Here’s how early 2020 felt for many marketers in America: One minute, it was all about rolling out regular campaigns and promotions. Then suddenly the news cycle was dominated by COVID-19 fears; businesses and schools were shutting down and people were leaving their houses a lot less.
Buying patterns changed, too. Many consumers stocked up on certain products deemed essential to procure for the quarantine period while forgoing other non-essentials due to financial concerns or general uncertainty.
In short, a lot changed in a very short period of time. Marketers have had to adapt to these tumultuous conditions while doing their best to strengthen relationships with customers. Let’s take a closer look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected marketing thus far — and may continue to do so in the coming month and years.
Agility Is an Even Bigger Priority
Agility is far from a new concept in the business world, but the first half of 2020 has shown how a brand’s ability to pivot quickly, make adjustments and incorporate current events into their strategy – or lack thereof — can make or break its success.
As one analyst and expert notes for Marketing Dive, this is the year where “agility as a principle” has really been tested. Brands need to be able to quickly and clearly convey their values and respond to changing conditions rapidly — lest their messaging becomes irrelevant, outdated or perhaps worst of all, insensitive to the current climate.
The research firm Gartner found nearly three out of 10 marketing leaders think their execution is damaged by a lack of agility and flexibility. The survey also found nearly four out of 10 marketers have taken steps to “develop scenarios for planning purposes” in the wake of the pandemic, hoping to take the disruption in stride as much as possible.
The experts at Gartner go on to say preparing for disruption and planning for possible future scenarios depends on marketing analytics. The ability to understand trends and make data-driven decisions during times of extreme change can help teams navigate these choppy waters.
Mobile and Direct-to-Consumer Commerce Are Key
Ecommerce — and even more specifically m-commerce — have been steadily gaining traction over the past few years. But the pandemic and its various consequences have urged many shoppers to change their buying behaviors on short notice, and some experts believe certain changes we’ve witnessed throughout the pandemic are apt to stick around.
As Target Marketing cites, mobile data traffic spiked 380 percent in March. So, it’s worth considering how this additional screen time may affect consumers’ habits in the future. For instance, someone who became accustomed to ordering groceries weekly online for pickup or delivery may very well continue this habit into the future for the sake of convenience and habit — even if they were used to making in-person visits prior to the pandemic.
It’s likely we’ll see marketing budgets shift to accommodate a new wave of direct-to-consumer (DTC) commerce in which people remotely acquire goods rather than traveling to physical stores. As a result, understanding how people tend to shop online, which products do well in this space and how to capitalize on omni-channel traffic, has become an even larger marketing priority.
Customers Want to Feel a Sense of Community
As one marketing expert notes for Forbes, brands can — and must — connect deeply with potential and existing customers by building a sense of community based on current events and shared values. Shoppers want to know what kind of organization their money is supporting, and where companies stand on certain issues.
Messaging needs to be relevant, timely and strike a chord with buyers as they want to feel alignment with what brands represent. Because marketing serves as the connection between buyers and sellers, it’s key to re-evaluate brand values and prioritize fostering a sense of community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crash course in the importance of agility, online sales and brand community. Moreover, these are likely to be challenges with which we’ll continue to grapple for the foreseeable future.