By Anindita Gupta
Due to the worldwide lockdown, consumers have had to face several challenges, especially related to acquiring daily essentials, including grocery staples. With access to most conventional stores blocked, the focus has largely shifted to e-commerce and app-based deliveries of groceries and vegetables, with several new entrants now operating in this space. However, the delivery of meat and seafood, which is a staple for many, has been severely impacted. According to the sample registration system (SRS) baseline survey of 2014 released by the registrar general of India, 71% of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian. The data shows that Telangana has the highest number of non-vegetarians with 98.8% men and 98.6% women enjoying meat, fowl, and seafood. Among the other states with a high non-vegetarian population are West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Kerala. This is a consumer segment that online meat and seafood delivery startups have been trying to tap into over the last few years. While the situation created by the pandemic looks like an opportunity for online ordering startups from a distance, these platforms also have several challenges to address in terms of reputation building and getting market shares.
Here’s how effective and integrated communication can help these brands overcome some of the key challenges:
- Building trust: Majority of the non-vegetarian foods that are consumed today are bought either at modern retail outlets in the branded frozen food form or purchased through the unorganized markets. People have always been sceptical about buying seafood and meat online. Just around the pandemic, social media handles and other messaging apps were flooded with rumours connecting non-vegetarian food with the spread of the novel coronavirus. Although unfounded, these rumours and the lack of access to credible sources to buy forced many to alter their daily food habits and reduce or completely give up meat and seafood. Consumers, especially millennials, are looking for quality, convenience, and trust when making a purchase, especially in the case of food. They are also increasingly health-conscious and discerning about what they eat. The online meat and seafood stores are making a huge difference to a consumer’s life by addressing issues of hygiene, quality and availability at home. PR and integrated communications can help take these stories to the end consumer and help these brands build a trustworthy and authentic relationship with their customers.
- Encourage informed choices: Consumers today believe in making informed choices and seek information about what they are eating, where it is sourced from etc. Independent food blogs, social media, and popular websites are rampant with information, most of which is without any trusted source and can be misleading and even contradictory. Especially in the non-vegetarian food, the lack of credible information online is a huge drawback, enforcing the age-old buying patterns that include the unorganised market or frozen food. Hence, brands need to be more vocal and transparent in sharing credible information in the online space and replacing harmful ambiguity with facts about the value of their products. PR can help spread awareness by disseminating information and thought-provoking content to build a bridge between the brand and its customers. Companies need to be transparent about the source of their products and use a consistent messaging strategy across media platforms.
- Crisis management: PR specialists are experts when it comes to guiding public perception, using effective and credible information through impactful campaigns. For a sensitive and emerging sector of online food deliveries, especially meat and seafood, a crisis can be fatal for a brand. APER and communication expert can do wonders to not only salvage the damage but to also leverage it to rebuild credibility and consumer loyalty. By aligning their clients with the right strategies for communication at the right platforms and through the right influencers and sincere messaging, brands can bank on quick revival from an otherwise full-blown crisis. A consistent and positive PR before and after the crises can further go a long way to minimise the damage.
- Building Influencer Strategy: Influencers are the personalities who are followed by a lot of people. Today micro-influencers can also be a powerful way to grow a company’s presence online. For a nascent segment of online meat and seafood delivery, having online influencers spread a good word, can be like breathing life into a brand. PR can help brands get connected with these influencers, recommend, strategies, and draw out messaging that can help amplify the brand’s message, thus promoting it a wider audience. This can help earn credibility and build on customer trust by piggybacking on influencer shout-outs.
India is the second-fastest-growing processed meat and seafood market in the world. Though there is a steady growth in the market, the sector faces a lot of challenges. Effective use of integrated communication can help brands create a positive and reliable image among consumers, which in turn can help leverage this crisis into a potential opportunity of building the online delivery marketplace for seafood and meat.
The author, Anindita Gupta, is Co-Founder at Scenic Communications. Views are her personal.