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Will COVID-19 change the marketing industry forever?

Will COVID-19 change the marketing industry forever?

At the moment, we are officially living in the midst of a pandemic.

And the truth is almost everyone has been affected. Whether it’s personal, professional or emotional, chances are that COVID-19 has already affected you in some way, shape or form.

When it comes to marketing, many experts predict that the onset of COVID-19 and the resulting global shutdown will change the face of the industry forever. 

This change comes down to human behaviour. The unprecedented pandemic has had a significant effect on purchasing patterns, media consumption and general human behaviour. Naturally, this effects the way we market products and services.

But in 1918, following the Spanish flu pandemic in USA, economic effects of the pandemic were unexpectedly short-term and the market returned to ‘normal’ surprisingly quickly. 

It’s true that that the effects of COVID-19 have changed the way we behave, but what if the 1918 trend repeats itself today? 

Will the economy experience a swifter than expected recovery and return to pre-crisis normal? 

Let’s explore…

Human behaviour dies hard

It’s important to realise that fundamental changes happen incrementally and gradually. Significant change will take significant time.

While the pandemic has been influencing our daily lives for many months now, fundamental human behaviour does not change rapidly. 

People long to return to their pre-crisis lives and it is likely that they will joyfully do so as soon as possible. So, if the 1918 Spanish Flu trend repeats itself, this forced economic downturn should stop when the pandemic does and economies should rise quickly.

And what’s going on with media consumption patterns? 

It’s no surprise that with isolation efforts, media consumptions habits are moving towards the digital.

Staying at home in general leads to 60% increase in overall media consumption, but are these behaviours shifting as quickly as we think?

Evidence shows that average consumer behaviour doesn’t change much on a year-to-year basis but rather over a long period of time. Adults in the US, for example, still spend roughly half of their media time engaged with live television and/or radio. However, now they have added smartphone activity on top of that.

In fact, 83% are listening to as much or more radio while local television networks remain popular sources of news and information.

So it is possible that people will return to their pre-COVID-19 patterns of media consumption once the pandemic is over. However, it seems that new, long-term trends introduced during this time will also continue.

So, what next?

There is no way to predict exactly what will happen once the pandemic is over.

While many marketers predict our lives will dramatically shift online, there is still evidence to support otherwise. Before the pandemic, 15% of total retail sales occurred online. During isolation periods, that figure rose to 25%. It seems that even when faced with the risk of disease and the ease of ordering online, people are still purchasing 75% of their supplies in physical shops.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying that in the present, online marketing and social media ad spend are set to increase. A trend that will likely continue post-crisis.

How to embrace the situation and adapt

It’s an intimidating time for many businesses. But we must think calmly and rationally to determine how the pandemic will affect the context of our general industry and specific business. 

The key is to be proactive and strategic. Quickly make adjustments where appropriate but you do not necessarily have to change the entire face of your business and obsess about “going digital”.

Authentic businesses that connect with their customers will thrive during this time. So focus your efforts on minor and moderate adjustments, such as adapting to new regulations or increasing customer outreach while still remaining true to your values and vision.

That way, regardless of the post-pandemic situation, your business will be ready for the uncertain future that lies ahead.