Anyone who’s spent any time working in marketing knows a basic rule – global events always spill over into this profession. Whether it’s a new fad or a worldwide catastrophe, you simply have to adjust quicker than many other professions. And in the case of COVID-19, unfortunately, it’s definitely the latter. The past couple of months have meant an adjustment effort on an unprecedented level. And with the first wave of the pandemic now behind us, the entire profession needs to take a step back and recapitulate its experiences. A period of reflection is needed in order to plan out how we’re all going to act going forward. With that in mind, we’ll examine changes in consumer attitudes that basically dictate how the digital marketing world will act in the near future.
The Fear Period
We will divide the timeline of COVID-19 events, in both the past, present, and future. Then, we will take a look at how consumers have acted, and try to predict their attitudes in the future. Those will be the single biggest deciding factor in the priorities of the digital marketing world, and individual companies like digitaldot.us.
Once the disease was discovered, the first global reaction was disbelief mixed with indifference. For a crucial few weeks, people believed this would be a problem for China to deal with, not something that could affect the rest of Asia and the entire world. Soon enough, people realized the scale of this humanitarian disaster.
Since early March, a huge part of the world started going into self-isolation and legally mandated quarantine. This is where the first hurdles for the digital marketing world began, as a large number of businesses faced a simple yet insurmountable problem — people’s priorities changed overnight.
Suddenly, almost everything apart from food, water, and medical supplies became non-essential to the average buyer. Let alone digitally-sold services and products, whose sales reached all-time lows across the board. Furthermore, business-to-business marketing ground to a halt.
For all kinds of marketers, a new challenge appeared — how to communicate the need for a non-essential product to the consumer? In this period of fear, people were not hyped for anything but the essentials for the moment. And on top of that, the fear of catching the coronavirus loomed over any kind of interaction, reducing these to the bare minimum.
Apart from demonstrating the need for a product, marketers also had to shift and make consumers realize that the businesses selling them products and services would also take every medical precaution to ensure their mutual safety. Company hygiene became an important part of online advertising overnight.
Lastly, the third point of persuasion was about money. In this period, a stupendous amount of people lost their jobs, and thus livelihoods. Simultaneously, the lowest-earning Americans who had the least chance to develop savings were also hit the hardest. Thus, they had genuine fears of spending their funds on anything they did not deem essential. In this period, customer incentives became incredibly important, as the number of huge discounts, deferred payments, and free shipments skyrocketed.
A Human Face
More so than perhaps ever before, businesses had to work to prove themselves as not only humanitarian but basically human during the pandemic. This was not only important for immediate customer retention, but also for long-term brand building. Suffice it to say that customers are likely to remember which businesses were looking to help them during the crisis, and which ones were solely focused on profit.
Another part of digital marketing that became quite important is message clarity. In the COVID-19 era, long-winded messages and big lifestyle pitches were frowned upon by even the most well-off consumers. Instead, establishing your brand as a compassionate entity required truthful and heartfelt content.
The companies that manage to build all of these tenets into a coherent whole will hugely benefit once the pandemic quiets down and becomes only a nuisance. Even before the coronavirus, the B2C marketing world was focused on creating long-term buyer relationships. And now, this becomes a bigger priority than ever. Treating your target audience like you would a close relative or a friend is a strategy that’s not only moral and ethical but also very good for your business in the long term.
The Period of Recovery
Most medical experts are quick to point out that, although the severity of the pandemic is decreasing day by day, the virus is expected to come back in waves, or at least controlled outbreaks. Thus, the current lifting of worldwide quarantines shouldn’t be treated as the end of the issue. Of course, it does mean that the dangers from the pandemic are diminishing as time goes by, and people’s purchasing habits will follow suit.
For a long while, though, people won’t return to their normal priorities when it comes to spending money. They will still have fears and psychological barriers when it comes to spending a lot of money. So, throughout this period, businesses would be wise to continue using the strategies we’ve outlined above.
If your brand manages to build some trust with its target audience and strengthen relationships, long-term profits are inevitable. That’s why this period is still crucial in terms of special offers and all-around great value for consumers.
In order to ensure your business has the right voice in all of this, your message needs to be both altruistic and sincere. If you sound inauthentic, you will actually do more harm than good. Try to show some genuine care for the wellbeing of your customers, and they will pay back in kind.
Return To Normal
At the end of the reprieve period, your online messaging should slowly move away from topics related to COVID-19. Though a dose of concern for public health will remain the norm for months or even years, remember that your website visitors and buyers will eventually start going back to normal. And if your business is to succeed, it needs to follow them on the path to normalcy. The good news here is that business levels will start returning to their pre-quarantine heights.
So, what does all of this mean for the digital marketing world? In summary, persuading customers to buy something in the present era means adding another layer in your messaging and communication — a humanitarian one. This will help you retain your customers in the short term, and gain new ones in the long term.
We’re seeing the first signs of the global economy improving and the pandemic situation calming down in the past two weeks. During this recovery period, businesses and online marketers should still use the strategies we’ve described for the quarantine period. Regardless of what happens next and when a proper vaccine is found, people’s buying habits won’t go back to normal for a while. Also, creating incentives should be paramount for businesses that don’t sell essential products and services — if possible, payment deferring would be the best course of action.
Once the COVID-19 situation passes, the marketing messages related to the pandemic should be left behind. People won’t like being reminded of such a problematic period for humanity and the global economy. The next messaging phase should be full of optimism and an appreciation of our daily freedoms.