#ConversationsThatMatter is a content series curated by our expert consultants and strategists to ensure brands are harnessing the power of persuasive storytelling. By dissecting the next marketing and PR catchphrases, we explore communications trends which shape conversations that can build value, inspire action, change opinion and ultimately grow reputation. As part of Volume Two, which can be downloaded here, we delve in to ‘the Post-COVID Era’.
What is meant by ‘the Post-COVID Era’?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, illuminated consumer behavioural shifts, and accelerated systemic changes across global businesses, with its implications set to be permanent. With the implementation of vaccinations and ease of restrictions in many places around the world, we all look forward to the post COVID-19 period, when we anticipate a rise in remote social interactions and additional reliance on advanced technology within the business context. As we return to “business as normal”, responding to the internal and external shifts in expectations will help companies navigate successfully through these changes.
Communication Trends for Businesses in the Post COVID-Era:
While digital transformation has been an ongoing agenda item for organisational development, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the strategic importance of technology as a critical component of business operations. It encompasses a multitude of layers in organisational practices, from the adoption of advanced technology in daily operations, remote working, data security protection, and cloud migration, to customer engagement and e-commerce. The early days of what may be considered the Post-COVID period saw a sharp rise in technological literacy among consumers with the increased use of voice commands, wearable technology, and contactless services. As consumer expectations begin to rise, businesses should focus on narratives such as internal data integration and automation, big data analytics and machine learning optimisation to improve customer targeting, and multi-channel experiences in the form of chatbots, digital self-serve spaces, and interactive video content, to ensure quality customer engagement and to stay afloat in the increasingly competitive landscape.
Staying and working from home mandates and social distancing measures driven by the pandemic have given birth to the “stay-at-home-economy”, also known as the “crib economy”. The period of staying at home has permanently reshaped how we work, shop, dine and entertain. It has caused a seismic shift to consumer behaviour, particularly in the adoption of e-commerce and “phygital” services including home delivery, curb side pickup and social selling. Businesses have become more agile, with increases in “shoppertainment” content offering a broader range of experiences to meet with the evolving needs and desires of their consumer base. Moving forward, customer experience will become the more prevalent key brand differentiator over price and product. To stay ahead of this, a good starting point is to optimise user experience through diversified omni-channel communications to ensure a seamless consumer journey from brand exploration to product delivery. For example, Dior cosmetics introduced a virtual “try-on” function for consumers to discover and try different makeups online prior making a purchase, while Charlotte Tilbury offers a personalised virtual makeup consultation with their beauty advisers to mimic the face-to-face experience.
The pandemic period has provided an opportunity for consumers to revisit the fundamentals of life and personal values, which has extended into finding meaning and resonance through consumer behaviour.
As consumers becomes more socially aware, it is imperative for businesses to grasp the changing values of these individuals and deliver a personalised experience that can strengthen brand connections with target audiences. When it comes to building relationships in the post-pandemic era, business should emphasise on authenticity and empathy in terms of brand narratives, tapping into human elements and identify shared values that consumers care about. For example, illustrating corporate responsibility, diversity, and engagement in sustainability issues, or establishing a sense of community, focusing on localisation, and highlighting health and hygiene sensitivities. Example of this include fashion brands Mango and H&M, who, in contributing their part for the environment, have committed to producing clothing with sustainably sourced materials. Meanwhile, in order to promote and empower diversity, luxury brands including Gucci and Chanel have set up Diversity & Inclusion departments and have gone to great lengths to ensure representation in their communication efforts.
Today’s sophisticated consumers look for targeted, personal experiences that are specific to their needs, and at the same time want to interact with and digest brand information within a very limited time span. Interactive content has been a fast-growing trend in communications for some time now, through the likes of VR and AR experiences as well as 3D images, social media polls and quizzes. During this booming era of content, developing an ongoing but genuine relationship between brand and consumers is essential. Personalisation and dialogue-focused communications, such as Chatbots, interactive video and personalised email, are expected to grow in significance in 2022. Hyper-personalisation relies on customer data to create tailored content and recommend products relevant to individuals, allowing businesses to craft deeper and intimate connections with individual audiences even while they are shopping from home.
In conclusion, as we progress towards the Post-COVID Era, change and uncertainty are inevitable. The realities of this crisis have caused a reconsideration on our values and needs, with many changes set to be permanent and having a long-lasting impact to our society and economy as a whole. From the acceleration in digital transformation, the need for personalised and interactive experiences, to hygiene and health standards, and the stay-at-home economy, consumers’ habits and values have shifted considerably in a space of two years. Businesses who stay vigilant and agile in responding to the internal and external shifts in consumer expectations will prove to be those in the most favourable positions.