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The phrase “old habits die hard” is being sorely tested as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.
Vaccination success, combined with political and economic urgency to kick-start “normal” activities again, is propelling the unlocking of the United States, albeit at differing speeds and with varying degrees of caution among states.
It would be wrong to suggest that unlocking restrictions represents a complete return to how things were prior to the pandemic. For marketers, making this flawed assumption means you might be looking at weak results.
Let’s take the role of the office. Conventional wisdom told us that offices were crucial hubs of productivity — the defining core of organizational culture and a key factor in securing talent and business. It’s also where most people spent the most time on a computer. Remember “Cyber Monday,” when everyone got back to the office and could log on to their computers to hunt for e-commerce deals?
A detailed study by Upwork projects that come 2025, more than 36 million Americans will be working remotely, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels. The report also found that managers expect 26.7% of the workforce to be fully remote by the end of 2021, “suggesting that individuals will gradually continue to return to the office, but a significant share will remain remote in the near future.”
Previously the central hive of all activity, physical offices may begin to fulfill a much more limited role, serving as a space for important discussions, employee reviews and client meetings.
And there are many reasons explaining what appears to be a significant level of “stickability” to a new normal.
Organizations and their employees have uncovered benefits relating to productivity and an improved work-life balance that otherwise would have remained undiscovered. McKinsey research has found that 80% of U.S. employees enjoy working from home, with almost 70% reporting that they were either more or equally as productive than they had been previously.
With the pandemic changing things up for so many, more and more are also creating their own businesses — a trend which again is taking people out of offices and into home-based setups.
Remote workers are becoming remote consumers.
These shifting patterns carry some significant implications for marketers — chiefly, that the pandemic-induced, fast-tracked development of the gig economy has created a larger cohort of remote consumers.
Buying habits are changing. Restrictions on trading in physical stores forced people to move to e-commerce, an experience which — as with the office to home-working shift — has uncovered benefits that many will continue to exploit even though the option to purchase in-store has returned.
Indeed, another study by McKinsey reveals how companies have greatly accelerated the digitization of products, services and customer interactions.
In North America, the average share of products and/or services that are partially or fully digitized jumped from 41% in December 2019 to 60% in July 2020 — a growth that otherwise would have been expected to take six years. In terms of customer interactions, around 40% were digital in December 2019, rising to 65% by July 2020, representing a three-year acceleration.
Make the most of multichannel marketing.
Despite the dramatic upheaval caused by the pandemic, there are enormous opportunities for marketers in many sectors to capitalize on these changing dynamics.
Organizations use omnichannel marketing to improve user experience and drive better relationships across multiple points of contact. It is already a proven model: According to research, companies that employ customer engagement strategies using an omnichannel approach retain nearly 90% of customers compared to 33% that don’t.
The pandemic has confirmed what advocates of multichannel marketing already knew. Significantly, it has fueled a greater uptake of digital channels, with digital experiences replacing parts of the customer journey that once involved store visits.
In its Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020, PwC found that 45% of respondents now use mobile as a key purchasing channel more than they did prior to the pandemic. Further, almost 60% have increased their use of video chat apps.
The move has been dubbed by Deloitte as a transfer toward “life on the cloud” with marketers advised to change their focus to a diverse set of digital models framed around fully integrated e-commerce, social media and live streaming.
Content will still form the crux of these multichannel efforts, and some golden rules still apply here — not least that quality content always pays, no matter the platform it is made for.
Content should inform and engage an audience and provide genuine value to them. Repurposing for different, more visually driven channels such as video and social media need not take away from its core messaging and purpose. Clever use of graphics and condensing factual material into more digestible forms is key to this exercise.
The detail is in the data.
Any shift in multichannel marketing strategy and output must always be underpinned by data.
Netflix, for example, saves $1 billion a year on customer retention through its effective leveraging of its vast treasure trove of preference data. Meanwhile, in a 2018 survey, 97.2% of business leaders said they are investing in building or launching big data and AI initiatives.
Assumptions relating to the pandemic’s impact on working and consumer habits are nothing without data on your customers to back it up.
While there are many useful studies (some cited in this article) pointing toward significant general behavioral trends, the more precise and relevant the data used to underpin an organization’s marketing strategy, the more effective it will be.
Likewise, gathering and analyzing data is essential to understanding the success of the omnichannel efforts — without it, marketers will be working blind.
However, many enterprises can and already are responding successfully to the emergence of new worker and consumer habits — changes in behavior that could define the post-pandemic society for the longer term.
Those who do not follow suit risk missing out on these enormous opportunities.