A new dawn: Attaining success in a post COVID-19 world

Sarah Littlefair, David Voorn, Brendan Straw and Ben Shipley

As Australian states and territories start to ease COVID-19 restrictions and people emerge from weeks of lockdown, businesses need to consider what comes next, and how to approach ‘next’ with success.

To look more closely at what your business needs to prepare, we’ve spoken to experts from across Ovato to get their perspectives on the key marketing elements brands should focus on.

Sarah Littlefair – Creative and Business Development Director, Communications, Ovato

Throughout the pandemic, it’s been vital for brands to keep engagement up. While businesses have been under the spotlight to see how they responded to the crisis, they now need to prepare for an inevitable shift in focus as the pandemic subsides.

Social distancing isn’t going to evaporate over-night and life certainly isn’t going to go back to ‘normal’. Consumers are going to be cautious - consciously and unconsciously spending less time in crowded spaces. Less people will go back to a 9-to-5 office job as new ways of working replace office environments for many.

There are trends towards healthier lifestyles; a continued focus on creating and crafting; a newfound appreciation of family. Initial reports suggest that we’ll see ongoing support for local producers and services, with greater demand for “ethical consumption”.

These and many other factors will force businesses to reshape their comms approaches, as effective communications will play a vital role in restoring customer confidence. Brands need to plan for this now to ensure that their messaging remains relevant and continues to resonate with their customers’ new perspectives.

David Voorn – Technical Specialist, Technology, Ovato

To start with, you need to prepare a communications strategy for when restrictions are eased. For bricks-and-mortar businesses, you’ll need to get traffic back in store, but remember that people will be tentative with their time and money. Any offers or communications must be valuable and easy to engage with. Consider what customers will prioritise and how your business can support them. For example, many people will be excited to have meals with family and friends again. If you’re a hospitality company or restaurant owner, you could look at offering a competition to win a night out with 5 friends once social restrictions are over.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to channels that can reach your customers at scale with post-COVID offers. Mobile wallet promotions send the offer right to a customer’s pocket, while reaching customers through their letterbox is a cost-effective way of getting offers in front of people.

Building your database is also important in the lead up to post-COVID operations. Collect customers’ emails and phone details so you can let them know you’re still operating, your changed opening hours and any new entry conditions. While you build the database, don’t forget to ask for customers’ preferred contact method. While they’re asking you to contact them, the method that they choose to receive it in is their choice and that should be respected.

If you’re communicating important updates, make sure that customers are hearing from your senior figures in the business. Hearing directly from the CEO or another high-level C-role role can add much needed leadership and emphasis to your words.

Brendan Straw – Chief Sales Officer, Ovato

Exiting lockdown successfully will be defined by what data tells us. What are consumers doing? Where are they moving? What's changed pre-COVID, during COVID and post-COVID?

There’s no need for brands to be hasty. This has been a unique period where people have been required to do things they're not used to. Whether that's staying at home, restricting their movements, or changing the way they socialise with people. This means the new normal is going to look different too, as people make a slow shift back to everyday life.

I'm certain data is going to be a bigger component of brand strategy than it has been. Throughout the pandemic, businesses have had to constantly and quickly evolve, making them more prepared for and open to change.

For some brands, that means having a chance to scrutinise their traditional media mix. The possibility of reaching more customers, improving results for less spend, engaging new customers, or trying new lower-cost channels doesn’t come around often. While COVID-19 has presented a slew of issues to marketers, a time of disruption could be the ideal time to try something new with lessened risk.

The rules of marketing aren’t broken, about to be replaced with a set for the new normal. Brands will continue to see results if they can address as much of the segment as their marketing budget allows. Like always, we’ll be here to help them do that.

Ben Shipley – Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer, Ovato

Brands that have maintained some level of marketing throughout the pandemic will come out best.

Recent Kantar research found that a brand who cut ad spend during a crisis would suffer a 13 percent impact on sales in the long run. It’s clear, looking back at recessions from the 1930s onwards, that brands that keep marketing get outsized benefit due to the increase in excess share of voice as others step back, the opportunity to be there for customers, and steady maintenance of brand visibility.

The effects of marketing, regardless of channel and creative, are made up of a mix of short-term effects and long-term effects. Short term activation strategies generally make up 40 per cent of a marketing plan while long-term strategies make up 60 per cent. So, if you turn off all your marketing, waiting for COVID-19 lockdowns and impacts to be over, you're only going to get that 40 per cent short term benefit as you start back up.

What’s important next is deciding on the most effective ways to continue reaching your customers and maintain a connection with them. Quantium data shows the brands that have maintained a physical shopping experience have come out best in the first weeks of the pandemic. More people are at home and have more time to spend on social media. SMS continues to be successful at reaching people at scale, as do print catalogues.

Choosing channels that are effective in communicating how your brand will be available to them post COVID-19 is key. The smartest players, like always, will be the ones who don’t rush into the same things everyone else is doing. The most effective marketing targets the things that don’t change, not the things that do.

Every day is a new day

There’s little doubt that moving on from COVID-19 will be a difficult task for many businesses. The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for many, and wide reaching.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel and starting to plan an effective communications and marketing strategy now will help you to retain and re-engage customers – even if it’s in a different way than before.

As we approach lessening restrictions and businesses get back their feet, it’s time to look to the future.