Article | January 18, 2021
We may have entered a New Year, but we are still living in a world filled with lockdowns and restrictions. Still unable to hug our loved ones, online companionship is quite possibly, more important than ever before.
The last 12 months has shown online communities come together with social media influencers becoming the ultimate lockdown companions.
Amelia Neate, Senior Manager at Influencer Matchmaker explains why companionship is still big on the radar for 2021 and why she thinks it is here to stay.
Since March of last year, most of the population have found themselves spending more time indoors, whether that’s due to lockdown, working from home, furlough or maybe they have been shielding.
But because of that, human interaction has been limited and it doesn’t seem to be on the cards for anytime soon, either. And with a quarter of UK adults saying that lockdown has made them feel lonely, many have turned to social media influencers in a bid to feel less alone.
Helping each other out
Online companionship is much more than simply a one-way street. Whilst it primarily benefits consumers, social media followers and audiences, it also provides rapport for the influencers and brands, too.
Many influencers felt a responsibility to uplift their audiences, keep them company and deliver some much-needed entertainment during a time filled with such despair and crisis.
This, in turn, allowed social media influencers to create a deeper connection with their followers, and the feeling of responsibility provided them with something to focus on and strive for whilst they too, found themselves living a life under restriction.
With the temporary closure of retail alongside many other industries, social media has supplied brands and businesses with an opportunity to establish a brand-new relationship with customers that they may not have had otherwise.
Brands have been able to understand exactly what their customers want by spending more time communicating with them and getting them involved with the content they create and the brands they choose to work with.
As well as this, brands have been able to work closely (albeit virtually) with influencers to provide them with just that.
It isn’t just the relationship between brands, influencers and their audiences, though. Brands have used this time to build relationships with other brands, particularly through the use of social media.
Smaller, local, independent businesses of a similar vein have teamed up with one another to create bespoke packages, combining their products and services as a way to build brand awareness and help gain recognition.
Influencers have also been doing something very similar. ‘Follow Fridays’ have made a triumphant return to Instagram, with many influencers dedicating their time to promoting fellow content creators and sharing their work.
A sense of community
Influencers have worked hard to adapt their content to meet the newfound needs of their audience and to build a community.
The last year has seen an influx in the number of virtual book clubs, Facebook groups and podcasts, many of which have been created as a way to tackle boredom and loneliness - for both the creators and users.
With people forced to embrace daily Zoom calls with work as well as weekend catchups with family members, many have been seeking a distraction that isn’t too far from their norm.
Book clubs such as ‘Beth’s Book Club', founded by Beth Sandland, have blossomed during the coronavirus pandemic. Going from simply reading one book a month, this particular online community has upped the ante and has become a place to discuss their favourite reads and create new friends.
As well as the usual monthly discussion, this book club often features virtual get togethers, Q&A’s with popular authors and even yoga sessions, regularly providing members with something to look forward to.
Such communities have also been welcomed with open arms by royalty. The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, has also launched her very own Instagram book club. The Reading Room features conversations with authors and connects like-minded book lovers.
Facebook groups have also proven to be a popular source of escapism, with many celebrities and social media influencers creating members-only groups for their followers to join.
X-Factor star Sam Bailey created a ‘buddy up’ campaign via her Facebook group, Bailey’s Cuppa Crew. Aiming to help her fans combat loneliness, Sam encouraged them to make friends and even paired people up who would otherwise be spending Christmas alone, providing them with a way to enjoy their festive dinner over Zoom.
Influencers Lily Pebbles and The Anna Edit use a Facebook group to help with their ongoing podcast, ‘At Home With...’. The group enables listeners of the podcast to truly get involved, by sharing detailed feedback and requesting topics for episodes which really places them at the very heart of the podcast.
Similarly, health and fitness app Battle Ready 360, founded by Ollie Ollerton also have a members-only group, allowing users of the app to compete in friendly challenges, make friends and take some time for themselves.
Throughout the entirety of this pandemic, influencers have provided their followers with nothing but positivity, hope and a little inspiration.
A thought for the future
An end is in sight, although it may be a little further away than we initially thought.
But one thing that the pandemic has taught us, is the importance of companionship and the true power of social media influencers.
They are much more than online creators and entertainers, but friends, supporters and advocates for all that we believe in.
And with that being said, I firmly believe that the act of online companionship is something that will stick around, throughout 2021 and beyond.
Article | January 18, 2021
The only eternal truth about digital marketing is that there is nothing eternal in it. The very moment when we think we understand where it’s headed is also the moment we realize that we are late to the party. The full range of media content competes for 8 seconds of a customer’s attention. And to win this battle we must be ready to change our strategy and to get rid of our favorite tools. How do we know which trends to adapt and integrate into our marketing strategies? To make an impact in 2020 it's important to have an analytics backed digital marketing plan. It's tempting to look around and see what makes your competitors grab attention, but for consistent long term growth you shouldn't follow every trend.
Article | January 18, 2021
How do you make the right choices, to reach the right audience through the right channels just the right time? Most importantly, how do you ensure your advertising budget is having the impact you need and earning the ROI your investment deserves? This is the challenge of the current Marketing process. Businesses use educated guesswork, publisher driven audience stats (often inaccurate and outdated) and intuition to plan how they’re going to communicate with their customer in the hope that the usual ads and content will work.
Article | January 18, 2021
It has been over a year since retailers were forced to temporarily shut their doors or put in place restrictions to limit the in-store experience. Now, as we return to some semblance of normality, it’s essential that trust and brand value are retained for those operating a digital-only presence.
