WBENC marketing and creative agency co-founder

Nashville Business Journal Leadership Trust
by Kedran Whitten, Co-Founder at Brand825
Kedran Whitten is cofounder of Brand825, a full-service marketing and creative agency that is passionate about building successful brands.

With spring in full swing and more than 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered, I am cautiously optimistic that we are closer than ever to getting back to some sense of post-pandemic normalcy. I don’t want to celebrate too prematurely, and brands don’t seem to want to, either.

Many brands, like Google and Burger King, are creating ads that attempt to walk the fine line between looking positively at the future and depicting a full-blown celebration of the “new normal” that hopefully awaits us. Heineken’s “Back to the Bars” campaign is a good example of a digital campaign that builds positive sentiment while remaining grounded in reality.

Even though we don’t know if or when we can fully get back to the way things were before COVID-19, we do know one thing for certain: Consumer behavior shifted dramatically during the pandemic, and we may never completely go back to the way we were.

Let’s take a look at a few of these tendencies, how they have changed and evolved since March 2020 and how your business should adjust to meet consumers where they are right now.

Online shopping knows no boundaries

It goes without saying that Americans spent a lot of money online while stuck at home over the last year. During the holidays alone, online shopping in the U.S. grew more than 32% from 2019, totaling almost $190 billion.

In addition to spending more money online, consumers also found new and innovative ways to shop as well. In December 2020, Walmart teamed up with TikTok to launch a livestreamed shopping pilot on the TikTok app. The event featured creators and influencers talking about their favorite products — which viewers could then tap and add directly to carts. Walmart didn’t release sales figures from the pilot but did say it helped grow its followers on TikTok by 25%.

Word to the wise: Don’t expect online sales to slow down anytime soon. Consumers now have even more ways to spend their money through formats like livestream shopping, which gives you great opportunities for selling — and advertising — to more consumers.

Home is where the heart (and money) is

Online shopping has surged since the onset of the pandemic, and experts expect this trend to remain. In addition, consumers are turning to delivery apps more than ever before to bring everything from pizza to prescription drugs right to their front doors.

In fact, the big four of food-delivery apps, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats, generated about $5.5 billion in combined revenue from April to September 2020 — more than twice as much as during the same period last year.

The usage and value of grocery delivery services like Shipt and Instacart also skyrocketed during the pandemic. Instacart’s valuation has doubled twice since the start of the pandemic, and the company was valued at $39 billion during its latest round of funding.

Word to the wise: We are spending more time and money online from the comfort of home, and businesses need to be prepared for this trend to last. Look for opportunities to take advantage of hyper-targeting, geofencing and other digital marketing tactics that reduce the friction between consumers and your products and services.

Podcasting is a marketing force of nature

And speaking of digital marketing, podcasting has enjoyed a massive surge since the beginning of the pandemic. What was considered a niche entertainment medium for many years is now as popular as ever, with 28% of the total U.S. population now considered habitual weekly podcast listeners, according to one report. That’s a 17% increase from last year. Of course, more listeners means more advertising opportunities and podcast ad spending is expected to surpass $1 billion this year.

However, podcasts are much more than just an advertising medium. They are an avenue in which brands can present big ideas to a big audience of engaged followers, and that could lead to big increases in brand awareness, loyalty and favorability.

Word to the wise: Whether you’re considering spending money to advertise on a podcast or thinking about launching a branded podcast for your business, there is plenty of justification for both.

Only time will tell what consumer behavior will look like months, or even years, from now. Regardless, businesses must always be prepared to accommodate consumers’ evolving needs.

Link to article on NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL.

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