Marketing In, Through and Out of The Pandemic
Myth #1: Customers buy more when they have a psychological safety of brick-and- mortar stores
Truth: Psychological safety is enhanced when people know they have a choice to be served online rather than visiting locations
We all love the idea of purchasing things and taking them home immediately, don’t we? There is an adreline rush when we see things in store touch them try them on and then make the decision to purchase. Not just that, but we also don’t have to worry about damaged and lost packages. Shopping in-store allows us the ability to preview products in person with quick and detailed customer service.
The pandemic gave rise to a new default way of shopping: online shopping. With brick-and-mortar stores closed, consumers turned to the only available option, which was online. In time, consumers realized that this was not just a more convenient, controlled way of shopping, it was providing them psychological safety as they didn’t have to interact with crowds or in person sales personnel.
No more waiting in queues for payment and no more pressure to buy. Online shopping has now become the new norm. What augmented this trend in Asian countries was the “Cash on delivery” option for payment with some firms providing check first then pay options.
Myth #2: Great products make the best brand
Truth: Great values make the best brand
Covid -19 redefined brand loyalty for good. Corporate social responsibility and giving back to the community and society we belonged to coupled with growing consumer awareness made brands look inwards, focus and live the values they profoundly confessed.
Gone are the days when the values were only a portion of the annual reports under the "Mission and Vision" section. It is now time to live up to those values, and even revisit and edit them.
According to the EY Future Consumer Index, consumers now look at factors in addition to price and convenience when making a purchase. These include sustainability, trust, ethical sourcing and social responsibility. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for marketing teams to embark on a journey to not just make the C-suite aware, but to also ensure that brand values are at the heart of developing lifetime relationships with consumers.
It may also be a clear differentiating factor for brands during and post this pandemic. An attribute that will make them stand out and be the brand of choice for consumers or a factor that might lead to brands being upended.
Myth #3: Organizations compete with their competitors to gain share of mind and brand recall
Truth: Organizations are competing with the last best experience their customer had to gain share of mind and brand recall
Yes, all of us are aware of the battle of the brands to gain share of mind, brand recall and recurring purchases. Pre-Covid times had seen an ever increasing rise in customer expectations and awareness with Gen Z growing up with a seamless integration of technology in their day to day lives. Hyper-personalization and use of personal data were the buzz words.
What COVID did was to accelerate digital transformation overnight, made it gain immense acceptability and take up. This led to a vicious cycle; skyrocketing of customer expectations and a rat race amongst organizations not only to develop but deliver digital experiences that augmented customer experiences. For customers across the world and also in developing countries a seamless digital transition is a minimum almost like a hygiene factor and a must have. What would now be the real competition for organizations would be to outdo themselves by providing better and more meaningful customer experiences than the last one the customer had with their brand. The competition is not with external parties anymore but with ourselves now; to outdo what we provided last time and make new standards.
Myth #4: Customers know exactly what they want.
Truth: Customers expect organizations to know exactly what they need.
The bar keeps on rising on customer expectations and customer experiences. Customers might have known what they want two decades back but now they expect any rendezvous with the organization to be frictionless, anticipatory, relevant, and connected. In other words, the relevance now is not only providing what the customer wants but also to anticipate future needs and cater for them.
All is well till there but in the practical world creating such experiences demands a lot more from the organizations. Companies need to invest and rely heavily on data and technology. Data and technology need to be at the core of any organization. Dependence on machine learning and/or artificial intelligence cannot be underestimated.
It is but obvious that in the world that marketers operate in today, consumers are demanding greater personalization, it is now expected that organizations leverage data capabilities to enhance decision- making and drive greater relevance in their customer interactions. This is a win -win situation as it helps to build stronger human connections with brands.
Myth #5: Marketing is an important support function.
Truth: Marketing is no longer a support function but the center of growth in any organization.
Three-quarters of marketing organizations were considered to be support functions, enabling ONLY sales and business development. In other words. Marketing was considered as helping organizations reach their business goals but was always considered an “overhead”. Marketing activities needed to be aligned to support the efficient and effective delivery of organizational goals. that was all. Most companies also saw it as an extension of its sales and advertising functions.
This was a time when marketing was classified as cost center. It came as no surprise that whenever there came business slumps or tough periods in which the topline results were compromised, it was often one of the first areas to get cut.
Enter the pandemic. The role of the marketing function transformed practically overnight. From a cost center it got elevated within the C-suite. Marketing thus became what we now refer to as an enabler of digital transformation, voice of the customer and the owner of the entire customer journey--all of which are of paramount importance.
Marketing is the pulse of the consumer reflecting the sentiment of the marketplace. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, the C-suite cannot anticipate threats and opportunities and successfully navigate the future.
The question still remains what can we attribute this status change to? Covid only? It is a fact that Covid has played an instrumental role in accelerating this change some other factors can be:
Rise of data and analytics
Reliance on data and coupled with the advent of smart data analytics have paved the way for Marketing to properly track, record and monitor activity flows that provide valid audit trails for outcomes and achievements directly tied to the business strategy.
Evolution of customer expectations and behavior
Digital marketing molded customer behavior and digital channels ensuring marketing assumed the role of business development. With the rise in digital marketing initiatives and avenues Marketing has also become accountable for return on ad spends (ROAS) and for significantly reducing cost per leads (CPL) and cost of customer acquisition (CPA).
Covid 19 is trending. And that means faster evolution of business marketing techniques and further push for MarTech.
It has now imperative more than ever for marketers operating in this pandemic to keep looking at the big picture. Marketing now has the chance to seize an ongoing central role in this dialogue, thereby driving the organization’s broader growth and innovation agenda.