3 Things COVID-19 Taught Us About Digital Marketing
For me personally, COVID-19 has taught me a lot of things about my personal life and my professional life. For example, I’ve learned that our global world is more connected than ever before. One microscopic virus can travel the globe in a matter of weeks - which is pretty incredible and also mildly terrifying.
This also inevitably leads me to wonder why the Baby Yoda merch I purchased on Etsy from a maker in the UK took approximately 8.9 billion years to make its journey to its forever home, but I digress. For me, COVID-19 has also fostered an appreciation for family, my amazing coworkers, seeing other people and not just my two cats daily, Amazon prime’s two-day shipping, and stretchy pants.
In the digital marketing realm, we’ve also learned quite a few things. Here are three ways we’re seeing the landscape of digital marketing shift as a result of the pandemic.
1. You can’t back it up to 1999 Terry.
Brands can no longer get away with operating without a digital presence like you could in 1999. It is 2020. If you haven’t set up a Google My Business account or a website yet, what are you waiting for? A sign?
Pre-COVID, people were already engaging with digital media and marketing all day every day. COVID-19 has only amplified our need/desire to engage online with other people and brands. You probably didn’t need a blog to tell you that, but here are some cool stats to back it up:
At the same time, many brands are engaging LESS with consumers.
- According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 62% of U.S. consumers said they shop online now more than they did before the pandemic.
- 69% of marketers surveyed in June 2020 said they would only attend virtual/online events this year unless a COVID-19 vaccine is available, a slight uptick compared to 66% who answered the same question in May 2020 while 53% of companies indicate that digital events will NOT replace live in-person events in the future.
- More than 40% of consumers say they will shop online more frequently.
- As a result of COVID-19, 25.1% of consumers have started shopping with a retailer they had never used before.
- 69% of brands expected to decrease ad spend in 2020, while 74% said they are spending less time engaging on social media.
- Just 7% of UK marketers say their brands are taking a strategic approach to invest more in marketing during the coronavirus pandemic, with the vast majority forced to maintain or cut spending in the face of business disruption.
In addition to using our mobile devices and computers to stay in touch, COVID-19 has taught us the importance of being able to find a number of things online, such as:
- Company operating hours
- Company COVID-19 and/or safety policies
- Whether a restaurant offers curbside delivery or to-go options
- If a business is even still in business at all
- The ability to purchase products or services online
“Best practices are almost never set in stone, and this year, things changed almost week by week in some ways. COVID-19 has shown how important your online presence can be in times like this, and by that, I mean making sure you have coverage for everywhere (Google My Business, etc.), not just your website.” - David Caffey, Digital Marketing Manager + Senior SEO Specialist
In the past, brands may have been able to get away with using a digital presence to market their brand voice and services without dedicating a significant portion of their marketing strategy to digital media and marketing.
Thanks to COVID-19, that’s no longer the case. A digital presence is no longer an option. If you don’t easily provide this information online, you’re losing customers.
2. How to “Pivot”
Full disclaimer: I am not a fan of the word pivot. It conjures up the image of Chandler, Ross, and Rachel attempting to navigate an oversized couch up several flights of narrow stairs in that one episode of Friends. You know the one.
For years to come, I expect pivot will become part of our vocabulary until we find a much cooler word, or until we the people form a union and demand it be forced into retirement in the way of words like synergy and storybrand.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, PIVOTING. We need to pivot. Lots of pivoting. Pivot everything, all the time. If you’re Facebook, pivot ad rules every week just to make sure people are paying attention. If you’re a business, pivot everything online.
Whether you’re a fan of the word pivot or not, it does hit home the importance of ensuring we’re covering all of our bases. Simply put - the pandemic has taught us the importance of taking your business online as much as possible while ensuring those processes are efficient for users.
For attractions, that may look like making exhibits available online or providing virtual teaching trunks and digital resources for teachers. For others, it may involve creating or streamlining the ability to purchase tickets, products, or services or to make appointments online. Making sure your business is set up for success there and that users can easily and efficiently navigate this should be a priority for all businesses from now on.
“If anything, the presence of COVID-19 has taught us just how important a digital marketing presence can be. It allows you to communicate with your audience when other factors may be preventing you from interfacing with them in person. It's like a lifeline. Brands have learned that they should care about their virtual space just as much as a physical storefront. We've seen some pretty amazing adaptations take place." - Katy Sloan, Content Specialist and mom to Speak Mascot Dexter
3. How to Engage Even More Effectively with Consumers
It’s hard to engage with your audience online if you don’t truly know who your audience is.
In the past, most brands relied on their best assumption of who their target audience is or should be. We’ve seen time and time again that a brand’s target audience of 20 years ago may not at all be the same target audience of today.
Making these assumptions can not only prevent you from growing your brand, but it can also convey inauthenticity or lack of understanding in your marketing strategy.
Today, tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and other tools provide insight into who exactly is visiting your website and what they are searching for. We can no longer assume the people we think are buying from us are the people finding what we want if we have the tools to show us whether or not conversions are taking place.
Everything from your paid and organic social to the content you put on your website should be created with the goal of growing your loyal consumer base.
So how do you do this? By tapping into the experiences of your audience. Use the tools available to find out who you should be targeting, and make an effort to market your brand to them as authentically as possible.
“As we slide further into the COVID-19 global pandemic, marketers must continue to redefine the digital customer experience in a way that embraces empathy and innovation. This time has taught us that it's more important than ever to engage in a human-centered approach to digital marketing. As marketers, we must become the people we're trying to reach. That means being thoughtful, resourceful, experimental, and most of all, human. Brands that take the time to understand this ‘new normal’ and adopt an agile and authentic voice will undoubtedly earn a place of relevance in the post-COVID-19 era.” - Whitney Blackburn, Senior Content Specialist
We can no longer push content and ads at people we hope will buy them without intention. People see through sales gimmicks, especially during a pandemic when priorities may be shifting and what’s truly important is more top of mind than ever before.
- First, we must create a product or service that solves a problem or creates an experience - something that makes the world a better place if you will.
- Second, we must understand who needs that product or service and provide the information they need to make the decision on whether or not to purchase it now or in the future, from you or from someone else, and so on and so forth.
- We must make the process of finding this product or service and purchasing it as easy as possible (especially online).
These three steps can be fleshed out into a number of other important strategies of course - web design, SEO, PPC, paid and organic social, content, etc. - but the bottom line is that you can’t engage with your audience online if you don’t make sure you know who they are and what motivates them to buy a product or service like yours.
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