COVID Changed 2020: 5 Marketing Trends You Need To Make You Competitive

COVID Changed 2020: 5 Marketing Trends To help your business succeed this year, use these 2021 Marketing Trends.

They’re based on the accelerated and lasting changes of 2020 due to COVID.

COVID, COVID, COVID was the story of 2020.
It touched every major aspect of life globally.

BUT, the approach and results differed by country as well as each nation’s variations due to geographic location, economic resources, political leadership and related governmental infrastructure, and social acceptance towards a shared goal of combatting the virus.

As a result, these actions had uneven and different intended and unintended consequences based on past experience, policies and approach.

While the seeds of 2020’s transition have built up over time in the US and beyond, the velocity and depth of this global evolution was unprecedented.

At a macro-level, it flows from eroded public trust and faith in leadership across government, business and the media.

Due to our global connectedness, human communications and data get transmitted almost instantaneously to intended and unintended audiences. Powered by AI-based technologies and digital, voice and multi-modal devices, these systems continue to improve at exponential speeds.

What does this mean for your marketing?

Because your audience, including buyers, employees and broader community, expects your organization to provide the leadership and support when and where governments don’t.

As a result, they listen to your words and pay attention to your actions. To gain their trust, what you say and do must be consistent to build your brand equity for the long term.

To position your organization for the future, examine how the 2020 coronavirus changed the environment in which you do business. Incorporate these 5 2021 Marketing Trends in your marketing plans.


COVID Changed 2020: 5 Marketing Trends For 2021


1. Increased and Accelerated Digital Transformation

Digital transformation varied across:

  • Business types including healthcare, financial services, education and government,
  • Delivery of product and services including online only, order online pickup at store, and retail only, and
  • Devices chosen by customers for a specific type of transaction including computers, smartphones, tablets, voice and multi-modal assistants, and self-serve kiosks.

This massive change is a pivotal point in history; it’s a modern day technology-driven global revolution.

Further most of this technology runs on AI- and/or blockchain-based programming. So they continually expand personalized experiences based on the user’s past activity.

To make this process better, ensure your internal data:

  • Is consistent across your operation,
  • Enhances the security of your data, and
  • Protects your audience’s information privacy.

US online spending during the pandemic increased across age segments.

  • 65% of respondents aged 18-45 spent more online and
  • 51% of respondents aged 55 and older spent more online.

By contrast:

  • Roughly one fifth of respondents spent less online and
  • Another fifth reported no change in online spending. (Source: FIS September 2020)

Online Purchasing Comparison Before and During COVID

Why does this matter for 2021 Marketing Trends?

The rapid changes in customer demand for digital options underscored the lack of digital transformation investment across organizations. This includes “disruption proof” categories like healthcare.

Because they need to provide the necessary products and services when, where and how customers want to order and receive delivery of them.
For businesses, this is crucial for brand loyalty and continued profitable revenues from existing customers!

Even if you can’t control every aspect of product and service delivery such as shipping, you can and must manage internal factors like inventory and digital customer service systems. Otherwise, you risk eroding your brand equity and profitability due to widespread customer dissatisfaction like IKEA. (Fast Company September 2020)


Digital Transformation Impact on 2021 Marketing Trends

Businesses must navigate complex choices between investment and cost-cutting. They have to meet accelerated customer demand for and adoption of digital options within shorter timeframes to remain competitive and viable. As a result, you need to invest in new and evolving technologies while you innovate across organizational processes.

On December 10, 2020, Mahesh H Puttaiah, Senior Economist at Swiss Re Institute said:

“Increased use of digital tools is blurring the lines between work, lifestyle and social interaction and between domains like mobility, health and finance. We expect this to continue in the post-COVID-19 world.”


Need further proof?
Then see what senior management has to say.

Current Pepsico Board Member, Richard Fisher observed (Source: Mauldin Economics January 8, 2021):

“CPG businesses experienced accelerated innovation, productivity and brand positioning in the last 9 months that would have taken 5 or more years in ordinary times.”


