When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity
~John F Kennedy
2020, the year of wreak or the year of opportunity? For the last few years, the term “digital transformation” has been an emerging buzzword. From creating websites with the consumer experience in mind to having a user-friendly app, digital transformation was meant to check these boxes for marketers. The year gone by, of course, brought all of this to a whole new level. Before we talk about the nuts and bolts of digital transformation, it’s important to note that digital marketing has changed in 2020, because people and life as we knew it, has effectively changed.
The Big Change: Online Engagement
Come to think of it, the internet was the only place that wasn’t quarantined, this year. With people spending an uncharacteristic amount of time at home, it has organically meant spending more time online. As per a study conducted by Omnicom Media on media consumption habits of Indians, OTT platforms saw a meteoric rise in time spent as Indians across geographies consumed close to an hour and a half of OTT content every day. YouTube emerged as another top gainer with close to two hours of daily time spent driven by comedy, music, movie and educational video content.
In fact, it’s predicted that by 2022, more than 80% of consumer internet traffic will be driven by online video globally. Again, this is a trend that could only see further growth on account of the adoption numbers during the pandemic.
The big media consumption story in 2020 was also time spent on the mobile. Globally over 1.6 trillion hours were spent on mobile phones in the first half of the year. And, in the third quarter, app usage surged by 25% YoY, with 180 billion hours each month spent on apps, as per a report from App Annie. In fact, Covid-19 has advanced mobile usage by 2 to 3 years, as per this report. The report also went on to show how despite falling marketing budgets, mobile ad placements challenged the trend — growing 70% in the Q1 of 2020.
With improvements in technology and quick gratification times, buyer adoption of online retail had already been on an upswing. Covid19 further cemented this behavior. With typical offline efforts such as in-store samples, sales events seeing a decline, buyers have been increasingly seen to use social media feeds in the discovery and evaluation part of the journey. Little surprise then that social media budgets accounted for over 23% share of total US marketing budgets in June, up from 13.3% in February. This is a trend that is only likely to continue with even small businesses adding social media to their marketing mix. From using Instagram Live or Pinterest as virtual showrooms to working with influencers or enabling user generating content, there is a lot that marketers can do.
Going forward, what will be important for digital marketers is to run integrated campaigns as opposed to only being found on search engines or running an ad campaign. In fact, adding more channels is likely to have a positive effect on ROI.
SEO Remained More Relevant than Ever
As early as April 2020, a research conducted by Conductor went on to reveal that 63% of marketers felt that SEO would be the most important marketing tactic during the pandemic. This stands to reason, as with consumers skeptical of brand marketing at these times, the shift towards organic search was palpable. SEO, therefore, became more relevant than ever. Marketers have since been closely monitoring changes in organic search traffic and ramping up to meet the increased demand.
The one other thing that marketers needed to ensure, however, is that findability should meet credibility. Essentially then, optimizing for trust remains an important KPI for marketers. As a pointer in this direction, Demand Gen Report’s study on content preferences showed that 95% of B2B buyers prefer content featuring industry experts. Marketing during a crisis more than ever requires marketers to create trust and confidence in the product. Backing up social listening data with search data, is also, therefore key! Over & above these trends that are being ratified by data, there is another silent revolution that has brewed in the marketing annals, which manifested in terms of the approach businesses have had towards their consumers.
Approaches that Will Last Us Through 2021 and Beyond:
Now, this is a must-have for brands. In fact, in pandemic ravaged times, it is brands that have displayed this empathy that has thrived. The focus clearly needs to be towards consumer needs and pain points. What brands also need to keep in mind is seamless communication about the availability of products. Being clear about what you can and can’t do is an important premise of building trust.
Speaking of trust, the one shift that marketing premises have made is towards Purpose-Driven Marketing as also towards “give marketing”. Now, this could mean offering free trials or useful marketing content. The big point here is building emotional connect with the consumers by showing that your company cares about them. That it will help you bring qualified leads and ensconce your brand into the minds of the customers when they are ready to make a purchase decision, is a given!
A word of caution here, though- becoming a purpose-driven company is not something you can fake. Unless consumers can feel the authenticity come through your communication, you are likely to be called out as hypocritical!
2. Market from Home
Deploying campaigns quickly with spontaneity (and some amount of flaws) was seen to be absolutely fine, as long as the message is of relevance to the user. This is another big learning from 2020 that should last well into the next year. After all 2020 has been about making the best of what you had available and stepping down from that treadmill of perfection. What this means in terms of marketing, is creating content that may not have the best studio lights, but has its heart in the right place!
In fact, when it comes to content creation, multiple formats such as webinars, short-form content on Facebook or Instagram and more are likely to come in handy. Creating content around organic search is also key. Borrowing an example from the lockdown, think of it like this; if in the early days of the lockdown Google Trends showed spikes in search for recipes, which later turned to “how to lose fat”, you could use these spikes to create content around subjects that are of importance to your audience, to stay relevant. For clearly, if the content is king, natural search is its bastion.
While 2020 has been and 2021 is likely to be about marketing automation- chatbots, autofill functionality and the like, what is very important is for digital marketers to be ethical and to use consumers’ personal data with respect. While automation allows you to optimize the experience, it should not be a premise for destroying consumer trust.
4. Employee Engagement
While this may seem like an HR and not a marketing issue, the fact remains that employee morale drives productivity, marketing or otherwise. While in the early days there was the thrill of working from home and saving on the commute, the thrill could be wearing out for many, what with handling the stress of work and home that has culminated in a common physical space. As a business owner or a manager dealing with large teams, the important bit is to keep your marketing team motivated enough through some tumultuous times. Setting up multiple communication channels, setting clear milestones are only some of the ways to keep this going. Clearly, it is motivated manpower that can help your company fall into the set of businesses that are positively overwhelmed with orders as opposed to that set which is experiencing the lack.
Do feel free to write to us to tell us about what you think changed for digital marketing in 2020 and what are your takeaways for 2021? On that note, here’s wishing you a great and most importantly a safe 2021!