Post-COVID-19 Marketing Trends
If you’re like most people in 2020, you’re tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” Although it’s an applicable term for the calamities that have befallen us this year, this isn’t the first time a capitalist democracy has weathered a significant plague, a severe economic downturn, nationwide civil unrest, or even a collection of natural disasters.
We are a resilient culture, and we will recover from this bully of a year. We can look to previous recoveries to make predictions about what will come next — and you can use those predictions to craft your marketing plan and growth projections as times get better in the years to come. Here are seven post-COVID-19 marketing trends you should consider.
7 Post-Covid Marketing Trends
1. Lower Ad Spends
We’ve already seen lower ad spends across virtually every market, reflecting the reduced circulation of cash as economies across the globe shut down or slowed to a trickle. According to a survey by Influencer Marketing Hub, 69% of brands anticipated a decreased ad spend in 2020, and 97% noticed lower in-person marketing engagement.
What does that mean for your post-COVID-19 strategy? If you can expand your marketing quickly in the early stages of recovery, you’ll get more impact for each dollar spent. While everybody else is still cutting costs, your advertising dollar will go further. Smart companies are trimming back by reducing ad spends. The smartest companies are saving what they can toward a big ad splash as soon as the market allows it.
2. Back to Basics
Trust is in short supply right now and highly valued any time people are afraid. To make matters worse, trust in traditional institutions like academic experts, the press, and even the president have waned throughout the pandemic. Companies that build confidence in their brand and demonstrate they care for consumers, employees and the community through the economic unrest will see substantial results.
Similarly, vital customer service is appreciated like never before. Everybody’s resources have thinned from the pandemic’s stress, so their patience for poor service is equally strained. A kind word and a reliable experience help soothe that uncertainty.
Trust and service are the cornerstones of creating an excellent customer experience, now more than ever.
3. Guiding the Customer Journey
An online customer journey has been an increasingly important part of marketing strategy over the past 10 to 15 years. Suddenly, it became vital as physical stores shut down in response to the pandemic. Those companies with existing (or solely) online models, like Barnes & Noble, Zoom, and Sainsbury’s, have fared better than those with weak or nonexistent online options.
As things return to whatever the new normal will be, a strong customer journey will remain important. Those companies who can use truthful reporting of important information, simple signposting in their marketing and resources and a robust online presence stand to recover more quickly.
4. The Agile Companies Win
Except for online commerce giants like Amazon, GrubHub, and eBay, the companies who fared best during this pandemic were the ones who could innovate creatively and rapidly act on that innovation. Whether this was a change in advertising tone like IBM’s or Unilever’s multi-platform retooling of products and message, speed and agility allowed for the necessary changes that came with unanticipated times.
Although we can make some predictions about what the post-COVID-19 economy will look like, none of those predictions will be perfect. Having a healthy plan, with banked resources, for responding to economic upturn as things improve will be necessary. And having a company culture that facilitates rapid response to unanticipated trends will be vital.
5. People Care About Purpose
Feelings are running hot this year about topics from wearing face masks to the Black Lives Matter movement to the presidential election. This was exacerbated in part by the general feelings of fear and helplessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also demonstrated a population that's growing increasingly political. Companies across multiple industries are finding their public political stance impacts their sales.
We’re not here to tell you which side of the political spectrum you and your company should support. We simply believe you need to be honest about your stance and make a public stand. If your values are congruent with your customer base, this will speed your recovery in 2021. If not, you’re probably in the wrong business anyway.
6. Following the Digital Migration
According to some metrics, consumers adopted digital shopping and brand relationships in the first eight weeks of COVID-19 shutdowns at a rate equivalent to the previous five years. Consumers want ways to purchase products and services that let them stay home and reduce or eliminate contact with others.
Some in-person experiences, most notably travel and dining out, are poised to recover swiftly once fear and lockdown restrictions have abated. Other sectors may not fully recover their in-person commerce. Companies that invested in online options during the pandemic will see better times than those who simply waited for things to improve.
7. Expanding on Local Action
With travel restricted and people staying home, neighborhood communities have become more critical than they have been since the dawn of the internet. As part of this trend, local businesses have become crucial. This trend is predicted to continue in the near future.
This means localized marketing, a granular presence in various locations, and building personalizable marketing strategies will be more successful than large, mass-market, one-size-fits-all initiatives. That’s not news to marketers who have been paying attention since the early 2010s, but COVID-19 has accelerated its importance.
Although having a post-COVID-19 economy plan will be necessary for your company’s performance during the first month after everything reopens, another factor is even more important: what your company will do between now and then.
A vaccine is ready, and distribution is imminent as of this writing. But it will still be several months before recovery begins. Companies with improving health during this interim will be in a position to act when the economy reopens. Those who are weak and ailing when opportunities open once again may well miss those opportunities.
Vincent Trentini is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has written many pieces about the economy and COVID-19.