When the novel coronavirus pandemic spread all over the world in the first quarter of 2020, countries began to shut down borders, and lockdowns began across cities and communities. Suddenly, roads and places of business looked like scenes from a movie about a dystopian future. People stayed in their homes and could not even visit loved ones and family members living in other households. There was no other place to go but the digital world for those who had online connections.
For some, the only way to access basic necessities, even groceries, was to order online. Restaurants and individuals with cooking skills realized that they could sell food this way, for delivery or for curbside pickup by customers. The online grocery and food retail businesses flourished. It was not long after that when people realized that they could buy almost anything online. Many businesses also realized that they could pivot and sell their goods and services online. Suddenly, a large part of the world economy went digital.
A Virtual Marketplace
According to the Digital 2021 Global Overview Report of WeAreSocial and Hootsuite, as of January 2021, there were 5.22 billion users of mobile phones this year, with 4.66 billion Internet users, and 4.2 billion active social media users out of a global population of 7.83 billion. This shows that more than half of the world is now online. All of these statistics represent increases from January 2020.
People are using mobile phones more than they are watching television. Internet users are online for an average of six hours and 54 minutes every day and 92.6 percent of them do so on smartphones. Watching online videos is what 90.6 percent do while 74.9 percent play video games, 73.2 percent listen to streaming music, 51.4 percent watch vlogs, 47.1 percent listen to online radio programs, and 44.1 percent listen to podcasts.
The e-commerce habit that developed in 2020 continues to grow stronger. Over 75 percent of Internet users buy at least one item online each month, and 70 percent look for items to buy beyond search engines. Conventional search engines are still utilized by 98 percent of Internet users for brand information, but 45.3 percent are also using voice search, 44.8 percent are using social media, and 32.9 percent are using image search. More than 25 percent stated that they bought an item because of the brand’s values as shown in social media. Ad blockers are used by 42.7 percent of Internet users worldwide, though, with more than half stating that there are too many ads, and they are annoying, irrelevant, and intrusive.
Reimagining Digital Marketing
This highlights the need for all brands to reimagine their digital marketing efforts. The digital market is bigger than ever, more complicated, and noisier. According to data from Statista, global digital advertising spending went from $370.26 billion in 2019 to $399.27 billion in 2020. By the end of 2021, the forecast is that it will reach $458.16 billion. Through the years, the largest share of digital advertising spending has been on the search, followed by banner advertisements. Video ads rank third, but predictions see it overtaking banner ads by 2025. Classified ads remain a far fourth in spending.
It is easy to get lost in the hubbub and perhaps this is why the report titled Think Forward 2021: The Social Reset of We Are Social identifies a trend of people leaning toward the simpler and more important things in life. They are prioritizing communication with family, friends, and like-minded communities. Since they can only connect digitally during lockdowns, they humanize the digital connection.
People also use social media platforms for their advocacies, and they expect influencers to do so, as well. Apart from this, people now use various online platforms in new ways, such as socializing while gaming, attending live digital events, and joining watch parties for movies. People are also co-creating on these platforms instead of just consuming content from influencers.
Brands must consider these approaches in digital marketing and SEO marketing efforts. They must establish a sincere, intimate, and strong connection with consumers and get involved with relevant community activities. They must ensure that their companies address any issues of injustice or intolerance. Customer engagement must be human-to-human, and communications must be empathetic. Any influencer the brand chooses to be its ambassador must have values and a lifestyle aligned with the brand’s values, highlighting the brand’s integrity.
Brands must also be creative in exploring new uses for various online platforms. Welcoming the participation of consumers in co-creating content will endear the brand to its target market.
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