Oct 28, 2020

Digital experiences, low prices, and doing good are the top three marketing priorities right now

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we work remotely, go to school online, and have happy hour via Zoom. It’s no wonder that the most recent edition of The CMO Survey, sponsored by Duke University, Deloitte LLP, and the American Marketing Association, says that “marketers report increased openness among customers to new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic (85 percent).” Digital experiences are just one of three priorities for marketers right now: Consumers are also looking for lower prices and companies that are perceived as doing good.

The demand for deep, digital experiences

Companies and organizations have gotten creative, and digital experiences are all around us. We can shop online using virtual changing rooms to try on everything from tomorrow’s casual work outfit to a wedding dress. Speaking of weddings, we can get married virtually, too, then buy a house after touring it, making an offer, and signing the paperwork online. Trade shows are online. So are career fairs. Summer camps. Seemingly everything.

Figuring out the right digital experiences is a challenge for traditional and digital businesses alike. According to Harvard Business Review, “The reality of how companies are dealing with the crisis and preparing for the recovery tells a very different story, one of pivoting to business models conducive to short-term survival along with long-term resilience and growth.”

It points to Spotify, the global leader in music streaming, which relies on advertising to offset its large number of free users. That became a problem during the pandemic when advertisers cut budgets. “One pivot Spotify made in response was to offer original content, in the form of podcasts. The platform saw artists and users upload more than 150,000 podcasts in just one month, and it has signed exclusive podcast deals with celebrities and started to curate playlists. The shift in strategy means that Spotify could become more of a tastemaker. At long last, the company is doubling down on Netflix’s not-so-secret recipe for success in a business in which copyright owners enjoy healthy margins while pure-play streamers struggle to become profitable.”

The CMO Survey says that “marketers believe that customers’ increased value placed on digital experience will stay high and never return to pre-pandemic levels.” If these experiences are here to stay, reaching customers about them—digitally—is also key.

Now is a good opportunity to consider how to:

Pricing during the pandemic

Low pricing is also of great concern for consumers right now. The CMO Survey reports that “marketers also anticipate that customers will pay more attention to low prices than they have in the past with 18.4 percent citing this as customers’ top priority compared with only 10.4 percent this past February.”

“Many companies observe lower likelihood to buy (67.2 percent) and unwillingness to pay full price (43.3 percent), both of which contributed to the depressed financial performance over the last two months.”

But now may not be the time to drastically cut prices. Says Rafi Mohammed from Culture of Profit on HBR IdeaCast, “A crisis or recession is not the time to panic and slash prices. He says leaders should instead reevaluate their price strategy—or develop one for the first time—to better respond to customers during the slump and keep them when the economy recovers.” Listen to his ideas for how to weather this time here.

Marketing for good

Marketers who participated in The CMO Survey report “greater acknowledgements of companies’ attempts to ‘do good’ (79 percent).” And according to Harvard Business Review, “Consumers are holding brands and companies to a higher standard than previously, favoring those perceived as doing more for society. Companies like Unilever and Procter & Gamble, whose portfolios include hundreds of brands, have no choice but to pivot in response. Brand loyalty can no longer be taken for granted, and brand repositioning may be necessary in many cases.”

But it has to be authentic in order to build brand loyalty. Bring your brand’s mission and values to the forefront. Share the stories of those working inside your company or organization. Share your goals—and support nonprofits with big goals, too. In author, activist, and entrepreneur Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, “The way we think about charity is dead wrong,” he says, “The next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams, their Apple-, Google-, Amazon-scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true, regardless of what the overhead is.”

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