend to lean towards savings and interest-generating investments. Hence, these sectors need to develop communication on products like life insurance, deposit and savings schemes to prepare consumers for any future setbacks. As this is the first great recession experienced by millennial, they may be the prime target for such communications. 

Furthermore, during Ramadan, people are more likely to withdraw money from ATMs and conduct cash transactions. Businesses can create contents on how to hygienically manage monetary transactions that reduce chances of virus transmission. Additionally, as there is a great monetary crisis among people living in bottom of the pyramid, facilitating charity and donation activities like Zakat via web, app or phone would be greatly beneficial to the consumers.

SKIN, HAIR, BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE: While personal care businesses have profited from the pandemic, skin, hair & beauty care companies have faced a hit. However, as these businesses cater to consistent demands, they are projected to get back on track gradually as situation improves. Mostly based on female consumers, in the current context, these need to keep a strong engagement with their loyal fan-base. As the lockdown extends, people are prone to falling victims of depression, lethargy and loneliness. These brands can inspire and instil positivity with engaging contents. Recommendations include sharing skin/hair care routines to try at home during Ramadan or even ask the audience to share their routines with the community. Beauty brands can hop on the bandwagon with user-generated content campaigns like "Don't Rush Challenge". Similarly, they can also encourage consumers to share their Eid look-books with the brand. Overall, such businesses need to create communication centred on promoting well-being and happiness.

RETAIL, ONLINE RETAIL AND E-COMMERCE: These industries are currently undertaking massive pressure from the masses. With people still in lockdown during Ramadan, the demand will increase significantly. Conversely, with great demand, comes greater responsibility. These businesses need to show just how responsible they are when it comes to managing and delivering products. Super shops need to communicate their hygiene maintenance procedures, being one of the few categories physically open during this period. They can also share a guideline for shoppers on how to shop, stand in queue and run cash transactions safely.

With rising demand, e-commerce and online retailers need to concentrate their communication on home delivery. As supply chains and logistics networks are severely affected, they need to mention potential delays in delivery. This will help the consumers sympathise with the situation and prevent any negative perception around the brand. Moreover, with increased instances of stockpiling, especially food items that end up being damaged or rotten, businesses need to educate the consumers on the appropriate quantity of products one should order and their shelf lives. Lastly, creating care packages for the vulnerable or to deliver in a preferred destination of the consumer would add great value to the brand from the customer's perspective. 

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS: Typically, summer season and Ramadan tend to be prosperous for this industry. However, with consumers being averse to non-essential expenditures, sustaining such businesses has proven to be challenging. These companies need to focus on three key aspects for their communication strategy. Firstly, crafting communication on how the products would add value to consumers' lives during Ramadan at home will help them realise its necessity. Secondly, promoting EMI facilities and discounted prices will motivate customers in making a financially sound purchase decision. Finally, providing hygienic home delivery and installation (if required) is a must. This will instigate confidence on the brand and influence the consumer in making the final purchase decision. 

FASHION AND CLOTHING: Fashion and Eid has been interconnected in our cultural since long. Nevertheless, the unusual circumstances at present have posed questions on sales prospects. With consumers being reluctant on making non-essentials purchases, the fashion industry needs to innovate communication and pivot their business strategy. Businesses need to promote outfits to celebrate a homely Eid. They have to publish contents on complete Eid attires and how people can look their best right at home. Having e-commerce and providing home delivery are a must amid the lockdown. Brands may also introduce virtual outfit trials. Consumers can simply take a photo of themselves and visualise how they would look wearing the dresses. Finally, providing trial-on-delivery would aid consumers in making confident purchase calls as majority are used to trying on outfits before buying, assuring them on the selection of right sizes.

CONCLUSION: In such extraordinary circumstances, businesses may survive by pivoting their marketing strategy, keeping their consumers engaged and coming up with innovative solutions to sustain. Adapting the communication roadmap based on consumer mind-set is the key to achieving success in these uncertain times.

The writer is Managing Director, Lie to Eye - LTE Advertising Limited. He is a communication strategy and digital media specialist in ASEAN region.


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