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It’s safe to say that the last two years under the strain of the COVID-19 global pandemic are two years we hope we’ll never see again. Coronavirus forced companies to rethink their marketing approach and sparked changes to marketing strategies, tactics, and spending budgets. As a result, organizations have been forced to pivot and find the right targets and messaging that will support a steady stream of revenue. Now the demand for creative and aggressive marketing strategies is more important than ever for brands that want to survive and thrive in the “new normal.”

Consumer behavior changed because of the virus and the reasons they buy and the products they buy have been altered and marketers must identify and understand consumer motivations more than ever. Recent studies have found that buyer priorities have focused on the most basic needs, “sending demand for hygiene, cleaning and staple products soaring, while non-essential categories slump” (source). In addition, the elements that guide consumers to choose a specific brand have changed because the “buy local” idea has allowed customers to pick-up can’t wait products like toiletries, food, home supplies and the like curbside.

Consumers have also moved online to purchase more goods because they want to avoid human contact. As a result, e-commerce sites have profited significantly, while consumers have realized how easy it is to purchase online and either pick-up curbside or wait for doorstep delivery.

McKinsey & Company conducted a study (as they always do) about how COVID-19 has changed the marketing and advertising world. Here are some highlights:

    1.

    Shopping

    • Consumers are turning to digital and reduced-contact ways of accessing products and services.
    • While purchases are currently centered on the most basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, buying local and are embracing digital commerce.
    • This shift is likely to stick simply because e-commerce is often more efficient, less expensive, and safer for customers than shopping in physical stores. 

    2.

    E-Services

    • People are not only increasingly buying online; they expect to perform other tasks and access services as well.
    • Telemedicine visits have rapidly increased, with, for example, those going to Teladoc Health, the multinational for-profit virtual healthcare company, reaching 1.7 million in the US in Q1 2020, twice as high as in Q3 2019 (source).
    • Increasing consumer confidence in the use of e-services suggests a potential surge in demand and an opportunity for marketers to create new connections with people.
    • As services proliferate, it will be important for marketers to think through the role of their brands in interconnected service “platforms.”

    3.

    Digitizing the Home

    • The pandemic required us all to make our homes a hub of all things digital, from working from home to ordering delivery services.
    • Consumer intent to spend on at-home entertainment has remained strong, even when consumers cut back on other expenditures.
    • For marketers, whether the at-home activity they cater to is digital or physical (for example, cooking at home has picked up as a family activity), they will need to engage with smart devices and interfaces across the home.
    • Marketers will need to rethink their media mix across a larger set of channels, such as videoconferencing platforms, virtual reality, and—for the right segment—video games.

    4.

    Increasing Local Marketing

    • Businesses need to expand their connections with consumers through messages tailored to different neighborhoods and delivered through the newly established community networks.
    • Marketers should expand local connections through using their existing retail footprint to support local businesses, sponsor community centers, and host community events
    • Many community social-media pages and forums have been created to connect people with local volunteers and mutual-aid groups (source).
    • Research shows that supporting familiar, local businesses has become important to many US communities, driven in part by greater confidence in their quality and safety.
    • Managing this hyperlocal activity and engagement will require marketers to rewire their operating model to provide a more granular presence at scale.

    5.

    Establishing Trust

    • Consumer-sentiment research shows that personal health and economic wellbeing are top-of-mind concerns for people (source).
    • Foot traffic in stores—as well as travel and events—will only return when people trust that spaces are safe and virus free.
    • Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, are more widely adopting contactless activities, such as curbside pickup and self-checkout, which all ages indicate they intend to continue.
    • Marketers will need to think through a much broader range of shopping experiences, which will require greater coordination with sales and operations teams across the business.
    • Roughly 20 percent of US consumers have switched to a store brand, and almost half of them intend to stick with their new choices (source).
    • 55 percent of consumers reported turning to brands they trust during lockdown (source).
    • The increased use of sensitive health data—from publicly taking temperatures as a condition of entry to wearable devices that transmit health information—has already created privacy concerns and heightened issues around sharing data.

    6.

    Holding Brands to a Higher Standard

    • Recent surge of activism is likely to give consumers a greater sense of their power in holding larger organizations to account.
    • 61 percent 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 (source).
    • Marketers must communicate a strong sense of their brands’ purpose —a cause that the brand stands up for, or an area where the brand aims to make a real difference (source).
    • Brands will need to back up bold statements with real action.

    An important thing the pandemic taught us is that people have pride in their jobs and performance and when they’re more closely supervised because they’re working offsite in a comfortable environment, they’re more productive. In fact, staff members work harder and get more done simply because of their self-respect and the favorable working conditions in which they surround themselves. “A study by Standford of 16,000 people over 9 months, found that working from home increased productivity by 13%. The increase in performance was due to more calls per minute attributed to a quieter more convenient working environment and working more minutes per shift because of fewer breaks and sick days” (learn more).

    The Stanford Study isn’t the only outlet that has shown the increase in productivity of a remote workforce – several business studies have provided valuable information and hard statistics that make a strong case for remote working success.

    These sources are:

    Here at Digital Consulting Services, we believe these consumer trends are here to stay. Consumers have realized how easy it is to order online and either pick up or wait for doorstep delivery. Furthermore, the move to online shopping has made many businesses more profitable through rising consumer curbside and/or ship it ideology. Overhead and storefront costs are now being invested in shipping offers and technology as well as digital advertising budgets.

    We also believe the pandemic has showed CEOs and top company officials that people can get work done remotely, thus lessening the burden of office and overhead costs associated with on-site working – such as rent (per sq foot), supplies (coffee, paper towels, drinks, etc.), “water cooler” social time lost, and overall office maintenance. As a result, many businesses and C-Suite officials will continue to support some kind of “remote workforce” post-pandemic because they can put the cost savings toward the bottom line, making shareholders and board members happier, while boosting their business savvy reputation.

     

    The points and study results cited in this article are directly from the McKinsey & Company study. Other sources provided important statistics that contributed to this article as well and are given credit with (source) links.

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