By Rafael Samano
At the start of the year, as we clinked champagne glasses and celebrated a new kind of roaring ‘20s, no one could have predicted what 2020 would bring. In a few short months, our world has completely shifted. Local businesses have shuttered, large corporations have gone remote, and entire industries have been forced to rethink decades-long practices just to survive another day. To combat COVID-19, people are traveling less, staying home more, shopping online, and spending an incredible amount of time on their phones. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. We have seen the infrastructure around almost every brand evolve with impressive speed to meet consumers wherever they are. And for most, this all-important meeting of customer and company is facilitated by high-quality online marketing.
While the digital dust begins to settle, we’ve identified four distinct marketing trends making waves in 2020:
It’s true businesses have been drifting steadily toward all things online for the last 25 years, but 2020 will no doubt be remembered as the year the online floodgates fully opened, giving way to an outpouring of better-functioning websites and bolder online footprints.
With brick-and-mortar presenting major obstacles for many businesses amid COVID-19 concerns, a robust online presence bolstered by strong ecommerce capabilities is no longer a nice to have; it’s a need to have. A platform that can offer goods and services online provides a pandemic-proof foundation for sustainable sales and success.
Coupled with more powerful online strategies is a renewed focus on meaningful user experiences. If prospective customers are fixed to their phones, optimizing a website for mobile becomes the glue that makes your products stick. Over the past few months, as people became less physically mobile, they also became more reliant on mobile devices, which is why usage is way, way up. In the COVID economy, phones are used to purchase endless goods and subscriptions - and that experience has to be flawless, especially as a proliferation of new digital solutions hit the market, aimed at the stay-at-home customer.
From banana bread to fitness challenges and every Tiger King meme in between, the pandemic solidified social media’s role as a source of information-sharing, entertainment and fun. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube have seen major user and engagement surges over the course of the last year. The rise of COVID pushed TikTok to more than two billion downloads, and saw YouTube viewers consume 32 billion minutes of content in just the first week of April - over twice the 15 billion minutes during that same week in 2019. In marketing terms, hours spent by consumers engaged on social media translates into campaigns that place social media at their core. No longer is social media just another outlet for content distribution; it’s a vehicle to drive brand awareness, loyalty and trust. On Cinco de Mayo, tequila and hot sauce brands doubled down on digital, hosting all-day Instagram live sessions featuring famous celebrity chefs and mixologists who shared recipes and cocktails. Of course, for every segment an accompanying swipe-up Instagram story helped activate sales.
A smart social strategy not only positions these platforms center stage but also thoughtfully leverages their features to incentivize purchases. Social media chat functions and commerce integration put a website, shop, or service only a tap away from a post or video. In the case of Facebook, built-in shop integration allows for more points of purchase for prospective customers.
Google knows that when its search engine is working best, a person can find what they are looking for right away. It’s why the company created the “featured snippet” to assist Google search results. Featured snippets take a question or search and attempt to match it with a third-party website answering the particular query. The featured snippet will try to highlight the answer as well as link to a website. Without the ability to visit businesses in-person, consumers had no choice but to take their questions online. The featured snippet predated the pandemic but became the ultimate resource for answers to all of our most pressing questions. 2020 has seen this featured snippet become a coveted spot among businesses, leading directly to increased clicks and traffic. It makes a business the first link on the front page of google. It also provides the opportunity to demonstrate value and position your site as a resource for consumers who are actively asking questions about products or a brand category. Capturing this sought-after snippet can be as simple as including a blog, a general resource page or an FAQ. These simple measures can position a brand to become the featured snipped in a wide variety of Google searches and questions.
When stay-at-home orders first began, whatever business plan a team had put in place was suddenly irrelevant and futile. The pandemic affected every detail of a marketing strategy, from budgeting to messaging. Within days, brands were forced to scrap multi-million-dollar campaigns. They pieced together COVID-19 emails, instituted new protocols and rode the wave of rapid, transformational changes, unsure where they’d end up. The vernacular of “unprecedented times” and “now more than ever” quickly took hold in society’s collective psyche. A COVID-centric style of marketing was formed in mere days. With little time and employees’ jobs on the line, companies instituted a back-to-basics, consumer-first approach. Customers wanted to know exactly how a brand would protect their health and safety, and on this new directive, brands had to deliver. Plus, as consumer spending tightened against massive lay-offs and widespread furloughing, businesses needed mindful messaging to convince consumers their money could wisely be spent with them. Pandemic-related difficulties swirling, brands (and their marketing teams) also needed to be stalwarts of confidence, comfort and fortitude. In 2020, the best and most viable businesses became true trusted partners, purveyors of the essential message that no matter what happens tomorrow, we’re in this together today.