Food for Thought: After Covid, then what?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, four industry leaders and marketers share their experiences so far and venture some thoughts on what things will be like after the crisis
Fi Taylor

Fi Taylor

It's been six months since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Australia, bringing with it unprecedented disruption to the way marketers take and support their brands in market.

CMO asks four industry leaders to shake their crystal balls and share their thoughts about what the business landscape might look like as we make our way through the coronavirus pandemic. What has changed for the better, and what has changed for the worse? How has it disrupted plans and marketing strategies? And how will things look on the other side?

Kartik Srinivasan
Marketing manager, Achievers

The start of the pandemic saw a blitzkrieg in investment in digital tools and platforms. While the early novelty in terms of usage of some of these tools may have died down, the one that stands out for me as a marketer is the use of video.

While video is not a new innovation, the way it’s being used is. The rapid scale and proliferation in its adoption globally will outlive COVID. It has become the go to medium for marketers - brace yourselves for more webinars, catchy video prospecting and virtual experiences like wine tasting, cooking and music concerts that previously seemed unthinkable.

Kartik SrinivasanCredit: Kartik Srinivasan
Kartik Srinivasan

What has COVID-19 changed for the better or for the worse?
The answer to this question changes daily. While being forced to embrace disequilibrium literally overnight, it has helped many of us reconnect with the basics resulting in a lot of empathy in both our personal and professional lives. The pandemic has also made us more creative and agile in the planning and execution of projects and campaigns.

There is no denying the pressure on one’s mental state and this is an area which needs constant monitoring through open and transparent communication. At Achievers, our daily stand-ups and on point banter between cross-functional teams has helped us rally around each other fostering a culture that is resilient and one that still means business.

How has COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 plans?
As an organisation that used face-to-face events very effectively in the past, the pandemic changed our plans overnight. The key for us was to quickly pivot and accept that the road ahead was hazy and that we needed to plan for the ‘now’ and be flexible and open on our long-term plans. For us at Achievers, we have used this phase as an opportunity to learn more by experimenting and testing the waters with new products, program launches and content themes.
What does normal look like now?
The new normal is that there is no normal and that previous practices may not work so well in the future of work. As the new normal keeps evolving, we need to be ready with Plan A, B, C and D at the same time and be agile enough to implement strategies that are backed by common sense and technology. The idea of thinking long-term is incredibly difficult when we don’t even know what we will be doing at Christmas.

Fi Taylor
Group marketing director, Silverbullet

The shift in consumer behaviours will trigger different growth rates among various verticals. We are seeing huge growth amid tech, pharma and gaming verticals, whereas FMCG, retail and luxury are having to rethink their strategies in record time to keep afloat. Yet, even with challenges, opportunities will rise – and it all lies within the true understanding of your customers.

Fi TaylorCredit: Fi Taylor
Fi Taylor

Media is also shifting to online faster than previously predicted, as newspapers, magazines and linear TV face increasing pressure from streamers and digital natives. However, the pandemic
has forced us all to become a little more ‘awake’ to the idea of digital innovations, and those in
the c-suite will start to quickly embrace digital transformation. The will to challenge the status
quo has finally caught up.

The COVID crisis, alongside industry-specific developments such as the third-party cookie
demise, will enhance the power of first-party data and its importance within marketing. Clients will now have access to innovations that enable them to take back control of their marketing and
fuse the perfect blend of data, content, context and programmatic.

What has COVID-19 changed for the better or for the worse?
One thing that really sticks out for me is the willingness to change – to be more agile and open
to new solutions than before. It can be really scary to change departments, shift to new
technologies or adopt alternative solutions when you’re used to a certain way of working.

Marketers are being forced to be innovative and collaborative to survive in the new marketing
age, meaning a greater appetite to look at fresh ways of doing things that help drive efficiency at scale. We’re already seeing this start to take shape with consumer sticking with new brands they tried during lockdown and more now feel comfortable purchasing products online. This impact will create huge positive outcomes for many, and reveals the willingness from consumers to engage, when the message is right.

However, there’s no escaping the glaringly obvious challenges we have all faced, from budget cuts to furloughed staff, marketers are being forced to do more with a lot less. There's increasing pressure for both short-term solutions to plug the immediate revenue gaps, whilst thinking long-term to survive in the ‘new now’. Businesses are being expected to change gears in mid-air, while keeping an eye on the road, which would overwhelm the best of us.

These challenges see marketers seek a new breed of partner – a collective group of expertise and products to help them unlock the ‘holy grail’ of marketing – first-party data. From data management, to assessing the true ROI of data and tech, marketers will start to seek out specialised partners who can help them make better business decisions, faster outcomes and smarter strategies through the application of technology.

How has COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 plans?
Covid-19 has placed a huge spanner in the works for many, and the ‘madtech’ industry is no exception. From global events being cancelled, to local events adapting in record-speed to shift all content to a virtual, digital experience – it’s been fascinating watching how quickly we have all adjusted.

Despite the ‘work-from-home fatigue’, the Covid-19 disruption has forced many of us to react and adapt – for the better. We’ve been forced to become more focused, more strategy lead, propelling us to discover more, learn more and create a smarter future. With such disruption across marketing campaigns, consumer behaviours, and drastic changes to our very own personal lives and habits, we’ve reset for the future– and will ensure these disruptions act as a learning curve, not a hindrance.

