Early in March 2020, and before the Moroccan government announced a full lockdown on the country with the surgence of COVID-19 cases, Morrocans were following with anxiety the situation as it unfolded in China, France, and Italy. There was one obvious fact, this wasn’t like any crisis the FMCG sector has ever known before.
During the second week of March, Moroccans invaded the supermarkets, driving up the sales of many FMCG categories with triple digits in less than 10 days. But such growth was short-lived because there are many other factors at play, mandating the rise and fall of the sector.
What happened to Manufacturers, Retailers and Consumers?
In Morocco, the impact of COVID restrictions were very comparable to what was seen in economies around the world.
For Manufacturers, the lockdown had repercussions on the logistics of the production and distribution value chain. Airports were closed, so imports were disrupted. No one was allowed to drive around except with permits, which may have impacted daily/weekly transportation, local distribution, and in some cases, the labor force needed to run production.
From a retailer’s perspective, the lockdown measures entailed less delivery, translating into less spend, and less cash. Not all retailers had the capability to sustain such conditions. They had to provide certain safety measures so as to attract the very rare consumers visits and their different set of needs.
Shoppers’ habits have shifted to accommodate the requirement for hygiene and health products, food, drinks, and snacks for the extended time spent at home. The restrictive measures had some of us visiting their closest grocery shop, or a big chain once per week if not less, while many others opted for home deliveries. Though some experimented with online outlets as an alternative for physical grocery visits, these channels didn’t grow as high as may have been the case in other countries.
It would be naive to think that consumers aren’t forever changed by this shift in the marketplace. The time is now to adjust your operations to meet these new expectations in real time.
How To Win?
Manufacturers and retailers will need to fathom consumers’ new circumstances and the repercussions it will have on their purchase decisions, so they could reassess their offerings and cater to their changing needs.
The big mistake that many companies have committed during the early stages of the crisis was halting their communication with their audience. At times of uncertainty, we tend to get closer to those who address our fears and needs. That’s why the key takeaway for the upcoming period would be to stay as close to the consumer as possible, and maintain an open channel efficiently and cost-effectively.
As a new consumer emerges amid a global recession with strained wallets and shuffled priorities, investment in brand innovation becomes the path to winning. Those who will create products that are innovative, well researched, tested, providing value for a consumer embracing a ‘new normal’, are those that will come out with more dollars and a stronger brand equity.
Similarly, Digital Transformation presents itself as another key aspect that companies must learn to incorporate in Morocco. Despite the many barriers in this segment, such as the number of people who are ready to use digital platforms, the online payment process, and collaborations between online and offline retailers, we did witness many big chains signing agreements with online platforms during the crisis. The fruits of this cooperation have not matured yet, but they are inevitable. Our recommendation would be to embrace the change, use the time and the data to learn and prepare for integration. It is better to be ready and establish confidence with consumers online early on.
The pandemic is forcing governments, businesses, and individuals to shift priorities, expectations from manufacturers and retailers will be quite different and significant.
Research and Communication could facilitate an ongoing relationship of innovation, listening and testing to provide for the changed consumers terrains. Those who will forge a new place and come out as winners are those who will reinvent themselves using data-backed innovation. The key learning, for all of us, is that information is power. The more knowledge we have, the better equipped we are in responding to any situation.
As the situation continues to evolve, we have developed a new covid framework for consumer behavioral reset. You can read it here.