Reaching Today’s Customer
While it’s tempting to think that customer communications changed suddenly in response to the pandemic, COVID-19 was more of an accelerator than a pivot point.
Kevin Welman, director of ByDesign Communications, says if you look closely, other forces were already shaping how business reached customers. “If you take a step back, a few additional things happened in the world of communication in this ‘new normal’. The US election had a massive impact on communication as a whole, particularly the polarisation of the media. I think everyone has become sceptical and views the media as having agendas. Then there was fake news and a general distrust in leaders. So you’ve got this almost perfect storm and a great lack of trust among consumers,” he says.
Welman cites a recent study by global communications firm Edelman that surveyed more than 33 000 people in 28 countries: 54 per cent of US respondents trust businesses more than NGOs, governments or the media.
Business brands have been gravitating into that vacuum, adds Sylvia Schutte, Stratitude’s managing director. “There is more of a focus on putting content out around brands. Brands have become a lot more verbal and are no longer only about selling products and services anymore. The pandemic absolutely accelerated that, but it already was happening.”
Yet, the trend is not solely due to adverse changes among other communication sources. Digital plays an enormous enabling role for brands to be their own publishers and reach audiences more directly.
“We do quite a lot more than just your standard digital and direct marketing campaigns,” says Stratitude’s digital account director, Nic Baker. “We’ve put together intelligent trigger-based lifecycle communication campaigns and those have really come to the fore, so that you can deliver real-time communication to a group based on their interaction with your online platforms.”
Research provided by Schutte shows a significant shift towards digital spending by marketers in the UK, a trend reflected in the local market as well, “to the degree where many agencies have repositioned themselves from full service agencies to digital agencies,” she says.
Welman notes a greater emphasis on internal and operational communications during the early days of the pandemic. Though brands have started focusing externally again, the habit appears to be sticking – communicating properly with employees is as key as reaching today’s customer. Digital channels have risen to the occasion as well.
“There’s been a massive uptake in digital communications. There’s been a huge movement towards the professionalisation of content and authenticity of content on platforms such as LinkedIn.”