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A chat with Shiv Shivakumar, currently group executive president, corporate strategy, at Aditya Birla Group, is always enlightening. The former chief executive officer at PepsiCo India spoke all things management and marketing, connecting the dots to unveil the big picture. With the covid pandemic not going away any time soon and altering consumer behaviour for good, he reflected on the mounting challenges for marketers.

Top of mind is the greater significance the value of time is acquiring in a marketer’s rulebook. Time was getting to be of essence for online shoppers and covid has accelerated that.

Marketers never appreciated the value of time earlier, Shivakumar said, adding that it is a marketing paradigm that brands across products and services need to focus on, a new consumer dimension they need to be mindful of.

“For a consumer, once the decision is made, he wants satisfaction immediately. He requires instant deliveries of his wants and desires," Shivakumar said. Even a physical, large-format store such as Big Bazaar saw merit in rolling out a two-hour home delivery service in April in a few metros and later extending this to tier-2 cities. Consumers expect a quick turnaround time in offline stores. No one wants to stand in queues to pay bills. Airlines, too, eschew passenger queues and ask customers to print their own boarding passes for the sake of speed.

Even the National Highways Authority of India said toll plazas should not take more than 10 seconds of service time per vehicle even during peak hours to ensure minimum waiting time. “This too reflects the ‘time value’ we are speaking about," said Shivakumar.

A new ad campaign, #JustCantWait, by fin-tech firm Niyo, the digital banking app that’s targeting the millennials and GenZ with a suite of products, also reflects the target consumer’s need for instant gratification.

“Time is crucial because in terms of technology or emotional equity, most brands are similar. So, what remains is speed of delivery or fulfilment of desire," said Shivakumar.

In his May interview to Mint, Deepak Chhabra, managing director of kitchen and homeware firm Tupperware, also underlined the requirement of speed, which has disrupted the traditional direct selling business model. Direct selling brands have all gone online.

Amit Adarkar, CEO at research firm Ipsos India, attributes the overwhelming accent on “time value" to covid, where consumers prefer products and services that are delivered instantly. The trend is riding on both demand and supply considerations, he said.

On the demand side, because of lockdowns and restricted mobility, home has become the “command centre" for people with all troops (the family) present there at all times. This creates intense pressure on a variety of products/services to be delivered in the shortest possible time to please everyone, he said. Pre-pandemic, people worked the full day in offices, children attended schools, everyone ate out and watched movies. So, delayed and scheduled delivery was perfectly acceptable then. Not now. “When you are cooped up at home fixated on receiving a two-hour delivery, three hours isn’t good enough," he said.

On the supply side, the pandemic has fuelled the growth of a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model. This has raised the bar on the ‘instant-ness’ of delivery, Adarkar said. Clearly, both demand and supply factors have led to a glut of instant choices for the customer.

So, consumers’ time-sensitivity is an outcome of the pandemic where people are trading off ‘experience’ against efficiency and the trend may continue in the immediate future. However, once the pandemic is behind us, there may be some reversal as people may get enthralled by more ‘experiential’ activities and may not be as demanding on ‘instant-ness’, Adarkar said.

Will this trend impact what brands have to offer? A confluence of booming D2C startup activity, small entrepreneurs opening up last-mile micro-distribution channels and many fast-moving consumer goods majors getting into D2C will fuel the next growth across products. “An area to watch would be instant-yet-bespoke offers leading to product innovation," he said. Distribution will need to be less wasteful and in tune with overall brand promise, he said.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pre-ssing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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