The pandemic crisis had a major disrupting effect on consumer behavior. It accelerated marketing trends that were already in motion and then introduced some new ones, seemingly overnight. The question on everyone’s mind is, how much staying power do these trends really have? Considering that 65 percent of consumers said they plan to continue some of their new behaviors, it’s safe to say we’re in a new normal.
Perhaps the biggest change from a marketing perspective is the average person’s growing relationship with online services. The crisis highlighted society’s reliance on internet access and digital services to meet even the most basic needs, and the government is aiming to bring broadband internet to millions more Americans. No one knows to what degree these new behaviors will stick around, but the lessons of 2020 shouldn’t be overlooked.
The year we learned to socially distance became the year of virtual assimilations. Shops live-streamed events. Chain stores offered virtual fitting rooms. And telehealth took off, possibly for good.
That isn’t to say in-person shopping or appointments are gone, but people who hadn’t shopped online previously have a whole new level of comfort and familiarity with it. As many of the country’s malls are shutting down, some of them may begin supporting live-stream events, rather than the other way around.
The implications for marketers: The touchless experience will continue, possibly with less brand loyalty, at least for now. And maybe that’s a good thing. Instead of worrying about who you’ve lost, you can take advantage of the unknown consumer who is more open to change. With some aspects of society still in flux, marketers can play a key role in getting operational information to the consumers who need it.
Accelerated Digital Migration
It’s also telling that millions of people around the world made their first e-commerce transaction. The recent spike in digital migration indicates another permanent trend. More people are spending their dollars on social media apps like Instagram. Growth was especially strong in online purchases of food and household goods. As more companies play catch up, marketers will be focusing on how to track the thoughts and behavior of a broader diversity of consumers.
Other factors are impacting digital, as well:
Reduced Contact. Even as economies reopen, safety remains a concern. Because e-commerce is a simpler and safer way to shop, expect more of it, in addition to touch-free shopping in stores.
Artificial Intelligence. Chatbots and voice-based agents filled in for call centers early in the pandemic. This newer generation of AI proved up to the challenge. For instance, AI services were successfully deployed by many local entities to answer questions related to Covid testing.
Marketers were already finding impressive ways to leverage AI, but the past year provided further evidence of how small, low-tech organizations can use it to be more responsive to user inquiries.
Analytics. Increased e-commerce will require more data to personalize messages and tailor offers to subsets of your customer base. Doing so can help businesses minimize their markdowns. Even big retailers are personalizing promotions instead of offering broad deals.
Convenience. While consumers made do with the options available to them, convenience became a top driver of shopping decisions. Maybe that’s why more startups are embracing responsive direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels like DMs and social media.
The message is clear. If it’s easier – or safer – it’s likely here to stay.
Subscription services can be a way of piggybacking on the digital migration trend. Walmart was hardly known for its cutting-edge technology. Then it launched Walmart+ last September. Within months, the retail behemoth doubled the percentage of its members who shop online. Dollar Shave Club is another example of a subscription service expanding its huge customer base.
With an eye toward building up their contact lists, many smaller companies are attempting to follow suit. Just keep in mind that, in doing so, your content marketing strategies will be essential to keeping members and reducing turnover.
It’s been a chaotic time for business, to say the least. Regardless of which lessons best suit your post-Covid strategy, your essential messaging doesn’t necessarily have to change. The unique brands projected by small and mid-sized companies will prove as powerful as before. A more digitized strategy will merely expand consumers’ ability to connect with them.
There’s a lot to parse about the last year. Our experts can help you determine which digital marketing trends are most applicable to your business. Contact us today to find out more about how to customize your post-pandemic marketing strategy.