The coronavirus has influenced every aspect of our daily lives. With social distancing rules in effect and communities in lockdown, many people find themselves pivoting from the real world to living their lives online — and digital is thriving. 

When work-from-home policies became the new norm, videoconferencing tools and apps stepped in to create spaces for coworkers to collaborate, friends, to meet, and students to learn. Social media went back to connecting rather than polarising, and plenty of digital streaming platforms are keeping boredom at bay. Even older generations that may shy away from tech are testing the waters for the first time. 

It's not only the less tech-savvy that are facing digital reckoning. Brick-and-mortar stores or companies from more traditional sectors are feeling the pressure to embrace digital — especially when face-to-face interactions are not possible. For some companies, the push to become more agile may be out of necessity, but the transition could show that digital offers more opportunities than before. 

The real-world cases of these transitions are promising. Health care is making advances in telemedicine to diagnose and treat patients during a public health crisis. Private bankers are using videoconferencing to provide one-on-one consultations at home. Automotive dealers are moving to valet-style test drives and tune-ups for vehicles, and store owners are incorporating digital retail solutions to change the shopping experience. 

The gap between companies that embrace digital from those that don't will get bigger in the months ahead. The laggards must adapt to survive. For the digital natives, there's no better time than now to push digital marketing efforts further to gain a competitive edge. 

What's around the corner 

The importance of digital marketing and strategy will expand in the coming months. Here are three significant digital marketing trends businesses need to know.

Customer experiences go virtual 

The shift to social distancing and remote working is causing many companies to restructure their strategies to create agile and engaging customer interactions, and many see virtual experiences as the way to go. 

Videoconferencing is proving to be a versatile tool that can adapt to many phases of the sales funnel. From hosting product demos to virtual Q&A sessions to organising webinars or hosting meetings to close business deals. Traditional businesses that relied heavily on tradeshows and fairs could also look to HTC for inspiration to turn a conventional event into a virtual experience or transform a physical stand into a digital one. 

Technologies like VR, AR and MR are having a moment, with various industries embracing the technology to change the way people travel, consume culture or test products at home. Virtual may not be able to replace the real thing, but they’re certainly providing customers with an equal (or better) experience. 

Automate marketing with empathy

On a basic level, marketing automation can help companies keep operations running smoothly and efficiently while enabling employees to devote their time and energy to more valuable tasks. 

The right solution will also create more personalised communication between a brand and its customers. It may even use AI and machine learning to gather and centralise data into one place and provide a better overview of buyer personas. 

The businesses that excel in marketing automation now are the ones who will approach this data with even more empathy than before. Companies that adjust their tone in messaging, map touchpoints to reflect the full context of a customer's journey and provide useful content at the right time are meeting the needs of consumers today and laying the groundwork for success in the long run. 

Brands channel their human side 

Businesses have always understood the importance of understanding their customers, but in these times, it's even more essential to know how a brand can provide value at this moment. Digital solutions aren't a replacement for reality, but as an enabler for fostering more meaningful connections. 

Maintaining this human perspective of technology ensures businesses create a genuine relationship with their customers and provide them with the right resources to meet their needs. Chatbots backed with conversational AI are becoming a fast and reliable channel to offer genuine and quick responses to customer queries. More prominent companies are bending traditional models to share early releases or provide free digital services to homebound employees and students. 

These initiatives prove digital marketing with a humanistic approach has the potential to serve customers better today and establish valuable practices for the future. 

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