Digital Marketing: Opportunities and Challenges Amidst a Global Pandemic
Written By : RICHARD FONG
Published on March 3, 2021
At this point, it is a well-established fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives across all frontiers. Businesses have had to adjust, pivot their operations and strategies, and perhaps even adopt an adapt or die mindset. Digital marketing, in particular, has seen rigorous changes in light of the pandemic, as it is the common denominator in almost every industry.
Now is the time for much-needed digital marketing reform. According to data from Tech.co, 76% of small business owners have upskilled during this time, with skills that cover SEO, organic searches, social media, and data analytics. It appears that the pandemic has accelerated the need to sharpen these competencies needed to survive and thrive in a digital marketplace.
With the absence or lack of physical interaction due to social distancing and health protocols, this digital marketplace is where it is all at. While ripe with opportunity, SMBs need to get creative in terms of reaching and engaging with their intended audiences, maintaining their sales, and leaving a profound impact.
During the pandemic, it is not merely businesses that have changed, but consumer behavior as well. A study by Numerator shows that from the beginning of lockdowns in March of last year, up until December, 87% of buyers opted to place orders online and have their purchases delivered. Fifty-one percent of shoppers bought items online and opted for curbside or in-store pickup.
For consumers, practically everything they could possibly need is right at their fingertips. They are spending more time on the Internet than ever – working from home, participating in distance learning, making long-distance video calls, and generally conducting their usual day-to-day tasks online.
Social media usage is at an all-time high. It is no longer limited to being a source of entertainment and communication, but has become a viable digital marketplace in its own right. A survey by Digital Commerce 360 gathered that 82% of respondents claimed that social media was their prime resource for discovering a brand and learning about their products and services.
Twenty-nine percent of these respondents said that most of their purchases were things that they first learned about on social media. Majority of these individuals declared that social media plays a vital role in their buying behavior. Buyers are likely to peruse your channels prior to making a purchase as these platforms are easy to access.
Taking the cue from here, today’s brands need to step up their A-games in order to meet their customers where they are at.
To experiment or play it safe?
One recurring question that surfaced early on in the pandemic was whether brands should experiment with their strategies or to simply play it safe. Content creation entails thoughtful planning and attention to detail. But how much of an adjustment do you have to make to the campaigns you usually do?
As lockdowns were implemented and uncertainty permeated, most consumers appreciated when brands would purposefully incorporate topically relevant information about the pandemic into their campaigns. SMBs were viewed as somewhat of a resource, and transparency about the pandemic’s effect on the brand was very much welcomed.
Stemming from this was the assurance that brands would still deliver quality products and services consistently, albeit with some possible delays or adjustments due to the pandemic. Consumers now want to be assured of their safety and wellbeing above all else.
In addition to this, brands that cater to the younger generations also had to understand that they had other expectations, especially in terms of contributing to pandemic relief efforts or initiatives. Experimentation, tempered with sensitivity to current events, is perhaps the best mindset and approach to adopt.
This can be best applied to developing your customer experience. People have been craving for direct communication throughout this pandemic, which is why it is especially important that you deliver the best possible user experience throughout your digital marketing strategy.
Whether this be through your social media content, your website, or your campaigns, it is this omnichannel experience that matters. Your brand experience should be consistent throughout channels, in order to make for a seamless user experience. You want your customers to immediately get a grasp on who you are and what you have to offer from the get-go.
Furthermore, experimentation just for the sake of it could be a waste of valuable resources. Any new technique and strategy must come with an assessment of its impact. This is particularly important given how everything is shifting before our very eyes.
Looking into your analytics after every new implementation, you will get to refine your approach to ensure that you meet your clients’ needs. At the same time, this poses a challenge to constantly improve and do better.
Taking your company’s digital marketing efforts to the next level
One thing that we keep emphasizing is consistency. Since direct communication is everything these days, it makes sense that consumers value consistency in your marketing efforts. Consistency builds trust, and this is what will keep your clients coming back for more. Again, social media is prime real estate for brand recognition and customer retention to occur.
Focus on your content marketing to engage existing and potential customers. You want to be able to capture their attention from the onset, and so short-form videos, interactive content, and animations should be part of your repertoire. This, of course, should match the channels that reflect them best. By analyzing what your customers prefer, you can give them what they want.
You can try new things too. Perhaps make your events virtual, and plan webinars to maintain and grow your network. Adapting to the online sphere gives you the opportunity to reach audiences and tap into new markets. Making your presence felt immediately informs customers that you are proactive and present, and will be there when they need you.
As evidenced from these points, your digital marketing strategies do not exactly have to directly sell on the spot. While it is important – and necessary – to have this in the mix, your other efforts can lead to conversions eventually as well. Email marketing, for one, is still a great way of sharing the latest news on your brand’s developments, new offers, and the like.
You can let your audience know what to stay tuned for, and this engagement adds value to your brand. Similarly, your written content still matters. Do not forget about your brand’s blog, and create SEO-optimized content that gives potential customers what they are looking for, while at the same time allowing them to learn more about you.
You can change things up by inviting guest writers and thought leaders to contribute. Be sure to publish your content consistently to stay top of mind. Content should be a well-balanced combination of these technical strategies, paid campaigns, and authentic messaging. The latter is perhaps what may stand out most during the pandemic.
Crafting content with empathy will truly give you a pulse on how your audiences are doing. Based on the engagement and feedback alone, you will get to gauge where they are at and how they are doing. Moreover, you will get to see what has changed. One way you can earnestly show that you care is to personally reach out to your existing customer base.
Taking the time to do so can help you alter your messaging and your offerings, and redefine your business goals. Now that you have realized how dynamic this situation is, as external circumstances changing by the day, you will understand the importance of keeping these goals flexible. While planning ahead is still necessary, you respond to changes as they come.
This flexibility will also be more sustainable in the long run, saving you on valuable resources. You will also realize that this may actually result in more effective campaigns, as you strike all the right chords and craft your content around what is currently happening. This will also allow you to respond to what your customers need and want at that point in time.
If there is one important takeaway from the pandemic’s impact on digital marketing, it’s that the most successful SMBs weren’t necessarily the most prepared, but those most willing to adapt. The ability to improvise is an undervalued skill that is surely going to impact the future of work. Studies have shown that marketers will be seeking workers who have this skill, moving forward.
The fast pace of today’s world, coupled with the continuous changes within the realm of digital marketing, may require relying on a reputable agency as a sure-fire way to achieve long-term growth. Bliss Drive’s content marketing, SEO, conversion rate optimization, and digital marketing services are proven to deliver.
If you want results-driven strategies from an agency that creates personalized solutions, you can hop on that train as soon as possible. Embrace the challenges and opportunities as they arrive, and refine your digital marketing strategies accordingly. Contact Bliss Drive today!