The chances are very high that almost every piece of brand communication you’ve seen in the past weeks has begun with some version of, “We’re all in this together” or “We’re here to support you”, and “Here’s how we’re helping you get through lockdown”.
And you can’t blame them for trying. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all into unfamiliar territory, prompting great uncertainty. Brands are trying to secure our loyalty through reassurance, empathy and attempts, whether or not they hit the mark, to come across as ‘authentic’.
And while feel-good does feel good right now, brands and businesses must be actively strategising now for life beyond lockdown, especially in respect of how best to engage customers in a world that will be fundamentally altered – by lockdown and social distancing thanks to this global pandemic. and the consequent economic changes associated with this ‘new normal’.
We can be sure that the new normal, post lockdown and post COVID-19, will be far removed from the normal we once knew.
While the full impact of the pandemic on the global economy, on our way of life and on our psyches will only become clear in the months, years and even decades ahead, it is essential to start strategically preparing for a world in which more and more happens online.
From shopping to socialising, and from work to weekend activities, the distinction between our online and our offline lives will become increasingly blurred or, to use the more technical term, ‘seamless’.
Business survival in the 2020s
Business survival in the 2020s and beyond is contingent on truly embracing and adopting a digital-first approach. This starts with elevating the strategic importance of the digital function within the organisation to much more than a nice-to-have, but rather as an integral part of a systemic approach to business growth and performance enhancement.
It’s critical that brands understand that data lies at the heart of this online immersion. Despite all the buzz, data is simply information – about your clients, your products, your services…down to the finest details. But that information, or data, is super powerful. It is also the resource that will set the so-so apart from the exceptional in years to come.
Applying the right kind of data, as with technology in general, has the potential to streamline operational efficiencies, and strengthen the quality of decision making. When it comes to creative in marketing, and advertising in particular, data takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Rather than speculating about what a client needs or wants, or relying on the creative director’s ‘intuition’, data provides measurable insights into actual customer behaviour and preferences.
Data is information about people. And with people spending more time online than ever before, brands and businesses can take advantage of this unique opportunity to gather valuable information that will help them connect with their customers in new, relevant and very exciting ways.
Business of the future
The business of the future needs to brace itself for a digitally savvy customer who expects nothing less than for brand communication to be personal, relevant, interesting and available where, when and how they want it.
Gone are the days of putting a first name on a mass mailer or bulk sms. Customers want to see recommendations based on their spending patterns, they need brands to remember their favourite brand of shampoo. So brands will have to rise to the challenge of anticipating customers’ needs and wants even before they have themselves formulated these thoughts.
Sound too futuristic or like a pipedream? No, it’s what data allows for and what customers increasingly expect.
Beyond lockdown, beyond this global pandemic, we will return to a world where data will be the ‘secret weapon’ that sees some brands thrive – or not. So what side do you want to be on?
Shaune Jordaan is the co-founder and CEO of Hoorah Digital, an independent digital consultancy that believes in brand results through data. The consultancy focuses on helping internal marketing and digital teams with all things digital, from social media advertising to app design.
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