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As 2019 comes to a close, it is only natural that we look back on the ups and downs of the past 12 months. This reflection is quite mixed as we not only remember the successes, but also feel the pull of the roadblocks and obstacles that we faced during the year. Seeing the slowdown in the Indian market, with GDP growth dropping to 5%, I believe we will witness decreased spending in many sectors in the coming year. This especially applies to industries like automobile, real estate, and consumer durables, in addition we are also observing a paradigm shift in the way consumers are adapting to the market conditions and adjusting their consumption patterns. This is particularly apparent in the automobile industry where consumers are postponing buying decisions in favor of technology enabled services.

Due to this economic slowdown, we feel customers will move their spending from low-quality bulk brands to experiential, high-quality products and services in order to get more bang for their buck. We have seen this in our business and in other industries as well. When you have a limited budget but are used to buying the best of the best, you still want to have that superior experience without the feeling that you are being shortchanged. Customers today prefer quality over quantity and are gradually moving their belief from social media to the word of mouth. They expect experiential marketing and inconspicuous luxury more than they have been, alongside having sustainability as the center of attention.

While two or three years ago, social media reigned supreme, today, word of mouth and micro-influencers have taken over the digital marketing space. People are now turning to trusted brands and listening to people they know or who are within a few degrees of separation versus buying into anything promoted by a celebrity or an Instagram star with 100k followers. The Indian market, over the years has become quite savvy and familiar with social media and understands how ads and paid promotions work.

In this age of technology, consumers are craving that personal touch, that face to face interaction and one-on-one attention that showcases how much the brand actually cares about them. No one wants to be just a face in the crowd, and I believe companies are feeling this increasingly so now. Therefore brands are now focusing on delivering a great product along with an extremely thought through pre and post sales service. Everyone wants their brand to be promoted organically and spend the least marketing dollars possible, and the best way to do this is by creating something that is exceptional combined with excellent customer service.

One can say that over the years marketing has rapidly shifted to digital platforms, but there still continues to be a huge need to display the experience the company provides to a customer before they actually buy their product. For example, many online décor brands are launching brick and mortar stores to offer that touch and feel while real estate companies continue to build stellar show homes and automobile brands launch their newest models at various open events to create awareness amongst their target audience. Keeping in line with this, experiential marketing is something that I see growing, and this includes exclusive events, thoughtful gifting, curated networking and giving your customer something unexpected. Luxury is no longer about brand names and price tags, it’s about bespoke experiences and personalisation. Once you can find a way to know your customer and show them that you have curated something only for them, you have a sure-fire shot at keeping them happy.

With the economic slowdown, we have seen the cost of customer acquisition is on a rise, so the moment you have a captive audience, it’s important to keep them engaged and excited. This is where technology plays a very critical role. From apps and emailers to social media and online advertisements, the worst thing to happen to a brand today, is the loss of a customer. So, in order to keep your customer happy, you need to constantly be in touch with them, understand their preferences, tailor your messaging and offer them the services and products that suit their needs.

Having worked in the finance, real estate as well as hospitality space now, the one thing I have realized is that no matter what the economy is doing, customers want things that money can’t buy. Customers have become smarter than ever and know how many options they have available to them. More often than not, it is not about just the product. This means, that customers today want ease of business, hassle-free purchasing experiences, sustainability and ethics and someone to hold their hand through the entire process. By keeping the customer at the heart of what you do, you won’t have to slash prices because you have something more, something that will keep them coming back to you, regardless of a slowdown or an economy boost.

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