Year one of COVID-19 – How has business and marketing changed?
So COVID-19 happened. I don’t think I need to rehash the implications of a global pandemic on businesses here. I have other blogs in which I did that. Now, I think is a really interesting time. We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of the pandemic and we’re not back to “normal”, whatever that was. But we are in an interesting transition time and this year it will be fascinating to see which trends are here to stay. Here are some of my thoughts.
Things that have changed for good/that are here to stay
My home is my castle
Working from home – Not everyone and not all the time, but more people, more of the time. This has implications for how you’re going to reach those target customers. Drive time radio is going to be less of a priority, and digital adverts on sites and platforms that work from home professionals take a break on will be more important. It also has implications for the kinds of products that will remain important. Sitting on your bed with a laptop no longer cuts it for many home workers and people will still value the space and functional furniture of a dedicated home office.
At-home activities – Last year was the year of the new deck/patio (guilty), indoor plants (guilty), and the newly painted walls. Although people want to travel again, a year when many of us spent much more time than anticipated within our own four walls gave many people a renewed love of nesting. Those who were able to stay at home more have a different appreciation for some of those old-fashioned values of home and family. This has manifested itself in some unexpected ways as platforms like TikTok have grown in popularity with parents and children trying out the latest dance routine together in the living room.
Hygiene as a priority in customer service
I used to take the London Underground on a daily basis, with other people well inside my personal space. Now I can’t imagine doing that without at least a mask and about a gallon of hand sanitizer. While this is more of a tick-box for marketing, rather than something you want to put as your main marketing message, businesses would do well not to forget about it as customers will still be looking for a clean, hygienic environment. Particularly for those in the hospitality industry, negative reviews about the cleanliness of a place can do real damage to your business.
Digital is everything
Although we want to see real people again and do things IRL (In Real Life), many observers estimate that COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of customer service and offerings by several years. Once you give people something, it’s very hard to take it away again and the convenience of online shopping, for example, is here to stay. Shopping through social media platforms, or social commerce, for example, is on the rise and another way for retailers to get in front of consumers. People are still going to be surgically attached to their smartphones while using a desktop for work. Think about what platforms your audience is going to be using in different circumstances and which device they're going to be using them on. Make sure your content is optimized for whichever device is most important.
Being yourself - authenticity
I keep reading about how the younger generations are less loyal to brands, but I don’t think that’s quite true. People are becoming less blindly loyal to brands, sticking to a brand because that’s the brand they’ve always bought, or that their parents bought. Instead, people are taking more notice of what brands do and say, not just of what they sell. Consumers are increasingly loyal to brands that align with their values, not just those that sell the cheapest or most convenient product. Hypocrisy and tokenism do not go down well and they can spot a rat at 100 paces. So if you’re going to say something, or do something, make sure you can stand behind it and you’re not just doing it because you think your company might get in trouble otherwise.
Things that are going back to how they used to be
Doing things in-person
Barring an uptick of cases and areas going back into having more gathering restrictions and mask regulations, we are going to see people gathering once more. However, we’re going to see a hybrid approach – a mix of in-person and Zoom, depending on the function of the gathering. In-person informal gatherings are great, but the convenience of video meetings can’t be beaten. Businesses should think about the best way to achieve their goals and choose the in-person or digital format accordingly.
Business travel will be back to a certain extent but with so much money and time saved by employees traveling less, I don’t think we’ll return to the same levels as before.
Marketers and businesses also still need to be sensitive to the fact that people have different levels of comfort around doing things in-person and without masks. Some people ripped off their masks as soon as the CDC said it was ok, some people never wore masks. Others will continue to be cautious of being in groups and of in-person interactions. Depending on your target audience, it might fall more in one group than another or a mix. Businesses can’t assume that their customers will all feel the same. Get to know your customers and their comfort levels and market to them accordingly.
Marketers and businesses also still need to be sensitive to the fact that people have different levels of comfort around doing things in-person and without masks. Some people ripped off their masks as soon as the CDC said it was ok, and some people never wore masks. Others will continue to be cautious of being in groups and of in-person interactions. Depending on your target audience, it might fall more in one group than another or a mix. Businesses can’t assume that their customers will all feel the same. Get to know your customers and their comfort levels and market to them accordingly.
Let me know if you agree with my thoughts, or if there are other trends that you have spotted that you think are more important.