The impact of COVID-19 on how we work is undeniable. In the face of business closures and rapidly changing economic circumstances people are shifting their businesses online and preparing to understand and get used to a new way of monitoring consumer behaviour, engaging with your target audience and converting leads to sales without direct physical
In times like these, it becomes imperative that we ourselves questions like: What next? What are the transitions we need to make to keep businesses running through the pandemic and how do we operate in the new normal? It can be hard to understand how the market is changing in real-time given the dynamic nature of the current situation. Well, Digital Learning as a subject have gained great importance these days. Indian professionals are showing huge interest in this space.
Digital learning in India is an age-old trend but with the Pandemic lockdown, a fresh boost has been made on this. HubSpot’s Academy, the worldwide leader in inbound marketing, sales, and customer service/support training, to understand what educational information people are currently seeking. HubSpot’s Academy has, to date, trained and certified just under 250,000 people globally in courses on marketing, sales and customer service.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
Faiz Askari: COVID has affected almost everyone across the board. In the current scenario, all-digital learners have become extremely busy and digital has become a more integral part of our daily lives. I would like to know, as a professional working in the digital learning domain, how are you looking at the overall situation, the last three months in particular. What are your observations?
Adarsh Noronha: Yeah, thanks Faiz. I echo what you just said. COVID has impacted us badly. A lot of the impact can be seen in varying degrees, depending on which vertical you are in. As a businessman, I have witnessed some businesses thriving, especially those which are in the online space and their major product and services are consumed via the Internet/web. These businesses have been at a better footing than others over the last three months. We are now routinely calling these as COVID months, especially the months of March, April and May.
On a macro level, when I had the opportunity of reading some data points thanks to HubSpot and the 70000+ customer base that we have and our Benchmark Data that was released recently, what we understand is online consumption has increased significantly. I don’t think it’s unusual given that everybody is working from home and the only way for us to communicate with our colleagues and our businesses is through the internet. But even though the volume of marketing emails and sales e-mails having skyrocketed, the website traffic and consumption have remained the same in terms of present scenario. To explain this more I refer to HubSpot’s Benchmark Study which gave us about five trends. Maybe I can share some slides. It’ll be helpful for you to also see that. Let me quickly try and get those slides up. Let me know when you can see this. These are some of the benchmarks that we had.
If you see the way to read this is on an X and Y axis, the website traffic that has built up over the last three months and the performance against the pre-COVID days. Since March website traffic has skyrocketed for Indian companies. People consuming data or reading online about information that was provided to them has risen significantly, there was a week where we witnessed a 30% increase. Marketers are sending more e-mails, there is no surprise here, but the spike in the e-mails that are being sent out hasn’t received the same kind of response from all markets compared to more mature markets like Australia. I have removed other countries here so that the screen looks easier to read. If you see in India the response to that has been long, so what does that tell us? It tells us that there is an influx of marketing e-mails that’s thrown at every single individual and they’re only opening the ones that are relevant to them. The concept of inbound marketing is gaining great importance at this time in comparison to any other time in our industry. Another trend was that the sales emails saw a significant spike. But the response to those emails has nose-dived and it’s continuing to go down. What does that mean? People are reading your emails but they’re not making any decisions. Nobody’s making a purchase unless, of course, it’s essential. And there is trend of deferring purchases, but people are engaging, they’re engaging through chat conversations, et cetera. So these are some of the data points I wanted to quickly share with you. Another observation and positive one is what we are seeing through our HubSpot Academy, signups for online certification courses has increased.
Faiz: We have observed a trend in which people have also shown a lot of interest in upskilling and digital education certifications have become increasingly popular. At SMEStreet we have observed that this trend is active in the SME and MSME domains as well. What do you think an organization like yours should be doing to capitalize on the popularity of digital learning modules at this moment and then if we could talk a little about how HubSpot is viewing this opportunity.
Adarsh Noronha: I think for any organization Faiz, the need of the hour is to really empathize with their prospects and customers because all of us are going through a hard time. These are times none of us envisioned would ever happen during our lifetimes. To empathize and then structure your engagement strategy, be it marketing or anything else, the engagement strategies should be led via education. Try and you’re your content being more informative rather than being pushy in terms of sales. I have seen some e-mails saying ‘COVID promo come and buy more’, and as a consumer and those are really not the emails I’d like to see. I would rather see an e-mail where say if you are in FinTech your email explains to me why I should either invest or stop investing in mutual funds altogether, or what should I do with my money and why. If you educate me, I learn more and then react keeping my own situations in mind. My advice to all companies is to have an education-led content marketing strategy at this time, now more so than ever before, we have done it ourselves in HubSpot. Currently are running Adapt 2020 – our education campaign, which is essentially a series of educational engagements, a series of webinars which is helping customers to learn more and adapt to this new normal. That’s the theme that we are adopting and it’s got a very positive response so far.
