The Coronavirus global pandemic has changed the face of business and engagement with staff and customers forever. Working from home (WFH) has been a necessity for so many workers and has now become a norm in some industries – but marketing to this audience is hard.
Restrictions on movement during all the various lockdowns both here in the UK and worldwide, gave an even bigger push to online shopping and connectivity. Many workers either now stay at home permanently to work or have a hybrid system in place, a high percentage have not returned to the routine they had before the arrival of Covid-19.
Key changes for marketing professionals
As a marketer, there are a whole range of changes that you should be aware of as you plan future campaigns – from the language you use when engaging with your audience to the technology to reach a contact. And all this is getting more complicated as first party data rules (rightly) continue to tighten to improve privacy and protection of personal data.
It's getting harder to market in the post-pandemic business world and we’ve put together ten of the key changes in behaviour that you need to be aware of.
1. Avoiding tone deaf marketing
One of the biggest adaptations businesses have had to make since Covid-19 first appeared, is accommodating customers and consumers who may have lost their jobs or been struggling to meet payments on finance agreements, mortgages and loan contracts due to reduced hours or the furlough scheme.
The watch word has been empathy and this has been a great opportunity to change the tone and style of communications, particularly for institutions and businesses which may previously have been viewed as a little hard-faced.
Now this trend is set to continue with a more sensitive approach expected from any business when they communicate with their customers. Financial institutions have really jumped on this bandwagon and also the supermarkets who really were on the frontline when lockdown restrictions were in place. All these organisations have benefited from being able to show a human face and this vein looks set to continue, welcomed as it is by customers. So, if your business has not been directly affected, it could still benefit to have a change of tone and approach to something softer and more empathetic.
Many companies tailored their products and services to help their customers in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis whether that was free advice to employees who had never worked in isolation at home before or by adjusting services to reach people in a different or difficult situation. Empathy and humanity in communication is the way forward now for both B2B and B2C organisations.
2. Changing engagement during lock-down and a shift to different online experiences
It’s no great surprise that online engagement with businesses and other organisations has skyrocketed. During the different periods of lockdown, internet usage increased by 70%. But what is also interesting is how that engagement has changed.
In person experiences have been replaced by online events or sessions, think appointments with a vet or doctor, webinars for staff training, online conferences and promotions and virtual house viewings.
Many businesses were forced to come up with ingenious and creative solutions to keep their cash tills buoyant. Now businesses are using video platforms to launch and explain products and concepts, expanding their reach in terms of audience and diversity even when they don’t need to and in situations where face to face is still an option. Online has become a choice rather than a necessity.
Analysts predict 82% of global internet traffic will come from video streaming and downloads. Businesses are already seeing a trend for better conversion rates plus, video covers such a huge range of mediums including 1:1, live streaming and both long and short format.
3. Personalised engagement
Forget generic promotions or advertising designed to reach everyone and appeal to no-one, now, technology allows businesses and organisations to personalise their communications. It’s about creating just the right content and sending it to the right person. So, how does this present itself in the marketing context?
- Mapping out a complete customer journey for different audiences
- Using real-time data to accurately mirror shifts in demands
- Utilising personalisation in the multichannel experience
- Being human and emotional in messaging, building on that first name contact
- Aligning goals holistically for each customer’s journey so that their experience is seamless as opposed to siloed across different departments
Analytics can drive personalisation and marketeers need to utilise these tools more than ever before to understand their customers. Forecasting models can help predict what’s going to happen next so that marketing is not just about hindsight but proper prospecting and forward planning.
4. Investing in digital marketing
Marketing technology, analytics and ad tech are going to be the way forward for all marketing strategies according to experts in the field. Digital marketing allows organisations to be proactive rather than just reactive and takes marketing to dizzy new heights.
Varied marketing platforms can manage the volume and complexity of online activity in a human and empathetic way. Marketing can be targeted and optimised to major on customer behaviour via the use of analytics and ensures that every customer has a great experience relevant to their needs and expectations.
5. Customer expectations
The global pandemic forced a change in many consumers’ spending habits and now that change has taken place, it is here to stay. New incentives and strategies put in place to help manage the Coronavirus restrictions are remaining the norm. Shoppers who were reluctant online converts in 2019 have seen the light and remained faithful to this new consumerism and so marketing strategies will have to step up and deliver as a result.
6. Loyalty Disruption
Perhaps because consumers had more time at home to reflect and research on things which they are usually too busy to attend to, but something has caused a huge amount of disruption to established spending patterns.
With time to seek out value, around 39% of consumers – mainly millennials and Gen Z – deserted their trusted brands for new faces. The moral is that consumer loyalty cannot be relied upon so treat your existing customers like royalty and this includes making sure any marketing strategy has a sound back door policy.
7. Visual search – I want one like this!
62% of millennials and Gen Z want visual search more than other technology so marketing strategies need to prioritise their response to this method of locating products, services and information.
Love it or hate it, it is a lazy way to search but image driven content is key to successful conversion rates. Microsoft, Pinterest (obviously) and Google are all leading the way with new technology which majors on the picture rather than the words.
High quality, relevant imagery is essential, gone are the days of library stock generic photos – analytics can tell you how much time consumers spend on any one picture – plus speed is crucial as no-one will hang around for slow loading.
8. Voice search
Think Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, over the next few years new research predicts that more than 50% of searches will be carried out using voice activated technology.
Think broader and embrace the concept of voice commerce. A survey from YouGov revealed that one in four Britons already own a smart speaker.
Research the most common types of voice search and how this may be relevant to your business. This can reflect on your website copy. ‘Near me’ searches are huge and so using localised keywords in online content is essential.
9. Integrated platforms
Perhaps this is not such a new development post pandemic, but it is worth labouring the point. Multi-platform applications are essential to ensure good visibility across a range of different devices and tech.
Gone are the days of slow loading on a mobile or incomplete information for the end user – that customer will just go elsewhere. It’s no good having the best content or images ever if not all your customers can access it.
10. Marketing optimism
Marketing’s star is on the ascendency with more and more companies assigning greater importance to this discipline. The CMO Survey in the USA reported that in June 2020, 62.3% of companies witnessed the role of marketing rise in importance. In February 2021, that number jumped up to 72.2% with B2B services seeing the biggest rise at 76.6%.
As the global pandemic seems to recede a little for now, many companies are now moving from a defensive marketing position to an offensive charge. Where there was once resistance in the boardroom to marketing spend, now even the most sceptical have been converted.
Organisations that don’t change their marketing to reflect the new reality post lockdown and with all the changes in working behaviour and consumption it has brought, will start to suffer through lack of engagement and, simply, getting the tone and style of communication wrong.
The global pandemic has generated changes in consumer behaviour which are here to stay. Partner this with developments in tech and artificial intelligence which are travelling at rocket speed and no organisation or business can afford to be left behind.