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To say that COVID-19 has changed the world may be the biggest understatement in a long time. Some of the most dramatic shifts center around how and where we work, learn and shop, and the ways in which brands connect with us.
Gone is the certainty of major events around which you can build campaigns. First there was the cancellation of NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, then postponement of the Summer Olympics and, most recently, moving the Masters golf tournament from April to November. Brands also have had to dramatically change course when it comes to some of the year's biggest shopping events, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now they need to factor in concerns about crowding in stores and the cost of online delivery with the deals they want highlight.
Even the way brands message needs to be refined to ensure they address consumers’ new realities, like scaled back Thanksgiving celebrations or limited budgets for Christmas presents because unemployment or furloughs. For example, consider the poor choice of words in a campaign by Giant, a mid-Atlantic grocery chain, in a recent full page ad promoting appetizer ideas for planning a "super spread" during the holidays, at a time when most states are discouraging large events because they could be the "super spreaders" of COVID-19.
Expecting the Unexpected With Customer Behaviors
There's no amount of advanced planning or any marketing roadmap that could have prepared brands for 2020. Since early in the year, the only constant has been change – whether it was having to quickly adjust operations for curbside pick-up or eCommerce sales, or ensuring customers understood what the brand was doing to help them during such a tumultuous time.
This new world order forced brands to undergo a digital transformation practically overnight, and fundamentally change their strategies for reaching and engaging customers. But doing so has become more challenging, since customer behaviors are evolving just as fast, and traditional marketing tools can't keep up.
Fueling Modernization in Marketing
Compared to a year ago, consumers now have very different priorities. Where they once may have been plotting their strategy for Black Friday shopping, they're now thinking more about their personal safety, how to make the most of their limited income and if they need to start stocking up on critical supplies again. Consumer behaviors and values are likely to keep changing – from both COVID-19 continued shut-downs and its effects on the economy.
Traditional marketing strategies and old segmentation models won't work in such a rapidly changing market. The manual processes that have long been used for simple macrosegmentation and microsegmentation by demographics or behavior take too long to develop, and result in offers that are outdated before they even reach the target audiences.
Complicating this is consumers' expectations of high relevance from every engagement with a brand. One-size-fits-all campaigns, featuring a standard discount for everyone, or even segmented offers may not be effective if consumers cannot relate to the message or the offer doesn’t address their individual motivations.
Reinventing Marketing Through Digital Transformation
You need to make fundamental changes if you want to foster customer loyalty in a constantly shifting marketplace. You will need a laser-like focus on agility, speed and greater experimentation – all of which will enable you to adapt quickly and deliver offers and promotions that can achieve the results they desire.
As the economy continues to swing back and forth, rather than steadily improve, it’s more important than ever to get your brand in front of consumers at the right time. To ensure that you can engage with consumers at the right time and right place, at every point in the customer journey, you must be able to rapidly experiment with offers, learn from them, then adjust to have results align with business objectives. Automation is a key here, removing the time-consuming manual processes you’ve long relied on, so you can track and measure results of experiments and act on them at scale. Your processes also need to be flexible so they can adapt to consumers behavioral changes and quickly shift to capitalize on them.
Building a MarTech Stack for the Future
Even though most brands rely on some technology to support their marketing efforts, different software and platforms don't always integrate into a cohesive stack that enables them to work smarter and more efficiently, or scale to achieve truly optimized and automated offers.
If you haven't already, it's time to build a modern marketing stack that can:
- Support your goals
Look for technology that helps you reach key objectives, like increasing revenue and repeat visits or minimizing churn, and helps you move toward greater agility to experiment more efficiently, with an eye to developing relevant and engaging offers.
- Offer real-time insights
You may have a lot of data, but to make it useful you need to make it actionable. Your MarTech stack should continually gather and analyze data, as well leverage those insights for your offers.
- Provide a single view of the customer
Different parts of the MarTech stack are purpose-built to reveal different aspects of customer behavior. These parts should all work together so you have everything you need to know about your customers in one place.
A key component to the next-generation MarTech stack is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which gives marketers the power to automate and experiment then fine-tune offers on-the-fly, deploy offers faster, increase customer engagement with better targeting and relevance.
By reassessing your MarTech stack, you can escape the confines of those time-consuming, frustrating manual processes. With a more cohesive platform that applies advanced digital technologies, you can gain the speed, agility and efficiency you need to adapt to the fast-changing marketplace and give your brand a competitive advantage by providing engaging offers that drive revenue.