There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to fundamentally change consumer behaviour as the way we live, work, and buy has been dramatically rewritten. From panic buying to brand boycotts and the online shopping boom, the crisis has permanently shifted the way consumers view and interact with brands.
This inevitably poses a challenge for businesses and marketers, but is also an excellent opportunity for them to rethink and redesign their marketing strategies to be more resilient, adaptable, and future-proofed for a post-COVID-19 world.
Marketing strategies have already undergone substantial transformation in recent years, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. So where should marketers focus their efforts in a post-COVID world?
Lead with data in content creation
Among the most significant outcomes of the pandemic for marketers is that very little can be guaranteed for very long, with constant change and uncertainty the new norm. Against this backdrop, it is clear that data must be at the core of every strategy so businesses can derive real-time customer insights and make more informed decisions about their marketing technology stacks, product offerings, and sales and marketing efforts.
Data doesn’t just have a place in business modelling and planning; it should be woven into every tactic and every piece of brand content. Getting branded content to cut through the clutter has never been easy, and has become even trickier during the pandemic. In the current climate, information overload, coupled with shifting attitudes towards brands, presents a challenging context for branded content to succeed.
This new era of consumer behaviour demands a new attitude to building content strategies. The first step is to set aside previously held views and approach customers as though you are learning about them for the first time.
This means using data to understand the latest customer preferences — which channels they engage with brands on, which topics they are interested in, and which messages they respond to best. And then repeating the process over and over again, measuring what is working and what requires further tweaks on a frequent basis.
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Tear down the martech stack, build it anew
It’s abundantly clear the marketing technology stack is vital to a successful marketing strategy. But with data being the necessary foundation, many businesses will want to give their stacks a refresh. Aussie small businesses are rapidly undergoing digital transformation and already using digital tools to drive growth. Recent research from PwC revealed digital marketing was growing in importance, with small businesses more than tripling their spend in the last 10 years.
These businesses are already well-positioned to set up their marketing technology stacks with the right tools and technologies. But with customer journeys changing so rapidly, moving forward the focus will need to be building stacks around platforms that help marketers better understand and tailor the customer journey, as well as data-rich tools that take on the grunt work of analysing customer data in real-time. This extends from data visualisation software like Tableau and Oracle’s Customer Data Management for maintaining customer records, through to data analytics platforms such as Snowflake, and content creation tools like Adobe Spark.
Think like a data scientist
With the seismic shift in customer behavior due to COVID-19, the value of timely data has never been more evident. Specific business departments like product development have long relied on data for success, and creatives would do well to borrow the mindset of a data scientist to rebuild their visual marketing strategies.
Thinking like a data scientist in a marketing context means recognising the goldmine of information at your fingertips from every customer interaction and actively using it to inform every decision, from strategy through to day-to-day content choices. For example, on any given day at Shutterstock, we collect millions of data points related to the search and download behaviour of our customers, as well as content-specific data connected to our one million contributors uploading content for licence. We build everything around this data, using it to engage our customers better by surfacing more timely and relevant visual content they might need for a campaign and to improve our product offering.
In a world where everything changes by the minute, brands need to be on their toes constantly. Data-driven marketing may have been the buzzword of years past, but from here on out, it is nothing short of a must for businesses of all sizes. The way consumers engage with brands has changed forever, and this is the time when brands must take a step back, reinvent their stack, think systematically, and design a marketing strategy that is adaptable and resilient for the future.
By Garth Williamson, Country Manager ANZ at Shutterstock