To be fair, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything for everyone, but, since we’re marketers, we’ll stay focused on how it’s affecting and will continue to affect us. As marketers, we survive or die based on our ability to connect meaningfully with consumers. And because consumers are behaving differently, we have to adjust how we engage with them. The channels are still the same, but how they’re being used by consumers and how we’re presenting our thinking is changing. Here, we’ll detail what’s changed for us as an industry, what it means, and how we can learn to adapt our ways of connecting with our audiences.
1. Digital media will dominate more than ever
We can’t go out, so why not cozy up to a screen? Whether it’s a Zoom trivia/happy hour with friends (yep), binge-watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (check), or cruising YouTube for useful sourdough starter tips (late to the party, but yes), we’re all consuming more digital content. According to a recent white paper by Global Web Index, an international market research company, 80% of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom who responded to their survey said they’ve consumed more online content since the outbreak of COVID-19. Here are some other highlights of their report:
- Online videos could have the greatest staying power after the outbreak ends in the U.S., especially among Gen Z and Millennials.
- 70% of U.S online video watchers say they’ll continue to watch as much of this content when the outbreak is over.
- 69% of millennials who listen to podcasts say they’ll continue to consume as much when the pandemic ends, which could signal potential areas of future revenue for digital content providers.
- Younger age groups are most enthusiastic about receiving updates, engaging with daily live chats, and watching live streams of virtual performances since live performances have been canceled.
- Many sports leagues have already been venturing into the world of esports and gaming, and this is now one of the most credible channels they should be focusing on in light of the disruption.
Another consequence of consumers staying inside is that foot traffic in stores is declining, so investing in advertising on traditional or connected TV, digital, direct mail makes more sense than in-store, out-of-home, and physical advertising.
2. Digital shopping will continue to thrive
Sure, we’re still going to the grocery store and other retail outlets, but many are going a lot less and taking advantage of contact-free pickup and delivery. That’s likely going to continue after the pandemic. Forbes recently reported that recent data suggests that there will be a huge increase of 169% in e-commerce purchases from new or low-frequency users, post-outbreak. And the vast majority of those who’ve increased their use of digital and omnichannel services, such as home delivery, curbside pickup, or shopping via social media platforms, expect to keep it up in the future.
3. The localization of marketing
As consumers move out of urban areas to the suburbs or rural regions, localized marketing will be on the rise. According to Accenture, two-thirds of consumers are shopping primarily in neighborhood stores, or buying more locally sourced products. To effectively build connections with these consumers, marketers will need to focus on localized content and personalization more than ever.
4. Staying connected: brands need to talk differently
As we all do our best to keep doing what’s right for the greater good – wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, etc. – it’s never been more apparent how connected we are. We’re sacrificing for the benefit of everybody and that mentality will likely bleed into how we act as consumers. Brands like Nike are staying ahead of the curve with messaging like “play inside, play for the world.” Knowing that we’re avoiding gyms and working out at home, they’re also waving fees for their premium programming on their Nike Training Club app. They’re staying on brand and helping to push a sense of community, which is what everybody needs right now.
Like Nike, brands and their marketers that learn how to embrace this sense of community and let consumers know that they, too, are doing the right thing will stand out.
5. Addressing consumers’ changing concerns in meaningful ways will remain after the pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, brands in all categories bombarded consumers with “In these uncertain times” messaging that usually included an offer for their product or service. Were consumers worrying about how they could get a new $40,000 truck? Most weren’t.
So, what was keeping consumers up at night other than the steady stream of apocalyptic headlines? Two words: toilet paper. Cottonelle, one of the businesses not worried about sales during the pandemic, struck a chord with consumers by tapping into their kindness instead of their concerns. They wanted to ease consumers’ concerns and discourage panic buying, so they crafted a campaign called #ShareASquare that urged people to “stock up on generosity.” Cottonelle worked with United Way and pledged $1 million and one million rolls of toilet paper to their Worldwide COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. They also donated an additional $1 up to $100,000 for everyone who used the #ShareASquare hashtag.
The result? They successfully positioned their brand in a positive light while making a difference for those in need.
6. Traveling for commercial shoots and client meetings will likely be less frequent
During the last year, the majority of our face-to-face encounters went virtual – everything from family gatherings to work meetings – so it’s not too hard to see a significant reduction in work-related travel in all industries, including marketing. Do we need to fly four (or more) people to another state for a two-hour meeting when it can be handled on Zoom? Same goes for commercial shoots, which can also be overseen and managed virtually. Even after we’re clear from COVID-19 and travel and being inside with others is safe again, many marketers and clients won’t be able to justify the time and expense.
7. Greater focus on customer retention and loyalty
The pandemic is forcing brands to focus their efforts differently and cut costs in non-essential areas. Unfortunately, marketing is usually the first to go. As a result, marketers are focusing on new strategies for customer retention and loyalty. Before the pandemic, many brands were focused on conversions and acquiring new customers. Customer retention and loyalty programs help companies focus their efforts in ways that they know will be profitable.
8. Passive marketing vs. more aggressive tactics
In digital marketing, for example, many businesses are turning to a more passive approach with subtle call-to-action buttons instead of in-your-face links. Consumers are skeptical of companies that appear to be capitalizing on the pandemic and are wary of campaigns that pressure them to spend money they may not have. Companies need to shift their perspective towards empathy to accommodate this new consumer mindset. By showing customers that you understand their needs, you can stand out among your competitors in a good way.
9. Health and economic security are top-of-mind
The shared trauma we’re all experiencing as a result of the pandemic will have a lasting impact on consumers worldwide. Not surprisingly, personal health and economic well being are top-of-mind with consumers, which will affect how we as marketers move forward. Foot traffic in stores, travel, and events will only return when people trust that they’ll be safe. To keep healthy, consumers of all ages are rapidly adopting contactless activities, such as curbside pickup, and self-checkout, which will likely remain. The pandemic has also had a drastic impact on consumers’ brand loyalty with many turning to store brands as a way of saving money. Value is replacing luxury as being a desirable attribute. Next to value, trust is a key factor in purchase decisions as consumers turn to brands they trust during lockdown.
10. Brands are being held to higher standards
Although socially conscious values have been gaining popularity in recent years, the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Research from McKinsey shows that about 61% of those surveyed said that how a brand responds during the crisis will have a large impact on whether they’ll continue to buy it when the crisis is over. Moving forward, marketers will need to communicate a strong sense of their brands’ purpose – a cause that the brand stands for, or an area where the brand wants to make a real difference. Brands can accomplish this through the projects they choose to be involved in, how they treat their employees, and the messages they send to their customers. The most important thing here is that brands need to back up their words with real action or risk being called out by customers, which has already happened to some brands.
More Questions About Marketing During and After COVID-19?
If you’d like to learn more about how your brands’ marketing needs to pivot as we move past the pandemic, we’d love to hear from you.