Every business owner will have experienced some financial and behavioural shifts during the coronavirus pandemic.
The crises that no one saw coming has placed an enormous strain on organisations, from one-man bands to multinational corporations all over the world.
And even now, as we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, many will be dealing with drops in sales – particularly retail, which has dropped by 18% - and significantly reduced projections for 2020 and perhaps even a few years into the future.
1. The Landscape
During such times, business owners must be prepared to lead the way by adapting proactively when it comes to their marketing strategies.
This will not only protect their business in the short term, but it will also help to solidify their company in the long-term too.
More emphasis will certainly be placed upon developing and refining consumer-focused policies and practices that deliver from the first point of customer contact.
In addition, these policies will need to be bolstered by measurable methodologies and in-depth research.
Some businesses may be waiting to see what happens, in the belief that everything will soon get back to the way things were in the early stages of the year.
However, many experts believe that some form of social-distancing may be required until 2022, and that's a really long time to hold back on marketing.
As a business, it's crucial to embrace the 'new normal' rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet, since the impact of this pandemic may be felt for some years to come.
Whether we're back to normal by this time next year, or we're still practising social distancing two years down the line, no one can be sure of what is to come.
What is for certain is the fact that the landscape has changed dramatically. This means that businesses can no longer thumb through a worn-out old copy of their tried and tested marketing playbook – things have changed, and that may not be such a bad thing.
In this guide, we've outlined the marketing measures that your business should consider in order to compete in this altered and evolving climate, in order to not only survive but thrive in the post-COVID-19 world.
2. Reactivate & Reengage
Many businesses will have already managed to navigate through the lockdown and the early parts of the pandemic.
Following the announcement of lockdown's across the world, organisations understandably shifted their attention to brand positioning, crisis communication and reorganising any significant marketing or media investment.
However, the situation is beginning to change, and we're seeing that some parts of the world are at least attempting to adapt to the new normal.
This means the time is nigh for businesses to begin their reactivation and reengagement strategies.
As we move deeper into this stage, businesses should shift their attention to driving brand awareness, producing leads and preparing their sales pipelines once again.
Companies must also invest their time into creating engaging, tactical and insightful content across their website, blog and social media channels.
It's imperative to let your customer base know when you're reactivating and ready to re engage with them again.
For example, some businesses, particularly in the retail and hospitality industries have spent time over social media talking to their customers about how they’re changing their premises to ensure they’re COVID-secure.
3. Understand Consumer Behavioural Shifts
It's not hard to imagine that personal behavioural patterns have become somewhat unpredictable of late. We don't have to look further than our families to see how our working and living arrangements have changed.
For most of us, lockdown meant spending more time than ever online; using social media to communicate with each other and to shop for products.
For some industries, such as online home and garden stores, this meant a significant surge in traffic and conversions, whereas others may have struggled.
No matter what kind of business you're running, understanding how your consumer's behaviour has shifted and what the data is telling you, can really help you comprehend how your customers are feeling and what they're thinking.
Take your time and really dig into what your customer's behaviour is telling you. And, if all else fails, there's no harm in asking your customers what life has been like for them, so you can figure out how to best serve these needs going forward.
4. Prepare for Spending Increases
Brands that are able to adopt the practices we've mentioned above will be in a far better position to prepare for spending increases as further lockdown measures begin to subside, and life begins to settle into the new normal.
While it's true that many months of economic difficulty has created considerable concern around the prosperity of business, there will come a time when these conservative spending patterns will make way for an increased willingness to spend.
China, the first victim of the pandemic, recently reported a considerable upturn in the sales of luxury products during their recovery.
Should these findings stack up in other parts of the world, implementing effective marketing strategies in preparation for a renewed willingness to spend will be essential in meeting demand.
5. Reinvest in Digital Marketing Solutions
The concept of increasing your digital marketing expenditure in a turbulent financial climate may seem overwhelming.
However, recent studies have shown that 49% of consumers are reassured by hearing from their favourite brands. Whereas 56% of consumers professed an increased satisfaction in learning how brands are contributing to their community during such a difficult time, which means it’s really a must for your business.
With this in mind, here are a few different ways that your company can tailor marketing for post-crisis audiences:
Craft Authentic Stories
Focus on creating campaigns that show the efforts of your business in ways in which they are benefiting customers and the community as a whole.
For example, Amazon UK have created the Amazon Small Business Accelerator online bootcamp to help smaller businesses during this time. This bootcamp gives small business owners the tools and knowledge they need to start selling products on Amazon or any other online marketplace.
Our society has changed, which means the needs of your customers have changed along with it. One study actually found that at least half of respondents that have developed new habits during lockdown intend to maintain them into the future, such as purchasing items online for the first time or signing up to a new streaming service.
This means that any marketing data that has been collected pre-lockdown is now likely to be redundant since it won't have taken any fundamental lifestyle changes into account.
Emphasise Consumer Engagement
As part of your coronavirus strategy, it's important to emphasise how crucial it is to reach out to the community. With stiff competition and ever changing values, it means that now is the time to demonstrate appreciation for your customer base.
For instance, you may need to rethink your offering and how you're bringing it to people to stay relevant to their changing requirements, while ditching pre-lockdown sales tactics.
Humanity Trumps Exploitation
There is a massive distinction between functioning within the current climate and exploiting it. Customers are less responsive to activities that they deem opportunistic at the best of times, but as we move forward, they will be super receptive to businesses that don't offer them value.
Plan as you start to form your post-crisis activities, it's essential to align your team to discuss what is being learnt and how customers are behaving.
This time is critical when looking to pinpoint changes that are happening now, and those which you anticipate will come in the future.
During these discussions, you can identify broader trends that have emerged within your sector and use hard facts and stats to inform your ongoing strategy.
Where you can, you should recalibrate your messaging and targeting to maintain that authenticity and relevance to your current and emerging markets.
Make the Most of What You Have
The data you’ve collected may give you insights into what will work perfectly for a marketing campaign. For example, a video in a crowded restaurant or an image of a group of people at a sun-drenched music festival.
Realistically, it may not be possible to capture such visuals right now. This is especially the case if social distancing practises continue indefinitely into the future, but that doesn't necessarily mean your campaign can't be a success.
Look at what you already have and see what performed particularly well in the past and how that may pertain to what your audience is looking to see now.
For example, you could take an old photo or a stock image, adjust the filters, update the calls to action and mix and match elements to create something new and impactful.
This means that you can freshen up your creative output while making use of what resources you have to hand.
Welcome New Sales Channels
Regardless of how things progress in the upcoming weeks and months, people are still going to need to buy things, which creates opportunities to serve your community through previously untested or underutilised sales channels.
For example, if the pandemic is slashing foot traffic to your retail store, you could look to expand your offerings online.
You could also consider putting effort into creating more engagement into social media to improve conversions on Facebook and LinkedIn, in lieu of in-person networking.
Realistically we have no idea what is in store for us in the coming days, weeks and months. However, it’s crucial that your business continues to look forward and plan for the future.
By utilising what we’ve talked about in today’s blog you can ensure that your business is able to roll with the changing needs of your audience and come out the other side an even better organisation.