As COVID-19 began to emerge across the United States, marketers were quick to jump into action to share how their organizations are responding to the situation. It was similar to those stories of when people win big in the lottery, and all types of ‘long lost relatives’ and ‘old friends’ start showing up out of nowhere. Brands I hadn’t interacted with or even thought about in years sent me emails about how they were responding: precautions being taken, philanthropic endeavors and, more often than not, urgent and time-sensitive offers to act on immediately – or miss out entirely. There were a lot of emails. We all got them.
The problem was that most people didn’t need or even want those emails. We weren’t shopping, we weren’t going anywhere. Stores and restaurants were closing, people were being furloughed and losing their jobs, and those that weren’t were tightening their sails and battening down the hatches in preparation for the unknown. Most of us were not shopping for spatulas.
In the initial days and weeks of the shutdowns, people were online seeking information not deals. All those unwanted emails did serve a purpose, just not the intended one. For myself and many others, those emails told us which brands were more interested in self promotion and selling than really connecting with their customers. All those emails gave us an additional implied message – which brands it was time to unsubscribe from.
Marketing Segmentation best practices haven’t changed during the pandemic, and if anything, they have actually become more important. The right message, at the right time, to the right audience.
Active and long-term or loyal customers may appreciate more regular updates, but if your audience is not in-market for your offerings, then your message is likely to be perceived as noise added to the desired signal. There were a lot of important things to be following – health and safety measures, school and work closures, government response and actions. The last thing people needed was distractions from what was most important to them.
It’s not to say that these emails were not important. It’s a question of, “important to whom?”
When determining an audience, consider the message and timing from the audience perspective, not your own. Of course, your message is important and timely for your business, it’s what you do every day, but what about your audience? If your brand isn’t likely to be top of mind for them, then they shouldn’t be targeted at that time. It’s important that brands aren’t using the pandemic as a promotional opportunity.
Ok, so we know what NOT to be doing. What SHOULD you do?
We’ve already covered the basics – the right message, at the right time, to the right audience. What else? Many parts of the country, and world, are at a standstill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for when it’s time to act.
Behaviors are changing during these times, and it’s important that marketers continue to closely monitor campaigns and analyze the performance. Previous ‘good customers may no longer fit the same geographic, firmographic and demographic characteristics that worked in the past, and there are new audiences whose online presence has dramatically increased and may not have previously been targets – such as traditional ‘in-person’ shoppers, older consumers, or those out of your geographic area.
Focusing on understanding your audience better will help you target the right audience when the time and message are at hand. Building customer profiles and identifying how to combine and use multiple profiles for a single individual through use of tools like a CDP (Customer Data Platform) will help you to better understand your customers behaviors.
Furthermore, while the pandemic is the current hurdle at the moment, let’s not forget that other disrupters, specifically the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) will begin to be enforced as of July 1, 2020. Google is also still moving forward with plans to phase out support for third-party cookies, which will require marketers to rely on their own first-party data. Ask yourself, how will your organization be impacted and how will you need to react?
While no one can say for certainty what’s to come with the pandemic and the future of marketing. The age old adages stay true, “Focus on the basics during these unknown times, but build and prepare in the background.” If you have any questions, or would like to chat, contact us anytime.