The pandemic told us what we already knew, that is - businesses must communicate with a local focus and, in exact terms, target specific consumers based on their situation and relevance. This requires a thorough grasp of the situation on the ground, country by country, state by state, and place by place code. It may also involve personalising messages.
Beyond location, it is discovered that marketing communications must be personalised, based on customers’ values and needs, rather than demographics like age and gender.
Managing marketing communications
As one might imagine, there has been a surge in online content consumption platforms as a result of this shift in attention toward all things digital. The online platforms are growing to stay up with new competitors and user demand.
With the introduction of lockdown, the size, availability, and profile of the digital audience has significantly changed, bringing in people who were previously only accessible offline. Not only that, but it has also altered their attitudes, expectations, content consumption, and how they expect to be treated as consumers.
Brands that did it right, paid attention to their employees and customers, and acted accordingly. For some businesses, this resulted in a significant shift in strategy and/or reorganisation. Others needed to fine-tune an established plan.
For example, Alessandra Bellini, chief customer officer for Tesco (UK supermarket chain), explained: "We didn't have to change or pivot. We had to be really at our best to listen to our customers every day… we were going out to stores, to the pickers and the depot, talking to the staff and customers in real-time in order to understand what we needed to do in terms of a central perspective."
Tesco defined four important principles that will guide its marketing communications strategy after careful listening: safety, food, and support for employees and communities.
Technology has undoubtedly changed the marketing profession in numerous ways. The three ways below are among the most notable ones.
One of the most notable outcomes of the pandemic is the rapid emergence and success of virtual events, which allowed businesses and event organizers to stage events without having to drastically limit their offerings. Virtual breakout rooms are available for participants to connect and network, and marketers could set up virtual stands and communicate with potential customers in a meaningful way.
Small and intimate seminars have been substituted for webinars, in addition to leveraging technology to duplicate larger events. Webinars aren't really 'new,' but they've emerged as B2B and B2C brands' go-to thought leadership – and lead-generation – tool.
The obvious advantage of a virtual event is that it requires less time out of people's busy schedules. Attending virtual events can be more convenient, less time-consuming, and cost-effective.
Search ad spending
If there is one indicator of digital marketing's superiority over traditional marketing, it's where the ad spending is going. For the first time in 2019, digital ad spend topped traditional marketing, and the trend has continued since then.
Meanwhile, digital ad spending has been steadily increasing year-on-year, ranging from 8.2% to 15.1%. Despite early reluctance to invest following the outbreak of the pandemic, digital ad spending grew by 14.3% between June 2020 and February 2021, one of the greatest six-month rises ever.
In the future, digital commercials will be the dominant way of marketing for organizations of all kinds, with traditional advertisements, while still relevant, dwindling in relevance.
With people moving towards the suburbs and rural areas due to work from home post pandemic, localised marketing will become more important. According to Accenture, two-thirds of consumers prefer to shop in local retailers and/or buy more locally sourced products. In order for brands to enhance their connection with their audiences, localized content and customization should be more vital than ever.
Adapting to the new normal
With online marketing, a business can revamp its communication strategy.
The earlier communication technique used may no longer be appropriate if people's priorities and schedules change. It's a good thought to reconsider the mails sent out, the material provided, and the overall approach toward consumers.
This could involve completely overhauling the content calendar or putting some blog posts on hold in order to focus on articles that address doubts, anxieties, and questions about the current situation. This also implies that brand managers should devote time to getting to know their post-Covid-19 clients.
Sending out an email survey with questions about their present priorities, pain areas, and desires is one approach to do this. They need to be simple to respond to (multiple choice or a point on a scale), but it is advisable to leave some questions open-ended because one might learn a few interesting facts about clients this way.
(The author is founder and director, Value 360 Communications.)