No one could have predicted COVID back in 2019. It has changed every aspect of our lives – no more big parties; no more restaurant in-dining; recommended avoidance of bars, sporting events, school graduations, and even in-classroom learning for students at all grade levels.
While grocery stores, home improvement centers, gas stations, and drug stores remain open, the situation with many other retailers is mixed. Those who sell clothing, for example, may be open, but customers cannot go into fitting rooms to try on items before making their purchasing decisions.
And many do not want to go into stores at all. They have necessities delivered or order in advance and arrange for outside pickup.
This pandemic has had a huge impact on e-Commerce of course, as there has been a significant increase in online shopping of all types. And with that increase has come increased competition. Marketing strategies have become major challenges for e-Commerce.
The Pandemic is Not the Only Catalyst
The rapid changes in technology itself have also impacted the design of marketing strategies, as companies face challenges to remain as competitive as possible. Developing a winning strategy in 2021 will involve all of the following elements:
- Mindfulness of Google Updates
Google’s newest updates will occur in May 2021, and these will focus on site and page load times, consumer interactivity, mobile device responsiveness, safety, and fewer intrusions that consumers find annoying and cause them to bounce. In short, user-friendliness will be key indexing factors for Google rankings.
2. Social Responsibility and Justice
Demands for businesses to demonstrate social responsibility began to be important to millennials several years ago and continue to be even more important to following generations that are now becoming major digital consumers as well. Showing environmental sustainability efforts and commitment to social causes will grow in importance. A part of these strategies will also now include social justice efforts for the wide diversity of ethnic and social groups within society.
3. Continued and Improved Personal Relationships
Consumers continue to demand to know who they are doing business with. This means that brands must expose themselves to current and potential customers as real people with the same lifestyles and values as they have. Brand teams that present parts of their personal lives to their visitors are far more likely to improve personal relationships with their customers. And those personal relationships result in greater trust. Trust results in customer retention and recommendations to others.
Kayla Cummings, Marketing Specialist, writing expert, and content writer for Get Good Grade, puts it this way: “Pressures on students during this pandemic are much greater, and they often have urgent needs for academic writing help. We know they have lots of options within this industry, but our goal is always to retain a strong personal relationship that builds loyalty. We know we have focused our current efforts on content that reveals much more about our personal selves, our lives, our interests, and our personalities. It works.”
4. Use of Data Science to Understand Consumer Needs and Behaviors
Once reserved only for large enterprises with the funds to employ data scientists, there are now a large array of tools that can collect oceans of data, organize and analyze that data, and show companies trends and behaviors of their target audiences. Brands can now collect such data and ask specific questions about audience behavior. The answers can drive decisions about products, services, and marketing strategies that will both retain current customers and attract newer targets.
5. Use of New Media Technologies
Visuals have always been important as marketing strategy efforts. In fact, research has shown that the human brain processes visual content 60K times faster than text and, in fact, retains that content better. But we’ve come a long way from still photos. Videos are now commonplace, especially explainer and “how-to’s.” And busy and impatient consumers demand videos as opposed to walls of text.
But media has moved into newer technologies, and marketing strategies must now include them to attract jaded consumers who are always looking for something new and exciting.
Two newer types of media that should be implemented are both live-streaming and AR/VR. Consider just a few examples of how these technologies can be used by consumers as they consider purchases:
- Clothing retailers can provide virtual try-ons of items.
- Eyeglass companies can allow trying on various frames before selecting the one they like best
- Travel agencies can provide real-time virtual tours of vacation spots
- Resorts can place potential travelers in a virtual reality situation to actually experience the amenities.
- Home improvement and furniture retailers can allow consumers to virtually paint their rooms, to place furniture and another room décor into their existing rooms.
These are the types of experiences that attract and engage consumers in a way like never before. And in this age of COVID, these experiences can be even more critical.
6. Selling Directly on Social Media Platforms
Consumers want convenience. In the past, when they read about or see a product on a social media platform, the traditional method has been to follow a link to the company’s website and then to go through the purchasing process on that website. Now, consumers can make that purchase right then and there. This marketing strategy should be adopted – catch the consumer at the point of great interest without the need to go through any additional navigation.
7. Developing Quality Partnerships
Long ago, before Google got involved, marketing strategies included getting as many inbound links as possible, no matter from whom, because those were indexed for rankings. Ultimately, new algorithms looked for quality and punished quantity. Any marketing strategy for 2021 should include establishing a quality partnership with other quality brands that are closely related. An online nursery selling flowers and plants, for example, might establish a strong partnership with one that sells gardening tools, supplies, and equipment. They can link to one another’s site pages, blog posts, and even market each other’s products. These are reasonable partnerships that increase the target audiences of both brands.
8. Retaining Loyalty
This has always been a part of marketing strategies because businesses know that it costs far less to retain a current customer than to gain a new one. And given the rapidity with which consumers can simply move to a competitor, a key marketing strategy for 2021 must continue to be to retain loyalty. This requires a lot of activity, to include:
- Development of personal relationships with every customer
- Continued requests for customer feedback at all levels of the marketing and sales process
- Service after the sale in the form of surveys and direct questions
- Rapid and personal response to any questions, issues, and other concerns. This means substantial use of social monitoring tools as well as email and SMS messaging to determine satisfaction.
9. Communications Unrelated to Products/Services
People like to be entertained and inspired, and they appreciate communications from brands that do just this without attempting to promote a product or service. Marketing strategies in 2021 should increase the use of this content, especially when people are looking for levity and inspiration during these hard times. Some brands have been doing this for quite a while, but there should be much greater emphasis on this now. If you aren’t aware of such processes consider pursuing a thorough Digital Training.
10. Optimize Voice Search
Mobile devices now outweigh the use of PC’s. And searches for products and services are now conducted by voice, rather than typing in. Consumers are now using complete sentences and virtual assistants to search and find what they are looking for. Marketing strategies must remain mindful of the longer phrases being used and provide for them. And many of these searches are local, as individuals are in their homes during this pandemic. They are looking for products that are available locally and that can be delivered or picked up.
11. Go Casual with Videos
Professionally-produced videos do have a place in marketing strategy, but research now shows that consumers feel stronger connections to brands that create more casual, informal videos. Many of these are now appearing on Tik Tok, a social platform that now sports 500 million users, although such casual videos can certainly be produced for other popular social platforms as well.
These are just 11 marketing strategies that should be incorporated into an effective campaign for 2021. It is not complete, by any means. But each of these is immediately actionable and can be incorporated into an overall strategy relatively quickly.