Most of us are over the whole pandemic thing, choosing to pull our heads out of the sand and get on with it. However, as a small business, it pays to understand how changes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have changed consumer behaviors. Here we look at how these changes have also changed digital marketing post-pandemic.
E-commerce vs. Brick & Mortar
If you operate a bricks and mortar retail company, chances are you learned quickly it wasn’t viable in lockdown mode. The pandemic proved to be a major boost to online sales, which increased by almost $432 billion in the U.S and caused a 22 billion visit surge to retail platforms between 2019 and 2021. The trend continues meaning you need to create an online presence to sell your products. There are several choices to create an e-commerce presence, whether it is on your own site, through marketplaces like Amazon and Shopify, or through social media.
While the e-commerce industry boomed, industries like hospitality and tourism tanked. As a result, more small businesses need to create a sector-based strategy that promotes resilience. We’ve already looked at retail and how e-commerce became crucial to the survival of boutiques and mom-and-pop shops. While logistically, the e-commerce solution was a nightmare at first, once everything was set up, the time and money invested allowed these companies to prevail.
If we look at the automotive industry, the importance of virtual test drives became more apparent, with customers needing cars yet unable to visit showrooms. As a result, dealerships had to introduce new digital marketing strategies so they could find new ways to keep customers engaged. Bringing car purchases to the customer’s door mimicked the e-comm retailer strategy with the addition of digitized contracts and a delivery system for these oversized items.
A final example is the publishing industry that turned to digital methods and channels such as TikTok, using the #BookTok concept to spread the joy of reading it to a younger audience. Post-pandemic, bookstores base their book displays on TikTok and BookTok trends. This reimagining of traditional business models is creating more resilient small businesses able to roll with the punches in volatile markets.
As mentioned, the travel industry took a hard hit. However, local attractions and accommodations became more attractive as people were stuck in micro worlds restricted to their own homes and neighborhoods. Communities experienced a reboot with a blast of new interest driven by travelers itching to free themselves from the walls of their homes or own backyards. It rebooted the community and moved people from congested cities, that increased the risk for transmission to smaller suburbs and rural areas with wide open spaces. In fact, during the pandemic, two words that came up more often for Google searches were local and business.
Suddenly, local businesses were seeing a renaissance with a shop-local craze really gaining legs. As a result, digital marketing is now all about localization with locally relevant content and messaging. A lessor knew social media platform Nextdoor suddenly became all the rage, with its neighbourhood-focused content drawing 73% more engagement than it did pre-pandemic. It also, in turn, saw a boost in revenue as savvy marketers caught on this is the channel for local marketing.
Smaller Scale, Measurable Marketing
Although small businesses might not be interested in larger-scale sponsorships, sponsorships, in general, could be going the way of the dodo. Because it is more difficult to measure the impact of sponsorships, especially larger-scale investments, there is a shift to more direct digital marketing that is measurable and trackable. However, from a pandemic perspective, the idea of large gatherings became taboo, another reason fewer companies invested in sponsorships of not just sporting venues but also events.
Social Media Groups
Facebook noted an increase in reliance on online communities during the pandemic as isolated people sought support from like-minded people. They found 91% of people supported others through an online community, with almost everyone feeling they belonged thanks to online groups. Marketers can leverage this need for connection to carve out niche audiences post-pandemic for themselves and create loyal communities that develop deeper, more meaningful, and longer-lasting relationships and brand loyalty.
Investment in Loyalty
The pandemic made it clear investing in loyalty, and customer retention is key to making small businesses more pandemic-proof. Customer retention has always been the lower-lying fruit and a more affordable and results-driven way to increase sales. You already have the customer’s attention and trust, which means using marketing messages through direct channels such as email drip campaigns or text messaging can help increase the lifetime value of a customer, and in turn, provide a more sustainable customer base.
Performance Marketing Meets Brand Marketing
Performance marketing or paid search has long been the go-to for digital marketers. They love the fact it’s measurable, so they see their results and can constantly improve their campaigns using data. It is also action-based, allowing them to trigger specific reactions using CTAs. These campaigns provide excellent targeting, becoming more persona-friendly with state-of-the-art segmentation tools. More online traffic, thanks to lockdowns, provided more opportunities than ever for brands to engage customers. But this had a downside, which was brands also faced stiffer competition. They had to learn new ways to attract more people so they could see better ROI for their marketing bucks.
Changes in consumer behavior called for a more human touch that put brand identity front and center. Instead of focusing on sales, marketers had to focus on building brand awareness which meant a shift to brand marketing. This trend remains important, with more focus on showcasing a social consciousness with a desire to “make the world a better place.” Post-pandemic is all about finding that perfect balance between performance and brand marketing to see better ROI for marketing budgets.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
Lockdowns led to boredom at epic levels, making it easy for brands to draw people in with any form of entertainment or distraction. However, as more brands caught on to this change in online behavior, it made competition fierce. Expectations for improved customer experiences grew, with more online services available. This allowed customers to be extremely picky with crazy high expectations that went beyond perfection. If you didn’t deliver, poof they were gone. This spoiled customers, meaning today, you have to enhance customer experience. This includes making it clear customers are valued.
They should always have what they need at the click of the mouse or tap of their finger, whether they are shopping, have a question, need tech support, or are checking out with a full shopping cart. In other words, every touch point must be perfected. Some examples would be restaurants switching to in-house delivery to avoid challenges presented by less dependable third parties like Uber or Skip the Dishes or retailers still offering curbside pickup even though lockdowns are over. Customized apps that make it easier to interact with brands and use real people for support instead of chatbots also improve customer experience.
Social commerce also became more popular as an all-in-one solution for customers stuck in lockdown. Social media platforms became an easy tool where people could keep up with friends and family and find new ways to engage with brands. They could socialize and shop, which was a wonderful, simple way to keep in touch with the world. More brands found this was the place to be to raise brand awareness and make sales.
Now, post-pandemic, you can place an ad and send people directly to a shopping cart, removing the middleman, so to speak. Whether you rely on Instagram’s Shops and Shopping in Reels, livestream shopping events on Facebook and TikTok, or use Augmented Reality tools on Snapchat and Pinterest, social commerce is the new way to sell products.
To really make an impression in this medium, influencers can provide added sway, helping customers see your brand is worthwhile. While it is often a higher-priced digital marketing tactic, it is one of the easiest ways to handhold customers toward a purchase. If that sounds like too much trouble, you can also use social commerce to find new customers with segmentation. This ties directly to customer experiences, developing marketing approaches that resonate with customers and make their journey easier from first contact through to nurturing.
Consumer Privacy vs Segmentation
Finally, technology designed to protect user privacy is changing a world dependent on segmentation. Once widely dependent on collecting user information through social platforms and Google, marketers need to change their mindset. We have pushed past the whole consumer privacy vs segmentation era, with privacy trumping all. For example, Apple already lets users know when their online activities are being tracked so they can opt out, and Google has ended support for third-party cookies in Chrome.
These changes are real threats to highly targeted digital advertising marketing. Post-pandemic limits measuring campaign effectiveness and the ability to leverage highly segmented targets, which means your business must become more reliant on your own customer data.
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