We’ll mark almost a year since the first Covid-19 bans. It was a year in which most of us saw our social, professional, and family lives shrink to fit into the four walls of our home. As we got used to interacting with friends, family, and even brands in new ways, this has had a huge impact on all aspects of marketing, from channel mix to messaging, as businesses adapt to changing needs, attitudes, and demands the consumer adjust roughly through this new domestic lifestyle.
With that in mind, we’ve looked at a few ways brands can use the lessons of the past 10 months to better engage consumers through home-bound marketing and leverage new trends in buying behavior to drive sales.
Life on the smallest screen
With the closure of physical stores, the ever-increasing consumer appetite for e-commerce has reached new heights. Before brands even had a chance to change their strategies, ecommerce sales rose as much as 50% from early April, although ecommerce marketing spend only started trending higher in early June. Retail suddenly lost its stationary channel and shopping is now virtual, no matter how big or small the purchase is.
While many people were already familiar with the joys of Asos or Amazon, consumers of all ages now have to rely on virtual interactions with brands. This has helped highlight the critical importance of the digital user experience and the businesses that consider every aspect of a customer’s online interaction with them, from the first click to remotely managing returns and complaints.
Brands that are able to fully understand and respond to the frustrations and buying barriers of all customers – not just digital natives, but those who may be relying on ecommerce platforms for the first time during the pandemic – will this benefits rewards when it comes to converting surfing into buying.
This new reliance on e-commerce also results in a huge advance in digital technology to support the growing sector, as well as the development of some powerful new marketing tools aimed at harnessing the large, captive audience of customers at home. A good example of this is the boom in livestream shopping that was spearheaded by China last year but is now gaining momentum in the rest of the world as the combination of real-time product demonstration and review alongside live chat capabilities and on-platform functionality Purchasing is a huge success for online retailers. It is predicted that livestream purchases could generate more than 1 billion yen ($ 150 billion) in revenue in 2020, making it an attractive option especially for retailers.
Solve everyday customer challenges remotely
I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say that hairdressers will be among the most missed in 2020 – unfortunately there is no “virtual” way to replace the feeling of a fresh head of highlights or a perfect new cut. Brands in the hair care sector quickly realized this, while also coming up with a clever way to connect with their clients during the lockdown by creating home styling tutorials and guides to try out the look of the salon in their restore your own four walls.
Videos with how-tos and tutorials at home demonstrating products are obviously not new in the marketing world, but with more time than before, more and more apps like TikTok have needed to create and share snappy videos. By April 2020, the platform had been downloaded more than 2 billion times. Teens and adults alike are flipping through life hacks and demos, and well-known brands like Nike, Lush, and Gucci have stepped in when it becomes clear the app is influencing shopping behavior.
For businesses traditionally more reliant on in-store purchases, the adoption of new technologies has accelerated, providing a truly useful and valuable service to domestic customers. For example, DIY and home decorating brands offer sophisticated apps and tools that customers can use to see what a particular color or kitchen layout would look like in their own home by simply uploading pictures of their room or floor plan.
By delivering practical, informative, and helpful content that addresses some of the new challenges we face in our home worlds, brands have the opportunity not only to convert more online sales, but also to create a more meaningful connection with customers by offering them something of use in return for their attention. This type of campaign is getting more and more impactful at a time when it is all too easy for consumers to flip through without real engagement. It is likely that over the course of 2021, more brands will position themselves as problem solvers / solution providers for consumers through marketing content and campaigns.
Brand building through emotional connections
While companies are thinking of practical ways to connect with customers and add value to them through home marketing, it’s important not to forget the importance of creating an emotional connection between brand and consumer. This is especially important in these troubling times. Research by the Data and Marketing Association shows that 74% of brands are now focusing again on showing more compassion for customers.
With declining sales or road closures, many brands may find it useful to focus marketing budgets on direct sales or lead generation activities rather than branding campaigns. However, there has never been a better opportunity for good branding as consumers increasingly do so in search of trustworthy, trusted, and reliable brands.
The major supermarket chains and retailers were quick to recognize this Christmas opportunity during the traditional period of large budget festive campaigns. Instead of changing tactics and focusing heavily on product and sales news, most opted to continue building their emotional relationship with customers by producing ads that reflected the collective challenges we all face and, at the same time, a moment of comfort and / or nostalgia. According to System 1’s Christmas Ads Ranking, the top three ads from Coca-Cola, Aldi, and DFS included characters and scenarios that consumers were familiar with, as well as an emotional narrative.
With the end of the lockdown remaining a shimmering glimmer in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future, brands still have plenty of leeway to adapt their marketing plans to the numerous changes in consumer behavior and demands. The winners will be those who identify and leverage the possibilities of home-attached marketing to build relationships with their customers that will last regardless of the year ahead.
Cat Davis, Group Marketing Director, Mission Group and Krow Group
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