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How COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior: Upside LMS’ Strategy

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The COVID-19 crisis has changed how we work, communicate, shop, and more, but which changes are likely to stick around in the long haul?

Below, we explore some of the more prominent behavioral and strategic consumer trends, peek inside UpsideLMS’ digital strategy, and share tips on maneuvering the ‘new’ digital space.

What is Consumer Behavior?

Consumer behavior is the series of patterns (or behaviors) that consumers follow before making a purchase. Consumer behavior is broadly shaped by five main factors – psychological, personal, social, cultural, and economic.

Belief is a key influencer of consumer behavior and an integral psychological factor.

Because beliefs are deeply embedded into consumers’ subconsciousness, they can prevent people from logically evaluating alternatives and, as a result, perpetuate existing habits.

That makes the consumer behavior space tricky to maneuver. Pranjalee Lahri, AVP Marketing at UpsideLMS, points out that “companies that attempt to bring about any kind of behavioral change by ignoring or challenging consumer beliefs are fighting an uphill battle.”

Consider this example: Not too long ago, PepsiCo decided to expand their ‘fun-for-you’ foods portfolio (including regular soda and potato chips) with ‘good-for-you’ foods (like Tropicana juices and Quaker oats). In effect, there was resistance not just from consumers, but from the company’s stakeholders, as well.

Ultimately, to be able to change the behavior of consumers, the interventions should be desirable, salient, and relevant.

How Has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior?

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many consumers to alter their behaviors rapidly and at scale.

Although there is a certain variance in how consumer behavior has changed across different countries that have been affected by the pandemic, there are still some commonalities. Here are three of the more striking behavioral changes.

Shift to Digital

Arguably, one of the biggest changes that the pandemic brought to consumer behavior was the rapid migration to the digital world.

When the pandemic first hit the globe, many businesses were not well-equipped for the restrictions and shutdowns that came with it. With quickly changing guidelines, many businesses went digital to adapt to the “new normal”. Business owners made changes such as adding work-from-home policies and increasing their technology usage (e.g. doing sales online and going virtual for meetings).

As Pranjalee adds, “even in countries where restrictions have been relaxed, people continue to engage in digitally-enabled interaction because it has become a default expectation.”

Rise of the DIY Culture

Another big consumer behavior change that the COVID pandemic brought was the rise of self-service and do-it-yourself culture.

Today, when we’re looking to buy a product or service, we don’t just have the information ready, but we also desire to take more control over our purchase decisions. Here’s where self-service comes into action.

Simply put, self-service offers customers tools and information to help them find answers to their questions and gain a (better) experience with a product or service.

Lahri links our desire to take control to human evolution: “if we are in control of our environment, we have a far better chance of survival, and that’s really our primitive brain kicking into action.”

Value-Based Purchasing

A key post-pandemic consumer trend is the shift in purchasing behavior. Businesses and individuals are becoming more conscious of what they buy and more focused on obtaining maximum value for the money spent.

This has led to a value-based purchasing, but also a shock to loyalty, “which means that people are ready to leave a brand they were loyal to for a long time because they put value first.”

In the world of SaaS, there has been a major shift in pricing models, going from feature-driven to value-based pricing, as well as in bidding strategies. Many SaaS marketers are moving from Target CPA to value-based bidding, effectively “productizing” conversions with different values to maximize the effectiveness of their PPC campaigns.

Consumer Behavior in the Post-COVID Era: Strategic Changes

Evaluating consumers’ motivations beyond raw data can help you create more compelling marketing campaigns that appeal to the specific needs of your customers.

Reflecting on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good starting point. Often illustrated as a pyramid, the lowest levels of the hierarchy are made up of the most basic needs, while the most complex needs are at the top of the pyramid.

Once the lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next levels.

Because the pandemic brought a certain level of fear, consumers were first ensuring that they are safe and secure. Today, understanding these consumers’ needs is an important step because, as Pranjalee shares, “you now need to better align the changing and evolving trends and behaviors that you see.”

Moving Online

For companies who were not online, going digital has been a major change. Ultimately, even for businesses with an online presence, the situation called for strengthening and expanding their digital footprints, creating and updating websites, building new social media campaigns, and incorporating digital channels.

Focus on Organic Growth

Another strategic change that has been quickly gaining traction is the focus on organic growth.

The pandemic situation has raised one big question: how to meet marketing objectives with shrinking resources. With frozen budgets, paid marketing had to be replaced with low-cost, organic alternatives that ensured that traffic did not take a major hit.

Prioritize Analytics

As Pranjalee shares, “we need to have our analytics front and center in order to make the right investment decisions”.

Prioritizing analytics can help you double down on the channels that are working and pull the plug on the ones that are not.

Product-Led Growth

Another key change, especially in B2B SaaS strategies, is the focus on product-led growth.

Product-led growth relies on using your product as the primary means to acquire, activate, and retain customers.

Effectively, product-led growth ties back to the rise of the self-service culture by offering prospects a free trial to let them experience the product and make a purchase without having to go through a sales- or marketing middleman.

Humanizing Marketing

Humanizing marketing is another key post-COVID consumer trend that is likely to stay for the foreseeable future.

