When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, virtually all businesses needed to make drastic changes to every aspect of their communication and marketing strategy. Some businesses were quite successful and demonstrated quick and out-of-the-box thinking, while others attempted to cling to the status quo and hoped that the pandemic would be gone sooner rather than later. In hindsight, this obviously is not what happened.
As 2020 faded into 2021, businesses were still grappling with how to adapt their communication and marketing strategy to fit the needs of the lingering pandemic and frequently changing restrictions. Some businesses were quite adept at this. Restaurants provided weekly dinner boxes, newly released movies became available to stream online, outdoor dining services flourished, as just some of the ways that businesses found to remain relevant and top of mind.
Now that the pandemic is beginning to feel less urgent, brands have begun to look at what their post-pandemic marketing strategies might look like. Some of these strategies may involve going back to ideas that were successful prior to the pandemic, but a majority of post-pandemic communication and marketing will see businesses holding firm to the new ideas that helped them to survive during the uncertainty of COVID-19.
In terms of post-pandemic marketing strategies, you can expect most companies to adjust several areas of their communication and marketing strategy to better serve their customers, all of who have had a very trying couple of years. In this blog article we review three pandemic take-aways that businesses can use to create a strong post-pandemic marketing strategy going forward.
Perhaps one of the biggest marketing lessons during the pandemic was that businesses who demonstrated agility and adapted and responded quickly in response to forced change performed the best. This idea of innovation is one that businesses should continue to hold firm to when creating their post-pandemic marketing strategy. Many businesses will continue home delivery, providing online services, boxed dinners, outdoor dining, etc., especially in this period where we are just starting to emerge from our indoors and go into the outside world.
Another marketing strategy that is quite certainly here to stay is the focus on digital sales. While online shopping has been around for quite a long time, there its possible there will be a massive increase in e-commerce purchases from new or low-frequency users post-pandemic. The convenience of online shopping is not one that these new consumers are likely to let go of post-pandemic, and brands should continue to have a strong online presence to meet this demand.
Remaining agile post-pandemic doesn’t mean just continuing to do what was done during the pandemic, however. It also means being prepared for whatever comes next, and to that end, one marketing strategy that businesses should adopt is to keep their budgets flexible. Budget fluidity is essential to follow demand in real time as performance data becomes available.
This idea of innovation and flexibility in post-pandemic marketing feeds into all the other areas that are discussed in this blog. The world has changed because of the pandemic, but also because of increased political and social unrest. The key to staying relevant and trustworthy to your customers is for your brand to expect change and adapt quickly when it happens.
Customers have started to expect that the brands they are loyal to take a stand for what is right. While it used to be acceptable, or even preferred, for brands to remain neutral regarding whatever may be happening in the world, it is simply no longer the case and needs to be addressed explicitly in their marketing strategies. Consumers want companies to focus on solutions instead of selling, a drastic change for many brands.
Essentially, customers want their brands to stand behind great values. It’s important to note that fake caring will not cut it. Consumers are smart, and brands need to understand that they will see through marketing strategies that don’t come across as an authentic belief. Simply sharing a post on social media about support and activism is not enough. Consumers want to see that brands truly care about issues, and they want to see this belief put into action in all aspects of the business. This includes how you treat employees, where you donate money, your marketing materials and doing your best to be inclusive of all people.
Another way that post-pandemic marketing will be different is in the need for companies to hyper focus on who exactly their target audience is and what they want. Customers now expect an enormous amount from the brands they love and rely on. They have high expectations and know exactly what they want and when they want it. This need has created an environment where customer loyalty towards brands has been tested. Brands must communicate in very local and precise terms, targeting specific consumers based on their circumstances and what is most relevant to them.
According to Harvard Business Review, in a study conducted by EY Future Consumer Index from 20 countries since the start of the pandemic, five different categories were identified of things that consumers are looking for first in a brand. These ideas are as follows, and can help businesses when they are creating their post-pandemic marketing strategy:
- Affordability first (32% of consumers): Living within their means and budget, focusing less on brands and more on product functionality.
- Health first (25%): Protecting their health and that of their family, choosing products they trust to be safe and minimizing risks in the way that they shop.
- Planet first (16%): Trying to minimize their impact on environment and buying brands that reflect their beliefs.
- Society first (15%): Working together for the greater good, buying from organizations they find to be honest and transparent.
- Experience first (12%): Living in the moment to make the most of life, often making them open to new products, brands, and experiences.
Taking these ideas into account, brands must identify who they are trying to reach with their marketing strategies and adapt from there. What each consumer desires will be different, and companies cannot reach everyone with one single strategy. However, recognizing some of the things that customers are looking for can help to guide a brand’s post-pandemic marketing strategy.
In addition to customers expecting brands to know exactly what they want, they also expect that their experience will be frictionless, anticipatory, relevant, and connected, according to the Harvard Business Review.
There are many things that as a society we will collectively be glad to say goodbye to as the pandemic begins to wean and we see glimpses of a life without masks and fear, but a large number of pandemic marketing strategies will carry through to the post-pandemic marketing world. Remaining flexible and being able to respond in real-time to whatever is happening, building compassion and empathy into your company’s core values and truly knowing your customer and who they are will help you build a solid post-pandemic and beyond marketing strategy