Why Digital Marketing Will Matter More After the Pandemic
Digital marketing has been growing in importance at a rapid rate in recent years. But the coronavirus pandemic is likely to accelerate the process and expand its use rapidly.
The world of marketing has been gradually digitising in recent years, with many sectors finding it is invaluable in reaching potential customers in ways traditional methods do not.
Sectors like law have already found this to be the case. While large firms have their own high-profile brand names, in-house marketing and ubiquitous presence across the country, small and medium firms have had to find alternative methods.
When they have tried newspaper ads, events or billboard meetings, the results have been very poor, with a First4Lawyers survey in 2017 finding the investment had been a waste of money. However, law firms using digital marketing have found it to be highly effective.
The experience of SME law firms is just one example of how all manner of companies have understood the importance of digital marketing. Indeed, it may be regarded that such a development is an inevitable consequence of an increasingly online world.
Everything from shopping for consumer goods to banking has become increasingly available through remote means, and as a younger population of internet-savvy Millennials and Generation Z gradually replaces those at the older end of the age range, who are far more likely to use the traditional methods of consuming goods and services they are used to.
The Impact of the Pandemic
However, this process towards digitisation could be accelerated further and faster as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, it is online firms that enjoyed the main trading benefits from the lockdown. With people confined to their homes so much, there were several ways in which the internet became the focus of life:
- Online shopping and delivery were a means of staying at home and reducing the risk of contracting the virus.
- The consumption of online services such as Netflix increased for those deprived of normal means of leisure.
- Isolation from work colleagues, friends and family meant the increased importance of video services like Skype and Zoom, with the latter seeing a dramatic rise to prominence.
The Zoom boom has been an example of a significant emerging trend. Not only has the situation meant those regularly using the internet doing so even more; it has also led to those who might use the web less or not at all doing so more and accessing many things in different ways.
Online contact has been an important social lifeline, with everything from family contact to religious services being provided in a manner they would not beforehand. To be able to access this, people have had to change their habits or even learn to use online tools in a way they had not done before.
All this means people are spending more time online – and that means more opportunities for digital marketers to reach them.
What Comes Next
A key question is whether these online activities are simply the consequence of the necessities generated by the most extraordinary circumstances in living memory, or the catalyst for a further move towards online commerce that will make digital marketing a greater priority? In time the disease will have died out or a vaccine will be rolled out, changing the situation dramatically.
It is certainly likely that some activity will cool when the pandemic has passed. More office meetings mean less Skype. Zoom will no longer be the sole means of meeting with friends and family when restrictions are lifted. Online leisure activities will be replaced with the real thing as people start working through their list of things to do “when this is all over”.
However, the fact remains that the genie will be out of the bottle for many. Older people who had never ordered anything online before lockdown will suddenly find this is very convenient. People who have uploaded lots of apps for online orders will use them more and more, not least as some of them have actually become more useful as parts of the economy have opened – like the pub and restaurant ordering app Butlr.
The Economic Impact and a Declining High Street
The wider economic impact of the pandemic is clearly a deep recession, although economists are divided about what sort of recovery will take place. The worst-case scenario is that the economic damage will be so deep that recovery will be slow and painful, while an alternative is that because the cause was not structural, the bounce-back will be strong.
Nonetheless, the initial damage is evident. A host of companies have made staff redundant and it is particularly notable how this has hit in-store retail. Prime examples include the Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester going into administration and the decision by the John Lewis Partnership to close a number of stores.
In both the above cases, trouble was already brewing, so it can be argued these are simply further manifestations of a trend that has seen the UK high street decline for years, with the pandemic merely accelerating the process.
This being the case, it seems inevitable that eCommerce will be gaining an ever-greater share of retail, which means the marketing for it will be increasingly online too. Not only will consumers be spending more time online with the intent to part with their cash – making them a receptive audience for digital marketing; a reduction in footfall on the streets will mean fewer people see billboard ads.
Similarly, the more people use digital media, the less they read physical copies of newspapers – and thus the ads that appear in print editions.
The conclusion is clear: The world was already becoming more digital and as a result, digital marketing was already the way of the future. What the pandemic has done is to create the conditions for a clear acceleration of an already-established trend.