The digital marketing sector has enjoyed immense growth in the past two decades, with global digital ad spend expected to reach $389.29 billion in 2021. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns, people around the world have been spending more time in their homes. Making use of the situation and the circumstances in which the market is evolving, small and big businesses have changed and enhanced their marketing strategies. Not only have businesses had to transform overnight to adjust to the new normal, but consumer behaviour and the ideologies that run the commercial world have been altered forever. Since digital marketing has always been focused on aligning a brand with customer preferences and needs, we will need to look at both in order to grasp how the Covid-19 has impacted digital marketing as a whole and understand the challenges it brings.
New Customer Behaviour
With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing large swathes of the world’s population indoors with lockdowns and social distancing, consumer habits, demands and expectations have also changed as a result. People are becoming more self-sufficient as they embrace digital trends. From working to shopping to entertainment, every option is now available online. Across the globe, consumers have quickly accepted and implemented digital channels to fulfill their needs. That’s why people expect information, products and services that were commonly accessed physically to be replaced by alternate digital solutions. However, consumers are now more careful about spending. According to a report by Deloitte, household expenditures actually fell by 10.1% in Q2 from Q1 in 2020. 40% of consumers said they also decreased spending on discretionary categories. So what is holding them back?
With constant changes in the economy and rising unemployment, people are worried about job losses and earnings in the future, prompting them to save more. Therefore in response to altering preferences and spending habits, digital marketing efforts are concentrated on offering more value to customers. The leveraging and curating of content across several online platforms continues to accelerate and evolve. One of the marketing strategies that has significantly improved is social media marketing. Companies use social media and social networks as a tool to market their products and services. Indeed, social media has a purpose-built analytics tool that allows marketers to track the success of their efforts. For consumers, the shopping experience is simplified allowing them to utilise discounts offered by influencers. An analysis by Visa stated that 25% of online purchases are now made via an interaction with a social media platform, as a result, social media ad spend has also increased.
Moreover, the online customer experience is more important than ever before. Companies are competing to create services that deliver a comprehensive customer experience in order to draw new customers and retain existing ones. The focus on improving the customer experience has become one of the biggest goals of marketers.
Redefining Business Goals
As consumers spend more time online, so too are businesses. That means business owners need to focus on positioning their brands front and center so that they remain in the path of their target audience and ahead of their competition. And so more virtual, remote and contactless solutions are establishing themselves as commonplace in every aspect. This has helped digital marketers to reach out, engage, and connect with consumers wherever they may be and that is not going to change anytime soon.
The Covid-19 pandemic provided a great opportunity for brands to stand out and connect with existing as well as potential customers. While some brands were left scrambling to digitise, those already established in the space were able to win customers from their competitors by offering services such as up-to-date information or including delivery options. Corporations need to refine their strategies to understand and respond to the impact of how a Covid-19 reality is going to affect economies far beyond a year or two. For example, many of the buying habits that have been formed due to the people being stuck indoors will likely stick around. So the focus of many digital marketers is going to be on enhancing customer loyalty and retention as well. Hence, investments targeted towards improving the customer experience to allow businesses to hold onto the new online customers that were gained during the 2020 e-commerce boom will only increase.
Digital Marketing Aligning to New Business Goals
We all know by now how Covid-19 has drastically accelerated the growth of digital business models. However, the full potential of personalisation and optionality is far from being realized by most businesses. In the future, real time customer intelligence and marketing analytics will be critical in providing precise, real-time customer insights to optimally use marketing budgets and score points with the end customer through the creation of personalised, customised customer shopping experiences.
In order to achieve digital marketing success, businesses have had to re-evaluate their strategies and consider the following:
- Focusing on website personalisation. Marketers should tailor their websites to individual visitors, so that consumers see the products they are most likely to be interested in. The goal is to keep visitors on a website longer by increasing engagement. Customers have varying needs and interests and must thus be catered to and treated differently. To implement web personalisation, defining the target groups is important. This can be based on, for example, location, device information, historic user behaviour, purchase history, etc. The segmentation of website visitors needs to be precise, to offer to target audiences relevant content, products and services. Plus, testing different content for each segment to find out what people are truly interested in will facilitate personalisation so that businesses can provide the best experiences to their customers.
- Managing data will be of utmost importance. Unlocking the power of their own data is one of the major challenges that companies are currently facing. According to Deloitte, 63% of businesses struggle with unconnected data sets, providing them with only a partial view of customer behaviour. Consequently, implementing a data management platform (DMP) to identify audience segments, improve targeting, and optimise online advertising spend will help unify all incoming data, including that from the DMP, in a customer data platform (CDP) and get a comprehensive picture of each customer. Finally, integrating the CDP with a marketing execution platform will allow the use of customer insights in real time.
- Investing in customer engagement. Where are marketers investing their budget in 2021? Customer engagement technology. These platforms help marketers manage the customer engagement journey in a data-driven way. It’s all about obtaining a 360 degree view of each individual customer across all channels and devices, then leveraging that customer knowledge to run customer-centric and highly personalised marketing campaigns. This challenge of reaping the benefits of customer engagement can be tackled by investing in a CDP that unifies all customer data in one place, in order to gain customer knowledge like never before with unified customer profiles. Then, aligning a team around the same real-time data and executing seamless campaigns across a variety of marketing channels can automate cross-channel campaigns to meet customers wherever they are and make every touchpoint count.
As a whole, martech (marketing technology) is evolving. Digital marketers have access to tools that can help them understand changes in consumer trends, behaviours, and attitudes. More importantly, these tools allow marketers to nurture leads and guide them deeper into the sales funnel. However, the challenge lies in choosing the best tools for the company’s individual business needs and the ability to integrate the tools effectively to get the most out of the functionalities they have to offer. With the wide variety of software and technology available in the market, the number of ways brands can engage with consumers is limitless. But let’s not forget that digital marketing strategies also rely on producing valuable content. Digital marketers know they need to offer something other than just text-centric content. Infographics, memes, podcasts, and video content have gained more are a few avenues through which companies can diversify the content they produce.
Digital marketers know that consumers change their preferences all the time based on what is happening in the world. It is the job of a digital marketer to match consumer preferences and trends. But with Covid-19, businesses are taking a step back and reconsidering what to do next. Everything from business goals to marketing strategies has had to adapt to change rather quickly. The ripple effect of these modifications will be felt by all for years to come. Corporations are equipping themselves for the long haul. With common changes across every industry, including incorporating real-time data dashboards, re-formulating marketing strategies, and reducing internal red tape, it will only allow businesses to move faster and be more flexible. The real question now is: are they ready to flourish in the post-Covid era?