Of all the ways COVID-19 has changed life as we know it, the shift in consumer shopping habits is perhaps one of the most noticeable. Brand interactions and purchases now largely take place online, with e-commerce sales 30 percent higher than in pre-pandemic times, McKinsey reports.
However, consumers are not as loyal to brands as they once were, the data shows: “Over 60 percent of US consumers have experienced out-of-stock items in the last three months, and when this happened, only 13 percent waited for the item to come back in stock versus the 39 percent who switched brand or products and the 32 percent who switched retailers.”
With the pandemic shaking up digital commerce and brand loyalty, marketers have to be more intentional than ever to secure customer retention. So as we move into the waning days of the pandemic in 2022, savvy marketing and PR professionals should aim to adopt the following best practices into their New Years’ marketing resolutions.
1. Start a blog, or post on your blog more frequently
During the pandemic, consumers have primarily used Google and other search engines for researching products or services. In fact, more online shoppers (40 percent) gravitate toward this channel than Amazon and social media. So if you’re looking to promote brand visibility and drive more traffic to your website, an organic content marketing strategy centered around SEO-optimized blog content is a must.
According to a recent survey from Orbit Media, 77 percent of businesses with active blogs see positive results from their posts, and one in five consider those results to be “strong.” But it’s not enough just to start a blog, then publish content sporadically. Businesses that publish 2 to 6 blog posts a week are 32 percent more likely to report a strong ROI on their efforts, the survey indicates.
In addition to maintaining a consistent publishing cadence, here are a few more best practices from the marketing experts at Paperless Agent for creating traffic-driving posts your audience will resonate with:
- Reference solid data or quote expert industry sources in the blog post to add authority to your content.
- Choose relevant topics in your industry niche that will appeal to your target audience.
- Customize the information to your target audience, addressing their specific pain points, needs, and challenges.
- Aim for at least 1000 words—long-form will make your content feel credible and perform better on search engines.
- Tack on a call to action that tells readers what to do after reading your article, thereby increasing engagement and conversion.
- Format the post to be used on other channels such as social networks. For example, make sure you include value-packed sentences that can be shared as quotes, or create an infographic summarizing the information for use on Pinterest.
2. Become more active on LinkedIn
While social media isn’t generally considered to be a sales channel, it’s important not to discount the prospect-generating potential of LinkedIn, especially for companies in the B2B space.
A little bit of effort can go a long way. LinkedIn’s own research finds that B2B companies with active, up-to-date profiles earn five times more page views, seven times more impressions per follower, and 11 times more clicks per follower. Not to mention, companies that post weekly content on LinkedIn receive a 200 percent lift in engagement with their content.
The platform is also a great way to build relationships with potential customers. The communication experts at 4PSA point out, “Your sales team can send pitch emails and marketing messages to key leads, while nurturing discussions that convert into clients and customers.” Here are some of their tips for developing best practices in 2022 to increase your reach on LinkedIn:
- Target key decision makers. Check your contact’s profile to confirm they have decision-making power in their organization.
- Look for unexpected connections. Earmark affiliations and interests that you have in common with potential leads and use these to start a conversation.
- Use search features to find specific leads. Narrow your scope of targeted leads with LinkedIn’s advanced search function to sort your results based on schools attended, industry categories, location, and companies.
- Start with one realistic call to action. When you extend a request to your lead, make it clear, specific, reasonable, and easy for them to do. For example: if your call to action is to schedule a 15-minute phone call, attach a scheduling link to the message, instead of asking for their availability and email address and waiting for them to respond
- Be sure to follow up. Send a courteous, tactful follow-up message if you don’t hear back from your lead within 10 to 14 days of reaching out. If you still don’t receive a response after a month has passed, contact the lead again.
3. Prioritize the customer experience
Ever since the start of the pandemic, customer expectations are on the rise. They want quick, seamless, and convenient options such as omnichannel shopping, curbside pickup, touchless payment, live chat capabilities, fast shipping, and easy returns. According to a recent poll from Salesforce, here are just some of the expectations that customers now hold companies to during the age of COVID-19:
- 88 percent of consumers expect brands to accelerate digital capabilities
- 86 percent expect brands to be transparent with how they use personal information
- 76 percent expect brand interactions to be consistent across all departments — an increase from 49% since 2019
- 66 percent of customers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations
- 52 percent expect brand interactions and offers to always be personalized
Given these high standards, it’s crucial for marketers to prioritize the customer experience (CX) in 2022. Below are a few action steps to build an effective CX journey from digital marketing specialist and content strategist Shayla Price:
- Listen to your existing customers as well as employees: Conduct surveys, procure reviews, and check social media to determine how your customers feel about their experience with your brand. Don’t forget to invite feedback from employees who are in direct contact with customers on a regular basis. Use your learnings to build a better journey.
- Personalize all of your sales and marketing communication: Learn about your target audience’s interests, needs, lifestyle factors, pain points, and other relevant information, and personalize your messaging accordingly.
- Formulate an omnichannel approach: Support your customers across all your channels—social media, email, website, blog, mobile, in-store—in one consistent, integrated experience. This will ensure seamless service no matter throughout their journey no matter where customers come from or which channels they prefer.
- Offer intuitive self-service options: Build a robust FAQs page on your website for customers to find answers and solutions on their own. For more in-depth queries, automated chatbots can provide real-time assistance and help resolve customer issues through live chat.
4. Revamp your email campaigns
Virtual communication has risen significantly over the past two years thanks to rises in remote work and digital shopping, and this appears to have had a favorable impact on email results. According to a survey from Mail Gun, 40 percent of companies have seen an increase in open rates, and nearly 78 percent agree the pandemic has not negatively impacted their email open rate. Not to mention, nearly 80 percent of consumers want to receive email communication from their favorite brands at least once a week.
Many brands are capitalizing on this uptick in email use, the survey reports, with about 56 percent of marketers sending more emails and e-newsletters now than before the pandemic. Email is still an effective method to reach potential audiences, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and boost your conversion rates. So don’t overlook the importance of this medium.
Here are some ideas for revamping your email in 2022 based on Mail Gun’s findings:
- Include personal and authentic human touches: Simple tweaks such as making the tone of your emails more empathetic can make recipients feel you’re speaking directly to them.
- Make the content relevant and mission-focused: Consumers pay attention to brands that align with their values, so tailor the email to focus on aspects of your mission that audience members care about.
- Customize messaging based on segmentation: Segment your list to deliver hyper-relevant, personalized email campaigns for your individual audiences.
- Send an exclusive, limited-time promotion offer: Make the consumer feel special and create a sense of urgency with a discount or promo code that’s only redeemable via an in-email link for a limited amount of time. Mail Gun’s research indicates that 56 percent of consumers join an email list for promotions.
- Clean up your email subscriber list: Evaluate your list of email subscribers periodically to make sure each address is still active, then only retain the subscribers that frequently open and click through your email content. This will reduce bounce rates and help your emails reach more qualified customers.
Elevate your marketing and PR game in 2022
A lot has changed over the past couple of years, forcing marketing and PR professionals to shift their strategies in the new pandemic market in order to gain and retain more customers. Chances are, like many organizations, yours is still trying to adapt to the new trends. 2022 is a great opportunity to rise to this challenge by making these resolutions above.