Since Microsoft serves education, government, healthcare and business organizations, CEO Satya Nadella said the following during Microsoft’s quarterly earnings report on April 29, 2020,

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”


2. Mobility Patterns And In-Person Activities

How Transportation and Mobility Pattern Changes Affect 2021 Marketing Trends

Customers make transportation decisions based on reducing health risks. For both private and business trips, health safety outranks cost, convenience and travel time. (McKinsey – September 17, 2020)How COVID Changed Mobility PatternsGlobal air travel capacity has decreased to almost half of its January 2020 levels due to restrictions and global flight frequency. Usually the largest global aviation market, US airline capacity has decreased 45% versus January 2020. (OAG Aviation Worldwide-January 18, 2021).

Global scheduled seats change year-over-year

Urban mobility includes:

  • Private vehicles,
  • Taxi or e-hailing,
  • New modes,
  • Public bus transit,
  • Public rail transit,
  • Shared micro-mobility, and
  • Other options.

Before COVID, urban mobility had started to change in non-standardized ways around the world.

COVID has widened regional differences in mobility patterns based on the timing of the pandemic and how health systems have coped. During 2021, many of these variances are likely to continue.  Depending on your organization’s focus, this may change your marketing due to your broader audience’s needs. By 2030, there will be dramatic shifts in mobility usage globally.

Comparing large global cities highlights significant differences in expected regional mode-share shifts through 2030

COVID And Work-From-Home Implications For 2021 marketing Trends

Since COVID has restricted large public gatherings, major categories of businesses and organizations have had to change how they do business.

In turn, these business changes and closures have hurt small businesses dependent on shoppers who work in those neighborhoods. This includes hospitality, restaurants and other businesses dependent on travelers (such as airport retail).

Additionally, this includes commercial real estate. In New York CIty, real estate prices have been a key factor for retail consolidation and empty storefronts since rent is one of the biggest cost factors.

While many Work-From-Home (WFH) jobs can and have shifted, it unevenly affects people and creates other challenges.

Beyond not having to wear “hard clothes” (or non-work clothes) or only dressing the part that’s visible via your computer screen, WFH requires employees to have:

  • Space at home to work without being interrupted by roommates, partners or spouses and/or children. For people without formal home offices or space that can be dedicated to work, it can be challenging especially with everyone sheltering-in-place at home.
  • Quality, high speed Internet connectivity. Depending on location or income level, it may not exist or they can’t afford it if you don’t reimburse them for it.
  • Support systems that otherwise keep their work lives on track. This includes nannies, childcare, school and home care aides. Or employees end up juggling family responsibilities while working.

In addition to supplying and maintaining the hardware, data and systems remote workers need:

Your ability to build business culture remotely, create effective leadership, and develop a sense of teamwork becomes more difficult.

Since person-to-person relationships build over time.


Virtual Education Impact on 2021 Marketing Trends

COVID has shifted education from in-person classes to virtual study from home options. This has created its own set of challenges that may have an impact on your organization and marketing.

From an educator perspective, teachers must be trained to teach via online. Depending on income level and geographic location, the school’s software and systems may be out of date or lack usability functionality.

So, depending on the student’s age, parental support and oversight are needed to ensure that their schoolwork is done. This can be a problem when parents are frontline workers and/or don’t have the skills to provide this help.

Often, based on income level, students may not have access to computers or tablets and quality internet (which may not exist in small town locations). Even if families have computers and connectivity, they might not have ones that their children can use on a dedicated basis.

Further, for students from low income homes, the absence of school translates to food insecurity since they depend on school supplied meals.

Lastly reduced socialization for school age children may have longer-term implications that can result in economic differences and/or social problems.


The Impact of Reduced In-Person Social Gatherings, Entertainment and Sports on 2021 Marketing Trends

The absence of in-person social gatherings, entertainment or sports, both personal and professional has resulted in reduced socialization across age groups. This includes regular outdoor activities.

Most notably this contributed to a sense of isolation and/or loneliness for singles and homebound individuals. It has resulted in increased pet ownership.

