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Arkansas State University

Marketing Strategy Innovation Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated a marketing digital transformation and led consumers and businesses to radically alter behaviors and strategies. Because people spent more time in social isolation and work-from-home arrangements, compression of digital adoption occurred in a much shorter time frame than what would have played out without a pandemic. As a result, businesses have responded to these changes by investing heavily in digitally transformed marketing technologies, expertise and practices.

Consider that the CMO Survey released in June 2020 revealed that 62% of companies experienced a boost in marketing importance over the last year. In February 2021, that number jumped to 72% as marketing leaders adapted to the pandemic’s disruptive impact while retaining customers. Since then, the marketing priorities of these businesses has shifted. The 2021 survey showed a dramatic boost in the objectives of new customer acquisition (+48.6%) and return on marketing investments (+105.6%). These shifts coincided with the availability of vaccines and the hope for the pandemic’s end, and the results were promising. Marketers reported a 6% increase in acquisition performance due to effective strategy innovations.

Changes in Marketing Objectives and Models

The pandemic forced a more rapid digital transformation. Companies invested heavily in making digital interfaces easier to use and transforming go-to-market business models for quicker product releases. Consumers were buying more; internet sales soared as a percentage of overall sales, from 12% between 2015-19 to 19% in February of 2021. Increasing revenues led to further technology infrastructure investments in automation to improve customer communications and data integration. Marketing investments reached 13% of revenues, which is a record for the CMO Survey and a 35% increase from February 2020.

Changes in Consumer Behaviors

With digital transformation, consumers now know they can get whatever they want, whenever they want. Spending dramatically increased throughout the pandemic. In October 2021, 51% of consumers reported a desire to splurge and indulge, especially on luxury items and experiences. Online spending rose by 20% since January 2020, as 92% of consumers who tried online shopping in 2019 became converts. This change even threatened grocery stores and automobile dealerships’ models as online services encroached on their market positions.

During this time, driven by strong generational differences between Gen-Xers and Millennials, brand and channel loyalty took a nosedive. Younger shoppers transformed their shopping behaviors and left trusted brands for new ones. As a result, many sectors became flooded with new brands, new business models (especially subscription-based models) and more innovative online experiences.

Evolution of Strategies

The radical marketing transformation accelerated by the pandemic resulted in significant innovation in each of these areas:

  • Omnichannel experience: Effective marketing departments no longer organize around marketing channels or platforms, such as TV, print, desktop and mobile. Today, marketers deliver an integrated experience across platforms and channels. They consistently engage consumers in any location with any digital device by offering products, promotions and support services through all of these channels. This element demands that marketing roles shift to functions such as promotions or nurturing stream content rather than platforms and channels.
  • Understanding the customer journey: Marketing channel silos cannot deliver an effective omnichannel experience, nor can they track and derive insights from real customer journeys. Marketing analytics must take a full view of the end-to-end journey across platforms and channels over time in order to effectively collect data to make incremental improvements.
  • Big data and analytics: For marketers, big data and analytics tend to have a positive impact when they gain insight about customer journeys and multi-dimensional buyer personas. Processing massive amounts of data yields insights into unmet needs and purchasing behaviors that drive smarter marketing campaigns.
  • Brand alignment with consumer values: Marketers have learned a lot about the cohorts of consumers and what they value. Some of these values that successful brands have aligned their communications with include environment, health, YOLO and society and the greater good.
  • Relationship-based marketing: Combine big data, analytics, personalization and the omnichannel experience, and marketers can deliver each customer a unique and personalized experience. These advancements allow for a more intimate relationship between brands and consumers. There are now means to establish connections and engagements based on shared values and an understanding of the customers’ desires based on data.
  • Personalized inbound marketing: Analytics help marketers identify demand markers and forecasting models to find opportunity and market to database segments and similar prospects. Automated marketing tools enable personalized emails and digital ads generated based on trigger behaviors. These communications target consumers in a highly personalized way.
  • Integrating online/offline experiences: A pre-pandemic trend was online brands establishing real-world retail presences. Today we see that an integrated experience delivers higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, in-store fitting rooms and the ability to make returns at a physical location can positively impact the customer experience and brand loyalty. 

Your Key to a Future in Marketing Leadership

The pandemic accelerated a growing role for marketing that was already underway, and businesses continue to invest greater proportions of revenue in marketing. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in marketing offers marketing professionals a key to unlocking bolder opportunities in this brave new world.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online MBA with a concentration in Marketing program.

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