As the world begins to experiment with a post-pandemic new normal, it’s more critical than ever for brands to be cognizant of their consumers’ new needs and wants. While some stay-at-home orders begin to pull back, social distancing and new “quarantine” consumer habits will likely persist, as well as shifts in expectations and overall consumer behavior.
For brick-and-mortar shops, digital businesses, and other services, tailored marketing strategies in this next phase of the pandemic are critical in regaining trust and building community with target audiences. Social media usage has spiked, with up to 51% of US adults using social media at higher rates during the pandemic (a change even more pronounced among Gen Z and millennials). Meeting people where they are spending their time is imperative for reaching and connecting with today’s consumers.
The way to make lasting, meaningful connections is through authentic, human-focused content.
Influencer marketing initiatives in which brands work with creators to develop authentic branded content or campaigns geared towards generating UGC (user-generated content) are instrumental in educating consumers. These campaigns can help brands get information like opening dates in front of customers, spread awareness about new brand protocols, illustrate firsthand experiences to ignite trust, and showcase new use cases for a product in the hopes of inspiring sales and building long-term advocacy.
Because 92% of consumers trust recommendations from others (even if they don’t know the person) over branded content, and 49% of consumers rely on testimonials from influencers, incorporating influencers in your post-COVID strategy can jumpstart your consumer conversion path.
Spread the Word: Informing Your Customers About Reopening Updates and Plans
With restrictions and business opening guidelines varying by city and state, using local targeting to communicate reopening plans and rollouts will be extremely important to garner swift audience re-engagement.
Even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, brands should take extra precautions to ensure employee and guest safety is a top priority. Consumers will be looking for a new level of safety and sanitation precautions, whether it is mask requirements, more frequent cleanings, social distancing in stores, access to hand sanitizer, etc.
To get that key information in front of customers, it’s important to not just rely on brand channels.
While these updates can be communicated directly from the brand, influencers (particularly those who have existing affinities) can effectively amplify updates and provide education to consumers through a source they trust.
Influencers can drive awareness around:
- Re-openings of your shops, studios, and businesses (primarily through locally targeted influencer engagements)
- New safety and sanitation procedures in place
- Use cases for products in the post-pandemic world (e.g., how your brand fits into small social gatherings, at-home celebrations, backyard stay-cations)
Building Trust Through Social Proof
According to Ernst & Young’s Future Consumer Index, 42% of surveyed consumers believe the coronavirus pandemic will fundamentally alter their shopping habits. People want to see others re-entering the markets before they do it themselves, and many may be conservative on how quickly they dive into their previous activities.
Using influencers and UGC to showcase firsthand how to safely and comfortably participate in activities provides social reassurance for individuals considering dipping their toes in themselves (e.g., traveling, dining out, going to school, making new purchases). As consumers scroll through their social feeds, seeing positivity and optimism in content from relatable figures and real customers can reinforce their own comfort levels.
Relatable, Human Creative Content Development
Because everyone is experiencing the pandemic in different ways, empathetic and self-aware content is critical for brands. This type of content goes beyond being mindful of social distancing graphics in ad creative. Creators know their audiences and have a keen sense of what will and will not resonate with them. Additionally, they are real people who can put real stories behind their creative strategy.
Using influencers for creative development is not only cost-effective, but it also provides real, human content. This style of content adds to overall diversity in content assets, including static images, videos, testimonials, and reviews, utilized in the relaunch plans across marketing channels.
Aspirational Content to Engage Community
Regardless of where your brand falls within the pandemic timeline, continuing to engage and foster your existing community is of the utmost importance to position your brand for long-term success.
Many influencers, businesses in their own right, have been working incredibly hard to support their communities during this time and have seen engagement flourish as they connect on a deeper level with their communities who are craving information and human connection.
Consumers have been turning to influencers throughout stay-at-home orders for education, inspiration, positivity, and entertainment. If you haven’t already been engaging creators and brand advocates to help stay relevant (Calling all TikTok Challenges out there!), now is a great time.
As always, true alignment between brand and influencer is key to setting up engagements for success.
Influencers can bring new voices to your own channels through takeovers, Instagram Lives, and virtual events. They can also help inspire future action. For example, travel brands should leverage influencers now to engage their community through aspirational content like travel guides and “virtual” vacations. Furthermore, retail or hospitality businesses should run gift card giveaways through influencers to help ignite shopping excitement or future stays.