M&R Marketing: 4 Ways COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior & How You Should Pivot
Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
The COVID pandemic has significantly shifted the way consumers interact with media. Whether your market is B2B or B2C, this behavioral shift necessitates a pivot in your marketing strategy. Over the last couple of months, media habits have changed in four primary ways. Let’s take a look at these behavioral changes and explore how your marketing strategy should adapt to match them.
As COVID has changed schedules and daily routines, media consumption has increased significantly. Compared to this time last year, there has been a 38% increase of in-home data usage. This is mostly attributed to additional use of social media and video streaming services (source: Statista); Nielsen estimates it could increase by as much as 60%. Web traffic is also up by 13%. (source: Hubspot)
Remote work has soared over the last 2 months and extracurricular activities have come to a halt. With little league, church, travel, and date nights cancelled, people are spending almost all their time at home. With work-from-home on the rise and evenings out on the decline, there is unprecedented access to consumers.
Although your market may be anxious about the uncertainty whirling around them, they are also more attentive. Their inbox is less cluttered and their schedules are less hectic, but their focus on growth is stronger than ever. This creates the perfect marketing formula. You have a great opportunity to be heard and control the lead’s experience.
As many businesses are experiencing market loss and declining sales, they are proactively researching ways to push through and pivot. Their intention has changed – they are researching now and will buy later. The sales funnel has lengthened and more time is being spent in the research phase. “Customers are researching brands more heavily online and initiating more online interactions with businesses today.” (source: Hubspot)
There is also added pressure to choose the right partner as budgets tighten. However, that doesn’t mean consumers are choosing the cheapest option; rather, they are looking for a partner who will add value.
3 WAYS TO SHIFT YOUR MARKETING TO MATCH CONSUMER BEHAVIOR CHANGES
In March, when the reality of COVID-19 set in, business leaders had a candid conversation with their teams. For most, that conversation focused on financial, sales, and marketing strategies. We certainly had that conversation with our teams.
Data shows that consumers are spending more time online than they were pre-COVID and this has created fertile ground for a strategic marketing plan. As you prepare to adapt your marketing strategy, here are 3 shifts that align with consumer behavior changes.
#1: SHIFT IN MESSAGING
Your message during this unique time possesses the power to make or break your brand. That may sound extreme, but brands have been broken for lesser things. Your messaging should be relatable and sensitive to the current situation, should offer hope, resources, and partnership, should be conversational, and should avoid a sales pitch.
As the buyer journey has lengthened, your messaging should be prepared to walk alongside a lead for a longer period of time as well. That means your messaging should not just shift in tone and focus, but also in frequency. Don’t go dormant! Remember – you have your consumer’s attention more than you ever have, so be prepared to communicate with them more often.
#2: SHIFT IN TARGETING
Understanding who your market is and where they spend their time is one of the most important components to your marketing strategy, and we have seen a massive shift. Here’s a few ways behavior change affects your targeting:
Consumers are in their cars less, which provides less ears for radio ads and less eyes for billboard advertising.
Consumers are visiting businesses less often which impacts geotargets.
Consumers are at home instead of at their businesses, which means changes in addresses for direct mail.
Consumers have increased at-home media consumption, which means a shift in digital targeting.
While your target market may not have changed, the way they interact with traditional and digital media has radically changed.
#3: SHIFT IN AD PLATFORMS
A shift in message and target necessitates a shift in how you use your current ad platforms and whether you should consider new platforms. Here’s a few shifts we recommend.
Double down on communication tools: your audience is more accessible and will be delaying many decisions, so staying in front of them consistently is vital. Some proven tactics, no matter the industry, are social media, blogs, eNewsletters, and video. As you shift your message, carry it across these platforms. This is your chance to speak directly to your market, so do it effectively, consistently, and with the long game in mind.
Implement remarketing campaigns: with a longer sales cycle, it’s important to stay in front of clients beyond their first visit to your website. Through remarketing, you can display ads to leads after they’ve left your website, for 30 days, a full year, or more. Knowing they’ve visited your website, you can cater your ad messaging and landing page to speak directly to them. Frequency improves message recall, so these inexpensive and effective remarketing ads can help you stay relevant during the research phase and reappear when they are ready to make a decision.
Target homes instead of businesses: when you continue going where your consumers are, you’ll start targeting homes more than businesses. This may include in-stream ads through Hulu, geofencing c-level employees at their home instead of their business, or buying new B2B direct mail lists that are focused on home addresses.
NOW IS THE TIME TO LEAN IN
Our rhythms have changed and the uncertainty of COVID-19 has caused us to pause, but if our desire is to grow through this challenge, we have to resurface with a revised strategy. Nielsen Media has been studying consumer media behavior for nearly 100 years and are an invaluable resource; one of their senior leaders had this to say:
“The knee-jerk reaction from advertisers at a time of crisis is typically to pull back or defer spends; however, COVID-19 is characterized by a situation where increased time at home means expanded media time and heightened consumer attention. For brands looking to authentically connect with the consumer during this difficult time and offer a solution, this is a time to lean in.”