2020 has forced B2C brands to get experimental in finding ways to drive customer engagement with limited store traffic and cancelled events. And, we’ve seen some real creativity emerge in finding innovative ideas. Most of that creativity has depended on some degree of digital involvement. Person-to-person and customer-to-brand connections have become dependent on digital tools that are new to many consumers, or if not new, have vastly increased the amount of digital interaction in our daily lives. The creativity that has emerged from consumers and brands alike has offered some optimism and entertainment in a pretty bleak year, but we’re running into a problem: consumers are exhausted.
Between work and school, zoom happy hours (see Marketers Should Leverage the Zoom Boom to Reach Consumers, subscription required) and virtual fitness classes, we’re maxing out on screen time. Virus infection rates are increasing across the U.S. and Europe, and we’re facing the prospect of returning to lockdowns and restricted movement. As we head into the winter months, walks around the block or socially distant backyard hangouts won’t be as desirable.
Marketers must continue to tap into creative thinking to find ways to keep consumers engaged, entertained, and spending money amid economic uncertainty. We’ve got some time to experiment: Dr. Fauci warns we’ll ring in 2022 before we feel a sense of “normalcy.” By then, what will normal even mean?
2020 has done a number on consumers: values have shifted, and we’re seeing new trends in consumer attitudes and behaviors – many of which will be revealed in Gartner’s upcoming Consumer Top Trends publication. As part of that research, we’ve identified opportunities for marketers to maintain and even grow engagement with consumers as we move into 2021.
For now, I’ll offer a preview to guide your plans to build connections with consumers:
The critical elements that consumers miss from in real life (IRL) events are real-time, synchronous happenings, and real-place, physical elements. These elements foster a sense of connection, community and belonging that don’t always translate through a screen. To mitigate the exhausting effects of a digital-first lifestyle, brands have opportunities to bring real-time and real-place into the digital realm:
- For real time, consider opportunities to connect friends and communities. Local wine shops are selling kits for guided at-home tastings with shop experts. Brands like Jägermeister are sponsoring out of work bartenders and entertainers to host events over Zoom.
- For real place, safe (and warm!) options abound. Drive-in movies and concerts have become popular this year, turning parking lots into theaters and stages. Retailers offering curbside pickup services can make a utilitarian experience into something special and branded, like Nordstrom plans to do for this holiday season.
As we look to the holiday season and into 2021, B2C brands should aim to engage customers at home, but not exclusively through a touchscreen.