Marketing in the Midst of a Pandemic
by Bonnie Parkos
Nobody could have predicted how the first half of 2020 has transpired, and it's just as impossible to predict the remainder of the year. Everyone has been affected, whether it be personally, through business, or, most likely, both. As a retailer, surviving the challenges of 2020 and beyond won't be easy. In this post, we'll discuss how the last four months have changed the direct marketing industry and where we go from here.
How Business Has Changed 2020 to Date
Through mid-April, Forbes reported "U.S. retailers' online year-over-year revenue growth is up 68 percent." This is positive news, but realistically, every company has still had to make changes to their business. The most evident changes are restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers adjusting to closings and no-contact guidelines. Still, there have been more subtle changes through the industry.
Retailers have expanded their content beyond marketing and adding helpful or fun content and appealing to emotion. Ninety-two percent of marketers surveyed by ANA have adjusted their creative messaging since March. Marketers are focusing on the human connection and shifting content from strictly transactional to building a relationship with your customer. To get even more specific, research shows that digital interaction between B2B retailers and customers is now two times more important than traditional channels. That's more than a 30% jump since before the pandemic hit. Recent data shows that total internet usage has increased between 50% and 70%. It's now easier than ever to reach your audience.
Companies have also been forced to get creative with their product offerings when demand for their normal merchandise has slowed or been put on hold. Craft breweries are making hand sanitizer. The apparel industry has added face masks, hospital gowns, and other necessary supplies. Hand sanitizer, gourmet foods, or newly-produced face masks might have been your cash cow during these difficult months. This will only continue as supply chains struggle with mandated closings and newly-implemented safety protocols upon re-opening. These shifts in product demand might be permanent or temporary, but even a temporary surge in specific product sales can boost your business and give you a reprieve to determine where this pandemic will lead your organization.
Changes for Holiday 2020 and Beyond
Of course, some of the trends listed above will continue for the foreseeable future, while some things will fall away again as everyday life inches back to normal. Here are some other things to focus on as we move through the 2020 holiday season and beyond.
Stay on top of ever-changing circumstances where content might need to be adjusted. While creating content for the human interaction is growing, striking the right tone is an important piece of the message. Word travels faster than ever through social media outlets, but bad news travels the fastest. No one can predict the future, but being ready to act quickly, yet consciously, will put you in the best position to succeed.
Staying relevant can also extend to the format of the media. If you are a direct mailer, consider different mail pieces to break the mold on your traditional mail strategy. For your digital campaigns, test new creative or formats. Don't be afraid of change!
Share your knowledge. With the shifting of summits, conferences, and symposiums to an online format; it's easier than ever to join more presentations and roundtable discussions on what is and isn't working in your industry. Sign up! You never know what you might learn. You might even be surprised to find yourself sharing your own experiences with everyone.
Update your software and platforms where needed. Are you finding that with increased online orders your old ecommerce system just isn't cutting it anymore? It's not going to get any better from here. There has been a 146% growth in all online retail orders as of April 21st, and all evidence shows no sign of this trend reversing. If your platform isn't keeping up, make it a priority to make the necessary changes.
Despite everything that has been happening during the last few months, retailers I've talked to are optimistic. Maybe we have to be? Even if you aren't optimistic, taking decisive action now and through the upcoming months will leave you in a better position. It's probably safe to assume that changes to our industry are not over, and reassessing your business road map regularly will allow you to be prepared to weather the storm.