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How COVID-19 Impacted Digital Marketing

As we push past the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless lives have been changed forever, how society functions has has met a new normal, and business has been transformed overnight. There is no denying that this past year has been challenging for absolutely everyone. Not only have businesses had to morph to adjust to the new normal, but the consumers and the ideologies that run the commercial world have been altered forever. Since digital marketing has always focused on aligning a brand with customer preferences and needs, we will need to look at both in order to completely understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted digital marketing as a whole (and understand this changes all the time).

The Audience Has Changed

  1. A New Customer Persona is Emerging
    Lockdowns and social distancing have shifted consumer habits and demands. People are becoming more self-sufficient as they readily embrace digital trends. From working to shopping to entertainment, every option is now available online. Across the globe, consumers have quickly accepted and implemented digital channels to fulfill their needs. According to Bazaarvoice, 49% of global consumers now shop online more than they did before the pandemic. In the U.S. alone, 62% of consumers shop more online now than before.

More importantly, 52% of the respondents surveyed by PYMNTs say they won’t go back to grocery shopping in-store. In fact, research from Digital Commerce 360 shows that 58% of online shoppers expect to order online and interact online more in the coming months. People now expect that information, products, and services that were once commonly accessed physically are replaced by alternate digital solutions.

2. Consumers Are Now More Careful About Spending
Personal consumption expenditure (PCE) fell by 10.1% in Q2 from Q1 in 2020, reported Deloitte. 40% of consumers say they have also decreased spending on discretionary categories. What is holding them back? With constant changes in the economy and rising unemployment, people are worried about job losses and earnings in the future, prompting them to save more.

3. How Has Digital Marketing Altered to Align with This New Audience?
In response to altering preferences and spending habits, digital marketing efforts are concentrated on offering more value to customers. Leveraging and curating content across several online platforms continues to accelerate and evolve. One of the marketing strategies that has significantly improved is social media marketing. Analysis by Visa stated that 25% of online purchases are now made via an interaction with a social media platform. Consumers claim it is convenient, simplifies the shopping experience, and allows them to utilize discounts offered by influencers. As a result, social media ad spend has also increased. SocialBakers’ Social Media Trends Report stated that global social ad spend rose 56.4% in Q3 2020. For more on social media marketing, you can read 9 Tips to Optimize Your Social Media Strategy.

Moreover, customer experience on online channels is in the spotlight more than ever before. Brands are making advancements in the complete customer experience in order to draw new customers and retain existing customers. According to Forrester, 25% of brands will focus on improving the quality of their customer's experience this year.

Redefined Business Goals

Your consumers are now online. And so are your competitors. That means business owners need to focus on positioning their brands front and center so that they remain in the path of their target audience. And so you’ve noticed, more virtual, remote, and contactless solutions are establishing themselves as commonplace in every aspect. This has helped digital marketers to reach out, engage, and connect with consumers wherever they may be and that is not going to change anytime soon.

What has really been a deal-breaker is that COVID was the perfect reason for brands to stand out in the crowd and connect with existing as well as potential customers. While some brands were left scrambling to get on board the digital network, those already established in the space were able to claim the customers their competitors were losing, whether it was by offering up-to-date information, products that consumers needed, or delivery options.

Research from McKinsey found that 75% of American shoppers changed their shopping behavior and brand preference amid the pandemic. More interestingly, more than 60% plan to stick with these buying habit changes post-crisis. Brands need to refine their strategies to understand the impact of COVID is going to go far beyond a year or two. The focus of many digital marketers is on enhancing customer loyalty and retention as well. Forrester expects spending on improving the customer experience to increase by 30% this year, allowing businesses to hold onto the new online customers that were gained during the 2020 e-commerce boom.

So How Has Digital Marketing Changed to Align with New Business Goals?

In order to achieve digital marketing success during COVID-19, businesses have had to re-evaluate marketing strategies and consider the following:

  • Alignment: Current value propositions and products should align with new customer needs and preferences. Your product or service are only necessary as long as you offer something of value and resolve consumer pain points. Remaining current and relevant are the keys to success.
  • Segmentation: Brands need to reach out to the various segments of their target audience and offer relevant content, products, and services based on those unique segments of consumers. This helps facilitate personalization so that businesses can provide the best value to their customers. More importantly, it allows organizations to look at each customer as individuals and cater to their needs.
  • Innovation: Even in the midst of a crisis, brands and their campaigns need to plan for growth. By collecting and analyzing data, companies can also identify additional products and services that can be offered to consumers, and find innovative ways to engage with them online.
  • Localization: Your consumers are looking for local content, whether it's news on things happening in their own communities or information about local stores and how to support local. For brands that have this option of engaging in local communities, this is the ideal opportunity to connect with customers in the area. 
  • Integrated Communications: Ideologies now center on supporting conversational marketing so that consumers can get information more quickly and experience one on one interactions. Consider how you can leverage things like Knowledge Base/FAQ's on your website, chat bots, live chat options, and more.

As a Whole, Martech is Evolving

Digital marketers have access to tools that can help them understand changes in consumer trends, behaviors, lifestyles, and attitudes since the lockdown. More importantly, these tools allow marketers to nurture leads and guide them deeper into the sales funnel.  However, the challenge lies in choosing the best tools for the company’s individual business needs and the ability to integrate the tools effectively to get the most out of the functionalities they have to offer.

With the wide variety of software and technology available in the market, the number of ways brands can engage with consumers is limitless. Choices include CRM platforms, chat bots, augmented and virtual reality apps, personalized emails, analytics, and much more. Determine the toolsets that are going to be best for your business to see how you can leverage these tools to your advantage.

But let’s not forget that digital marketing strategies also focus on producing valuable content. Digital marketers know they need to offer something other than just text-centric content. Infographics, memes, podcasts, and video content have gained more traction. Consider how you can leverage webinars, video recordings, short snippets of interactive content, and more to help engage your digital consumer.

Final Thoughts

Digital marketers know that consumers change their preferences all the time based on what is happening in the world around them. It is the job of the digital marketer to match consumer preferences and trends. But a year into COVID, businesses are taking a step back and reconsidering what to do next. Everything from business goals to marketing strategies has had to adapt to change rather quickly. The ripple effect of these modifications will be felt by all for years to come.

Brands are equipping themselves for the long haul. Common changes across every industry include incorporating real-time data dashboards, re-formulating marketing strategies, and reducing internal red tape. This will allow businesses to move faster and be more flexible. Are you ready to flourish in the post-COVID era? Submit your comment below to tell us about changes you have made to your strategies during the pandemic and how it has helped you strive.

If you're interested in discussing your current or future digital marketing strategy , we invite you to schedule an inbound marketing consultation with our team.