2021 Insights: Three Digital Priorities for a Post-COVID World
The new year is here, and for us, that means looking ahead and anticipating new trends and behaviors. We start each year by asking new questions and scouring data to point us in the right direction. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our predictions as we uncover opportunities for brands to be successful this year. In 2020, the pandemic largely reshaped our lives, bringing marketers new opportunities (and challenges) and new reasons to have to adapt, especially in the digital space. Here are our thoughts about how digital enablement will shape post-COVID success and recovery.
Why digital enablement? More time at home means more time on tech
As people retreated to their homes, they also picked up and engaged with their devices. According to recent data shared by McKinsey & Company, businesses and consumers experienced five years worth of digital evolution in eight weeks with the onset of COVID-19. The rate of digital advancement and adoption has been exponential, and brands should feel real urgency to keep up. Likewise, the brands that are already mature in their digital marketing were the ones that benefited most. That existing maturity will be a key factor in continued success this year. However, we know this won’t be the last crisis, pandemic, or even wave of COVID, so preparing now is important to be one of those digitally mature brands next time around.
This shift toward more digital usage has affected all age groups, and it’s unlikely people will make the shift back. In fact, 75% of first-time digital channel users plan to continue their use beyond the pandemic.1 As a result, brands that have leaned into digital enablement have fared better, reporting faster recovery, higher earnings, more operational efficiency, and better customer satisfaction. In most companies, and across industries, digital enablement led the charge as the #1 factor in performance and recovery time2. To paint the picture further, here are a few recent stats on digital enablement:
40% of companies experiencing significant revenue hits had less digital enablement than their competitors.1
56% of CEOs say digital improvements have led to increased revenue.3
Companies leading the way in digital have seen 1.8x higher earnings growth during COVID compared to less-digitally advanced companies.2
CEOs report that digital transformation has led to financial benefits by improving efficiency (40%), speed to market (36%), and customer satisfaction (35%).3
Key Insight #1: Work smarter, not harder, with CRM
To motivate purchases, you must connect with your audience. Customer data is key to making that connection and rebuilding trust in a post-COVID world. However, pre-COVID data cannot accurately predict anymore, so brands must capture new data and use it wisely to be successful. Major analytics firms are confirming that fluctuating demand and consumer needs will mean companies will have to completely rebuild their analytical models to accommodate the seismic changes. To overcome these challenges, you need to build the technology stack that works for you to increase agility and efficiency of your marketing executions.
Once you’re set up, it’s timely, relevant communications that have proven to be extremely important during the pandemic. This helps you set customer expectations for the changing brand experience and speak to the unique needs of different customer segments and geographic locations. Consider this: 87% of consumers say they appreciate brands that are providing timely, relevant updates during the pandemic.4
When a personal care client began temporarily shuttering locations, they turned to digital. In addition to launching an e-commerce pop-up while they fast-tracked full e-commerce capabilities, they partnered with us to build a MarTech infrastructure to clean up their customer data and put it to better use, aiming for greater understanding as a foundation for strategic marketing after reopening. Working hand-in-hand with data analysis and communications planning for their custom-built CRM platform, we've supported win-back and lapsed customer communications to drive return visits and incremental revenue. Their proactive, forward-thinking mindset has put them in a better position to build and retain customer loyalty as locations reopen.
Key Insight #2: Digitize the journey for safety
To meet consumer needs in “The New Normal,” you have to focus on the entire customer journey, not just individual interactions. That means analyzing the customer journey for any physical or human touchpoints. You’ll want to find opportunities to digitize print materials and provide contactless options for in-person activities. These massive shifts in how we do business, like online ordering and curbside delivery, have completely enmeshed the physical and digital worlds. Of the companies that outperformed the market, almost 40% have a fully integrated digital-physical strategy.3 This has in turn developed a new standard for consumer expectation. Search terms like “contactless” grew 7x from November 2019 to April 2020 alone. And the tech companies with solutions to meet these growing health and safety concerns experienced stock growth from 58% to upwards of 200%.5
As an example of how fast these demands are being met, DFW Airport is investing heavily in the contactless experience. They’re working with American Airlines to implement more self-check-in for luggage, and they recently upgraded all of the restrooms to be entirely touchless, including hands-free sinks, soap, flushing toilets, and paper towel dispensers. The dispensers are even equipped with sensors to alert workers when supplies are low.
Key Insight #3: Enhance digital platforms for more convenience, transparency, and accessibility
The big picture of pandemic life simply means more people than ever before are on their phones, on social media, and online in general. Brands need to meet customers where they are by improving mobile experiences and accessibility and by creating engagement opportunities through apps and social media. Consumer demands are high, and it’s critical to meet them at their point of need. It’s not just a single sector of the digital world that has seen an increase, it’s all of them. Our phones have quickly become the primary places we shop, eat, and spend our new-found free time at home entertaining ourselves. The numbers are staggering:
Mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April.6
50% of digital shoppers are buying products they've never bought online before. More than half (53%) of these shoppers will not buy from the same company again if they have a bad experience.7
Social media has sustained growth as well. Twitter announced that their monetizable daily active users grew 23% year-over-year, reaching 165 million in Q1 2020. Use of Facebook’s messaging service also increased, seeing over 50% growth in locations most impacted by COVID-19.8
Here’s another real-world example: At the height of a crisis, KLM Airlines couldn’t handle the increased load at their call centers. As a stop-gap solution, they turned to Twitter. Afterward, they returned to business as usual, until the CEO asked why they had abandoned the new, effective way they’d learned to operate during the crisis. Once again, they invested in Twitter with multilingual staff working around the clock. This investment led to discoveries furthering value for customers, like using Twitter as a virtual lost and found to help return items that had been left on planes after customers left secure areas.
The time is now to increase your digital capabilities
Marketers have to keep up with consumer needs in a way that works for their business. It’s not just about implementing digital platforms. It’s about generating the right strategies that maximize your efforts — following the data, thinking like consumers, and creating opportunities to connect in meaningful ways. Look for more of our thoughts and observations in the coming weeks.
2 Boston Consulting Group
4 Impact My Biz
7 Forrester Research, commissioned by Bloomreach
8 JP Morgan