The last few months have seen one constant: change. Since COVID-19 arrived on the scene, picked up the world, and shook it like an Etch-a-Sketch, every day has ushered in a new set of changes. As for the marketing world, we thought it would be both necessary and helpful to see which changes are here today, gone tomorrow, and which ones will be our new normal.
As COVID-19 began to shake up the world, we began holding weekly Roundtable Insights at Galactic Fed. These virtual round table discussions highlighted a variety of trends and insights as it related to coronavirus, each presented by an expert in that field. From medical, to financial, to economic, these insights have given us a well-rounded view of how these changes will affect people, perceptions, and predictions.
#1: Changes in consumption: DIY, real-time online, better internet regulation
In a matter of weeks, most of the world was staring at a screen a considerable amount - even more than before, if you can believe it. As schools moved to online classes and the workforce picked out their new Zoom background, the way in which we consumed our media had gone completely digital.
Findings revealed that nearly every digital category saw increased activity. People were getting their news online or live updates. Social interactions went from a coffee shop to a virtual hangout, and messaging apps became an even more prominent part of our daily communication - sometimes our only communication. Many people turned online to DIY tutorials to learn skills like cutting hair or making their own masks,(with varying success) which increased digital consumption even more. This isn’t to say that this shift is negative (and for some, they were already glued to their screen) but it will determine how companies, agencies, and brands are creating and releasing their content and products.
Clearly, consumers are spending their time differently due to coronavirus-related shutdowns and precautions, with digital consumption of content such as news and live TV increasing and digital-related activities such as gaming and social media usage also increasing for most countries.
In a recent Roundtable Discussion with Steph Smith, Senior Analyst of the Hustle said, “Prior to the virus, a combination of tradition, infrastructure, and a “techlash” (regarding things like privacy and monopolies) held tech back from being even more integrated into our lives. Now, all of that has become moot. The world is working on getting more people online - with some companies like Charter Communications seeing a 42% growth in internet sign-ups in Q1. That should only accelerate in Q2. Meanwhile, the FCC made a ruling to free the entire 6GHz band for wifi, quadrupling available bandwidth. You’re seeing companies implement automation while people are at home, and for better or worse, much of this technology will remain after.”
#2: Changes in the workplace: a hybrid of the new and old system
One of the most interesting ripple effects of a global pandemic is it revealed some obvious gaps in society. As most of the world had to quickly shift to remote work or work from a home model, employees from all industries were highlighting the fact that their job could be done from home, after all. Of course, not all organizations or job titles will survive on Zoom calls and Slack conversations alone, but the idea that companies can implement a work from home policy was staring CEOs and business owners right in the face.
Steph Smith went on to say “We also are seeing that certain trends that were already gaining traction, like remote work or the gig economy, are getting accelerated significantly. I recently heard someone refer to this phenomenon in the following way: some of these companies are getting to lease out new users for free. They’re getting to a test-run with these individuals and some of those people will eventually switch back to their old behaviors, but some people will stick around.”
As the world tries to navigate a new normal, it looks as if WFH will be a big part of that - and rightly so. Thousands of people proved it could work (and to think, all it took was a global crisis). The marketing industry, for the most part, fell on the progressive side of things when it came to remote work, but it’s anticipated that the typical marketing agency will be much more of a hybrid between our old and new world. The Galactic Fed staff presented their suggestions on working from home and what the future of work will look like in a recent blog, as we are a totally remote company. About the future of work, Zach Boyette, Co-Founder of Galactic Fed said “There’s the obvious stuff, like the fact that more and more knowledge work and computer-based jobs are going to shift to remote, once businesses realize they don’t need to pay for expensive real estate to let people stare at screens. COVID-19 has been a forced, successful experiment towards this.”
#3: Changes in strategy: the goal is to build
Now before you roll your eyes at another mention of the word “pivot,” it’s important to note that because of COVID-19 many companies had to go back to the drawing board, and paint a whole new picture. This constant reevaluation of strategy will not fade away once people are back to their Monday morning meetings and watercooler chit-chat. Since the perception of the public has changed drastically, in order to stay relevant and top of mind, a strategic shift will need to take place (if it hasn’t already!) in areas like traditional marketing, content, ads, social, eCommerce, and that’s just for starters.
