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2020 marketing trends have shifted dramatically

2020 Marketing Trends to Watch Revisited

In January, we predicted that the pace of change would escalate across the year and generate opportunities for brands to elevate their marketing programs. However, the vision we had for 2020 didn’t turn out to be, well, 20/20 – as no one could have predicted the roaring pace of change the coronavirus, subsequent economic uncertainty and renewed momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement would usher into our world.

Knowing what we know now, we have adjusted our marketing predictions the rest of 2020 and beyond, shining light on current trends and opportunities – acknowledging, of course, that things are likely to change.

THEN: Personalization.
NOW: E-commerce, Digital Media, Equality.

The customization of the customer experience has been accelerating, from online interactions to email to in-store. However, because of COVID and the shrinking economy, brands have shifted their focus away from personalization toward giving their target whatever they want and need right now – and delivering desired goods and services as effectively and efficiently as possible.

On the marketing side, digital media has further ascended on the priority list. For obvious reasons, online shopping skyrocketed amid stay-at-home orders – rendering lookalike audiences, retargeting, social media, delivery apps and email marketing even more vital to businesses vying for market share. Among the winners so far are Walmart and Target, having netted YOY e-commerce gains of 74% and 141% respectively.

There have also been shifts on the production side. Brands like OREO, Frito-Lay and Jif, for example, have removed niche flavors from their lineups to focus on tried-and-true offerings. This allows them to simplify supply chains and maximize production (and sales) as they sate consumers’ increased hankerings for these comfort foods while staying home. Even as things reopen, such shifts in lifestyle could have a lasting influence on what people buy and therefore what brands choose to put out in the marketplace.

Next, media consumption has also popped, with social media use jumping 29% since March. This underscores the importance of marketing during the recession whether you’re revealing something new or marketing something tried-and-true in a new, fun way.

Last but not least, racial justice and equality has further diminished the value of personalization as a priority. Following the murder of George Floyd and resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, brands have been forced to consider what they’re doing to further racial equality in terms of their hiring, leadership and board of directors staffing, operations and product innovation. This includes marketing talk that matches their corporate walk vs. marketing that pays lip service to the movement and other social issues. The challenge will not just be to evaluate what’s being done, but for companies to actually make lasting adjustments and to communicate them earnestly and honestly.

Thanks to tools like Google’s speakable schema markup, search engines are prioritizing websites optimized for voice technology. Momentum around this has only increased amid the coronavirus and rise of remote work – with Alexa and Google becoming further relied upon for contact-free exchanges and information gathering. All of this explains why voice and speech technology are currently predicted to grow an estimated $22B (with 18.8% a compounded annual growth rate). With that in mind, voice tech SEO and voice-activated content are certainly worthwhile spaces to consider as brands rethink their marketing plans.

THEN: Interactive Bricks-and-Mortar.
NOW: Safe, Physically Distanced Bricks-and-Mortar.

The arrival of the pandemic has been yet another kick to brick-and-mortar businesses, which were already down and struggling to 1) compete with online retailers and delivery apps, and 2) offer creative IRL deals and compelling in-store experiences.

And the struggle continues. In May, The Washington Post reported that COVID-19 had already shuttered an estimated 100,000 small businesses permanently. Big retailers and restaurant chains haven’t been spared either, with the imminent closure of J.C. Penney, pending bankruptcy of J.Crew, and closing of hundreds of locations of Pizza Hut, Applebee’s, Subway, Burger King and others.

Yet after months of quarantine, Americans have strong appetites for shopping and dining out. The ongoing presence of the coronavirus, however, will require businesses to implement augmented health and safety practices – and marketing channels such as social, newsletters and websites will be key for communicating those initiatives.

Given the state of the world, reservations are increasingly pertinent for in-store experiences, creating control over headcount and space use to offer a safer space for patrons. Restaurants are continuing to adjust interior and patio setups for ventilation, segregated or pod-like seating arrangements, preordering and more. Additionally, walk-up and drive-up windows and contactless checkout are likely to grow to provide more convenience across categories.

THEN & NOW: Data-Infused Creative.

Data collection and insight analysis remain vital to the success of marketers and the creative they put out into the world. As consumer behavior continues to evolve, trend tracking, data comparison and the application of learnings to creative could become more critical – and could give brands more speed and agility to make adjustments to their creative and lean into the more successful methods for connecting with their audiences, e.g., email and website.

THEN & (EVEN MORE SO) NOW: Shoppable Posts.

Instagram has long been the shoppable content frontrunner, but clickable images with click-to-buy capabilities have been gaining momentum – and COVID took them from a trot to a gallop.  With technology improving and reliance on it increasing, virtual storefronts have become top priorities for all kinds of businesses – with some non-essential ones like athleisure wear and home goods even seeing YOY double- and triple-digit growth in online sales in the wake of the coronavirus.

THEN & (EVEN MORE SO) NOW:  Purpose-Driven CEO.

We predicted profit and purpose would drive CEOs to be more intentional around their company’s role in the world, but little did we know just how much. This unique moment magnified the importance of strong leadership. CEOs are not only playing critical roles amid COVID, they will need to continue doing so amid the uncertain economy and pursuit of equality. Customers are paying very close attention, putting further pressure on CEOs to lead their companies to be better and do better – all the while authentically communicating how they’re making the world a kinder, fairer place for all people, including inside their organizations.

If you’re craving more information on ways to adapt your marketing plan for the changing times, these posts can help guide the way:

If there’s a trend you’d like to explore further, or if you need help adapting your marketing plan for today’s evolving world, simply reach out to Ted at tjun@hiebing.com to get the conversation started.