Catch on to Shifting Behaviors & Marketing Trends
By Christy Barnes
There’s no denying it—the COVID-19 pandemic has majorly shifted consumer behaviors and it’s time businesses accept it and adapt, or risk being surpassed.
All aspects of a brand’s business model need to be evaluated, and marketing is no exception. Pet care businesses can “catch on” by focusing on communication, authenticity, technology, channels and heart.
From the start of the pandemic, communication was critical—information around closures, new hours, safety and cleanliness procedures, local ordinances and more needed to reach customers quickly. Customers are relying heavily on businesses’ websites, online listings and social media pages for the latest information and looking for speedy responses to inquiries.
Even after the pandemic, consumers will continue to choose businesses that are transparent and communicate quickly and effectively. As a result, facilities should have tools, partners or best practices at their disposal to get messages out rapidly, monitor online presence to ensure accuracy and respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner.
Now more than ever, franchisors need to stay in tune with what is happening at the local level, listen to feedback and readily share information. Home office marketing departments should actively communicate best practices, messaging strategies and key focus areas to aid franchise owners in their local marketing efforts.
In times of turmoil, people look for stability and trustworthiness. If a customer doesn’t know who you are and what you stand for, how can they place their trust in you? Marketing should be focused on campaigns and messaging that reflect the company’s values—but only if those values are lived out day-to-day in the facility, as consumers are quick to spot frauds these days. Give customers a peek behind the curtains so they get to know the real you, resonate with you and ultimately become loyal to you.
Technology advancements over the years have led consumers to choose convenience over a number of other factors, and that has only accelerated during the pandemic. Meal and grocery delivery, virtual appointments and at-home workouts are prime examples. Facilities wanting to meet today’s elevated convenience expectations will need to implement technology solutions that make the customer journey frictionless and enjoyable, such as automation, direct-to-consumer e-commerce and contactless payments.
When social gatherings, in-person transactions, travel and daily commutes ground to a halt last spring, businesses had to scramble to find alternate ways to reach their customers. Out-of-home advertising, event and experiential marketing and in-person selling had to take a backseat to digital.
While much is still unknown for 2021, it’s likely that social distancing and working from home will continue for some time and cause a permanent shift in work and life norms. Thus, 2021 marketing budgets should be weighted towards digital channels and tactics; social media, paid search, over-the-top advertising, mobile, email marketing, etc. Digital also allows for more flexibility to scale up or down campaigns to accommodate unexpected changes in budget.
Along the same lines as authenticity, it’s important to show customers you care—about them, about their pets, about the community and about the world. Businesses with high-quality customer service and problem resolution will continue to earn and keep customers.
Additionally, consumers are becoming more and more picky with their dollars, wanting to support businesses that align with their personal values. Many facilities have caught on to this and support philanthropic efforts and/or have charitable arms; however, the social movements this year have shined the light on the need to do even more. Consumers are scrutinizing how businesses respond to social issues and what they actively do to address them.
COVID-19 has tested many aspects of business and life and completely flipped others. If the pandemic has taught pet care businesses anything, it’s that we, and the brands we represent, need to keep a pulse on customers and trends, be ready to adapt and have a heart throughout.
Since joining Camp Bow Wow in 2013, Christy has held a variety of positions on the marketing team and currently leads the marketing department. She is in charge of maintaining the overall brand image, spearheading numerous projects designed to improve national awareness, and developing and supporting all marketing communications and campaigns across the franchise system to drive unit-level growth. Christy is passionate about pups and marketing, but she also enjoys traveling, snowboarding and hiking in the beautiful state of Colorado.