Red Lab Report, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

There is a growth of more than 120% in the number of people seeking the online or virtual equivalent of offline experiences, such as “virtual concert”, virtual escape rooms and “virtual food festival”.

The pandemic has physically separated countless people, and consumers have quickly found ways to adapt. In 2021, as the sense of separation has deepened, consumers have gone beyond seeking brief moments of connection to find new ways to express themselves and nurture deeper, more ongoing relationships, to both online and offline.

Red Lab has unveiled the third report in its Google Trends 2021 series where it focuses on how geography is increasingly becoming history.

COVID-19 is still a top concern for people, and APAC consumers remain wary of being in close physical contact with others. In fact, Indians feel more anxious about resuming normal activities than the global average, but fears of resuming in-person activities have not supplanted the basic human need for personal connection and belonging.

Regardless of physical distance, increasing research has shown that people continue to find new ways to connect and are increasingly open to using digital to do so.

It’s time to set the emotion in motion

Convenience may be one of the biggest drivers of digital acceptance, but too often marketers have seen digital only as a means to drive functionality. As people seek to bridge not just physical but emotional distances and build more meaningful human connections, brands must also stop viewing digital platforms as purely functional channels or simply an online front end.

Instead, brands need to consider ways to achieve longer-term value by meaningfully connecting with their customers online. With their channel strategies, they now need to reach the human behind every ‘like’, ‘click’ or ‘purchase’.

The two sub-trends under this overall bridging distance trend are:

1. Online expressions of affection

They say that love has no language. That said, love languages ​​are also keeping up with the changing times, with people looking for ways to show affection without in-person interactions.

A recent survey showed that 63% of Indian respondents looked online for inspiration on how to celebrate differently amid the pandemic, and some even found new brands to help them do so. In India, search interest for online celebrations has also increased by more than 120%.

2. Digital for personal connection

Technology, once considered impersonal, is now allowing people to connect in innovative ways, sparking interest in virtual versions of activities such as group meals, escape rooms and concerts. Even festive celebrations are going digital, with nearly one in two Indians surveyed saying they don’t expect to hold events at home for the upcoming festive season, despite having done so in the past . We’re seeing over 120% growth in the number of people seeking the online or virtual equivalent of offline experiences, such as “virtual concerts”, virtual escape rooms and “virtual food festivals”.

As Indians look for ways to share meals together even when apart, search interest in group ordering has also increased by 85%.

Marketing implications

Brands that only use digital as a functional channel are missing out on an opportunity to build and nurture deeper relationships with their customers, where both parties stand to gain and grow through an emotional connection.

Some of the implications of this trend are:

Build customer love and loyalty by consistently delivering to every touchpoint

Research shows how the consumer’s buying journey is driven by emotions. At every touchpoint, shoppers want to feel reassured and empowered, rewarding brands that help them navigate the mess.

Harness the emotional power of digital to deliver timely, accurate and relevant information across your organic and paid communication channels.

Leverage the value of the virtual to augment real-world experiences

Not everyone prefers in-person experiences, especially during a pandemic. See the value of virtual channels as a way to complement or augment physical experiences, allowing freedom of choice between online or offline events.

Invest in creations that can connect and inspire

A brand’s advertising efforts can be a key lever in building an emotional connection and simultaneously boosting campaign performance. In fact, creation is the number one driver of ROI across all media platforms, and especially digital.

To bring your brand and products to life, make sure your ads show how your brand can help people in their daily lives in an authentic way.

What marketers need to remember is that while selling more is their most important prerogative, sometimes their best bet is to go above and beyond and be the bridge between their consumers and what they are really looking for in their life. This act, this gesture itself could prove to be the best bridge between them and their consumers. Community may still be the best bet to drive commerce!

While the pandemic-induced surge in digital consumers saw APAC companies lead the world in investing in customer experience, Indian digital marketing professionals were even more optimistic than their colleagues in more mature APAC markets…

Joseph P. Harris