COVID-19 brought the phrase “new normal” and its related habits to the global lexicon. As a result, marketing teams across the world worked to deploy innovative strategies to keep up. Now, as some countries return to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy, marketers (maybe even you!) are faced with a new challenge: permanent changes in consumer behavior brought on by COVID-19. From more time spent online to changes in customer expectations, quarantines, and lockdowns drastically impacted people. While that may sound overwhelming as you look to adapt, there are some common “post-pandemic” trends worth discussing that may help steer your strategy for 2021 and beyond.
#1 Tone-Deaf Marketing is Out
You’ve probably seen a viral story about a brand tweeting something thoughtless during a crisis or dramatic period. More likely than not, it was something scheduled days or weeks in advance. Still, the effect is noticeably negative. A similar example would be organization “newsjacking” or taking advantage of current events in an insensitive fashion. Yet another would be companies going about their business in a time of crisis as if nothing is happening. These behaviors have gradually become more and more abhorrent, but COVID-19 accelerated the need to get rid of such tone-deaf marketing.
In its place emerged more empathy. During the height of COVID-19, companies worldwide addressed the situation with sensitivity. At times, you may have felt inundated with emails, tweets, and blogs with this messaging. For the most part, though, people welcomed it. And by being compassionate, businesses were able to market their products and services still.
In some cases, they offered solutions to help leads, and customers navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For example, at Lynton, we provided free advice to companies working from home for the first time. Other instances included providing discounts, extra communication, and adjusting services. Many chief marketing officers noted that injecting humanity – whether you’re B2B or B2C – was and will remain essential to keeping current customers and building brand value to acquire new ones.
#2 Heightened Focus on Employee Health and Engagement
COVID-19 not only shifted the way companies handle customers but how they take care of their employees. Much of that internal communication responsibility lands on the marketing department, making this a significant trend that’s only picking up steam. For instance, alongside leadership teams, marketers developed transparent messaging to keep the company’s employees aware of the situation, including how they’re addressing it and more. Other businesses developed wellness programs to keep employees happy and engaged as everyone worked through a pandemic. These programs offered free fitness classes, mediation, extra day-offs, counseling, virtual events, and more.
#3 A Shift to More Frequent and Unique Online Experiences
As COVID-19 sent people inside, internet usage surged to a record 70%. Currently, every minute, Americans generate 3,138,420 GB of internet traffic. This shift to an increase in online activity was perhaps one of the biggest jolts to marketers in 2020 (and still is). That’s because it was a direct replacement of in-person events. For some businesses, that meant finding ways to take a traditional conference, tradeshow, or similar event and moving it online. Others whose entire business model revolved around in-person activity, like gyms or brick and mortar retail shops, had to revamp their strategies completely.
Even as the pandemic wanes in some parts of the world, marketers can still capitalize on increased online usage by becoming creative with their efforts. Stop and think: Can you do something on video conferencing, like hosting a branded workshop? Can you build a video series similar to a talk show to explain products or concepts? Could you take a hybrid approach to a previously all-in-person event, expanding your audience and diversity? Whatever the case, now is the time to experiment with more frequent and unique virtual experiences or events.
#4 Increased Personalization Across the Web
As noted, digital demand increased in 2020 and is holding steady. But because so many organizations were fighting for online attention, personalization became crucial. In fact, by adding personalization to their marketing, eCommerce companies saw an increase in their online sales. Contextualized experiences were already a demand of younger generations who grew up with technology, but COVID-19 accelerated it for all customers. Consumers know that companies have personal data, so they want to reflect on every interaction they have with them.
What does that look like exactly, though? Some ideas:
- Capturing as much information about leads and customers as possible
- Creating the right content and sending it to the appropriate person
- Using real-time data to rapidly sense shifts in demand (helps with “just-in-time” personalization)
- Mapping out a complete customer journey for different audiences
- Using personalization in an omnichannel experience (think: first names in SMS messaging, company names in an email, etc.)
- Building out dynamic content on websites to provide various, targeted content
- Aligning individual and collective goals across each customer’s journey to eliminate silos across departments
- Being human and emotional in messaging on top of personalized tactics
#5 Investing More in Digital Marketing and Other Technology
According to Forrester analyst Jay Pattisall, “marketing technology, analytics, and ad tech will be the foundation of all marketing strategies now.” Considering all the previously mentioned trends are rooted in using digital marketing tech, this declaration makes sense. Without the right marketing tools, teams can’t be as proactive as needed and instead are reactive to what’s going around them – something that’s damaging to leadership.
Additionally, using different marketing platforms allows businesses to create the personalized, contextualized content needed to address the surge in online activity. It can help you craft a more human, empathic message. Similarly, you can dig into reporting and make optimizations based on your exact customer’s behavior. This can help you meet consumer demands and provide a better experience. So, if you’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on any solution, be it email software, marketing automation, or SMS tools, you may want to think about it.
Perhaps the best trend is the last bonus one. Despite COVID-19 shaking things up for many teams, marketing optimism is at a near-record high since the pandemic began. Leading brands now reflect on what’s changed and what’s changing and creating initiatives based on that. If you consider these trends, you should be able to ride that “high.” If you’d like to get started on that by discussing anything outlined here, feel free to reach out today.