COVID-19 has changed the world in many facets. From contactless pick-up to tele-visits to the doctor, seemingly every industry has been affected- including marketing. As we begin to return to a sense of normalcy, it is vital we take a moment to reflect on the past 18 months in an effort to understand exactly what has changed.
The necessity of understanding what your customer is experiencing has never been higher. COVID has impacted us all in many varying, unexpected ways. Understanding what the consumer is going through will open a door into their post-COVID life, effectively allowing you to connect with them and start a relationship. We’ve known that brands must communicate and target specific consumers based on their circumstances and what is relevant to them- it looks like COVID has only reinforced and built upon this truth. Janet Balis, writer for Harvard Business Review, explains this simply: “That means truly understanding the situation…state by state…zip code by zip code.”
What Matters Most
Targeting consumers based off of geography and demographics is a good start, but we already know that brands must do more than this. Brands must target something personally relevant, which speaks to the individual’s specific values, often varying based off of their current situation.
We can safely assume that most individual’s current situation is different from that of pre-COVID. In an attempt to summarize these changes, the EY Future Consumer Index has conducted five separate researches, targeting a total of 14,500 individuals, since the start of the pandemic. Their goal is to show “What matters most” to a consumer during a pandemic.
- Affordability matters most (32%)
- Focuses less on brand and more on budget and product functionality.
- Health most (25%)
- Their health, or that of their family, matters most. Chooses a product/service they deem to be trustworthy and reliable, looking to minimize risk.
- Planet (16%)
- Minimizes their negative impact on the environment and picks brands that do the same.
- Society (15%)
- Believes in teamwork for the greater good, prefers to buy from brands they believe to be honest and transparent, often community-based or focused.
- Experience (12%)
- Lives in the moment, making the most of life- often open to new brands, products, and experiences.
Aligning your brand’s marketing to your consumer’s virtues, ideals, and values will net positive results, even more so in a post-COVID world. While quality, price, and ease of access still matter to consumer choice, elements such as trust, social responsibility, sustainability, and sourcing are progressively more important to how consumers select their products or services. These insights are true in a pandemic and, more importantly, look to be equally true post-pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, building trust with the consumer is important. It always has been, and more than likely always will be. It is important to note how important trust is. In a world with COVID, and even post-COVID, building trust shapes customer retention. Make sure to localize your efforts and connect with your customer on the ground level. 55% of consumers reported turning to brands they trust during lockdowns^1. Offering contactless pickup options, providing hand sanitizer stations, and introducing remote work for employees are just a few easy examples of building trust. As we enter a post-COVID world, it’s important to note that 61% of consumers claim that “how a brand responds during the crisis will have a large impact on whether they continue buying it when the crisis is over”^2.
In specific cases, more aggressive trust-building maneuvers should be considered. For example, amidst the pandemic, Neil Patel of UberSuggest decided to open up more of their paid features to the free account members- virtually hamstringing his own profits in order to drive consumer adoption and retention. Interestingly, after hearing this news, a sizable portion of his free account membership base opted into the paid account version. Neil did note that his overall paid account membership base did go down, understandably so, but his overall traffic increased (up ~22,000 unique users in the month). Creative marketing decisions such as this can connect and resonate with the consumer, welcoming them into your community during a pivotal time and giving them a reason to stick around.
Bring Everything Online
It is important to note that building trust online can be quite the challenge. Offering a transparent, personalized privacy option for your cookies is an excellent way to start building trust, virtually, with your consumer. Allowing consumers to opt in/out of specific cookies will help build trust, in turn improving their browsing experience, leading towards an increased chance of retention and repeat business.
Aside from a few unique exceptions, brick and mortars have been on a downward trend for a decade and COVID may prove to be the nail in the coffin for many. The pandemic has made it abundantly evident that consumers will make use of your digital presence, if you have one. In Q1 of 2020, Amazon reported a 26% increase in sales. Similarly, Teladoc Health (virtual healthcare) reached 1.7 million unique visits in Q1 2020, twice as high as Q3 2019. Combined, the two major app stores saw a 31.7% increase in downloads in Q2 2020 when compared to Q2 2019. ^2.
By comparing pre-COVID trends to during and post-COVID trends, we’re able to identify clear changes in the consumer. Marketing teams across the world are being tested in their agility. Connecting with the consumer on the ground-level, understanding what the individual is going through, responding appropriately and building trust are commonplace ideas, tweaking your marketing strategies to fulfill the consumer’s new ideologies and values in a post-COVID world, however, may prove to be quite the challenge.
Article by Tim Coury
Channel Communications Intern
^1 “Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, Edelman, March 30, 2020; data collected between March 23–26, 2020; n = 1000.”
^2 Arora, Arun, et al. “Reimagining Marketing in the next Normal.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 8 Oct. 2020, www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/reimagining-marketing-in-the-next-normal.