2020 was the year that sped up digital transformation for many businesses that had stalled in evolving. From the increased use of scannable QR technology to a world of virtual sneakers and dressing rooms, the industry quickly adapted to eCommerce and digital storefronts. But as vaccination rates keep increasing, more people are not only beginning to travel out again but are making their way into brick-and-mortar stores that may not have seen any foot traffic in over a year.
For this piece, we asked the latest Adweek Innovators what they predicted would change the most as people “returned to normalcy.” Four themes surfaced—read the below responses to learn what to expect as more businesses continue to open and what new consumer behaviors to be mindful of.
Experiential will take the spotlight
“I think this is going to happen in waves. We’re in the first wave, as we see brands making celebratory ads about Covid-19 ending. As some marketers try to walk the line in upper funnel media, experiential marketers will be pushing hard on events to get people back together as quickly as possible. I think we’re going to see a boost in the number and types of in-real-life experiences in 2021-22, which should create ample opportunities for brands to figure out how they can flex into new experiences.” —David Tai Bornoff, head of brand marketing, DoorDash
“People are craving community, connectivity, and experiences after more than a year of being constrained due to the pandemic. Brands that inspire people with new possibilities through experiences and new channels—and content and products that enhance connections between people—will resonate. As people spend less time on screens and more time out in the world, successful brands will be connecting with their customers through experiential marketing and through immersive activations as consumers rediscover their old (and new) passions.” —Leanne Sheraton, senior vice president of marketing, PayPal
Online communities are here to stay
“Millions of new users came to Reddit throughout the pandemic for connection, belonging, information and distraction in a time of unprecedented physical disconnection. But I don’t think the genie will go back in the bottle. I’m predicting an evolution to our former office habits, a commitment to athleisure as work attire, and a collective agreement that we shouldn’t start shaking hands again (it’s never not awkward), I believe that eCommerce is a secular trend that will continue to thrive post-pandemic. As a result, communities—like the 100k+ found on Reddit—will play an even bigger role in the consumer path to purchase and online communities will become even more integral to the marketing mix.” —Laura Nestler, vice president of community, Reddit
Consumer behaviours have changed
“There will be continuous shifts as people slowly begin traveling and once again redefining their lives. The pandemic unearthed new values, behaviors and unmet consumer needs. A year from now, consumers will again have changed and grown into new versions of themselves. Very tactically, traditional types of marketing such as out-of-home and in-store will likely come back into play and brands will need to build more holistic marketing campaigns if they want to efficiently win consumer attention. More importantly, consumer values and preferences are likely to once again drive shifts in spending habits. Staying close to consumers to ensure brands and products speak to them as they evolve post-quarantine will be critical to success.” —Tehmina Haider, vice president and head of Harry’s Labs, Harry’s Inc.
“I don’t feel consumers are going to immediately be ready to return to indoor settings in the coming year or so. Therefore, we as marketers need to rethink the way we create experiences for consumers outdoors, whether that relates to dining, movies, concerts, trade shows and more.” —Christopher Connolly, senior vice president of marketing, San Diego Padres
Resurgence of foot traffic and geotargeted marketing
“Hopefully, we’ll see a resurgence of compelling outdoor and location-based marketing. Small businesses are opening up and will need to draw foot traffic. We’ve been trapped shopping online for a year and these in-person marketing efforts will want to be fun and truly experiential to make a difference.” —Brad Woods, executive vice president and CMO, VIZ Media.