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Marketers: How To Thrive In A Post-COVID World
Marketers, consider this: How has the pandemic changed your daily routine? What do you do at home now that you didn’t do before?
If you’re anything like the average consumer, the list is long.
We’re cooking at home more and when we don’t, it’s restaurant take out or delivery. We’ve traded the gym for Peloton rides and virtual workout classes. Our homes have transformed into offices and classrooms.
In short, virtually everything changed in 2020. How we work, how we shop, how we learn, how we eat, how we socialize and communicate—everything.
Take retail. Online sales in the US grew by 31% in 2020 from Q1 ($160.4 billion) to Q3 ($209.5 billion). Before COVID, a mere 12% growth occurred in all of 2019, according to this graph by Statista.
That, says Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, is the post-experience economy. And those sweeping behavioral changes impact our economies and businesses in a big, big way.
Here’s what Dr. Krishnamurthy, School of Business Dean at UW Bothell, has to say about what you need to know as a digital marketer to succeed in the post-COVID world.
Q&A with UW Bothell's Dr. Sandeep Krishnamurthy
Q: Let's jump right in. What is the post-experience economy … in 280 characters or less?
Dr. Krishnamurthy: Many customers will permanently shift a portion of their lives away from in-person experiences. We’ll move from the service economy to a post-experience world where customers seek value without social interaction—everything now comes to us in a brown cardboard box from Amazon.
Q: What are some examples of this phenomenon?
Dr. Krishnamurthy: Take the restaurant industry. To survive, they’ve had to move away from in-person dining to take-out and delivery service. How do they retain that experiential touch? How do they use social media to connect with customers? And how do they scale up? Traditionally, you need more space for more seating. Now it’s a bigger kitchen, more chefs, more efficient processes like food prep. Everything needs to change.
Technology undoubtedly plays a powerful role in this transformation. Microsoft, for example, saw a 33% jump in profits in the last quarter of 2020 which CEO Satya Nadella attributed to a “second wave of digital transformation.”
However, it extends beyond that. Iconic American brands are reinventing themselves for the post-experience. Starbucks is enhancing drive-thrus rather than building the in-store experience. McDonald's new growth strategy focused on speed and pickup centers on drive-thrus, smaller restaurants, takeaway, and curbside pickup.
Business owners still want to maintain curb appeal for pickup—it saves consumers money, gets them out of the house, and offers a little touchpoint—but that intense hedonism of experiences will be under pressure.
Or healthcare. It used to be driven by the idea that you need that physical visit with the doctor. That shift from in-person to online was only exacerbated by COVID—one expert estimated a “ten-fold” increase in virtual patient consultations once the pandemic hit, according to The Lancet.
|Industry||Experience Economy||Post-experience economy||Brand example|
|Grocery||Shopping at the supermarket||Fresh grocery delivery||Amazon Fresh, Instacart|
|Restaurant||Dining in an upscale restaurant||Digital delivery service||DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats|
|Banking||Banking at your local branch||Virtual banking services|
|Coffee||Ordering coffee in person from your regular barista||Mobile app ordering||Starbucks mobile app|
|Exercise||Working out at your gym||Digital-enabled exercise||Peloton|
Q: Finish this sentence: Success in the post-experience economy requires _____.
Dr. Krishnamurthy: Laser focus on your customer.
How well do you know your customer? What do they want? And how many? Why do they want it? Do they watch Netflix at 7pm or 9pm? Do they also stream Prime video? Do they like Colgate or Crest?
When you start thinking like this, it’s not just about having the right data, it’s also about having the right messaging. Digital marketers must marry targeting and messaging to not just get the customer what they want, but before they know they need it.
Q: Talk more about that marriage of targeting and messaging. As digital marketers, we’re always looking for ways to connect with and engage our audiences—what does that look like in the post-experience economy?
Dr. Krishnamurthy: People are much more interested in direct messaging. There’s still a place for storytelling, but people want to know what they can get and when.
There’s a shift happening. Look at the Super Bowl: Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi aren’t advertising this year. Rather than mass appeal broadcasting, we’re shifting to narrowcasting.
Let’s put the customer in control and focus on giving them exactly what they want. For digital marketers, instead of a single Super Bowl ad, it’s a thousand different segments—there’s so much data. You can’t write a thousand unique messages, so you need a system to think of three or four factors to change subtly for those audience segments. It’s targeting to the max.
Q: We're looking forward to your upcoming mini marketing course. Who is the session geared toward? What can they expect to learn? What do you want attendees to walk away with?
Digital marketers, both data geeks and non-technical. They’ll learn what the post-experience economy is and how they’ll need to adapt their skills, strategies, and tactics. We want digital marketers to think not just about raising the volume, but about evolving their capabilities to a point where they're getting people the value that they really want—leveraging AI and machine learning to predict what the customer wants before they even know it themselves.
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