If anyone learned anything from the past year and a half it’s that life is truly unpredictable. Nobody could have expected the country to shut down. The pandemic hasn’t been easy on people or businesses. As far as businesses are concerned, COVID-19 brought with it many changes in customer behavior, a changing economic environment, and sweeping government restrictions that made it difficult to do business.
You can be proud for having made it to now, but this leaves us with an important consideration – what’s next?
Here are some of the upcoming post-pandemic business and marketing trends to be aware of.
Agility and the Human Experience
The Deloitte annual Global Marketing Trends Report highlights seven trends but two of the most important are agility and the human experience. Agility is how quickly businesses respond to circumstances. This trait is what made (or broke) businesses in 2020. It was vital for businesses to adapt to a changing market as quickly as possible. Most businesses moved online and the ones that didn’t had trouble reaching their customers. The online trend is expected to continue, with two-thirds of survey respondents saying they will likely continue shopping online and have a new appreciation for technology.
Companies that can’t meet customers where they are— on the internet— run the risk of becoming irrelevant. Businesses should focus on fostering agility by investing in new teams, tools, and technology to better adapt to instability.
Of course, overlooking the human experience would be a mistake. One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is that human interaction has been minimal. Human interaction is vital for the development of relationships. The lack of human interaction has had a huge impact on businesses as they rely on these interactions to develop professional relationships with key people including clients and employees and interpersonal relationships with customers.
Most people crave the human element more than ever right now. Even virtual experiences can be more human. Businesses should invest in better understanding customers and employees and how to create the human element in a digital environment.
Know Your Customer Segment
Knowing who your customers are has always been important, but things have likely changed in the past year or so. Who your customers were before isn’t who they are now. The EY Future Consumer Index conducted five waves of research with 14,500 people across 20 countries since the start of the pandemic. The results show shifting trends among the average consumer, with five key identifiers emerging:
One impact of the pandemic is that a lot of people have lost their jobs. Others are more aware of their financial situation and are focusing on living within their means and making real budgets. As such, people don’t care as much about brands. They value product functionality and affordability above brand recognition. Focus on how your products work instead of who made them.
It’s no surprise that most people are more concerned about protecting the health of themselves and their family. People are choosing products that they trust to be safe and present minimal risks. Reassure customers that you take safety seriously and avoid showcasing products that do more harm than good.
The average consumer is more environmentally aware than ever before. They value companies and products that help to reduce their impact on the environment. They want to support companies that are committed to preserving the planet and help them achieve their own environmental goals by offering recyclable packaging and eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
The average consumer is also more socially aware and understands their place in society. They want to make the world a better place and work together for the greater good. This means investing in companies that are honest, open, transparent, and support good social causes.
Customer experience is, and always will be, vital. Customers want to have a positive experience no matter what. These days, people are more open to buying new brands and products and experiencing new things after a year of living in the moment. Don’t be afraid to offer customers something a little different to make the experience more valuable.
Brands need to make positive customer relationships a focus now and in the future. Your customers expect you to already have what they need from you, instead of simply hoping that you do. Here are the “Four C’s” of customer relationships:
Customers value content. Not only on your website, but also through mobile apps and emails.
Deliver an excellent commerce experience online, through physical retail stores, and through a hybrid experience where people can shop online and collect in-store.
Contribute to the community when you can and take opportunities to bring people together. Why not host a virtual trade show or webinar for consumers where you highlight your products and how to use them? If you can’t host one of your own, look for a virtual trade show you can participate in.
Convenience is key for consumers. Offer consumers things that make life easier for them, such as benefits from a loyalty program or coupons. Give people an incentive to sign up to newsletters through discounts. Make life easier for your customers and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Stand by Your Values
It’s important to have good products. Every customer expects you to have something they want. However, you also need to have good values. Customers want to support businesses that feel the same way they do about causes and issues.
Show you care by giving back to the community and offering a voice and support to underrepresented groups. Be sure to show as well as tell. People can tell when you’re saying a lot of good but not doing it. They don’t want lip service – they want proof.
Enter the Digital World
With so many stores closing physical locations, many people turned to online shopping for the first time. Some of those people plan to stay online even after the pandemic wears down. There’s been such a great shift to using technology and shopping online that you need to have a digital presence to survive. That sentiment has never been truer than it is right now. Create a website and a digital storefront or you face becoming a relic of a forgotten time.
As things slowly get back to normal it’s becoming apparent that this “normal” has changed and we’re entering the so-called “new normal.” Some things are going to be left behind so you can’t count on getting the same results from making the same moves. You need to adjust your marketing strategy and look at upcoming and existing marketing trends.
The modern average consumer wants an incredible experience with a human touch, even to digital solutions. Look for ways you can bridge the digital divide between your team and your customers to create positive experiences for all involved. Highlight how your products work not just for the consumer, but for the planet and society as a whole. The times are changing, and you need to change with them.