As COVID-19 has spent the greater part of this year on a world-wide tour, the impacts on the global economy have been widely felt. While many industries have already made commendable come-backs from the crippling impacts of the first couple months of the global public health crisis, there have been longer lasting – potentially permanent – shifts to how we market brands, interact with our customers, and conduct business. Below, we dive into some of the most notable digital marketing shifts of 2020 that have occurred as a result of COVID-19, and whether we can expect these trends to stick around.
Connecting with Empathy
Considering the hardship endured by so many businesses, individuals and communities as a result of the pandemic, many brands have responded with empathy, using their business or influence to do good!
Some clothing manufacturers quickly pivoted to creating and distributing masks to the public, while select distilleries switched their entire operations to producing hand sanitizer in response to a widespread shortage. On the digital front, many brands took to social media, offering free tutorials or lessons, free trials, or providing engaging and entertaining content to pique the interests of the isolated masses!
This momentum is effectively spreading positivity while helping consumers connect and engage more closely with brands. The caveat: with EVERY brand attempting to share their coronavirus statements and their albeit well intentioned words of inspiration during dark times, the consumer fatigue set in quickly.
(See a great example of COVID-marketing-overload here> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM3J9jDoaTA&feature=emb_title)
The true winners have been those brands who cut through the noise with authentic, engaging, and creative messages.
Update That Content!
Isn’t it strange to watch TV shows or movies where characters are dining in overcrowded restaurants, crowd-surfing at a concert or (shock and horror) hugging their friends? In a matter of months, our way of life and perspective has shifted so dramatically, and accordingly, brands have had to shift their content to ensure that their message remains relevant and well received considering these pandemic-inspired lifestyle changes. The DMAC (Digital Marketing Academy of Canada) offers two great examples of smart content shifts:
- KFC: Prior to COVID-19, the fast-food chain aired Ads featuring people dining on their chicken and finishing their meal by licking their fingers clean. These were pulled off the web, replaced with ads that aligned more closely with the new reality of hyper-handwashing and social distancing.
- Travel Companies: Given the closing of many international borders and travel being limited to essential workers and industries, many smart travel brands have shifted to increased production of content, including a greater social media presence, travel blogs, influencer marketing, and photo contests, to amplify brand awareness during this industry lull. This example also serves as a reminder that just because the demand for your product may have plummeted, it doesn’t mean that marketing efforts can take a back seat. Maintaining (and building) your brand relationship with your customers should be a consistent priority.
Particularly in-light of the shift away from physical events or opportunities to engage with the customer face-to-face, experiential marketing has been thrust into the spotlight during COVID-19 as an attempt to tap into the need for customer-curated experiences. Brands who have had to pivot to digital events have been forced to innovate to keep the customer’s attention, which as many of us can attest to, is a real challenge when you’re separated by a screen. Experiential marketing can be effective for almost any brand or industry, and whether it’s through your website, webinar, or landing page, it's about a complete focus upon enhancing the customer experience.
For experiential marketing to be truly effective, the experiences should be highly personalized, controlled by the customer, and multifaceted. Below are just a few of the countless innovative ways that brands are attempting to provide personalized experiences for their customers:
- Augmented and Virtual Reality: Already supported by most Apple and Android devices, companies can create ways for the customer to explore their product or space from the comfort of their own home.
- Gamification: Put the customer in the driver's seat and allow them the opportunity to interact with your product or community in a fun, engaging way.
- Multisensory Experiences: By leveraging technology, the number of ways to engage in a product are limitless. Brands are using combinations of experiential marketing tools to interact with their audience on multiple levels and platforms.
Follow the trends to help curate your digital experiential marketing strategy. As an example, stats show that over 80% of users prefer brand videos over written content such as blogs or text-centric social media updates! It is no wonder that webinars and webcasts are gaining so much traction today.
In the early days of the pandemic crisis, marketers were taking note of the plummeting prices for paid advertising. Due to supressed economic activity, many small businesses were pulling their advertising; this dampened competition for ads led to dramatic cost per click (CPC) decreases. Considering that people were confined to their homes (and screens) during the lockdown, traffic and search volume was WAY up, so those taking advantage of these low CPC rates benefitted from a much higher ROI than prior to the coronavirus.
With many parts of the country, and the world, emerging from their isolation hibernation and beginning to regain some sense of normalcy, businesses are also regaining momentum. While PPC (pay-per-click) advertising won’t undoubtedly slowdown forever, CPC and online advertising competition remains lower than prior to the crisis. If you haven’t already integrated PPC as part of your marketing strategy, you may be missing out on an ideal - and incredibly affordable- opportunity to gain brand exposure, traffic, and sales.
While the world was thrown into a COVID-19 whirlwind, there is no denying that digital marketing has played a critical role in helping businesses innovate to endure the impacts of the crisis. While much remains uncertain in the months ahead, these trends, as well as other emerging digital marketing developments, will help companies and brands maintain a strong connection to their customers, no matter what the rest of 2020 hurls our way!