Faiz: Based on your experience what are the kind of learning behaviours that you have experienced? My personal opinion is this is a forced adoption of digital. It has led to a lot of questions around the security parameters, questions around the extent of digital engagement, because some people are saying, maybe a tab bit excessive, especially in case of young kids who are spending a lot more time on the internet now. What are your thoughts?
Adarsh Noronha: Excellent question, Faiz. I remember prohibiting my teenage kid and my eight year-old from gadgets and tablets etc. before the lockdown and suddenly I am a parent who is pushing laptops in front of them and saying, “Sit there and study for 4-5 hours a day.” I think as humans we adapt very well, that’s the reality of the situation and history suggests that every crisis has taught us something, something new, and it has given rise to new industries and new ways of leading a life and also newer business practices. I think if I can narrow it down to your question, the kind of behaviours we see internally for businesses are that there is a growing interest towards conducting business meetings online. People can no-longer say – “Come to my office, talk to me, and we will take it forward from there.” Since people on both sides of this conversation are now stuck at home, the adoption of all tools like the productivity and engagement tools, like the one that we are using right now, have gained popularity. Especially tools which have good security measures in place. And I’m sure IT teams across companies are working to make sure the information exchanged on these platforms is safe. But from adoption point of view I think everybody is adapting to this new normal, it’s becoming probably an indication of what the future will be like. I read today that Spotify, a music streaming company we all know of has announced that they won’t open offices till 2021. It would be ok to assume that life will be digital, a 100% digital, and that’s the way all of us will adapt. It is far easier for people who have always had the option to work from home. I think we are all slowly getting there and doing our best given the situation.
Faiz: Coming back to HubSpot’s India strategy for COVID days as well as assuming that soon we’ll be entering a post-COVID scenario, what will be HubSpot India’s go to market strategy for next 12 months?
Adarsh Noronha: Thank you Faiz for asking that. I’m fortunate enough to lead that GTM for HubSpot India and pre-COVID days when we never expected something like this to happen we were continuing our journey that has seen successes for our customers across the globe, for our Indian customers as well. We received a lot of love and care from them in the market. We’re also adapting to the current times by dialing up how we support our customers and the community through education and helpful content.
We had a huge amount of signups for our free CRM, huge amount of signups in academy and certifications. During COVID days something significant happened to us, contrary to our belief that demand would go down our demand went up. And thankfully, because I think as a company and as a culture that is in HubSpot, we always empathize with our prospects and customers. Pre-COVID or non-COVID we’ve been always like that. At the forefront of our company culture is empathy and that resonated very well with our customers. There was a significant jump in Academy signups in March and it almost doubled in April. I see the same trend in this month also.
People are logging into HubSpot Academy to learn better, to get certified to enhance the skill sets and also to be ready for the new normal post-COVID, which you said. Because it’s a given that sales will be probably mostly inbound, marketing is also being driven by inbound strategies. No longer will you be able to sustain and scale if you are continue to ‘just shoot emails out in the dark and hope somebody will come back to you’ method. Inbound marketing and driving organic traffic has become the future, everybody’s realizing it. As more companies move online, upskilling via high-quality online programs, like HubSpot Academy, we’re here to help people prepare for work in the post-pandemic economy.
Some of the hot courses in India are content marketing, email marketing, inbound marketing and other HubSpot certifications similar lines.
We are currently running our Adapt 2020 content series which covers things like working remotely, selling through uncertainty. We will continue to engage with businesses entering new phases of growth, and identify and assess a wider range of opportunities.
Faiz: Wonderful! So, how many people do you have signing up from India? And, what are the flagship academic courses?
Adarsh Noronha: I’ll delve into that detail, thanks for asking me. It is in continuation to what I was talking about a little earlier. Until February 2020, Academy was showing normal sustained growth. It was between January and February that we saw a small spike with a 5 percent increase from the normal. And as the country went into the lockdown and as people started working from home, March had a significant jump versus February with new users up by over 30 percent. And in April the numbers doubled, literally! It was probably the peak of academy non-certifications and enrolments that I’ve seen in India. We are seeing another 30 to 40% jump in the enrolments and people really are loving to learn and upskill. Signups in May continue to trend high, however we don’t have comparative figures as these are from the current month.
Academy is free. HubSpot has always believed in helping individuals and customers to become better in what they do, become more efficient and grow better. And this is a really good sign and a remarkable trend that’s growing in in India.