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5 Ways Marketing Changed with COVID-19 that Affect Cannabis Businesses

A new study from Salesforce reveals what’s next for marketing in a post-pandemic world, and a big piece of the puzzle is digital. Driven by changing consumer behaviors, marketers will need to invest more of their budgets into a diverse array of digital marketing tactics. At the same time, they’ll need to prioritize innovation to meet evolving consumer expectations and deliver brand differentiating customer experiences.

Salesforce surveyed 8,200 global B2C and B2B marketers for the seventh edition of its State of Marketing report, and the study results show five distinct ways that marketing has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Cannabis marketers should take notes and be prepared to adjust their future marketing strategies in order to stay competitive.

1. