Because of these changes more aspects of our lives have shifted online. We are spending more time at our screens and turning to digital platforms to replace physical ones. We have quickly become dependent on digital services whether it is online shopping, streaming TV, work video calls and, of course, endless Zoom quizzes with friends.
Above all else, the way we shop for products and services has changed dramatically. The extent to which we engage and rely on digital touchpoints has evolved and has become much more complex. This is because the way we discover brands is changing, as well as the way we buy products and services. This is why, post-COVID, e-commerce and digital marketing are so crucial.
Consumers have leaped five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks and a lot of people are using digital channels for the first time. We need to better understand today’s post-COVID consumer because we have all changed in the last 12 months at a behavioural, emotional and social level. This means we can’t simply assume we know our customers based on our pre-COVID data. Improving our analytics and better placing the customer at the centre of everything we do presents a clear opportunity in 2021. We must update our knowledge and use this deeper understanding to get better at personalising offers and communications. This is particularly important in this rapidly changing landscape.
This applies to all digital channels from social media and search, through to using our websites and databases more effectively.
Social media helps us build conversations with people. In 2021 we can make our customers part of the brand story by listening to them and adapting our products and services based on their real needs. This is especially important in today’s world that is changing so quickly and so profoundly.
People are using social media more than ever. Facebook saw a 70% increase in app usage at the onset of COVID lockdown. What is more, people do not rely solely on search engines any more to discover products and information about brands. In fact, 45% of people use social networks for this very reason. This is now not far behind search engines. For people aged 16 to 24 social networks have actually overtaken search as the most popular place to learn about brands online.
In 2021, there is an opportunity for brands to harness social media to connect with people, build brand preference and enable product discovery. Finding creative ways to engage with followers will build brand loyalty. This will put us in good stead for long into the future.
In the last 12 months influencer marketing has seen a significant growth. Over 70% of marketers have allocated more resource to this area. The fact that consumers view messages from influencers as genuinely authentic has a big part to play because it adds credibility. Brands are finding more engaging ways to work with influencers. Hotels.com, for example, used non-travel influencers to share their stories of must-see places to generate over 4 million organic impressions reaching nearly 1.3 million people.
To take advantage of the growth in ecommerce, the user experience of online shoppers needs to improve. Brands that make the effort to properly understand their customers and their path to purchase will succeed. Those who do not, are likely to fail. We need to make sure that the online shopping experience is built on a simple and very human, intuitive UX design. This must translate across both mobile and desktop. It needs to both complement and offer a real alternative to our physical shops.
With so much time now spent online, we are beginning to feel a bit overloaded with information. In order to stand out, we need to provide content that goes hand in hand with changing consumer behaviour and our new concerns. Nike did this perfectly with their You Can’t Stop Us brand positioning. Content needs to provide real value to people in order to build trust and recognition. There is an opportunity to go way beyond conversion marketing and look to build relationships with our customers through our website content. By quickly responding to changing trends, and finding a way to showcase our brand in a genuinely compelling way, we can gain a big advantage post-COVID.
We should also focus on driving traffic to our content. An increased focus on search engine optimisation provides a great opportunity to do so. Brands need to up their game to improve their search engine rankings, in order to make the most of the growth in online shopping and thirst for content. One place to start is by conducting a full keyword analysis, to better understand what people are looking for and building our content around this. With proper implementation we can make our content as visible and as easy to find as possible.
Similarly, the importance of paid search will continue to be paramount post-COVID. With all the uncertainty in our lives, the decision making process of consumers has lengthened. The time from when we start searching to the time we eventually purchase is longer. This means we must have a presence and we must think more carefully about our messaging, making sure it is reflecting the situation our customers find themselves in. Responsive search ads are a brilliant way to test and optimise new ad copy, while remarketing search ads will help us reach the right people at the right time.
When the time comes to emerge from the self-isolation and economic uncertainty, we need to understand what this digital acceleration means for us as brands and digital marketers. We need to rethink our marketing strategies in line with our new way of life. The brands that have been quick to adapt are flourishing.