I believe we are currently finding our way through what is best described as an inter-COVID period.
As we start to get over the shock of global lockdowns we know we have not yet won the war. In fact, the realisation that nothing will be the same again is dawning.
This is a time to re-examine outmoded forces and the ideologies that drive them to define what changes we need to embrace to move forwards.
The great global pause has given us a lot to think about as organisations around the world take stock and the consumer in each of us assesses what their future might look like.
Certainly from a marketing perspective, there is a sense that it took a pandemic to shift e-commerce out of its infancy.
Up until COVID-19, most organisations believed they had reached the pinnacle of digital transformation, when in fact they were nowhere near the summit.
Now global brands need to find relevance again as they strive to reconnect with consumers in this new era. It is these very consumers who are in greater need than ever of a strong, meaningful online experience, given the requirement to continue living cautiously.
E-commerce alone does not build affinity
One of the biggest recent shifts is that it’s no longer mainly younger generations shopping online, people of all ages have been forced to adopt new digital behaviours. This certainly favours e-commerce, but marketers need to tread carefully as e-commerce alone doesn’t build brand affinity.
Owning the brand relationship
The online experience has to be impactful and positive, the brand has to be relevant and the communications have to strike a chord.
What the pandemic has taught many brands is D2C e-commerce isn’t just for agile speciality startups that don’t adhere to legacy retail; it’s for all brands looking to drive preference, loyalty and repeat sales through a relationship they can own.
The quantum shift in digital we have experienced has re-defined digital marketing as we knew it.
What we are currently experiencing would have taken organisations a decade in the post-COVID environment, instead it was accelerated and occurred in just a few months. Never mind the once sturdy go-to market strategies dependent on bricks and mortar, they were eclipsed overnight, at least those products that were accessible and easy to procure online were given a real boost.
Little wonder that social selling is now reaching a fever pitch.
Disrupting the status quo
Having said that, disrupting the e-commerce status quo is not for the faint-hearted.
Whilst the opportunities to scale up e-commerce offerings have never been better – consumers now expect their online experiences to mirror the likes of Amazon with its slick, quick and cost-effective deliveries. The D2C model is poised to explode, not only in consumer products, but also in business to business, yet many digital marketers still appear to be hesitating.
This is a time to dive in and rebuild new consumer loyalties, but how?
Research has shown that those brands that are able to constantly anticipate and respond to changing customer needs are thriving, and now more than ever a real step-change has occurred. It appears that many brands are still stuck in their post-COVID mode, which, as it turns out, did not maximise on e-commerce opportunities.
Even prior to March 2020, consumers preferred buying from companies that delivered relevant, timely and personalised interactions. Now that habits and perceptions have changed and behaviours shifted digital marketers need to prioritise how they can become part of a customer’s new-everyday life and reconnect in a more meaningful and relevant way.
Advice without agenda
One of the key ways to add value is by delivering impactful content creation.
More than ever, online advice is crucial and those marketers who address customer pain-points and how they can solve them, rather than flogging products or services, will thrive.
This means shifting towards consumer intimacy as well as enhanced consumer knowledge and centricity. This is about behaving in a way that allows the customer to feel confident yours is the brand they want to deal with. I believe this is going to be a key differentiator going forwards.
Authentic redefines marketing
Take into account that during the crisis many consumers closely re-evaluated their consumption habits, what they define as essential products, as well as how to live better lives, even for the good of others. These values are now guiding people towards brands that represent their personal aspirations – this is a time for e-commerce to get out of its own way and add in a serious dose of authenticity.
Coronavirus has triggered many marketers to reassess their existing routes to market.
As we learn to negotiate this next interim period, it’ll be interesting to see how many new strategies will define the new era for digital marketers across the globe.