How COVID-19 Shaped Digital Marketing Strategies For 2021 and Beyond A Year In Review – Looking Back on 2020

author image Written by: Nicole McCormick           Categories - Digital Marketing

2020 may be gone, but it will definitely not be forgotten. Not that it would even be remotely possible to erase the COVID-19 pandemic from our memories.

While most of us would prefer to move forward and leave 2020 in the dust, it’s important to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the world we are now living in. After all, this past year was a critical time for businesses and marked a dramatic shift in consumer behaviours and digital marketing strategies.

With that being said, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the various ways businesses and the digital marketing world had to adapt this past year.

Crafting the Perfect Tone Was Critical

There’s a fine line between empathetic and insensitive, which is something we all learned this past year. Crafting the right tone for your marketing materials has always been important, but in 2020, it was absolutely critical.

Instead of making light of the pandemic or ignoring it all together, businesses that maintained a positive “we’re all in this together” mentality were the ones who connected with audiences and escaped being “cancelled.”

One brand that faced criticism for its “tone-deaf” marketing was, coincidentally, Corona. Near the end of February, the beer company launched a televised commercial promoting Corona Hard Seltzer. The commercial featured different people traveling by boat, bike, and skateboard in a sunny destination holding colourful cases of the brand’s seltzer. It sounds harmless, but the coronavirus pandemic was already in full-force and quickly spreading around the world at this point. Corona was criticized for ignoring the idea that viewers might make a connection between the ad and the virus outbreak.

Marketing Became A Survival Tool

When lockdowns forced many non-essential businesses to shut their doors this past spring, some businesses slashed their marketing budgets to survive. Others pushed through and used marketing techniques to their advantage. Digital marketing tactics like paid ads, social media marketing, and local SEO were used as survival tools, and brands that survived reaped the benefits when lockdown restrictions eased up.

Opportunities to Innovate and Adapt

When brick-and-mortar businesses were forced to shut their doors, it became vital to take an innovative, adaptive approach to their business model. For many, this approach secured their business’s survival. Whether it was launching an eCom website, offering product delivery or curbside pickup, or switching to virtual services, pivoting paid off in the long run.

Spontaneity and Imperfections Became The New Normal

This year, many businesses and employees faced uncharted territory – working from home and adapting to new technologies, to name a few examples. Hiccups were only to be expected. Plus, never knowing what to expect from each day made planning things in advance pretty difficult.

Take Passport Canada’s blunder, for instance. In November, the government agency tweeted the following message:

“Are you planning a winter vacation but don’t have a valid passport? Don’t wait, apply now!”

The post was published using Hootsuite, so it was most likely crafted and scheduled far in advance. With travel restrictions still in place, Twitter users were quick to point out the faux pas and Passport Canada deleted the tweet.

Lesson learned: in the age of a global pandemic, things never go according to plan, so it’s important to stay on your toes and adapt your messaging day-to-day.

eCom Reigned Supreme

No surprise here, but consumers turned to online shopping immediately after brick-and-mortar stores shut their doors. Consumers were encouraged to shop locally this year, and local businesses that made the switch to an e-commerce platform gained a huge competitive advantage.

By May, e-commerce sales reached a record $3.9 billion in Canada. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, all 11 retail trade subsectors with e-commerce experienced an increase in online sales as a direct result of COVID-19.

Search Behaviour Changed

COVID-19 dramatically altered search behaviours this year. When widespread lockdowns began earlier in the year, consumers began to spend more time at home than ever before.

For instance, in the early days of the pandemic, Google experienced a surge in search volume for the following terms:

  • Video games
  • Lounge clothes
  • Baking
  • Outdoor living
  • Office chair
  • Gym equipment

Meanwhile, the queries that declined dramatically were:

  • Restaurants near me
  • Cruise-related queries
  • Hotel queries

Plenty of businesses caught onto these behavioural shifts, and used them to their advantage.

Clearly, this past year has been completely unprecedented and turned nearly every industry upside down.

While we all want to leave COVID-19 in 2020, it’s clear that the pandemic’s impact is still being felt, and it will likely continue to shape the way we do things through 2021 and beyond.

Nicole McCormick

Nicole is a wordsmith wizard, passionate about the written word and an avid storyteller who uses creatively crafted prose to help bring your brand’s story to the next level. A former journalist with writing credits in both local and national news publications and a few newspaper awards under her belt, Nicole now enjoys telling your stories and finding new and creative ways to create valuable content that resonates with audiences in the digital landscape.