The outspread of coronavirus disease (COVID 19) has affected everyone on the planet. This is for the first time in the history of mankind when more than 70% of countries – which include developed, developing, and underdeveloped nations – are under lockdown. It has already caused huge unrest in the global economy. People have lost their jobs and are left with no or limited sources of income, companies specifically small and medium cap businesses are shutting down. Giants are putting many of their processes on hold. A number of government organizations, too, have been closed down as a preventive measure for coronavirus spreading. How the coronavirus is driving new changes in digital marketing Coronavirus lockdown has halted many business processes starting from manufacturing, supply chain to logistics, and marketing.
Shift towards Online Shopping
The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and triggered changes in online shopping behaviors that are likely to have lasting effects. Corona Virus has forever changed online shopping behaviors, according to a survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies.
The survey done by UNCTAD, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”, thoroughly searched whether the new virus has influence purchasing patterns and consumer behavior. The survey covered Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey. Half of the respondents do frequent online shopping and spend more time over the internet for news, health-related information, and digital entertainment.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi says that “the acceleration of online shopping globally underscores the urgency of ensuring all countries can seize the opportunities offered by digitalization as the world moves from pandemic response to recovery.
One Interesting conclusion by the survey is, In the post-COVID-19 world, the unparalleled growth of e-commerce will disrupt national and international retail frameworks. This is why policymakers should adopt concrete measures to facilitate e-commerce adoption among small and medium enterprises, create specialized talent pools, and attract international e-commerce investors.”
COVID-19 has underlined the value of digital sales and customer relationships. One major question comes up here is that “How do you keep up with the changing consumer behavior?”, “How do you anticipate their requirements?” and more importantly, “How do you stay ahead of your competitors in this new digital landscape?” And most importantly “Will the shift from offline to online shopping go back to normal after COVID-19, or is this really the new normal?”
One major change is that consumers who were used to doing all their shopping in physical stores have gone through a personal transformation and will not return to their old shopping habits. When asking the respondents about this, 60% of the respondents in the U.K., and 58% of the respondents in Germany, indicated that they will do “about the same amount of online shopping as they are doing today,” while 48% of the respondents in the U.S., and 40% of the respondents in France, indicated they will probably do more online shopping than they are doing presently during COVID-19.
Ecommerce in Oman
In early 2006, Oman’s government began to implement the e-Government initiative in conjunction with the provision of electronic payments (e-Payment) and in particular Internet payments. This was identified as a critical shared service in the Omani e-Government architecture and serves as the main enabler to the online delivery of government services and goods. Oman’s ITA has taken up the strategic initiative to drive the development of e-Payments in Oman. In May 2008, Oman legalized electronic transactions by adopting the Electronic Transactions Law, the first law for legalizing electronic transactions in Oman. The law legalizes the use of digital signatures in electronic commerce and communications through letters, emails, etc. in order to assure adequate protection to both businesses and the common public. The law also stipulates penalties for electronic crimes involving e-transactions and provides limited privacy protections for personal data.
The number of electronic transactions via Oman’s National e-Payment Gateway nearly doubled in 2017, underscoring the increasingly important role of this portal in enabling secure payments for e-Government services, eCommerce, e-Tendering, online donations, and a host of other online transactions. According to the ITA, which operates the National e-Payment Gateway, around 1.9 million transactions were made via this portal in 2017, up from around 1.1 million a year earlier.
According to a study by Frost & Sullivan, internet spending in the Middle East is booming, with GCC countries expecting a 40 percent growth in eCommerce by 2020 that reaches USD 41.5 billion. Oman is expected to have a total market share of 12 percent across the GCC countries. According to Internet World Stats, there were more than 3.3 million Internet users in Oman as of December 2017, which constituted almost 70 percent of the population.
Consumers in Oman search online mainly for fashion apparel, flight tickets, beauty products, and hotel reservation. According to a study by Mastercard, Omani people mostly from eBay and Amazon. Talabat, online food orders, and the delivery site are also growing in popularity and use in Oman. Oman Post also is working on serving the eCommerce market and making use of Oman Post’s branches and vehicles for deliveries of products ordered online. Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, and Namshi are the most popular eCommerce sites.
According to a recent study by YouGov, it concluded that the most common barrier to online shopping within the GCC was related to discomfort with making online payments. Among women, the top issue was the lack of cash on delivery options. A previous YouGov survey found that 74 percent of Omani respondents felt online shopping as safe with only 24 percent considering online shopping unsecure. Thawani was established in 2006 as one of the first digital platforms to allow mobile payment solutions to merchants and consumers in Oman. Other innovative start-ups are emerging that also offer alternative payment methods.
Social Media and Future of Business
Social media penetration in Oman has touched 43 percent, according to research conducted by Statista, a UK-based online research agency. Studies suggest the most frequently accessed search engine after Google is YouTube. Omani Twitter users generate 500,000-600,000 tweets a day, according to an Arab social media report.
There is an increasing trend among businesses, especially among Omani owned SMEs and entrepreneurs, to promote and sell their merchandise through social media. Companies are increasingly using “social media influencers” for store and product promotions. There’s no doubt in the popularity of digital marketing, whether it’s a paid ad on social media or an e-commerce website. However, the coronavirus has caused some changes in how marketing is approached, and these changes may be indefinite.
More people have been using social media since the beginning of the lockdowns, and this is an opportunity for effective social media marketing. For example, to reach more people on social media, you can run a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. These types of campaigns only charge you a fee when someone actually clicks on the ad. Social media is also another way for you to engage with customers in a safe manner, rather than answering their questions in person. You may have to dedicate more resources to social media in the future to ensure inquiries are handled in a timely manner.
Make and Modify Your Website
While almost everyone searches for products online, it is important to give a well-maintained website and application if possible. If your website doesn’t already have a sales checkout, now is a good opportunity to add one. That might mean adding a feature to your site that allows people to pay for an item in advance and then choose delivery or pickup options. These features need to be easy to find and navigate. You can use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to reach on top of Google results. You also have to make sure that your e-commerce website is mobile-friendly, as many people shop from their mobile devices. Social media stores should also be easy to use. Add some calls to action in your website content or ads to help ensure people know about their alternate options – and more importantly, to use them.