As We Emerge From The Pandemic, Your Customers – And Employees – Need To Feel Seen And Heard More Than Ever Before
As much as we’d all like an end to the pandemic and a fresh start in the new year, serious challenges remain, from controlling the spread of COVID to reengineering tangled supply chains. And while many companies plan a return to the office, many people (including your customers) are still working from home. So brands of all kinds must continue to find new ways to engage and interact with customers while they also support their internal teams. The pandemic upended business as usual, but what it’s revealed – despite the continuing complexity – is that people want to be acknowledged for who they are and what’s important to them. Marketing has changed accordingly.
Accenture’s recent survey of more than 25,000 consumers across 22 countries, with follow-up focus groups in five countries, produced this amazing statistic: a full 50% say that the pandemic has caused them to “rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. 42% say the pandemic made them realize they need to focus on others more than themselves.” Accenture has labeled this group as “Reimagined” consumers and found that these consumers “will abandon brands that don’t support their new values – and pay more to those that do.”
These findings underscore a common theme: how important it has become to think of each customer as an individual, with different needs and wants. Heading into 2022, companies will want to consider the marketing strategies, tactics and technologies that will meet their brand’s purpose along with their customers’ preferences.
Pairing the needs of a brand’s stakeholders with an integrated purpose that’s reflected in their marketing and messaging has become essential marketing. Or, as eCommerce mogul Marc Love says, “The values create the value.” Research finds that consumers are increasingly paying attention to what companies not only offer to them, but also to the world at large.
Customers in control
As Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing Trends Report reveals, putting customers at the center of your marketing strategies is essential to helping your brand thrive. This entails creating human and empathetic experiences that deliver value with transparency, allowing customers to control their own data and buyer’s journey.
We’ve seen how this can work through the proliferation of the hybrid experiences companies have used during these COVID times. While more companies are now returning to in-person conferences and meetings, most are still hybrid, and you can expect the same in 2022. People want the power to choose how they connect and acquire information, so in-person events will have significant digital components. Using these digital channels, including social platforms, lets brands leverage and continue conversations from those events.
But with third-party cookies going away, it’s time to rework your digital prospecting, customer outreach and measurement strategies. New privacy regulations and browser changes that de-value third-party data mean more companies will move to a first-party data strategy to personalize their initiatives safely and stay out of trouble with regulators.
An always-on digital strategy
With so many people working from home or in hybrid arrangements, a mobile-first strategy can make sense, according to Inc.com. Brands need to use the channels their customers are using. Customers also want information available 24/7, so companies have invested in and placed more emphasis on social media and new technologies, such as chatbots and interactive email.
Forrester’s predictions for 2022 highlight consumers’ rapid adoption of new digital technologies during the pandemic and indicate that “around 80% of consumers will see the world as all-digital, with no divide.” No wonder that by April 2020, 44% of U.S. online adults had upgraded their in-home technology (probably viewed as a necessity for those who began working from home).
However, as Deloitte also points out in their report, the proliferation of channels and technologies means that connecting with customers and personalizing your messaging can become very complex. They stress the necessity of a coherent and cohesive strategy across all the channels you use. Inc.com makes the same point in its “Six Trends to Prepare for in 2022” – that content alignment amongst PR, thought leadership and SEO lets you more easily stand out in your industry. The pace of change continues to evolve, and it’s fueled by the digital experience.
TikTok’s meteoric rise and major micro-influencers
Who hasn’t seen TikTok videos this past year – along with plenty of dancing? (All that dancing has influenced regular TV commercials, too!) Per Backlinko’s stats, the app now has one billion monthly active users. Recent research from HubSpot suggests now is the time to look into creative ways to personalize your products using this popular app – especially if you want to gain awareness amongst a new and younger set of prospective customers and gain word-of-mouth using micro-influencers. But note: being relevant with the influencers’ followers is more important than achieving reach. It’s a great place to showcase demos, tutorials, how-tos and behind-the-scenes content for your brand by using creativity and humor to engage your audience.
Personalization also heads the list to generate leads, with simpler content marketing and video marketing, according to the top marketing trends for 2022 from Bezinga.com. In addition, the site cautions against continuing two current trends: spamming on LinkedIn for leads, and using the tired phrase, “the new normal,” which is now perceived negatively.
You can’t miss the explosion in green, recyclable and “natural” products ranging from food and furnishings to cosmetics and computer devices. At the height of the pandemic there was a lot of attention on recycling, sustainability and “back to earth” activities – but also a huge rise in online shopping, creating vast new amounts of plastic and paper waste. That problem – and online shopping – aren’t going away.
Research from GWI (formerly GlobalWebIndex) says that topping consumers’ wish lists is for companies to create products with less packaging. Price is still the leading barrier to purchases of eco-friendly products in the U.S. and UK, despite GWI Core research that shows most consumers would pay more for an eco-friendly product. Price is clearly a deterrent, while almost half of consumers surveyed want brands to play their part and be eco-friendly! That’s a serious disconnect between intent and action. But most of all, the research says consumers want to see that companies care through their manufacturing and sustainability actions, versus through large donations and trite platitudes. Expect the green emphasis to grow in the marketing to come.
Employee brand and culture
Like environmental responsibility, social awareness and responsibility is a major and continuing trend. CEOs are spending more on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, in large part due to employees who have criticised their companies when the C-suite says the right things in their advertising and marketing programs but doesn’t back up the virtue signaling with definitive actions. The pandemic provided new opportunities for employees to reconsider their lives and careers (read: work/life balance, among other factors) – hence the Great Resignation this year, with record high number of employees leaving their jobs. This is forcing the workplace to adapt as organizations struggle to find and keep talent. Employees really want flexibility in their jobs, which is the #1 trend per “5 Culture Trends for 2022,” a white paper from O.C. Tanner. The paper also lists rebuilding connection, revisiting employee engagement, providing more personal recognition, and technology’s significant role in building culture – all major initiatives as companies head into an unclear future in 2022. I’ll be sure to follow up on many of these trends as the new year evolves, continuing the theme of this blog: be bold, be adaptable and make changes as you need them.