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What I’ve learned about digital marketing in a global pandemic

The global pandemic has sparked unprecedented change in the digital space. Prior to the pandemic, online channels were yet to spread to every consumer segment. All that changed rapidly. Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions saw a decline in bricks-and-mortar spending. Industries that were previously under-represented online made the shift to digital. e-Commerce expanded from mostly clothing and luxury goods to everyday items such as groceries, homewares and pharmaceuticals. Importantly, Baby Boomers and the elderly started shopping online along with well-established Millennials.

While the shift to online had long been predicted, it was expected to be gradual. Now, retailers are racing to meet their consumers in the digital sphere, and to give them the user interface they expect after coming into contact with digital giants such as Amazon.

Retailers may be asking themselves whether fresh digital marketing campaigns are still necessary, now that the virus is being contained. However, the pace of online retail is far from decelerating, as online shopping habits have become entrenched. In many cases, consumers will continue to shop online even when offline alternatives open up again, thanks to its ease and convenience.

It’s also worth noting that digital marketing extends well beyond any traditional consumer base, having the power to reach consumers regardless of their location, demographic or previous experience with your brand.

So what have I learned over these past 12 months while leading a digital marketing agency into the new era of e-commerce?

Firstly, it is more important than ever to maintain an engaging online interface for consumers. This is regardless of whether your product is something that can be purchased over the internet. Consumers expect to be able to engage with your brand online, which covers everything from AR “try ons”, visually impressive content, the right social media channels, and seamless navigation around your digital store fronts. Consumers have evolved from seeing your online face as an added bonus, to a necessary ingredient in their decision to buy.

Secondly, it pays to get out in front of the omnichannel revolution. Today, 82% of consumers consult their smartphones while shopping in-store, so it’s vital to ensure your mobile store, desktop site, social media profiles and any other channels are working harmoniously together. Retailers leading the pack in omnichannel delivery recognise that digital and bricks-and-mortar now intersect. Starbucks is a great example, with a rewards program that fuses their online experience with an in-person purchase. There’s no lag between buying your next cup of coffee and collecting your points, nor any discrepancy between what is offered online and what’s available in store. With the right tools, digital and bricks-and-mortar can work together in real time.

Finally, your digital marketing agency is now a partner in the success story of your business. Building a long-standing and enriching relationship with your digital marketing agency is key to producing and maintaining fantastic results. Your digital marketing agency needs to be able to scale quickly, be willing to take risks on new technologies and interfaces, and work with you to create a unique voice that stands out in digital terms. It’s asking a lot of digital agencies, but the reward is long-lasting partnerships and increased opportunities even as retail as we know it is changing.