What does normal look like now?
The new normal will see old ways of working and traditional business models fade away, as
marketers look for specialised partnerships to help them achieve this new holy grail of marketing. This can be seen through enabling better workflows and smarter processes to achieve better ROI from data-driven marketing. We see it in delivering data, content, context and activation seamlessly to remove the friction within an organisation. And we see it with onboarding innovative products to move into a post-cookie, new marketing era.

Up next: We hear from two more marketing and industry representatives on the disruption and new norms of COVID-19

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Vivienne Horsfall
Marketing manager, Ping Identity

One of the key shifts that will outlive COVID-19 is the manner in which an organisation's workforce and customers engage. No longer will a business be bound or defined by bricks and mortar.

Vivienne HorsfallCredit: Vivienne Horsfall
Vivienne Horsfall

What has COVID-19 changed things for the better or for the worse?

The transition to doing everything over video conferencing has meant a complete pivot in activities from live to virtual events. The result has been pleasantly surprising. The virtual environment not only enables the continued sharing of ideas between a vendor and its customers but has also opened up the opportunity for the roundtable concept making it easier for those who find travel difficult and for both local and international executives to attend. Virtual events have increased the depth of communication. Going forward, marketing programs will become hybrid with a combination of video and live events. 

How has COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 plans?

The digital customer engagement has changed. Online competition has increased as have cybersecurity breaches. Moving forward, for an organisation to compete they must offer a one-to-one personalised service, from the acquisition and registration process, right through the customer journey. This includes providing true consent management and data governance as to what information can be shared and with whom a tick in the box will no longer be enough.

The importance of getting identity right whether it be for your workforce or customer marketing outreach has been brought to the forefront by COVID-19 and it will most certainly outlive it. Ultimately, the customer remains king. Thanks in part to information mobility and the new channels offered by social media, consumers are taking charge of their relationships with business, rewarding companies that display an almost obsessive commitment to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

What does normal look like now?

When markets experience a major shake-up, the old order is thrown into disarray. New opportunities, new contenders and new leaders inevitably emerge. This is what we are beginning to see now. The realisation that nobody owns the customer, but someone always owns the moment, signals a fundamental change in the way businesses operate.Companies that thrive in this environment will be those who focus on knowing what their customers desire and who innovate to deliver it, even before the customer is aware of the need.

Janice Jao
Product designer, Appetiser Apps

COVID-19 has pushed society into a new form of living where what was once normal, is now a thing of the past. Due to how quickly the virus spreads and is transmitted to humans, governments have been thrust into making difficult decisions to manage and hopefully eliminate the virus completely.

This has led innovators to build a contact tracing app that lets users mark themselves when they become infected therefore allowing officials to track and trace where and how the virus is spreading. The technology behind the contact tracing app could potentially outlive COVD-19 for many reasons. There are many product ideas that could benefit from such a technology such as real-time tracking of luxury online purchases, the delivery of high-importance documents or urgent delivery of scripts and pharmaceuticals.

Janice JaoCredit: Janice Jao
Janice Jao

What has COVID-19 changed for the better or for the worse?

COVID-19 has suddenly raised the demand for virtual connections at a significant rate. In a positive way, this has opened the world to a concept potentially disregarded in the traditional day to day, which is the ability to work from home. This is beneficial to working parents who need to raise their children in a good environment and for individuals who wish to live a less restrictive lifestyle.

The world’s eyes have been opened. We now know that many jobs can be done anywhere at any time as long as they have an internet connection.

On the other hand, we also have now been driven to look at screens even more, raising the demands for more apps and the use of social media as if we don’t already spend too much time on it. Where once we were able to balance the ‘real-life’ and our digital lives better, many people’s habits are now being molded into being stuck on a screen even more.  

How has COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 plans?

COVID-19 has shaken the world up and destroyed literally every 2020 plan. One of the biggest disruptions COVID-19 has caused is in the sharing economy. Companies like Airbnb and Uber have suffered tremendous losses since traveling has been made almost impossible in this pandemic. 

What were once lucrative businesses in their traditional formats, have now been driven to innovate and adapt - much like many other businesses, big and small - to the current situation. We have seen UberEats expand to non-traditional delivery services from supermarkets to pharmaceuticals, and many local cafes and restaurants offering at-home delivery where they may not have offered this before. Many businesses have been exposed to severe cases of ‘sink or swim’ and successfully changed their business models for the better, changes which they may stick with permanently.

What does normal look like now?

The new normal has turned into staring at screens for longer periods of time. Tech companies are now responsible for designing for humans whose sense of freedom has been greatly affected by enforced lockdowns. They have been given the challenge of replacing and imitating these human interactions in a bid to either increase loyalty and advocacy of their brands, to increase their sales or to take a more ethical approach in preventing potential negative outcomes of the current digital phase. 

The ‘new normal’ is now also remote. While some people may be many desperate to get back into schools, offices and shops, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a great impact on footfall on the whole, especially where tourism has been hit, which could take years to recover. Businesses need to find innovative ways to make things work and to keep customers engaged face to face, but also from a distance.

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