Contributed by Jos. Birken, CEO of KLWTT

Jos. Birken

Covid is changing our lives. More importantly, it is in the process of drastically changing our habits. And that is incredibly important for us marketers.

Think about that for a moment. What is marketing really? It is the art and science of forming habits. I’m thirsty and I don’t want a drink, I want a Coke. Or a Pepsi. Or whatever I’m in the habit of when quenching my thirst. The more powerful the habit, the more powerful the brand.

Why does a habit make a brand so powerful? Because once established, habits are really difficult to change. It’s like a castle with well-built defences: in order to conquer it you need ten times as many attackers as there are defenders. Build a proper castle and for a long time you’ll need to spend a fraction defending it from what your competitors have to spend to assault it.

But the reverse also applies: when habits become unstable, establishing new habits suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. When the castle crumbles, a successful attack is more likely. Everyone who sells stuff to new parents for instance, knows this. If anything changes your life and everything in it, it’s that little baby invading your household. Your buying patterns change; you need stuff you never needed before; your budget seems to shrink with all the new needs; and on and on and on. Ask Procter&Gamble, Johnson&Johnson, Kimberly-Clark: they know this very well, and built their business models on it.

Covid is invading our lives in pretty much the same way a new baby invades the young household. It is changing the way we spend our time and or money; where we spend it; how we do the buying. Any marketer who knows how to become part of these changing habits has the opportunity of a lifetime.

So we arrive at the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Or, as the Singapore taxi driver would ask: “Then how??” What will make you a winner in this high stakes post Covid game?

Key to the post Covid transformation is that our behaviour will become more digital. This will happen in many ways: those with more spending power will work more from the comfort (and safety) of the homes; brick and mortar retail will become more difficult to access and takes more space; and everyone, consumers and businesses alike, will spend more time online.

So how can we profit from this? In three really big ways.

1. Less interruption marketing

Advertising revenue is already under pressure. Ads are essentially messages that appear when someone is minding their own business and does not necessarily have time or attention span available for the ad that suddenly pops up. Don’t get me wrong, advertising still works and will continue to do so. But we will need to start using it more sparingly, better targeted, and more relevance both in content and in timing.

Those who will master and analyse their customer data will be the winners in this new, less interruptive advertising game. The gap between the have data’s and the have not data’s will widen. Now is your chance to gain that competitive advantage, and turn it into a permanent advantage: a habit.

2. Send them more messages instead

People behind a screen or on their mobile phone are essentially more in control of their own time. This is an ideal medium for sending them messages, be it by email, messenger app, or app notification. Messages are by definition less interruptive than ads. A message can be opened at leisure, and if the content is relevant you will effectively catch the attention of the addressee, with more and better results. The more so when it’s personalised. Everyone loves to be treated like you know them and respect their needs. But personalised messaging comes with an obligation: you need to get it right.

So not only do you need to establish this channel by getting people’s personal details (which is easier than you think, as long as you approach them with something relevant to them) but it’s also even more important to get it right. Nothing is more embarrassing than coming across as an attentive listener and then get things completely wrong.

Those who are more effective not only at the data game but also the turning-data-into-actions game, which is really what this is, will win the consumers’ hearts and minds. They will gladly make you part of their habits.

3. Automate

All of this sounds like a lot of work, but this is where the trend towards digital really works to your advantage. Because in the digital realm, once you work out a certain approach in a certain use case, you can automate it. There is really nifty software available in just about every price class that will help you do it. And it’s getting easier to use too. The key learning factor is not the software, but how to collect, analyse and draw the right conclusions from your data. Once you’ve got the rules in place, life becomes easy.

Moreover, once you’ve automated a certain process, whether it’s a welcome message, a promotional offer, a follow up or a cross sell, once the automation is in place you can switch your attention to the next process. The automation will keep on doing its work and you can now build the next automation on top of it.

Those who get this part of the game right will swiftly build out their advantage to the point where their competitor will have difficulty even following them. Your competitors will become small specks in your rear view mirror.

This is how you will decisively win the post Covid race. For more details, watch this space.

For our Thai readers: a Thai translation of this article appeared on Luxury Society Asia.