Consumer behaviors have changed drastically this past year. The pandemic has altered how consumers shop, research for new products and engage with brands. As a result, brands have also had to pivot to meet consumers’ changing expectations and shopping patterns.
As marketers worked to evolve their strategies, one of the key areas of focus has been on digital transformation. Consumers have headed online and brands must also do so. However, this rapid digital acceleration has exposed many gaps in digital maturity. Some brands were more prepared than others to meet consumers head on via digital channels while others struggled to compete.
In a report by Smart Insights and BrightTALK, investment in digital marketing has been a cost-effective technique for many industries to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Digital marketing activities were reported to have increased for 41% of respondents – with a further 15% reporting a significant increase.
How COVID-19 has altered shopping behavior
- The number of orders placed online and picked up at bricks-and-mortar stores by customers grew 208% during the pandemic. (Adobe Analytics)
- 59% of customers say they are more likely to continue curbside pickup after the pandemic. (Retail Dive)
- 30% of online consumers prefer using BOPIS (Buy online, Pickup In Store) or curbside over delivery. (Adobe Analytics)
- Many consumers are now exclusively shopping online, even baby boomers who never did before. Online sales grew nearly 50% at the peak of the pandemic as consumers stayed home but continued to shop. (Adobe Analytics)
- 87% of U.S. consumers prefer to shop at stores that have touchless or robust self-checkout options. (Shekel)
- 79% of consumers say they will continue to use self-checkout or increase their usage after COVID-19. (McKinsey)
- 36% of consumers now shop online weekly, an increase from 28% before the pandemic. (Selligent)
- Globally, 49% of consumers shop online more now than they did pre-COVID-19. (Bazaarvoice)
- 62% of U.S. shoppers say they shop more online now than they did before the pandemic. (Bazaarvoice)
Consumers are clearly shopping more online but what do they expect from online engagements with brands?
Digital and Omnichannel Maturity
Effectively responding to consumers takes a certain amount of preparedness. However, many brands are forgoing this crucial step. In fact, according to the research by Smart Insights and BrightTALK, almost half (48%) of brands have no defined strategy at all.
The good news is that 40% of respondents stated that they do have a strategy and it is integrated with their wider marketing strategy.
Just as noteworthy is the number of marketers that do not have a clearly defined omnichannel strategy in place. In fact, 63% stated they do not have a clearly defined omnichannel strategy.
As we know, consumers shop across any number of devices and channels, much of these increasingly digital in today’s changed environment. Consumers also know what types of shopping experiences they want as they shop on their own terms, through the channels they prefer and at the time of their choosing. Brands must embrace an omnichannel mindset in order to deliver the right type of messaging and personalized journeys.
Email continues to reign as the top performing marketing channel in terms of ROI, lead generation, content distribution and other key metrics. In research by the Manifest, almost 70% of businesses use email marketing as part of their campaign strategy. Other key findings:
- Among businesses that participate in email marketing, most send marketing emails either daily (32%) or weekly (41%).
- Businesses send a variety of emails, but product/company updates (69%), promotional emails (69%), newsletters, (68%), and event invitations (65%) are the most popular.
- When asked about their main goal for email marketing, most businesses want to grow and retain their customer base (29%) or increase engagement (22%).
When asked, “Have you ever made a purchase from any of the following in the last 12 months?”, email was the most popular channel at 45%. In fact, email outperformed SMS by 92% and banner ads by over 39%.
Social Purchasing is Rising in Popularity
Not far behind email is social. 43% of consumers stated they have made a purchase due to a social post. In a survey by PWC, 37% of online shoppers say they use social media for “purchase inspiration.”
This is higher than any other form of online media, including retailer websites, price comparison websites, and multi-brand websites.
- Social media is the most relevant advertising channel for 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials.
- Non-customers are three times more likely than customers to visit retailers from social media ads.
- 50% of consumers said that seeing user-generated content would increase their chances of buying products through a brand’s social media. 49% said that easy payment systems (like Amazon Pay) would increase their chances of buying through social media.
- Posts with links to more information are the most preferred type of content on social media. 30% of consumers said that it’s the content they like to see most from brands on social. 18% preferred graphics and images, while 17% would like to see produced video. (Sprout Social)
In the future, digital marketing is only going to grow in importance as part of omnichannel outreach. Marketers must continually adapt to achieve growth and ensure their brands maintains a competitive advantage.
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