Accelerated trends that brands and retailers must adopt in the age of COVID

Consumer behavior trends have shifted advertising models and caused advertisers of all sizes to rethink the type of campaigns they should run. As we continue to ride the compulsory state of isolation with varying “shelter-at-home” orders across the country, the channels, messaging, and KPI’s that advertisers rely on must continue to remain fluid. 

The impact of COVID-19 will continue to ripple across the world long after the pandemic has slowed and many of the advertising adjustments that are being made now are likely to stick long into the future.

We have entered a new age, but by remaining nimble, brands will be able to meet the ever-changing needs of their audiences post-lockdown and beyond. Read on to learn more about the trends taking place and how advertising models are being transformed.

Flexible Supply & Fulfillment

COVID-19 presents many roadblocks concerning fulfillment. In response to the pandemic, many businesses have continued to deliver goods to their customers with innovative, community-driven solutions, including contactless delivery and curbside pickup.

A study from Marketing Week shows that pre-pandemic, the average consumer’s main shopping priorities were quality (48%), price (47%), and brand (24%). At present, people are mostly concerned with availability (49%), price (36%), and quality (34%).1

The crisis has tipped consumer priorities on their head. As lockdown eases, and the world slowly regains “normal function,” it’s likely that consumers will still value availability. Brands that continue to provide a mix of flexible supply and fulfillment options to meet the needs of consumers will win on the commercial battlefield.

Led by insightful location-based data, retailers will be able to offer customers a range of efficient fulfillment options tailored to their audience. Curbside “on the go” delivery and seamless buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) experiences offer consumers a perfect storm of convenience and flexibility.


One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that communities are rallying together in the face of adversity. From face mask manufacturing and contactless care package delivery to frontline worker support, businesses are placing their focus on serving the people in their respective locales.

77% of consumers expect brands to be useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.2 And, while there has been a huge shift towards brand values and transparency in recent years, it’s likely that there will be even greater emphasis on community outreach post-pandemic.

As a new chapter dawns, it’s vital that brands focus not only on the wider world but also on their local communities by leveraging location-based audiences to their advantage. By developing community-based campaigns and working with location-driven data to deliver personalized messaging at opportune times with the likes of push marketing and location-based ads, brands will boost awareness and loyalty as COVID-19 slows down.

The bottom line: Invest in being a pillar of the community and you will remain aligned with fresh consumer values post-pandemic. Consumer values have changed and by offering value and transparency, the likes of building up customer loyalty will be on your side. 

Advertising Migration and Measurement

As a general rule of thumb, when consumer habits shift en masse, ad spend and mediums do too. Since the start of the pandemic, ad spend in the US has dropped 10% amid economic concerns.3 But, as online media consumption has risen in recent months, there is real value in online advertising. 

“The current trend of online shopping will continue in the medium- to long-term, with e-commerce becoming an increasingly important channel within the marketing mix.”3Conny Braams, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer,  Unilever

Even as the world begins to open up, the engrained desire for convenience and value spurred by COVID-19 will remain. This means that by utilizing digital advertising channels and delivering content at a time when consumers are likely to be most engaged, advertisers can encourage direct conversions or engagement, almost on the spot. In turn, this will offer an excellent return on ad spend (ROAS) – one of the most meaningful metrics for advertisers as shown below.4

Take online viewing, for instance. Pay-TV is now dwindling and CTV / OTT streaming services are seeing a rise in viewership. This shift towards online entertainment offers valuable opportunities for brands looking for reactive ways to drive sales while boosting brand awareness. If ad content runs right before an episode of a show relevant to a niche audience (one that appeals to an advertiser’s target demographic), it stands an excellent chance of driving website traffic and increasing overall conversion rate in the process. 

By understanding the audience and their viewership patterns, marketers can then retarget those audiences across other devices and channels and drive them further down the purchase funnel. 

As consumerism becomes increasingly remote, placing a focus on direct response marketing campaigns will yield sustainable results. For Gimbal, performance-based campaigns have been one of the biggest success drivers for clients over the last quarter with online conversions even exceeding goals.

Niche or industry aside, as the world migrates further towards an online existence, aligning strategies, messaging, and the appropriate KPI’s will be key to measuring success.

An omnichannel marketing spotlight

Before the pandemic struck, many considered the U.S. to be overcrowded by brick-and-mortar stores, with more retail space per capita than any other nation on the planet.

Last year alone, 9,300 stores closed across the U.S.5—crushed by the rise in ecommerce adoption and competitors that embraced the possibilities of the digital age early. And, the economic uncertainty of the pandemic will force droves of other businesses to shut up shop.

But, by bridging the gap between the digital and physical world and marketing goods and services across a range of touchpoints, retailers stand a chance to thrive in the post-pandemic world. 

The pandemic has even served to highlight and accelerate new omnichannel trends. Data shows that US click-and-collect ecommerce sales will leap 60.4% to $58.52 billion this year.6 The demand for convenient, frictionless commerce is greater than ever—a clear indication for the necessity of an omnichannel approach.

For example, offering a mobile app populated with engaging content that also offers the opportunity to purchase items and arrange delivery to a designated pickup point can help brands win on tomorrow’s commercial battlefield. 

Taking a data-driven marketing approach and creating a cohesive marketing strategy across a network of channels and touchpoints will help brands connect with a wider and more engaged audience.

A new age of consumerism

In addition to getting to grips with the strategies and initiatives that are likely to shape the consumer world both during and after the pandemic, in order to truly connect with customers, understanding emerging shopping habits and priorities is crucial.

Here are some of the behaviors and priorities that are worth exploring:

  • The uncertain nature of the pandemic has made many consumers more thoughtful and conscious about the products they buy. As such, placing focus on the essential value of your products or services will work in your favor.
  • Research from Accenture shows that 88% of consumers are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on the economy.7 If your messaging is centered on your commitment to your customers and how you can help them – leaning on your sense of community – you’re likely to encourage better brand loyalty.
  • COVID-19 has served to highlight the hyper-connective capabilities of the digital world. As consumers become more value-driven (both in terms of cost and what brands can do for them), emphasizing virtual shopping assistants and more extensive personal customer service offerings will prove essential to success.
  • As consumers become more conscious and community-focused, local shopping will increase. Invest in your locale as well as your local marketing efforts, and you’re likely to see an excellent return on investment.

By leveraging the digital ad space with timely messaging across touchpoints marketers will stand a greater chance of connecting with valuable segments of their target audience. 

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”-Albert Einstein

Things may never be the same again—and that isn’t all bad. While it may be “survival” for now, by changing the commercial outlook and staying in tune with the needs of consumers, marketers will prevail tomorrow and long into the future.

1 How Covid-19 Has Changed Shopper Behaviour. MarketingWeek. May 7, 2020
2 Communities Are Coming Together (at a Distance), and Brands Should Support That. AdWeek. April 3, 2020
3This is How COVID-19 is Affecting the Advertising Industry. World Economic Forum. June 8, 2020
4The State of Programmatic Advertising. Perfect Audience. May 2020
5Is Omnichannel Retail Brick-and-Mortar’s Saving Grace? eMarketerJune 29, 2020
6Frictionless Commerce 2020: How Coronavirus Is Accelerating Seamless Omnichannel Retail eMarketer. May 21, 2020
7COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behaviorAccenture. April 28, 2020