Further it can take a toll both economically and socially on multi-generational families that aren’t used to spending 24/7 under the same roof. Since members may need space, privacy and other social relationships. This is particularly important for high school students, college students and recent graduates.

Percent of Household by presence of children 14 or under

Lastly, couples who had good relationships during normal times have put their relationships to new tests. As a result, COVID will result in a combination of increased divorce and baby boom which are the extreme ends of this factor.


3. Economic and Financial Impact: International, National and Personal

From a broad economic perspective, COVID has increased inequalities globally. Those people with less education, money and/or other resources, were disproportionately burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness, and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic. (Source: 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer)

Pandemic deepens inequalities around the world

In the US, most of the COVID frontline workers include:

  • Doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, and hospital workers (such as administrative, food and janitorial services,)
  • Police, firemen and EMS workers, and
  • Other essential workers including postal employees, other delivery personnel, food service employees and store employees.

Most of the COVID frontline work has disproportionately been done by people, mainly women, in lower income jobs, often black, brown and immigrant populations. These people need to work to cover their shelter, food, medical and other necessities often without the support of sick leave, health insurance, and/or unemployment and disability insurance.

As a result, in terms of 2021 marketing trends, across the US, COVID has shifted people down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (Accenture – April 2020)

The research proves onsumers are very focused on their most basic needs at present


Snapshot of US Economic and Financial Indicators

According to The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects January 2021, the US’s economic output collapse during the first half of 2020 dwarfs declines during the 2008 global financial crisis and other previous recessions.

While large-scale emergency support to household incomes helped the US economy to rebound in mid-2020, the resurgence of COVID subsequently halted this improvement.

For most organizations this will have an impact on your 2021 marketing trends since future recovery most likely will be challenging due to increased long-term unemployment.

Snapshot of US economic and financial indicatorsFurther, 30 years of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data provides insights into the extreme impact of 2020 unemployment relative to past recessions. This is a key factor in your ability to use marketing to drive profitable sales. Because without work, your current and potential customers don’t have the means to buy from you.

Reason for unemployment

In addition, US Trade Policy has had a negative impact on distinct economic segments. This disproportionately hurts midwestern farmers who raise soybean and corn for export to China.

Further, extreme weather events including fires, hurricanes and tornadoes and even a derecho, left people homeless and at risk for their lives. (Note: AMG Newsletter – August 28, 2020 discussed these weather issues.)


The Impact of COVID on Women, Socially and Economically

Most of the frontline US COVID emergency workers are women.

  • One third of jobs held by women are designated as essential. Further, non-white women are more likely to do essential jobs than anyone else. Of the 5.8 million people who have healthcare jobs paying less than $30,000 per year, half are non-white and 83% percent are women.
  • Home health and personal care aides are 2 of the fastest growing occupations in the US job market. Over 80% of these aides are women who earn little more than minimum wage. (Source: The New York Times – April 18, 2020)
  • Further essential workers who are single mothers face the added need for emergency 24-hour child care.

Share of essential workers who are women

Additionally, women have suffered the majority of pandemic-related job losses:

  • Since February 2020, women have lost over 5.4 million net jobs, accounting for 55.0% of overall net job loss since the crisis started. (Source: NWIC – January, 2020)

Deeper examination of female job loss reveals that it falls disproportionately on minorities. Compared to a 5.8% of unemployment for white males,

  • Black women have a 8.4% unemployment rate,
  • Latinas have a 9.1% unemployment rate,
  • Women aged 20-24 have a 9.3% unemployment rate, and
  • Women with disabilities have an 11.4% unemployment rate.

Women's unemployment rates


4. Social and Cultural Issues

Overall, personal priorities shifted during 2020 due to the combination of health concerns, racially charged events, and economic stress.

  • 56% prioritized their family and its needs,
  • 39% became politically aware, and
  • 36% started to speak out for change and reforms.

Understand that your organization’s hiring practices can have an impact on your brand equity.

