The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people and businesses around the world. However, we’re optimistic that we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are currently being distributed across the nation and new medicines are becoming readily available. Business keeps carrying on and so do we.
During the onset and early stages of the pandemic, most companies that pivoted their messaging and kept their foot on the gas with their marketing have been successful in maintaining their business and in many cases even growing their market share. We’ve seen shifts in trends in the COVID era and naturally, consumer preferences have changed. So, what does the marketing landscape look like moving forward in 2021, and what does that mean for us as marketers?
Marketing in a Post COVID-19 Environment
Growth in Video Marketing
Personal connection and interaction has become more important than ever. Consumers are turning to digital technology to connect, and video is playing a major role. In fact, 96% of consumers say that the pandemic has led to an increase in the amount of video content they have watched online.1 Videos are easy to consume, provide information through visuals and stories and are interesting and engaging.
Investment in video marketing is only expected to grow as viewership rates continue to increase. A recent study shows that 87% of marketers who use video report a positive return on investment.1 Video is a versatile and effective marketing tool that can be leveraged across a variety of platforms including websites, social media, email marketing and more. There are many opportunities to reach and engage rural American audiences with strategic video production this year and into the future.
Increased Social Media Usage
Navigating the post-COVID-19 environment requires a thorough understanding of where your audiences spend their time, specifically online. For many consumers, social media provides a way to connect with family and friends when gathering in person isn’t feasible, a factor that led to increased use during the pandemic.2 Increased social media use is expected to continue across rural America, meaning continued opportunities for brands to reach and connect with audiences in convenient and meaningful ways.
But, effectively reaching social media audiences has become more challenging. Algorithms have shifted to feature content based on relevance and engagement instead of the previously preferred reverse-chronological method. As a result, brands are challenged with developing and curating messages and content that really stand out in newsfeeds. Creating high-quality social content enables brands to reach and connect with audiences in an approachable and personalized way, leading to increased engagement and brand loyalty. Brands can also supplement organic content with a paid social advertising program and budget to maximize their impact and reach a larger audience. As you look and plan ahead, think about ways your brand can capitalize on opportunities present with the uptick in social media usage. Consider incorporating a variety of content types including video, animation, interactive content, and even audio content into your social media content mix.
Opportunities with Audio Content
Much like social media and video, consumption of audio content has increased dramatically and is expected to consistently grow as audio platforms continue to evolve. With more time spent at home, many individuals developed interests in podcasts for entertainment, personal and professional development and to stay up to date on their favorite topics. In addition to listening, podcasts also enable brands to publish unique and specific content, offering more control with ownership and room for revenue opportunities. For more insight into how your brand can invest in podcasts, check out our article on Leveraging Podcasts for Personal and Business Growth.
Podcasts aren’t the only audio platform to have on your radar. Clubhouse is a growing, invite-only social platform where users congregate in voice chat rooms, and the number of users continues to grow. Twitter is incorporating audio content through the ability to send ‘voice tweets’, as well as voice-only chat rooms similar to Clubhouse. Audio content enables personal conversations and connections regardless of physical location, offering many opportunities for growth in the 2021 marketing landscape and beyond.
Virtual, Live and Hybrid Events
As brands begin to navigate the post COVID-19 environment, many are left wondering what the future holds for events and conferences. Due to public ordinances regarding the size of gatherings, the majority of events were cancelled or held virtually in 2020. Online event platforms grew tremendously and offer customized options for almost every industry and size of event.
Virtual events and gatherings are expected to continue into 2021, but many companies are planning in-person events as well. People are excited to get back to in-person interactions, but things have changed and hybrid events with in-person and virtual components are expected to gain traction later this year and into 2022.
Changes in Shopping Preferences
Consumer behavior and buying habits have changed as a result of the pandemic. Convenient and personalized, e-commerce grew significantly before the pandemic. However, COVID-19 forced many businesses to close their physical doors and operate online whenever possible, resulting in the accelerated growth of online sales. Brick and mortar shopping preferences have declined, with 64% of consumers saying they prefer contactless or self-service purchasing options.3
Although many businesses are reopening, shoppers are not fully returning to their old ways. Continued growth of e-commerce is expected and brands must focus on providing excellent online experiences and invest time and resources in things that benefit online and in-person sales. Consider investing in increased digital advertising, website optimization for better user experiences, and marketing automation for custom content distribution and streamlined communications.
A Summarized Look at Post-COVID Marketing
An overwhelming amount of change has led people to turn towards products and companies that are familiar to them and provide a level of comfort and peace of mind. As we navigate the post-COVID-19 marketing landscape, consider ways that your business can continue to be a familiar resource for your customers and prospects.
Sharing messages of gratitude and positive, uplifting stories are effective ways to engage audiences. Loyalty programs and strategic promotions can activate, or reactivate, rural American consumers in the sales funnel and purchasing process. Strategic video, social media programs, hybrid and live events in addition to a solid website and digital marketing strategy can position your company for success in the coming year and into the future.