COVID-19 is changing consumer behaviour, purchase patterns, buying criteria and touchpoints with companies. A recent Deloitte consumer survey in the Indian market revealed that:
- 69% respondents were more likely to buy from brands that they trust
- 53% respondents felt safe in visiting stores or in receiving in-person services
- 38%-56% respondents preferred online channel, depending on product category
Companies are trying to catch-up to this changing consumer behaviour, coupled with the challenges of work from home, social distancing and intermittent lockdowns in micro-markets, amongst others. Most of the companies are restructuring the sales cycle to align to the changing consumer journeys by incorporating digital interventions, where benefits outweighs the costs in the short run. However, only a handful of them seem to have taken a comprehensive view and are exploring ‘Remote Sales’ to:
- Increase sales funnel and customer engagement via digital awareness and integrated lead generation
- Increase salesforce productivity by providing Next Best Actions (NBAs) to physical field force
- Increase penetration outside metros/ tier-1 cities
- Reduce cost of customer acquisition and cost to serve
- Increase customer lifetime value
In the current environment, the Indian market is more at an inflection point where traditional sales methods will need to be replaced by tech empowered remote selling to build future-ready sales organization.
What is remote sales?
Exhibit 1: What is remote sales (Source: Deloitte Analysis)
Remote sales is not just tele-calling or virtual zoom meetings, which supports the sales team in fringe activities but it is a dedicated function comprising of sales enabling skill-sets (sales/ Go-to-market strategy, digital marketing, brand and communications, e-commerce, loyalty amongst others) and based on robust technology infrastructure. Remote sales helps in transforming the sales function by re-focussing sales conversations to automated and traceable platforms, supported by physical interventions, whenever required.
What does a Remote Sales function do?
Remote sales has the potential to not only address changes in sales, due to pandemic, but also provides tremendous opportunity to engage with the customers through personalised communication/ offering and value proposition using data-based insights. Companies need to tailor the scope of remote sales organization basis the archetypes of customer segments that they cater to.
Exhibit 2: Role of remote sales in the consumer journey and digital enablers (Source: Deloitte Analysis)
How can companies activate Remote Sales using Digital Marketing?
A successful remote selling function requires organizations to deploy four key components, supported by a sales command center and enabling technology infrastructure:
Exhibit 3: Role of Digital Marketing in Remote Sales (Source: Deloitte Analysis)
- Drive Traffic: Increase in internet usage has led to a spike in social media content, both in urban and rural sectors. To drive traffic on select platforms, content creation, content management (SEO/SEM) and engagement with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) can play a pivotal role. Depending on the target segment and what motivates them, differentiated content form/ formats can be created and distributed through the appropriate channels. Effective traffic sourcing requires the digital marketing operating model to be highly responsive to the developments in the wider ecosystem and to act in an agile manner. Creating owned digital sales fronts such as a website or dedicated store-fronts on e-commerce sites can play a major role in driving consumer traffic and recording consumer data.
- Improve Conversions: Consumer is typically seen to be looking for traditional buying experience in the digital world. The more the companies succeed in creating human-like connection or close to real experience through digital medium, higher are the chances of acceptance by customers. Usage of technologies such as AR/VR not only improve digital shopping environment but also assist in nudging consumer to take quicker decisions. Better online experience can help drive sales for unconventional categories such as furniture, for example, ability to see a furniture placed in your home environment can drive better conversions from traffic on the sales platform. Similarly, functionality such as ability to click on a product from within a video advertisement can drive better conversion rates out of campaigns. Companies also encourage their customers to post video reviews and thus create influencers out of consumers and increase loyalty quotient. Other initiatives such as activating online communities effectively, increased personalization, usage of videos as a format for consumer connect can contribute to improved conversion rates.
- Increase Ticket Size: Increased visibility into consumer buying behavior helps create sharper consumer persona/ profiles, enabling brands to send personalized communication of interest to different consumers. It also enables visibility of the right product assortment based on consumer preferences, enabling backend alignment to make available the right products. Creative ways to present product information and tools that enable Conversation Marketing helps consumer decide to buy the allied product or services that fulfill their requirement more precisely. Behavioral understanding and regular data-driven analytics and AI have been helping create customized product bundles, real-time notifications, and discounts which has led to cross-selling and up-selling to existing customers basis their needs and desired value proposition.
- Reduced Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC): With various analytics and social media tools, brands can get access to demographic, psychographic and geographic insights of digital consumer with great accuracy. These tools give view into behavior such as product-purchase interest and lifestyle that helps brands zero upon their target audience in the digital world. Precise targeting strategy followed by an effective analytics driven experiential conversion strategy can lead to better conversions. Better targeting, better conversion capabilities (because of ability to track consumer journey digitally) and relatively lower sales cost, driven by productivity and scale can result into a reduced cost of acquisition in the remote sales environment. A better post sales service and consumer engagement delivered digitally to the customers can help garner customer loyalty and a much higher Life Time Value (LTV) and a better LTV-CAC ratio.
- Sales command center: Sales command center is an enterprise capability comprising of integrated view of systems/ data templates and an organization of analytical experts that understand business issues and enable prescriptive insights to improve decisions. The Command Center aggregates data from multiple source systems of the organization into data templates that feed into the central database and yield results in the form of action items. The team monitors and drives business KPIs and provides a unified view of sales across key business functions – customer, sales performance, channel, etc.
- Enabling technology infrastructure: Companies have been trying to capture as many data points of sales team, customers, channel partners, competitors, market trends, social media, etc. and have implemented multiple disparate systems to achieve different priorities at different points in time. However, the existing technology stacks generally leave much to be desired to bring-forth ‘One view of Customer’ or ‘One view of Market’ or providing Next-Best-Actions to the sales team. Some of the product categories have been difficult to sell online (like furniture), however, with AR/VR experience companies are actively promoting 3D imagery to drive customer adoption. Setting up remote sales team via integration of these technologies has the potential to provide a competitive edge to the organizations. These will enable the sales team to provide a differentiated sales experience in the absence of physical connect and deliver beyond existing geographic and functional constraints.
By Anand Ramanathan, Partner; Rounak Baheti and Praveen Govindu, Directors; and Parminder Saluja, Associate Director, Deloitte India