“COVID-19 spurs global marketing innovation and in the coming months, businesses will turn to digital strategy to survive Covid-19” (Marr, 2020).
Critically evaluate how businesses should evolve their digital marketing strategy in times of COVID 19?
- Gains and pains
- Evaluating the market
- Digital economy
- Maintaining competitive advantage
- Integration and the single customer view
- Customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX)
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, businesses are determining the best way forward to stem losses from cancellations and closures. This requires strategy evaluation and planning for future business growth or decline.
Strategy formulation involves the generation, review and analysis of the macro and micro environment (demand and supply side) and selection of strategies to achieve strategic objectives, and the strategy itself defines how to meet the objectives (Chaffey, 2019).
The brand value proposition (or brand benefit) of an existing e-businesses with some brand awareness is already obvious to consumers. The evolution of marketing strategies using customer insights gained from data for evaluation, will help any business to better understand their customers’ needs and position them for future strategy (Nylen, 2015). It is also useful to turn towards design thinking, and the review the online value proposition (OVP). Other businesses will need to adopt tech solutions to maintain customer loyalty and develop a new OVP if they wish to sell new products.
The digital marketing planning process should involve:
- goal setting
- situation review
- resource allocation
- and monitoring.
Digital marketing objectives support customer acquisition, conversion, proposition, and retention and state the business benefits of improved brand image, cost efficiencies, more sales and better customer service.
Digital marketing and e-business planning utilises portfolio analysis of marketing applications to select and evaluate programs of work for digital marketing, including supply side strategies for e-commerce options that are:
- Key operational
- support (non-critical)
- strategic (Chaffey, 2019).
To survive COVID-19 businesses should evolve their digital marketing strategy towards innovation using digital technologies to achieve new business goals of:
- resource efficiency
- increased market share
- increased investment in skill, knowledge, assets
- increased investment in brand reputation
- organisational change.
The effect: gain competitive differential advantage not matched by competitors.
Gains and pains create competitive advantage
Design thinking is a way of undertaking research and gaining insights to identify opportunities and problems. Digital strategies oriented towards design thinking, focus on a non-linear process of innovation. This is noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic, where innovation is necessary for survival.
Empathetic design thinking is required because of the political, social, economic and technological environment and the accelerated culture of digital change required to stay afloat. Value propositions, both online and offline, should be mapped to activities and gaps identified to gain insights.
Source: d.school (2020)
Design thinking is a way of undertaking research and gaining insights to identify opportunities and problems. In addition to a PESTLE analysis and SOSTAC framework, adding design thinking to an analytical toolkit can assist in the research and analysis phase of strategy development by orienting projects towards human centred innovation.
Evaluating the market
Digital technologies enable consumers to meet their tastes and preferences and enable businesses to predict demand for online services. Consumers want to determine the terms for time and place of purchase and local customers can benefit the same as other demographic groups in other localities with access to products and services.
The benefits statements of online services or the online value proposition (OVP), differentiates an organisation’s offline offering to those of competitors (Chaffey, 2019) and the brand benefits are more obvious to consumers during the pandemic, through renewed brand reputation, because consumer preferences changed, for instance, contactless sales became not only the tastes of consumers but also a regulatory requirement.
Businesses need to adapt in the short to medium term to deal with the broader operational environment. Marr (2020) suggests that loss mitigation can be difficult for smaller businesses which rely on word-of-mouth and local brand following, however resilience and adaptability can create opportunities.
Loss of face-to-face business, and implementation of emergency and contingency plans, plus changing workforce, consumer demand and supply have left the Australian economy in recession.
The translation of tech research into the formation of user friendly B2B platforms with their own online value proposition (OVP) and more expertise now means that the digital economy exists for many businesses to simply tap into.
Businesses that are not digital centric (bricks-and-mortar) can introduce sales channels through social media to create sales conversions, adapting to e-commerce models. A good example of businesses doing this kind of digital transformation and integration are small hospitality and retail businesses who are subject to social distancing regulations, preventing physical customer service from taking place.
Many implemented contactless pay and delivery apps into their BAU service delivery. There is a lot of consumer utility in implementing technological changes, creating positive brand association through convenience and capitalising on new economic and social opportunities.
Maintaining competitive advantage
In the pandemic, businesses will try to maintain competitive advantage to remain profitable. Newer entrants to the digital economy can utilise existing infrastructure (platforms, pay systems, supply and fulfilment software) to create business advantage, innovating quickly in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a cost advantage in adapting new technologies and positioning around other similar digitally integrated businesses, as well as benefits transfer from building consumer-based brand equity.
Businesses with digital models in a new category have first-mover advantage and other businesses will seek to imitate or position themselves around their successes and learn from their setbacks.
Integration and the single customer view
Using data to identify multichannel behaviour can reveal opportunities, identify response behaviour and value for pricing strategies.During the COVID-19 pandemic businesses may have found new online target segments, as household and personal characteristics change, as people work and study, entertain and maintain their health from home.
Brand strategies incorporating personalisation through e-commerce can help physical marketing efforts offline. Digital marketing strategy for a brand is best implemented in an integrated marketing communication strategy. Kingsnorth (2019) argues that personalisation of online marketing strategies can aid marketing integration.
The single customer view is part of a multichannel strategy and web design should be adaptive to consumer behaviours. The associated design processes for consumer centric design are easy to control but require rapid strategic execution (Griffith, 2020).
Customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX)
Online tactical segmentation is based on customer journey behaviour and businesses can focus on this in the medium term (Chaffey, 2019). Usability and engagement are important measures to understand user behaviours, user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) enhancement. Nylen (2015) argues that digital innovation management covers user experience, value proposition, digital evolution scanning, skills, and improvisation.
Image: customer lifestyle segmentation
Source: Chaffey (2019)
Digital marketing strategies informed by customer insights gained from data, that utilise design thinking and focus on technological innovation and online value proposition (OVP) are likely to be successful and can be easily iterated through BAU monitoring and measurement using metrics, analysis, review and project and portfolio evaluation. Businesses need to evolve their offline and online value proposition into a consistent integrated digitally focused brand strategy to build brand equity, maintain customer loyalty and to attract customers in new segments.
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