How marketers can navigate the post-pandemic landscape

Contributed by Carolyn Corda, Chief Marketing Officer, ADARA

In recent months, we have seen an increased reliance on e-commerce from retail clients and a desire to get to grips with identity-based marketing and verification across the board in the finance, retail and travel sectors. As marketers navigate the complex waters of a post-lockdown environment, these sectors are seeing vastly accelerated digital transformation, leading to much more in-depth questions around how businesses can leverage data.

In travel, with airlines such as AirAsia and Singapore Airlines set to resume and increase flights in the coming months, we have also started to see the initial green shoots of an eventual turnaround. While it will take time to reach pre-COVID-19 levels, it is clear from our own internal search data that people are keen to go on vacation and get back on the road, eager to leave their homes after months of social distancing. For example, over the past two weeks, we’ve seen a steady increase, almost 20%, in APAC flight bookings for both business and leisure travel, suggesting an opportunity for marketers to capture this increasing demand.

Continue to place customers first

Travel companies have acted fast to respond to their customers’ needs to ensure consumers see that hospitality remains at the heart of their operation, even when travel is impossible.

In July, the Singapore Tourism Board announced that more than 80 hotels have been approved for staycations, and upon the reopening of hotels in Phase 2, many hotel chains sought to amp up their marketing efforts and offered staycation deals with creative room packages, covering everything from a staycation experience with pets to an exclusive master chef three-course dining experience in order to draw locals and residents. Actions like these mean the brands continue to work hard for their customers and keep the relationship top of mind for when they are ready to travel again.

Besides continuing memberships and loyalty programmes, many brands have also been using video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and communications tools such as Slack to maintain strong relationships with their customers. Marriott International, for example, started focusing on providing their customers with immersive and engaging at-home experiences that catered to their lifestyles. These included livestreaming a DJ party and a cooking series by their master chef; all programmes received positive feedback from their customers. These tools break down barriers and allow for an easier channel of communication, while also providing another way for their employees to feel less isolated working from home.

Leverage data to garner effective results

As positive trends arise, a logical framework – using data to analyse micro-trends – can prepare travel marketers for more personalised targeting. It is important for travel brands to get the inflection point just right, to optimise ad spend and accurately time their messaging and communications directly to prospective travellers in a relevant and considered manner. Notably, individualised messaging, pricing and services are more relevant to travellers than a blanket campaign – the latter could come across as tone-deaf at best, and irresponsible at worst.

Individual travellers will respond differently to ad messaging depending on a complex interaction of past booking behaviour, demographics and emotions. For example, according to a survey conducted by Lufthansa Innovation Hub, 25% of respondents – comprising young families and singles from China, South Korea and Japan – stated that they were planning to travel from October onwards due to the flexibility in booking and cancellation policies.

However, with that being said, it’s also imperative for businesses to prevent fraudulent purchases and interactions and thereby reduce the associated costs incurred by these, through advanced identity verification.

The future for marketers

In a situation that is hard to understand, marketers have to rely on data for guidance. As we navigate the evolving COVID-19 crisis, a marketer’s first priority should be to understand what is happening for the consumer: what are they buying, what do they want to buy soon? What are their priorities, and what will they respond well, or badly, to?

Given that no one has gone through this, ‘gut’ instinct is even less reliable than it was before. Only a truly data-led approach can succeed for marketers to understand how to communicate with customers, and when.

Now is the time to invest in and upskill around data. Understanding how your company uses data is key – whether there are further data points needed to create a better picture, and how different data can be connected to create an understanding of the individuals your brand wants to build relationships with. For example, a cruise client for ADARA has taken the downturn as an opportunity to test new data sets, ensuring it has a fuller and improved picture of consumer behaviour to help regain lost ground in the coming recovery period.

Marketers should focus their efforts on diversifying their business and pivoting towards a data-led model, to gain a deeper understanding of their customer profiles and insights, in order to bounce back faster in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Carolyn Corda is Chief Marketing Officer of ADARA, a data consortium that provides customer brands with greater visibility into the needs and wants of in-market consumers.

The author is a 3rd party contributor to AdAsia and this article represents her views.

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