Personal Priorities shift in 2020

The impact of COVID has increased existing divides within the US. Among the sources of these deep-rooted faultlines include wealth inequality, race, country of origin, religion beliefs, LGBTQ+ and other forms of divisiveness.

In turn, this has polarized people who believe that they’re underserved segments and ignited these deep-rooted differences.

On May 29, 2020, after responding to a 911 call, a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, forcibly pushed the life out of George Floyd.

This 8 minutes 46 seconds changed us. Since this racially charged incident was recorded by a bystander, it sparked Black Lives Matter (aka: #BLM) protests that extended beyond the US.

In many areas, these peaceful gatherings were smeared by looters who took advantage of the highly charged situation that stretched police response. The resulting damage and protection increased business costs and hindered sales.

As a result of these protests, there was the increased salience and on-going civil support for changes in and related racial issues.

Unfortunately, this type of racially-based killing isn’t new. In that last decade it has stirred racial tensions, especially the deaths of Michael Brown Jr. on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida.


Social Impact of COVID on Women

COVID has had a greater impact on women than men in terms of stress, exhaustion and burnout. And this disparity increases for minority women, especially Blacks.

  • A quarter of working mothers have left the job force due to COVID. Often they need to be caretakers for children and/or older family members.
  • Another quarter of working mothers have had to reduce their work hours or job due to COVID.

Moms More Likely Than Dads to Scale Back

Consistent with other data, Black women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID pandemic. As a result, they’re:

  • More than twice as likely as women overall to say their one of biggest challenges was the death of a loved one.
  • Felt heavy emotional toll due to incidents of racial violence across the US. Yet, less than 1 in 3 Black women reported that their manager checked on them during these events.

Black Women Often don't feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work

According to Women In the Workplace 2020, 2 key trends standout in terms of the impact COVID has had on women:

  • Women are having a worse experience during COVID than men.
  • Women aren’t all having identical experiences. Specifically Black women, Latinas, Asian women, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face distinct challenges. So companies must understand this to be able to can address those challenges directly.

How different Groups of Women Are feeling during COVID-19

Hiring and employee practices influence how your broader audience views and engages with your organization. In turn, this has an important impact on your brand’s trustworthiness.


5. How Lack of Leadership and Eroded Public Trust Will Affect 2021 Marketing Trends

Across government, business and media (defined broadly to include online and social media options), public trust has eroded. This is largely attributable to a lack of leadership and increased fake and/or misleading information.

In light of President Trump’s continued spread of false statements and lies via Twitter, press briefings and public rallies, it’s not surprising. Further his words have meaning since he has the ability to laser-focus and call his followers to action. This was demonstrated by the january 6, 2021 insurrection on the Capitol.

This has continued to erode trust in media across traditional, owned, online and social media to record lows. Further, most media outlets have at least an implicit political leaning.

Trust in all information sources at record lows

Almost 3 out of 5 Americans think that leaders intentionally spread misinformation according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. Specifically:

  • 57% of respondents believe government leaders purposely try to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.
  • 56% of respondents believe business leaders purposely try to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.

Societal leaders not trusted to do what is right

As a result, mistrust hurts your brand and standing in your broader community. In the process it reduces your organization’s ability to attract audience attention for your content marketing communications and other promotions.


2021 Marketing Trends Conclusion

In 2020, COVID created lasting change across 5 key factors:

  • Digital transformation,
  • Mobility patterns and in-person activities,
  • Economic and financial factors,
  • Social and cultural issues, and
  • Lack of leadership and eroded public trust.

As a result, government, businesses and media entities must reassess their plans to ensure that they’re aligned with these 2021 marketing trends.

This won’t be easy but the future of your organization depends on how you respond to these accelerated changes.

Because your broader audience including customers, employees and local community are listening to your words and watching your actions.

So, if your organization’s representatives from your janitor to your CEO don’t act to improve the greater social good  consistently with your marketing and brand messaging, they’ll erode your long-term brand value and business viability.

To ensure your business remains competitive in 2021 and beyond, take the time to reassess your business plans. And follow Peter Drucker’s advice by integrating marketing across your organization.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


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