To say the world changed in 2020 would be an understatement.
Countless people lost jobs and loved ones, dealt with work-from-home strain paired with helping their children through distant learning classes, and endured a decrease in social activities, leading to isolation. Companies also had to address the safety concerns of their team members and customers, thereby adapting internal and external communications to a socially distanced world.
In the end, 2020 forced us to change the way we work, the way we communicate and every other aspect of the way we live. Here’s what that means for 2021 and beyond.
The Way We Work
In order to support a more distributed workforce, companies of all sizes will need to become more dependent on various tools to help keep them organized, in-touch with each other and complete other critical tasks. One of the most underutilized tools for businesses internally is the Marketing Automation Platform. This is set to change in 2021 and beyond.
Even before the pandemic, there were whole teams of people who used their CRMs to stay connected with customers. These same features and functions that empower external communication can also help an internal team stay connected around KPIs and larger organization objectives.
And it’s not limited to enterprise business; companies of all sizes will need to work harder to unlock the potential of these tools. Luckily, as companies come to rely more on these tools for internal activities, the brands that create them will make faster, more comprehensive improvements, communicate these updates, and guide companies on the best way to use them for their own teams.
Not only will the platforms evolve, but the plugins we use will follow suit. The ability to advance tools to communicate with customers and internal team members will be more accessible than ever before, and the resulting available data will help generate impactful results for Sales teams and their own internal organization goals.
The Way We Communicate with Customers
While optimized internal communication will become easier as brands use quickly evolving Marketing Automation Platforms, external customer communication remains a critical component that will also see major updates.
To start, you have to consider the uncertain future of our dear friend, the cookie. Because no one knows what will happen next, hashed email’s role and brands’ reliance on it for customer communication will increase.
How will the hashed email play a role? It all comes down to its ability to connect customer activity and profiles across channels. A solid multi-channel marketing strategy is the backbone of any successful business, but if the customer interactions across those channels are disconnected, brands struggle to truly understand their audience and target individuals with relevant marketing content. By using hashed email, brands have another way outside of cookies to connect key data from platforms and achieve a single customer view.
From here, brands have to face a decision on how and where to organize all of this valuable customer data. The rise in multi-channel marketing means brands receive more customer data than ever before, and if the information becomes cumbersome, overwhelming or just plain difficult to decipher, the marketing and sales teams lose precious time to encourage customers to make a purchase.
Because customer data retrieval and organization are key to success, the acceleration of CDPs (customer data platforms) that can pull data from multiple platforms, organize, and execute on it, will increase. This leaves marketers with two options for data organization: the CDP or the CRM. Many marketers might use their CRMs in Hubspot or Salesforce, while others chose platform agnostic solutions provided by CDPs.
At the end of the day, marketers will need to decide whether their CRM is robust enough to manage multi-channel marketing data, or will they need a CDP to bring everything together. It’s not certain what the answer is, but the topic will definitely be on everyone’s minds.
The Way We Live
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, individuals are continuing to lose (and then regain) physical access to locations. This has led to many seeking ways to make contactless purchases, virtually socialize, exercise, etc. As a result, app downloads and use have exploded in the last year.
Don’t believe it? Think back to when the Starbucks app was first released. There was previously a choice: order in the store or or order via the app. Once the pandemic hit, suddenly the choice was eliminated and Starbucks fans could only get their cold brew with the app. This was one of the first apps used by the majority of the population for e-commerce and contactless purchases, as many had it downloaded previously but never really used it.
The same can be said for entertainment; more apps launched in 2020 with content specific to those apps than in any previous year. Streaming services like Disney+ and ApplyTV became the norm as people ditched the movie theater in favor of staying home and streaming the latest Pixar release or Mulan. This goes even further as complementary third-party apps and plugins came along so you could enjoy the streaming content virtually with your friends and family.
A third example is the fitness industry – Streaming workouts and at-home space are rapidly replacing public gyms. With the addition of apps from Peloton and Nike, workouts are also becoming more portable, meaning people are less likely to recommit to a gym membership once the pandemic clears and business trips come back into daily life.
As this trend continues, brands will find more ways to creatively engage individuals beyond a push notification. Email marketing will play a critical role in customer communication and building lasting brand loyalty since many app users silence push notifications.
And as these users get comfortable downloading or using one or two apps, the courage and confidence to download other similar apps increases, leaving room for brands to expand their app library, and send great email marketing content to announce these updates and expansions.
Overall, the explosion of app downloads and use is reminding brands that they need to meet their customers where they are. This won’t slow down once people can move freely again. Once individuals who might traditionally be slower to adopt technology had the realization that they could consume content on their smartphones more easily, brands opened their eyes to the opportunities and changes in the way individuals consume content and connect with one another.
As the world continues to change, so too will the way brands and businesses within it. How we work, how we communicate with customers, and how we live are vastly different compared to 12 months ago; but if brands start using marketing automation platform functions internally, decide whether to prioritize a CRM or a CDP for customer data organization, and take the opportunities the explosion of apps have provided to create compelling email marketing campaigns, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes much clearer.
To learn how TowerData’s suite of services can help your brand better connect with customers in 2021 and beyond, reach out to our team.