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Content marketing has always been important for businesses. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and internet usage soared among Americans, these digital touchpoints (including blogs, infographics, videos and case studies) became even more critical for attracting and retaining customers and, during a time full of uncertainty, earning their trust.
Now more than ever, organizations need to revisit their content strategies to discover what doesn’t work anymore and, even more importantly, what works better in a rapidly transforming business landscape.
What Businesses Need to Know About Consumer Behavior in 2020
To fully understand why content marketing is different in 2020 than it was in 2019 (or any other year for that matter), we must consider how consumer behavior changed. Online shopping isn’t anything new, but the pandemic made it vital to everyday life and hastened the switch to digital-first lifestyles.
- Data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index shows the pandemic accelerated the transition to online shopping (rather than in-store shopping) by five years.
- Digital Commerce 360 found during the first six months of 2020, consumers spent $347.26 billion online with retailers, up 30.1% from the same time period in 2019. Online spending represented nearly 20% of total retail sales for the first two quarters of the year.
A study from McKinsey & Co. echoed these findings: “We have covered ‘a decade in days’ when it comes to the adoption of digital.” They also identified key trends in shopping and consumption to consider, including a growing preference for “trusted brands” and a decline in discretionary spending. Spending is not expected to recover until 2024.
The B2B space is also evolving in response to the pandemic. With many in-person events canceled and people traveling less than ever, Forrester found 80% of the sales cycle for B2B companies will take place in a digital or remote setting moving forward.
So, how can your business effectively adapt your content to the changing times, support your customers and remain profitable?
Reacquaint Yourself with Your Target Audience’s Needs
An essential part of aligning your content strategy with new circumstances is finding out everything you can about your target audience.
Your audience could have new goals or interests than they did pre-pandemic. New demographics could be attracted to your product or services now, even if they weren’t before. To find out how your audience has changed, you may turn to your website analytics to see what pages or blogs are getting more traffic and if this differs from previous trends. Another good way to monitor changing customer needs is having your sales and marketing teams collaborate to identify new pain points to address to inspire customer-oriented content.
It’s an understatement to say people’s lives have changed — your customers could be grieving loved ones, facing financial hardship or feeling isolated after months of mostly staying home. During these tough times, you can remain sensitive to their situations, while finding new ways to offer them support and value.
Earn Your Customers’ Long-Term Trust
When customers are deciding what brands to support, trust matters. With shrinking budgets and less discretionary spending, consumers are even more choosy about where they put their dollars. When it comes to building and fortifying trust with your customers, content marketing is essential. Enhance brand trust through:
- Accessible, timely information: You can launch a combination of educational landing pages focused on a specific topic or publish timely blogs or videos speaking to your customers’ most pressing needs. Educational content of this nature supports thought leadership, highlights your expertise and offers something new that sets you apart from your competitors. Over time, customers will recognize your company as a reliable source of information.
- Case studies or whitepapers: These types of content are vital for supporting your company’s claims. They showcase your successes and make a compelling argument for why customers should choose your product and/or services, going beyond a run-of-the-mill sales pitch. Moreover, case studies can inspire a wealth of content for future use.
- Sales-supportive content: The most successful companies nurture a symbiotic relationship between the sales and marketing departments. Providing sales with educational content such as whitepapers or blogs can have a direct impact on a purchasing decision — and give your sales reps the right tools to build rapport with customers.
Now is a pivotal moment for businesses to evaluate how they’re reaching their target audiences and explore new content opportunities. As our lives change and adapt to new modes of consumption, businesses need to also shift to meet their target audience’s evolving needs and (re)establish long-term loyalty. The writers and experienced marketers at Aker Ink can assist you in developing a content strategy fit for our times, your audience and goals.