marketing team working in covid safe wayA year on from Boris Johnson’s first instruction to ‘stay at home’, we have much to be hopeful for with the vaccine and the plan for a route out of lockdown. However, far from the temporary suspension of normality that many of us originally envisaged, the world that we are preparing to re-enter has changed permanently in ways we couldn’t have imagined just 12 months ago.

Instead of packing up a few essential possessions from the office to decamp temporarily to working at home, many of us, including the Ideal Marketing Company team, are now permanently based at home. However, as any business owner knows, that’s just the beginning of the story; whether remote working or not, there is no business that has not undergone significant change over the past year.

For marketers, the challenge ahead is to recognise the fundamental ways that consumer behaviour has changed and to plan marketing strategies accordingly, using up-to-date and meaningful data to meet customer needs in an ever-evolving landscape.

Understanding consumer behaviour

As marketers, our job is to connect our clients with their customers to improve ROI. As consumer behaviour has altered beyond recognition since lockdown was first imposed a year ago, it follows that marketing has had to change too. As well as using the valuable analytics that digital marketing provides, it is also more important than ever to understand how people are thinking and feeling as they make purchasing decisions about products and services through their digital devices at home.

The rush to online

With non-essential retail closed, consumers were left with no other option than to shop online. So it’s no surprise that established digital retail giants did well; Amazon reported a 26 per cent increase in sales in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Quite rightly, many small independent retailers did not feel the need to invest in an ecommerce platform before the pandemic. However, those that did breathed a sigh of relief as they reaped the rewards of the public’s willingness to support local businesses whose future was threatened by the pandemic.

Those who did not have an online presence to sell their products set up ecommerce websites or came up with quicker and cheaper ways of selling online, such as through their social media channels. Whether it came from an ecommerce website or a Facebook or Instagram page, a digital presence proved to be a lifeline when it came to continuing to be able to make sales in 2020.

Consolidating an online presence

Factors including a continuing desire to shop safely, the permanent closure of retail outlets and the fact that shopping online has become more of an ingrained habit than ever, means that a digital presence will continue to be a must into the future for smaller companies. Businesses who began selling online in a reactive way when lockdown hit should now use the opportunity to build on what has worked so far to create an ever more finely tuned approach designed to resonate with the right target audience. Implementing analytics and interpreting the results in a meaningful way through digital marketing is the key to this.

It’s also important to remember that shopping online is not the same experience as physically visiting a store. For example, a customer buying clothing may buy several colours and sizes with a view to keeping just one item and just as they may pass a shop window several times before walking in, they may keep several items in their digital cart for several days before committing to click on ‘checkout.’

Providing a service online

As a digital marketing specialist, I have seen a huge shift in companies’ understanding of the importance of an online presence over the past few years, particularly in traditional firms such as solicitors and accountants. Indeed, at the beginning of 2020, it was rare to find a business without some kind of online presence, but as offices closed, those who had already invested in a well thought out digital platform found themselves streets ahead of firms who had merely undertaken a box-ticking exercise with a basic website.

Activities such as house-hunting, holiday booking and banking had already largely shifted online, and over the past year, these have been followed by services such as medical consultations, coaching and education. When it comes to finding a solicitor, accountant, independent financial advisor or other professional service, it’s more important than ever for firms to be easily found online by the right people, who will be able to find the solution to their problem on a website or social media page. Even if gaining a client ultimately involves that client picking up the phone, it is essential that they are clearly signposted and motivated to do so through a high-quality website, social media presence or email marketing list.

A focus on local

One silver-lining for small and medium sized businesses is that consumers are now more likely to shop locally for goods and services, motivated both by a wish to support local businesses and the recent travel restrictions. So, when it comes to marketing, thinking small is the way forward in terms of targeting a specific geographical market and using digital marketing data to reach ever more targeted demographics within that area.

A question of trust

In spring 2020, certain companies came under fire when they sent out meaningless emails from faceless CEOs purporting to be ‘there’ for their customers, with research in Australia finding that 61% of people reported that a brand’s reaction to a crisis would impact their future purchasing decisions.  So, as well as looking local, people are keen to spend their money on products and services they can trust, both in terms of company ethics and quality at a time when many people are being extra careful with their money. Due to this, communicating excellent ethics and customer service are essential through channels such as online testimonials and Google reviews.

Getting real results online

The internet is a crowded place and as such can appear daunting. However, there is far more to digital marketing than trying to appear first in the Google rankings.

The bottom line is that it’s harder than ever to stand out and to do so, a high quality marketing strategy is essential. Here at the Ideal Marketing Company, we can cut through the noise to design a digital marketing plan that will get you noticed by all the right people. Get started today with our free, no obligation marketing review or call us on 01858 374 171.

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