The COVID-19 pandemic is something no marketer planned for or expected. But as 2020 comes to an end and a vaccine is around the corner, we can start to plan for marketing in a post-COVID world. But what does this look like?
I think we can all agree that things will not just go back to how they were before—in fact, things may never be the same. So, as a marketer or business owner, how can we prepare for this new normal? Below I’ll discuss ways to connect with consumers and ensure you are meeting their evolving needs in this new, post-COVID marketplace.
We know now that crises happen, and when they do, open and honest communication is key. It was clear from the onset of COVID that being upfront with your customers about a positive case among your employees, for example, led to appreciation and support, not backlash. Being transparent when something negative happens, whether it is your fault or not, humanizes your brand. When faced with an inevitable crisis in the future, businesses should continue to take this same approach. Your customers will have more respect for you and will most likely stay loyal. For more crisis communication tips, check out our blog post on the topic and make sure to develop your crisis strategy (if you haven’t yet) before another one hits.
Lead With Your Values
2020 has shown us that conscious consumers care about a company’s stance on social issues, how they treat their employees and how they give back to their community. In fact, a study revealed that 68% of U.S. consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues, especially the younger generations of millennials and Gen Z. However, you should not be vocal about an issue just for optics; customers will see right through that and you will appear inauthentic. You need to show your customers the genuine actions you are taking to help support a cause or make a difference. Companies should be driven by and stay true to their core values.
Upgrade Your Customer Experience
Throughout the pandemic, companies have had to pivot their business practices to accommodate customers in new, safer ways. Through these new operations, the customer experience has actually been enhanced. Now, consumers have become accustomed to additional options like curbside pickup and online ordering and will still expect this level of convenience post-COVID. Businesses need to consider how they can make it as easy as possible for their customers to do business with them. Is there a process you can streamline? Is there a new technology you can leverage? Get creative and reimagine your customer experience. Businesses will be forced to innovate and adapt in order to survive.
During the pandemic we have all had to avoid in-person interactions. Meetings moved to Zoom, shopping has been restricted to ecommerce, and restaurant dining transitioned to ordering pickup or delivery via an app. Once it is deemed safe(er) to interact in person again, people will most likely still want to connect with businesses online and have those digital options available, since they’ve become accustomed to it—similar to people wanting to continue to work from home. For this reason, businesses must make sure their online presence is up to par. Continue to regularly communicate with your customers via your social media channels and email, and ensure your website is optimized and easy for users to navigate.
Highlight Experiential Elements
With all of the above being said, people will also be quite eager to finally get out of the house and make up for lost time, enjoying activities that they once took for granted—going out to bars and restaurants with groups of friends, enjoying a latte at the coffee shop instead of getting it to-go, attending sporting events and concerts, going to the movies, indulging in spa treatments and traveling, just to name a few. If your company falls into any of these categories, emphasize the “treat yourself” nature of your business and point out that after all we’ve been through in 2020, your customers deserve to splurge on experiences. Although people’s comfort levels with returning to these activities post-pandemic will be gradual, you can expect an influx of customers who have been itching to take full advantage of the experiences your business has to offer.
Earn Their Trust
Post-COVID, safety and cleanliness will continue to be top of mind, especially if your business is a place that customers visit in-person. However, as we have come to realize, being sanitary and germ-free extends to countless aspects of daily life beyond just dining tables and shopping carts, so this tip applies to businesses of all kinds. Consumers are now hyper-aware of what it entails to keep things clean, so enhanced sanitation procedures are something you should continue to communicate to consumers via social media, email and in-store signage to ease their concerns as we transition into this new normal. The bottom line is that it all comes down to trust—customers must trust that doing business with you is safe.
Showcase Your Human Side
So many small businesses have struggled throughout the pandemic, and customers have been more motivated than ever to shop local and show their support for the companies in their communities. If you are a small business, your customers want to get to know the person behind the brand they are supporting. For example, incorporate a personal touch to your packages being shipped, or feature yourself (the business owner) or your employees on your company’s Instagram stories. Show your customers the passion you have for your business and why you do what you do. This is what truly sets you apart from the huge corporate conglomerates. Revealing a personal or human side will make your brand more authentic and relatable to your customers.
Communicate With Empathy
Even though the pandemic will hopefully be under control soon, many people will still be struggling with the fallout of COVID-19—unemployment, long-term health problems or the loss of a family member. Be mindful of the hardships many of your customers (and society as a whole) are facing and continue to communicate in an empathetic, uplifting manner. Do not solely focus on selling your product; have real conversations with your customers and build genuine relationships. This also applies to customers who take to social media to complain or leave a negative review about your business. Treat them with empathy too and try to make things right with them; more often than not, they just want to be heard.
While there is no way of knowing what the future holds or how soon we will live in a world not completely dominated by the pandemic, we can begin to plan ahead for what our new normal might look like as marketers. We can learn a lot by exploring how consumer preferences have shifted in 2020 and apply these insights to ensure we are effectively connecting with our customers, on the other side of COVID-19.