Now this isn’t meant to overwhelm; instead, it’s an opportunity to really examine how things were done, assess if they make sense in the current state of the world, and then adjust (ahem, pivot.)
In another of our Roundtable Discussions, we spoke with Amber Theurer & LJ Troilo, co-founders of Ivee, an app that delivers on-demand IV therapy about how they had to make some adjustments to their own marketing strategy.
Because we are limited by restricted interaction, we have had to establish new ways to fully deliver this experience online. Chatbots, for example, are great for managing the initial steps of the marketing process, whether that’s gathering contact details and information for a sales call, answering general customer service questions, or providing direction on common tech issues. But how can we provide a true glimpse of the ivee experience digitally - not just our app, but the personalities of our nurse team, the post-IV feeling of rejuvenation? We have a strong digital marketing infrastructure, however, lately, we have been focusing on how we can make the ivee treatment journey as tangible to our audience as possible.”
For starters, businesses need to start asking themselves the questions posed by Entrepreneur Marc Andreessen: “Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building? What are you building directly, or helping other people to build, or teaching other people to build, or taking care of people who are building? If the work you’re doing isn’t either leading to something being built or taking care of people directly, we’ve failed you, and we need to get you into a position, an occupation, a career where you can contribute to building.”
#4: Changes in perception: values, assumptions, necessities
COVID-19 didn’t just change the lens we were looking at the world through, but the very camera itself. Perceptions of every aspect of life have been altered: what people value, what consumers care about, and how businesses remain profitable - just to name a few. Steph Smith of The Hustle said “I think there will be many long-term effects that stick around after this pandemic “ends”. I think this will forever change certain aspects of the way we live. Just like prior recessionary periods, there will likely be a decrease in discretionary spending, things that you don’t need, but during healthier economic times, you’re happy to pay for. This is in the short or medium-term, and will eventually reverse. In other words, this pandemic won’t forever change how much people spend in the long-term, but instead what people choose to spend money on. For example, will universities still be able to charge $50k/year? Maybe not. Students are already asking for refunds.”
Perceptions of social behavior and essential products have also had a drastic shift. For example, the idea of face masks in the western world has skyrocketed to a “norm,” as people look past tradition and into a necessity.
Of course, not every industry or product that has boomed during COVID-19 will remain (see: bidets, or bread machines) but it’s obvious that many wills (see: telemedicine [ivee blog] or digital conferences.) Time will tell if these perceptions remain a staple of society, or areas fleeting as toilet paper off the shelves.
#5: Changes in purpose: a little more human
There’s been a lot of uncertainty in the last few months, but one thing has become clear: when it comes to brand relationships, consumers are looking for more than something transactional. As the world has been brought to its knees by a virus, the humanity in every corporation, business, and the individual has been revealed.
We all got a little fed up with the number of companies reaching out, flooding our inboxes with messages and updates, but it did show us one thing: brands have a heart, too. Whether it was your local gym providing free virtual workouts, or grocery stores having designated shopping time for vulnerable populations, the relationship between corporation and consumer was elevated from “where do I sign” to “how are you helping?” and the wizard’s curtain was peeled back to reveal that some companies are invested in not just the green, but the good. The general public has also begun to demand more of this from the places they spend their money. They want to know how they are doing their part for the greater good of society, making brands seriously rethink how they approach their own social responsibility. For example, a UK based phone company gave vulnerable and disabled customers free calls, texts, and data to help them stay in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus lockdown.
When looking through the lens of loss, what truly matters often comes clearly into focus. And when it comes to consumers, they are demanding something of more meaning and value before they swipe their card. This in turn is forcing businesses to become more authentic with their communications, genuine with their intentions, and who would’ve thought? A little more human.
It’s safe to say that the world will not be returning to how it was. Things have changed too much, too quickly. But with these changes, we’ve ushered in new perceptions and behaviors that will ultimately indicate what our new world - albeit a little scratched and bruised - will look like. The marketing industry is no stranger to change; after all, our very success depends on our ability to adapt to the ever-shifting state of the world. At the very least, we can consider the experience valuable practice, because who knows what change is next?