As the COVID-19 pandemic continues along with the economic recession or depression that comes with it, brands around the world need to adapt their strategies quickly in a coronavirus world. The “new normal” has shifted drastically as consumers focus on social distancing, varying levels of quarantine, getting core essentials delivered and enabling online experiences from home. More than 22 million Americans have now filed for unemployment, others face work furloughs and many more are either sick or have a family member that has fallen ill.
For brands, this new normal means survival is the key thing you should be thinking about. If the world is in an economically depressed state for a couple of years how will you survive? What does your bank account look like? How long does that give you? What can you do to reduce your cash burn rate? How can you pivot quickly with data-driven strategies that connect customers with your brand to generate revenue? In this new environment, the brands that understand how to quickly, empathetically put their customers’ needs center-stage, those who continually adapt will be the ones that thrive during these unprecedented times.
Brands Are Evolving
During this challenging time, consumers expect brands to show up with relevance and this has raised the stakes on brand trust. 84% of people recently surveyed said they want brands to focus on helping to solve pandemic-related challenges. The data tells us that now is a time to be of service when consumers are focused on the basic needs of health, safety, and family.
How can your brand support their priorities at this moment? Where is your customer and what do they need right now? How can you help them? These are the questions marketers will need to ask themselves in the coming months. The long-term effects of the pandemic will be far-reaching and long-lasting and brands will need customer loyalty now and in the days after this crisis.
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Turning Luxury Into Service
A variety of luxury beauty brands (including L’oreal, LVMH, and Estee Lauder) quickly shifted their production lines to give back to the community by making much-needed hand sanitizer. And in the retail world, brands like Brooks Brothers, New Balance, and the Gap have responded to medical equipment shortages by repurposing clothing factories to produce surgical masks and gowns.
While designers like Alice + Olivia and Louis Vuitton have created initiatives to donate masks to the medical community. These brands have made a visible commitment to their customers that clearly demonstrates their values.
Enhancing the In-Home Experience
As of March 31, 58% of U.S. adults are spending more time streaming online videos and 51% are spending more time on social platforms due to the coronavirus. Internet usage is reported to have increased by 50-70% and streaming has increased 12% in recent weeks. This is the moment to listen and talk to your customers on the digital channels where they are most engaged. As the lines blur between work-related Zoom calls and family online meet-ups, brands that can provide entertainment and enhance personal connections for customers.
Companies like Netflix have brought attention to services like Netflix parties that connect friends and families, while companies like Fandango have shifted from movie premieres to prioritize services like FandangoNow that bring the movie experience home.
In the world of digital audio, podcast listenership is up since the end of March and NPR, CNN and the BBC have all launched daily podcasts to provide facts about the novel coronavirus. And online exercise has become an essential part of new routines with major players like Peloton, Beachbody and Planet Fitness offering free online fitness trials to keep their customers active at home. These companies have all found ways to quickly adapt their services to the current need.
Agility and Creativity Are a Brand’s New Normal
Brands will need agility in their creative and media strategy. For brands, this should mean pivoting their media strategy channels with the highest return on investment.
This will include marketplace ad inventory, search, programmatic digital media, paid social media, OTT, and podcasts. The need to move quickly and operate with authenticity has never been stronger as digital channels have become one of our only sources of connection during this time of isolation.
Our data is showing a drastic shift in the customer base of retail brands. Forecasting and analysis pre-pandemic are stale and will need to be revisited for the new environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this need for agility in strategy and data-driven insights to the forefront with rapidly evolving market and customer dynamics. But as we look to the future and the “new normal,” strengthening these muscles now will serve brands in an evergreen way.
Everything Has Changed
Now is the time for brands to learn to pivot and adapt. This is the new imperative during this pandemic crisis, and in all the days that will follow it. Customers are adjusting to tremendous changes and stress in their day-to-day life. The marketers of today and tomorrow will need to move in lock-step to meet the needs of their audience in a proactive, thoughtful way that adds value. Everything has changed, and now is the time for brands to step up and pivot their strategy to become the brands of today and tomorrow.