With Lockdown 2.0 upon us, Katie Templeton-Knight at MW Studio assesses how businesses need to re-evaluate their marketing strategy to avoid being left behind.

To describe 2020 as challenging would be somewhat of an understatement. From education to business to leisure, we have been forced to adapt to every aspect of our lives in an unprecedented way. In the grip of a global pandemic and with the UK economy having plunged into recession for the first time in 11 years you would be forgiven for finding the recent revival of BREXIT as a topic of discussion a light-hearted distraction.

Despite the obvious difficulties of operating in these economic circumstances, our ever determined business population will use this autumn to assess the past 6 months,
regroup and reset, so that they can address the demands of the current social and economic climate, re-engage with their customer base, mindful of the considerable constraints the so-called “new-normal” has imposed on us all and ensure that they are as competitive as possible in this next quarter and beyond.

With Lockdown 2.0 underway, followed by regional relaxation of restrictions, as a nation, we remain cautious and reluctant to embrace old habits. Whether this is because of latent fear that the pandemic is far from over or because many people found unexpected positives from being compelled to find new ways of educating, working and relaxing, the fact remains that 2020 has brought with it some lasting changes. Whatever the rationale, your business needs to anticipate and be responsive to these changes. It is important to remember that if you had a good business before the pandemic, with solid management and business agility, you should still have a great business in 12 months time. If during lockdown, you were lucky enough to attract customers to your business through your online presence, it is essential during this next uncertain period to revitalise your business platform so that it stays relevant to your current clients and draws in new customers in a way which recognises these new types of engagement. If, on the other hand, your business stalled during this period, its time to ask what can be done to kick start a successful online future. Whatever your lockdown experience now is the time to update your website. The world is evolving and in order to survive, your business must be flexible so that it can adapt to the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy public as quickly and efficiently as possible. Investing in a state of the art website is the most important investment you will ever make.

During lockdown we relied almost entirely on online shopping and this, as we have seen, has made the difference between businesses thriving or failing. Primark, which does not have an online store, lost £650 million in profits in only one month during lockdown, while Amazon, which conducts the entirety of its’ retail business online, doubled its profits making it their best quarter to date. In this commercial contest of survival of the fittest, it is clear that a brand’s website is paramount for success. In the current climate, it is not a shiny new shopfront or an updated product line that will generate business, but instead a well-designed and user-friendly website. MW Studio believes: “online is part of our post-lockdown future. Working with our clients both locally, nationally and internationally is effective and productive… and delivering online solutions to solve client marketing and corporate communications is one part (currently a large part) of a 360 degree strategy…”. With vast and ever-growing competition online from both national and international businesses, a website with effective and unique SEO terms are essential for driving traffic to your platform and once they have landed you have a very limited window of opportunity to engage. Without the traditional customer loyalty built through physical interaction, consumers that find a website difficult to use or confusing can and will easily go elsewhere with just the click of a button. Your website is not only about attracting customers to your online business but retaining them and converting their interest into a sale. Never before has a website been more important for creating and maintaining a thriving future-facing business.

But how many of the changes we attribute to the pandemic were actually just an acceleration of inevitable existing trends?  The shift towards businesses being run almost entirely online is not a recent phenomenon. Video conferencing had already established itself in the business world and it was not uncommon for those whose positions facilitated it to work at least one day a week from home. In a statistic provided by the Independent, the use of Zoom increased from 10 million in December 2019, to 300 million in April 2020. Though a rapid increase, our not insignificant use of Zoom pre lockdown is perhaps indicative of how our working habits were already starting to evolve.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by Professor Nicholas Bloom, participants who worked at home were 13% more productive than those who worked in an office for the same period of time. Though those with young children and a busy household may refute these findings, many people working remotely would corroborate this due to there being fewer distractions. With less commute time and a reduced spend on office buildings, it certainly begs the question as to whether offices will be a thing of the past, with Blueface anticipating that as soon as 2025, “remote working will challenge fixed office spaces as a primary work method”. Who knows, in years to come the dreaded Office Christmas party may be celebrated over Zoom? It is a great time to accelerate plans to overhaul the IT and make sure your business and its technology are ready for the future.

There are those for whom working from home is not possible and for whom others choosing to do so is a disaster. If your business involves servicing the needs of the office community, whether that be food or courier services, then the dismantling of the office will require a rapid rethink. The ability to reset your offering and publicise it effectively is critical. Even when working from home, people have to eat and perhaps the temptation of a delicious pre-made sandwich will still win out over a rummage through the fridge for last night’s leftovers.

Although eliminating the daily chat by the photocopier and the colleague, who would drop by your office to ask for advice, is beneficial for profit margins, this uber-efficient, hyper-productive style of working from home is rather sterile and leaves very little room for socialising within the workplace. Despite the fact that the majority of socialising was conducted online during lockdown, and still continues to be today given the ever-changing social contact rules, one only needs to look at the pictures of beaches and city centres once lockdown was lifted to see that we missed human contact above all else. We are after all tribal. 

Online, is not the whole story, and there have been some other key trends emerging in the last few months. We have all witnessed the national, and indeed international, the outpouring of support for “Captain” now Colonel and Sir Tom, a very high profile example of the very many acts of human kindness that the pandemic inadvertently spawned. A renewed sense of localism and community spirit means there is hope for the small local vendor and a real place in the community for the high street. People don’t want to spend their lives working from home, ordering Deliveroo and signing for Amazon packages. They have their place of course but this is not a sustainable way of living. Health, provenance and sustainability have become the buzz words of 2020 and interestingly they are concepts that will flourish despite economic stagnation. So at MW Studios we passionately believe that now is the time to get creative marketing messages out there that speak to the issues people are focussed on. The opportunity to reset extends to rebranding, revisiting your USP and getting back in touch in a more empathetic way with your clients as well as attracting new clients who share your core values. Marketing these messages is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

So when history records the events of 2020, we believe that it will not tell a sorry tale of economic destruction and recession but an uplifting account of agility, adaptation and resilience that led to a thriving, if transformed, business community.