In this article, Nate Burke, CEO at Diginius, discusses how brands have effectively kept customers engaged, consequently building trust and brand value in the process, and what techniques to use while navigating the next steps of the pandemic.
As I write this, physical retail and outdoor hospitality are feeling a little more rejuvenated after welcoming customers back. My inbox and notification centre are full of alerts from brands offering high street discounts and incentives for scanning an app in-store. This is a prime example of how fast and timely brands need to be in order to capture their customers’ attention when trends and circumstances change.
It’s also a great example of how essential communication and marketing techniques are in building trust and creating brand value. While I might not be one to rush back to high street stores so soon, I do feel reassured and excited by these messages. And nothing could be more important at a time like this.
It’s a reminder that these shops are still there and are prepared to welcome customers back in. After all, if they’ve had time to plan and create a whole marketing campaign around the event, I can only hope their efforts towards a safe reopening have been given just as much thought and attention.
Digital tactics like those mentioned above have only ramped up during the course of the pandemic, where remote communication and at-distance offerings have been the only touch points between brands and consumers. And of course, this hasn’t been without challenge.
It’s human nature for us to trust and find greater value in something we can see for ourselves in person. Traditionally, brands have been able to create this through in-store experiences where customers know they can see products and services in action and are able to interact with staff and experts should there be any concerns. While digital channels do offer their own set of benefits, meeting these innate human needs is not one of them.
So, in a bid to retain consumer trust amid the uncertainty of forced closures, measures and constantly changing restrictions, we’ve seen a number of effective strategies from brands. Regular push notifications and email communications just scratch the surface. These tactics are a great way to generate instant response, whether it’s a brand reminder, an update on important changes or simply an alert of a new deal in an attempt to drive website traffic.
By now, it’s a known fact that personalised messages generate better results. And these forms of digital communication can certainly be personalised with little effort on the brand’s part. Whether it's a mass email with a tailored first name field, or an app alert that is sent as a restriction lifts - both feel personal and as though they have been sent by a real individual who knows who you are and understands the context of a situation.
But today’s customers need and expect more. These tactics have been used for years, and the sensitivity of the pandemic has called for a more human approach in terms of marketing and customer service. And that’s exactly what many successful brands have been doing.
While driving traffic to a website is important, it’s the service on offer once a customer lands on a page that makes the difference when it comes to building trust and brand value, and ultimately, converting. It’s all about translating the human in-store experience online.
For example, we’ve seen greater focus and uptake in live chat features on websites, with this now being an expected function for over half of consumers. Through such features, customers expect to be able to talk to a real person on the side of the screen who is able to understand their queries and responsively provide a solution.
Companies such as Currys PC World have taken this one step further, and now offer a ‘Shop Live’ feature that enables customers to video call a real sales representative who can help them with their purchase. In this way, brands are able to bridge the gap between themselves and their consumers, even in a time of social distancing. And as a result, are able to retain trust, while also adding value to their brand through the out of the box and supportive offering.
Other tactics have included offering incentives that encourage repeat purchases. For example, many online retailers offer unlimited next day delivery subscription services, whereby a one off higher yearly fee provides access to a year's worth of free delivery. With the delay between placing an order and it then arriving, as well as delivery fees being some of the biggest deterring factors from online purchases, the incentive has been incredibly effective in increasing loyalty. That feeling of the brand also offering you a better deal is also a great way to build trust, so even though a brand might be increasing the cost it incurs for delivery, the value of a repeating customer and their advocacy hold much more weight.
In this sense, it’s all about how a brand and its offerings are perceived by customers. And another sure fire way of improving brand perceptions is through PPC tactics. Anyone operating in ecommerce knows how competitive the market is. Ensuring your brand is seen above competitors is key in driving awareness and trust, as ultimately, a higher ranking and greater visibility reflect positively on a brand’s trustworthiness.
Clearly, there are a number of ways in which businesses can adapt and improve their offerings in order to encourage trust and add value. Of course, implementing all of these changes will be wasteful for budgets and not necessarily effective for every brand. Therefore, it’s important that you understand your market and customers, which can prove a challenge as things continue to constantly change as they have been.
But a solution may not be too hard to find. Insight software has advanced just as fast as these markets and customer behaviours. Therefore, with the right tools on your side, you can monitor shifts in the market in real time and adjust your offerings in response.
For example, if data shows you receive more website traffic at certain times, it may be an option to increase the number of customer service staff operating the live chat function during those periods in order to minimise waiting times and improve customer experience.
These tools can also help you decide which channels to focus PPC efforts on depending on those your customers visit most often. Using this data, you can then allocate budget accordingly, ensuring wasted spend is minimised while results are maximised. For example, during the pandemic, the figures were showing a greater uptake in use of marketplaces such as Amazon, as well as social commerce channels, including Instagram. If businesses understood this in real time, aided by collaborative commerce software such as VTEX, they may have been able to optimise their performance by increasing their PPC activity and consequently, visibility and status on such platforms.
Ultimately, commerce is facing a period of significant uncertainty that is having an effect on both customers and businesses alike. Regardless of whether stores are open or closed, customer behaviours and needs are constantly changing to keep up. And brands need to understand that how they communicate their messages and offerings is vital in retaining trust and brand value.
It’s evident that a humanistic approach is prevailing, as that is one thing that will never change. But as digital channels take centre stage, it all comes down to how a brand is able to translate its personable approach online. While there are a number of innovative methods brands are using to appear more human on online channels, using the tools and data available is key to ensuring activities help rather than hinder a business.
And in this way, not only will brands be able to retain trust and brand value, but they will be building on it too.