Why digital marketing will never be the same after COVID

Radu Dan
May 3, 2021

In the summer of 2019, I paced up and down Hamilton's James and Locke Streets, handing out business cards and offering my services as an up-and-coming photographer.

Not one business was interested in my services.

Fast forward to 2021.

Put your hand up if you know at least one local business that has had to shut its doors at some point in the last year.

How about if you had to spend most of 2020 seeing your coworkers exclusively on Zoom?

Whether we like it or not (spoiler: we don't), COVID has forever changed the way businesses operate (or don’t), and how they market themselves.

Digital marketing is now almost a redundant phrase. Digital marketing is the only marketing. Where a business could once rely on analog, brick-and-mortar marketing tactics (and dismiss an up-and-coming photographer looking to help them sell their products online), the pandemic - and its repeated lockdowns and bans on in-person shopping - has forced business owners to adapt to an online marketplace or risk shutting their doors for good.

Lockdown's biggest winner: digital marketing

The last couple of years have completely redefined the way small businesses approach marketing.

There are over 400,000 small businesses in Ontario alone, however, a shocking 40% of them do not have a website, according to the Government of Ontario’s recent publication ‘Shaping Ontario’s Small Business Success Strategy’.

In 2019, a federal grant and training program, Digital Main Street, was launched to help main street businesses with adoption of technology. Since COVID, this program has been a lifesaver for businesses struggling to adapt to an increasingly digital commercial world.

Buying online today for both consumers and B2B decision-makers – especially during COVID where in-person shopping has become more challenging or outright restricted, is now the norm, not the exception. The pandemic has upended traditional shopping habits, with 66% of Canadians saying they have increased their online shopping habits during COVID.

And it’s not just about sales - it’s also about brand awareness. Any business that hesitated about creating a social media presence for their business is now sorely missing out.  Throughout this lockdown-riddled year, we have seen the rise of TikTok, Instagram Shop, and Clubhouse. Every new platform is pointing towards a future in which attention-grabbing content on social media feeds is far more critical than billboards and TV advertisements - or signs in a store window.

How businesses can survive post-pandemic

So, how can companies compete in this new digital marketing game? Unsurprisingly, it all comes down to content. That is the consistent distribution of organic, relatable, and high-quality content through appropriate channels.

The content and the channel will differ depending on a business’s goals, industry, brand positioning and a myriad of other factors. But one important tip that business owners should keep in mind is this: the overarching goal of digital marketing is not just to make sales, but also to create fans.

By creating content that adds value to consumers' lives, fosters interaction, and showcases features and benefits, small businesses can build an army of loyalists without shelling out the big bucks for newspaper ads, radio spots, or billboards.

This type of marketing strategy enables succinct and direct two-way communication between brands and consumers.

The new normal

While I can’t exactly walk down James Street right now to try and sell my photography services again, I know they’re in demand. In fact, 90% of online buyers say that photo quality is the most important factor in an online sale. And a quick scroll on websites like Fiverr and Upwork reveals thousands of photographers, just like me, offering their services to help small businesses market themselves.

Digital marketing has experienced a true paradigm shift as a result of COVID - and it’s clear that even when the pandemic is over, buyer behaviour will never go back to the way it was.

Radu is the Content Marketing Assistant at Greenlight Content. Want to chat with Radu about the changing landscape of digital marketing? Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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