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If there’s one thing that 2020 has shown us, it’s that today’s consumer is digitally grounded and that shift will not revert back. The impact of Covid-19 can be seen across all areas of our lives, not least in the way that we do business.
The pandemic changed consumer behaviour, forcing people to go digital to fulfil their basic needs. Even in countries where people were allowed to go back to malls and the highstreet, consumer behaviour remains grounded in digital much more than it was in the pre-pandemic time. In a recent interview, Janey Whiteside, the CMO of Walmart, said that customer shopping habits underwent five years of changes in five weeks when the pandemic hit the U.S. in March. And Walmart wasn’t alone. Brands across all industries find themselves needing to rebuild their new now as our present reality is digital. But what does that really mean for marketing? These are my three predictions for marketing in 2021.
Brands need to understand customers’ expectations
With this digitally-grounded reality, customers’ expectations have reached new heights. Their loyalty to brands depends now more than ever on how the brand delivers on their expectations at every point of the customer journey. Brands are realising that if they don’t give their consumers a great experience, another brand will. And consumers know they can end their relationship with brands at the click of a button.
From the first click, learning about the brand, its products and services, right through to the purchase journey and the customer care experience, consumers have expectations. They know how a good experience looks. In the digital world, consumers have endless means to compare brands and their offerings and they can do that from the palm of their hand. Moving forward, I predict that the brand’s ability to close the ‘expectation gap’ between what it believes it delivers to its customers vs what the customer experience really is, is what will define its success in the digital world.
Personalisation at all costs
In these unprecedented times, the habits and interests of consumers are changing. This impacts their online behavior and purchases.
For brands it’s crucial to analyze and understand the behavior of their customers. That’s where AI-driven personalisation can help. AI analyzes patterns and provides recommendations on large amounts of data, which allows marketers to make fast and strategic decisions throughout the entire content strategy lifecycle. These insights enable brands to offer each customer an individualised experience that fulfils their unique needs and expectations. Because each customer is unique, each customer journey must also be unique. Brands that leverage smart personalisation in their marketing approach will see it paying dividends in 2021.
Customers will judge brands based on experience
In today’s digital environment, customers see brands as a unified entity across all digital channels. Customers evaluate the ads, emails, social posts or website in the same way as they evaluate the sales process on the app, the social commerce experience and the customer service experience. While brands usually deliver these experiences through many different digital channels, the customer evaluates the brand experience as a unified entity. A great social campaign or website doesn’t compensate for a poor purchase experience or a slow customer service. We shouldn’t underestimate the complexity for the brand in managing these channels and touchpoints.
The brands who will be successful are the ones who will simplify their internal processes. By working to bridge operational silos and drive collaboration across every customer-facing department brands can focus on the customer journey. This is where technology can help. By using a unified platform that can connect all data points and workflows around Marketing, Sales and Care, the brand can have one holistic view of the end-to-end customer experience.
Things are moving faster than ever when it comes to digital marketing. Just recently Nike announced that its digital sales skyrocketed 82% in the latest quarter compared with the same period in 2019, with the CEO, John Donahoe, stating that "the accelerated consumer shift toward digital is here to stay." 2021 will be a year that makes or break brands based on how quickly they are able to digitize their business. It will no longer be enough to have an appealing e-commerce platform or to dabble in social commerce. The younger demographics and more tech-savvy consumers of today want brands to connect with them in new and exciting ways that make the customer journey easier and more enjoyable at every step along the journey.