We’ve already seen the rise of trending marketing technology. Apps and platforms that were once used solely for connection and entertainment – Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram stories, TikTok, Facebook messenger chatbots, other messaging apps – are being utilized by digital marketers and businesses to reach consumers, along with other once-new technologies.
But what will the digital marketing trends look like as the world opens back up and things return closer to “normal?” Will things go back to normal? How has the novel coronavirus affected consumer behaviour? And how will that affect digital marketing attempts to reach a society of consumers that have made fundamental changes in some areas of everyday life?
Below are the top 5 digital marketing trends that are emerging as the economy opens up around the world and we emerge from an unprecedented global economic lockdown.
Retailers are (perhaps surprisingly) moving away from the on-demand inventory model
This may seem surprising – until you go online and try to buy some home gym equipment in the middle of a pandemic that kept most people worldwide inside their homes. At the time of writing, every single free-weight, weight bench, squat rack, and adjustable dumbbell set is sold out across North America (and I haven’t checked across the rest of the world, but I would think stocks are at least low if not depleted). Home gym equipment is less essential than many other items, but it is a good example because it shows the extent to which online retailers have moved towards the on-demand inventory model.
The sudden spikes in consumer demand for many products, from toilet paper to hair dyes, left a lot of companies scrambling and unable to fill orders for those who needed essential supplies – as well as a bunch of lost profits on the table for a variety of products that were unable to be delivered. Everybody has talked a lot about how healthcare systems were unprepared for a pandemic – but so were our supply chain and market systems. We saw this with the lack of masks, hand sanitizer, and (bizarrely) toilet paper rolls.
Online shopping became all there was – but physical stores will return, and with them the backroom stock. Yes, the world had been trending towards online shopping long before the novel coronavirus locked us in our homes. Ecommerce exploded in recent years, with nearly everything you could ever want on the other end of Amazon search queries on your smartphone – or even as easy as talking out loud to Alexa or Siri. But there has always been, and likely always will be, demand to pick up certain items from boutique shops and larger stores. Some retailers are moving away from ecommerce altogether and, according to McKinsey, a “plan for uncertainty” is in the future of retail supply chains.
Value is greater than low-pricing even in times of crisis
This may sound a bit wordy, but essentially what it means is that people are choosing value over paying lower prices, even when there is a great deal of uncertainty – or perhaps because of this uncertainty. Two great examples: toilet paper and masks.
Who Gives a Crap is a company that sells toilet paper at a more premium price than almost all other competitors, yet their demand was higher than less expensive alternatives through the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and continued even as things began normalizing.
There were also numerous scams on faulty and low-grade masks, which made people wary of buying masks that were too cheap. So, they favoured buying higher-priced ones for better quality.
While these examples may seem both strange and upsetting, it showed that people value getting the products they need – and trust – rather than getting a deal at the expense of quality. This is something to look out for as a digital marketing trend, gearing a marketing strategy towards improved brand awareness and developing that trust that has become even more valuable in the time of fake news and misinformation.
Consumers are more skeptical than ever before
And they should be! False claims and misleading information hit an all-time peak during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, leading countless people to wonder if things they were reading were legitimate or completely made up.
‘Snake oil’ COVID cures, conspiracies about where and how the virus started, political spins, half-truths, and flat out lies flooded the internet and often television. This was made worse by the fact that everybody was locked in their homes and spent more time daily with eyes on a screen than I did as a 13-year-old playing Playstation.
But most people aren’t stupid. It became clear that even more misinformation was floating around than usual, and it warranted a more ‘on-alert’ attitude towards what was being broadcast to the public. Using digital marketing tailored towards a real, relatable customer experience is key to customer retention in the days of distrust – with interactive content and a focus on personalization becoming absolute musts going forward.
Loss aversion psychology is very powerful marketing – expect to see more of it in the future
This was something we already knew, but we are seeing it even more clearly after what happened in the early days of the novel coronavirus. Loss aversion is a term used to describe how people strongly prefer to avoid losses rather than acquire gains. Studies show that loss aversion is twice as powerful psychologically as the acquisition of something.
We are hard-wired to avoid losses – and you can bet that if I know this, companies and marketing agencies know this as well, and likely in a lot more detail. The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, especially during the early days, really ramped up this side of the human psyche – and successful digital marketers picked up on this right away.
You could argue that it’s not right to use fear and apprehension to market products, but marketers had been using loss aversion to leverage sales for decades, It’s just that now it has become ubiquitous – everything became affected by coronavirus, and therefore everything became fair game for loss aversion techniques. Expect it to keep coming, in more refined ways as we go forward in a post-COVID world.
Out of home ad spending is decreasing
Again, this was already on the steady decline – COVID-19 just ramped it up more intensely. Billboards, signs, and almost every type of outdoor or non-digital advertisement has seen a sudden dip – and online marketing has increased.
This is due to mainly to everyone’s increased screen time and lack of outdoor time, but it will most likely continue to move in this direction now that people are allowed to leave their homes again.
Digital marketing and digital ads in general just have such an advantage over traditional, physical ads that require space, materials, and limited resources.
With digital ads, you can leverage live video and other pertinent video content, and can enlist the help of artificial intelligence if need be. Content marketing is able to thrive because you can focus on customer experience and customer retention with interactive content and personalization, which is made easier and more impactful by harnessing the power of marketing automation. You can also advertise in real-time with video marketing, and it is a lot easier to create a customer journey with touchpoints if done digitally.
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