Cities around the world are beginning to reopen, but it’s not business as usual. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it.
Many consumers are wary of wandering outside to their favorite stores and are looking for guidance on how to re-engage. Others are struggling with the economic downturn caused by the global health crisis.
In both cases, brands need to adjust. Understanding shifts in consumer behavior, and realigning organizational efforts to meet those needs, has become a top priority across industries.
As much of the world has moved to be online-first, many consumers are undoubtedly spending more time on their phones. The opportunity for brands is clear: optimize your marketing mix and reach consumers where they are right now.
With that in mind, we at Smartly.io decided to take a look at how the pandemic has impacted the world from a marketing point of view – with a particular focus on social media.
We asked 5,000 adults in the US, APAC and EMEA how they’ve used social media during the pandemic and if social ads have impacted the way they view brands.
For example, in countries where the public is pushing for eased lockdown restrictions like the US, Sweden and Japan, messaging that is adjusted to help people get back to normal as soon as possible is preferred.
Understanding what content users prefer to see on social media in each region will be critical as world economies begin to reopen and brands position themselves for a gradual rebound.
Here’s what you need to know to balance consumer preferences and platform usage habits to create impactful ads.
During unusual times, marketing is not an option. Brands that chose to stop communication over the last several months have effectively been invisible.
In the early chaos, consumers were scrambling to get essentials – food, cleaning products, protective equipment – and discovering new brands in the process.
Then, as the lockdown developed, consumers started to seek support from brands – not just stocked shelves.
Just over one-third of those surveyed have wanted brands to focus on appropriate messaging, advising consumers on how to stay safe when using products and services during the lockdown, and more than 40% of consumers polled in most markets have valued ads that offer products and services appropriate for lockdown lifestyle.
While timely and relevant messaging is still critical, brands must also start to prepare for life after lockdown. Overall, consumers in many markets said they want guidance on how to start using the products and services they purchased before lockdown once more.
From gyms to shopping plazas, to ride-sharing and dining out, people want to know how they can regain what they temporarily lost, and above all, in a way that keeps everyone safe.
The shift to ecommerce started years ago for many brands, but the pandemic caused those trailing behind to play an extreme game of catch-up.
Retailers who previously relied more heavily on brick and mortar are being forced into omnichannel reality, whether they like it or not (or are ready for it).
Those who already had plans well underway or embraced omnichannel options for consumers including buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, were better prepared to shift online. Those who didn’t adapt are now facing bankruptcy.
While the pandemic may have an end in sight, changes in behavior are here to stay. Many consumers, especially in Europe, have made purchases online for the first time ever, according to the survey.
In the month of May, 48% of consumers globally made purchases based on social ads – primarily skewed toward the fashion, retail, wellness, and entertainment industries.
Additionally, purchases made directly through social ads were up across all markets. India, Italy, and Spain lead with 73%, 71%, and 66% of consumers respectively making purchases through social ads.
In nearly every market, fashion products take precedence as the items consumers are most open to purchasing on social media.
The UK, US, and the Netherlands are top markets where consumers are primed for fashion purchases, while electronics purchases are the preferred choices in Italy and Spain.
With markets in recession and unemployment elevated, it’s not surprising that more than half of consumers are seeking value in the purchases they plan to make – 57% of consumers are looking for price offers and sale items.
Consumers seem to be most receptive to grocery ads over other industries and are especially willing to see price offers and sale items from that industry.
In Europe and Asia-Pacific specifically, more than half of the population wants to see both grocery stores and ecommerce sites mentioning price offers and sale items in their social media ads.
The key for advertisers is agility. Brands that can transition products and services to be relevant, timely and valuable – and then adjust their messaging accordingly – will translate that into more consistent brand advocacy and greater return on ad spend as they “reopen”.
Robert Rothschild is the VP and Global Head of Marketing at Smartly.io, the leading social media advertising automation platform. With more than 25 years’ experience in the B2B tech, digital marketing and customer experience industries, Robert has led and developed global marketing initiatives for high-profile enterprise software and technology companies.
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