How are you doing San Diego marketers? It has certainly been an unprecedented few weeks, especially considering that 20% of the entire world (and most of San Diego) is not leaving their homes for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the most interesting business byproduct of this phenomenon is the extreme importance on the digital experience.
Thankfully, COVID-19 has not really slowed down digital marketing. In fact, for many industries, sales and online traffic has increased significantly! Finance, food, healthcare, and the media have certainly seen exceptional traffic growth. And while some sectors like advertising, e-commerce, and retail have declined, these drops are quite minimal.
This is exactly why digital agencies need to be stepping up their game during this pandemic to help clients succeed during the hard times. But great advertising is only going to get you so far. One thing that is quite clear from this quarantine time is that online experiences are more important ever.
Obviously, the majority of us are spending way more time online than usual – whether we are working from home, browsing online shopping sites, or just scrolling through social media feeds. Since many businesses have been forced to temporarily shut their doors, they have had to transition into online businesses – whether they like it or not.
That said, the digital experience is truly imperative – and it is quite likely that this trend of online services will extend far beyond COVID-19. Many brands have faced troubling times before and succeeded because of great marketing.
So, what role do San Diego marketing agencies play when it comes to supporting a better digital experience for their clients?
Digital Services Need to Translate Well
Since people are stuck at home, many businesses have been forced to take their services online. We have truly seen a digital revolution for industries like gyms, educational institutions, and even some healthcare services that are now using livestreaming platforms to reach customers.
But the real caveat here is that these digital experiences need to be just as good as in-person experiences. Businesses still need to provide similar value. This is tricky for some companies for sure – but others have done a great job at innovating their offerings.
For instance, Pure Indoor Cycling is a local San Diego gym that totally transformed their business model for COVID-19. They livestream free fitness classes every day, and are offering digital subscriptions so customers can rent bikes and gym equipment and tune in to daily online workout classes.
Of course, this isn’t exactly the same experience as being in a live class with an instructor would be. However, this is still a viable option given the circumstances and the quality of the offerings is top-notch – since the gym is focusing on the digital experience.
San Diego marketers need to be consulting their clients of various ways to market their new online offerings so that customers are still equally as enticed. Marketers need to use content to show customers that these new services are necessary and desirable.
Emotional Connections Still Need to Happen
All marketers know that building emotional connections with your audience is important. There has been significant proof that this leads to more repeat customers, higher revenue, and an increased rate of referrals through brand advocacy.
Now is the perfect time for brands to focus on building these relationships with a digital experience. According to a survey from Customer Thermometer, customers feel most emotionally connected when a brand shows they care about people or are making a positive difference.
There are many ways to convey this. In the time of COVID-19, showing your brand’s support for people in need is certainly important for numerous reasons. Showcase how your company is giving back, whether it be to employees, healthcare workers, or to charities.
For example, some restaurants like Sweetgreen are donating meals to hospitals in the area. Crocs and Allbirds are donating shoes to healthcare workers.
In an amazing marketing movement, Cottonelle addressed the current toilet paper shortage by donating one million rolls (along with $1 million) to the United Way COVID-19 fund. They also launched their #ShareASquare campaign to match customer donations.
This conveys to audiences just how much your brand cares about the wellbeing of others – not just the bottom line. That can be extremely powerful.
It is typically far easier for local businesses to connect with customers face-to-face. A lot of that can be lost online.
Marketers need to take things one step further by engaging with customers through the digital experience, using platforms like social media or email marketing. This is what will allow companies to continue to grow both during the pandemic and beyond.
Focus on Mobile UX
Mobile phone usage for search and website browsing has already surpassed desktop. We can only expect these numbers to increase.
People who were already spending lots of time on their phones will likely be spending even more as they are locked up at home. That said, the mobile digital experience needs to be a top priority.
One thing that is extremely important for businesses to remember is to update their websites (both mobile and desktop versions) with any changes as a result of COVID-19. This could be a change in hours of operation, contact numbers, or services offered.
For instance, San Diego restaurant Donna Jean’s website now features an immediate pop-up with their new hours as well as a link to their daily takeaway menu.
If your business is offering new services (such as livestreaming classes or other digital content), be sure it is properly designed for mobile devices.
Be sure that CTAs are placed within the “thumb zone” and drop-down menus are available for easy navigation.
Focus on the Customer, Always
Customers are looking for extra support during this time.
Many people have lost sources of income due to COVID-19 and may be “trimming the fat” on their budgets.
Marketing needs to convey what your product or service has to offer customers during this time. Position your messaging to focus on the value in terms of saving money in the long-run, aiding in needed areas, or simply providing comfort or entertainment.
We can see a great example of this from meal kit and food delivery services. Before, they focused on convenience or helping people learn new recipes. Nowadays, many brands have altered their marketing to focus on the fact you can still eat delicious meals at home. This is without having to wait in the dreaded lines outside to grocery store or drive around town looking for specific ingredients.
We have also seen many businesses provide special offers like extended free trials, waiving fees, and so on. For instance, Scholastic is offering free access to online resources for teachers and students. Adobe, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams have all extended free offers for videoconferencing services.
Now is the time for companies to take extra care of the people they service. Be sure all of the changes you make and all of the digital experience decisions are ultimately made with the customer in mind, and position your marketing to explain this to them.
Marketers, we can help businesses not just survive but thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic and come out stronger than ever before.
The digital experience has always been important, but it is more crucial to survival than ever before. Marketing is a key part of the digital experience – and agencies need to be aware of strategies to improve it.
Finding new ways to offer services through online platforms and mobile devices needs to be a priority. Messages may also need to be altered to build meaningful relationships through emotional connections and a new focus on the customer.
What ways have you been changing your digital experience?
Joanna Besley is a Content Marketing Writer for E2M Solutions Inc., whose primary writing focus is on marketing topics and SEO. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the San Diego area hikes, traveling outside of the country, and trying out new vegan restaurants.