AI and machine learning are taking the marketing sphere by storm. That said, the highly saturated ad space has resulted in an increased immunity to commercial messages, which is why “we need to start adding humanness to the brand because that’s the only way we can show empathy.”

UpsideLMS’ marketing AVP continues: “brands have to rebuild trust, they have to demonstrate empathy by prioritizing value addition and value-centric messaging.”

Importance of Content Marketing

Content has become one of the main differentiators between companies and – with brand loyalty fading away – there are new trends arising in the content marketing field.

While content marketing requires a little bit more patience than paid campaigns, its results are solid and will, ultimately, give you a better conversion.

As Pranjalee suggests, “COVID and the shift to digitalization accelerated content marketing. It came up front and center even more and became the cornerstone of inbound marketing.”

Even more, COVID significantly accelerated the shift from users willing to read a long-form blog to consuming a snackable piece of video content.

Video will likely continue to gain momentum because it’s easily accessible, easy to consume, and allows users to just sit back and watch.

UpsideLMS: Paid and SEO Strategy Mix

UpsideLMS is an AI-powered learning management system that enables a smart and enriching learning experience.

As a company in the online learning industry, the effects of the pandemic were not as profound as in other sectors. That said, “while there was a huge inflow of traffic that looks great on a graph, it also put this new challenge of seeding out the low-intent and the high-intent.”

Let’s look into some of the strategies that the company has employed.

Influencer Marketing

With everyone moving online, one of the biggest challenges for UpsideLMS was dealing with the huge noise and amount of online clutter that followed.

By associating with a well-known industry leader, as well as a reputable LinkedIn influencer, the company managed to increase credibility, boost the brand’s visibility, and grab the attention of potential customers.

Different Content for Different Channels

Meeting your consumers where they are is as important as having the marketing muscles to produce great content. “Doing podcasts and videos is great, but working in silos will not get you to scale as fast because we [humans] have different preferences in regards to the content channels that we frequent”, Lahri adds.

In and of itself, repurposing content might not be enough. Instead, marketers need to consider content in different formats for different channels, align their campaigns with the buyer personas, and double down on SEO to increase high-intensity organic traffic.

As to the bedrock to UpsideLMS’ marketing, Pranjalee says: “We are focused on optimizing our web pages for the latest algorithms, doing keyword research, competition benchmarking, and then aligning our content strategy.”

Email Marketing

While good content can get you traffic, it does not necessarily differentiate between high intent and low intent. This is why UpsideLMS uses automation and lead nurturing automation workflows to bring a more focused approach to not just marketing, but sales, as well.

Paid Search Strategy

Although SEO and paid search are often placed in separate silos, you don’t need to choose between doing paid search or doing just organic. Many times, PPC is a great zero to six month strategy to get your business out of the gate quickly. SEO and content should be the go-to six to twelve month strategy (and beyond).

When it comes to UpsideLMS’ new product PPC strategy, Lahri shares: “we put some money into Google Ads so that we have some ranking and then eventually we just built on our SEO, and then we could seize out on the paid effort. There has to be a balance.”

Tips on Entering the Digital Space

Whether you’re an established brand or are just starting out, embracing and entering the digital world can be daunting, even more so during times of a pandemic.

Here are three tips to help you ensure your business survives and grows in the post-COVID era.

Lay Out the Marketing Objectives

Laying out your marketing objectives is crucial, especially for new businesses. After all, marketing objectives outline the intentions of the marketing team and provide clear direction.

Whether you’re looking to generate leads, grow your digital presence, or promote new products, define your marketing objectives, give your team measurable KPIs, and help them develop and execute strategies that will meet your business goals.

Remember that these key marketing objectives are mapped to both your short-term and long-term goals, and should, ideally, stack up on each other.

Differentiate

In today’s crowded digital space, standing out from the crowd can be tricky. For already established businesses, differentiating is key for rising above the competition in a way that piques the interest of consumers and keeps them happy.

Focus on areas such as your tone of voice, branding, transparency, customer service, and USP.

Track Your Analytics

To better understand your analytics, you should consider:

  • Breaking down your marketing performance (e.g. your online activities, the dollars spent, the channels that you’ve invested in)
  • Finding out as much as you can about your buyer persona, what they like and what they don’t like
  • Examining your competitors to get a benchmark into what is working and what is not

Most importantly, as Lahri shares, “don’t lose sight of your business goals. If you make data your best friend, you will develop better decision-making and risk-taking muscle, which will serve you and your business goals in the long run.”

Today, we have an enormous amount of data available to us. Because of its sheer volume, however, many find it overpowering and intimidating. After all, thanks to the paradox of choice, when we have too many options to choose from, we tend to freeze.

That being said, embracing data and building a go-to SEO toolbox is key for focusing your efforts on what works and gaining valuable insights into your target audience and their online behavior.

Are These Post-Pandemic Changes Here to Stay?

At the end of the day, the pandemic has led to fundamental changes in the way people think, behave, and consume, and the need for change is far from over.

To grow and thrive in a post-COVID world, businesses need to embrace these new changes and find ways to humanize their brand and connect with customers.

Ready for more digital marketing inspiration? Here’s what the future holds for conversational marketing.