Consumer behavior transformed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some brands responded to these changes by coming up with exciting and new ways to reach consumers, while others struggled to keep up.
If brands want to be competitive in this new playing field, they’ll need to rethink the ways they advertise and communicate to audiences. This especially applies to industries like travel and retail that saw the most dramatic disruption.
Let’s explore some of the ways consumer behavior changed in 2020 due to the pandemic and introduce five ways to adapt your marketing strategy to thrive in a post-COVID world.
How Consumer Behavior Changed in 2020
Consumer behavior is not the same today as it was a year ago. For travel and retail brands, the shift has been especially notable.
As travel restrictions came into place, borders closed, and infections continued to spread, many consumers avoided travel. The airline industry took an especially hard hit as there were 63% fewer passengers through TSA in 2020 compared to 2019.
There is now far more of a focus on domestic vacations and drivable trips, along with new customer expectations around cleanliness protocols and flexibility when it comes to cancellations and rescheduling.
The world of retail similarly experienced significant changes in how consumers shop.
E-commerce has boomed as people’s lives move increasingly online and more time is spent at home. Now, 4 in 10 customers are purchasing items online that they would have previously purchased in-store.
This shift has led to a rise in new kinds of contactless channels, like buy-online and pick-up-in-store, curbside pickup, trunk delivery, and locker pickup. It’s very likely that many of these changes are here to stay. 51% of U.S. adults say they expect their lives will remain changed once the pandemic is over.
The message here is clear for all brands: adapt alongside your consumers, or you’ll be left behind.
5 Ways To Adjust Your Marketing Strategy for 2021
The good news for marketers is that there are many ways to adjust to these new consumer preferences and adapt your approach to succeed in 2021 and beyond. This is a challenging time for everybody, but it’s also an opportunity for brands to innovate and find new ways of connecting with consumers to stand out.
If there’s anything we learned over the past year, it’s that diversification is the name of the game.
It’s more important than ever to have a diverse media mix. To ensure your company thrives in the future, you should actively branch out into new channels and avoid relying on one channel to drive sales. For example, brands that only invested in Facebook ran into some serious trouble last year. To get ahead in 2021, you should explore new platforms and make sure that you have a healthy media mix. Doing this will ensure you can reach your target audience right where they are.
We also saw brands diversify their services last year. For example, many retail businesses added multiple options for receiving their purchased items, whether that was offering customers the ability to pick up products in-store, curbside, or both. Customers will expect this kind of variety going into the future.
Others ventured into new verticals, product offerings, and even business models in response to consumers’ changing needs. Look at Truffle Shuffle’s success, a company whose co-founders recently made a deal on Shark Tank. They pivoted their business from selling truffles wholesale to making meal kits and truffle recipe tutorials. Here’s an example of a brand that rethought its business model and found a new way to sell.
Brands should continue this adaptable approach moving forward so they can meet the ever-changing needs of customers.
2. Prioritize Messaging
Messaging is always a priority, but it’s more important now than ever before.
In times of uncertainty, it’s essential that brands ensure they’re sending out the right kind of communication. That means turning your messaging to themes of empathy, flexibility, and safety. Let your customers know that you care and that you’re prepared to put their needs first—now, and once the pandemic is behind us.
Consumers are tuning into new channels to receive messages from their favorite brands and searching for new reasons to believe (RTBs).
In the tourism industry, travelers are choosing brands that appear to put visitor needs before financial gain. They’re favoring brands that demonstrate their care for the greater community, too.
So, it’s absolutely important to keep this top of mind in your brand messaging: people are looking for empathy.
3. Enable Flexibility
In a world of uncertainty and constantly changing circumstances, flexibility is now a key value driver for customers, especially when it comes to travel. Expedia reports that travelers value the flexibility to change their plans without penalties more than ever before, and travelers prefer refunds to credits.
There are many ways brands outside the travel industry can align with this new expectation. They can provide flexible scheduling options, offer easy cancellation or free returns, and have various pickup options. Brands should also keep flexibility in mind when it comes to the supply chain and maintaining agility there.
4. Prepare for an Increasingly Online World
Last year, the sudden onset of shelter-in-place orders and lockdowns across the world caused a massive surge in remote work and left millions of people stuck at home. The result was, and continues to be, consumers spending a lot more time online.
According to eMarketer, by the end of 2022, total digital time per day is expected to surpass 8 hours — that’s an hour more each day than in 2019. We’re spending more time at home and behind a screen than ever before, and this newfound “free time” with devices doesn’t mean people are just surfing the web more than usual. Actually, the biggest digital time upticks we saw last year were on Connected TV (CTV) and TikTok.
Since people are adding more new devices and platforms into their routine, it’s crucial to adapt to this screen time increase and ensure you’re connecting with your customers digitally. Be prepared and proactive when it comes to adjusting to an online world. Ensure your media mix aligns and prioritizes a strong e-commerce experience for your customers.
5. Address Each Market Segment
The pandemic has affected different parts of the country and the world to varying degrees. Some regions are almost back to normal, whereas others are still in dire straits. It’s important to approach each market segment on a case-by-case basis and adjust your messaging accordingly.
Make sure to assess your geo strategy and other market segmentation considerations. Be careful not to over-segment, but make sure there’s thought given to how different markets are going to behave differently in order to best invest advertising dollars.
Set Your Marketing up for Success in 2021
The average consumer’s world today looks very different from a year or two ago, and many of the changes that hit industries hard during this time will be here to stay. For most businesses, even those in majorly-affected industries like travel and retail, there is no reason why these challenges should prevent success in 2021.
Update your messaging, meet the new expectations of consumers, and give customers what they’re craving. Do these things and you’ll thrive this year.
Need further assistance with your marketing approach for 2021? Reach out to the digital advertising experts at Booyah.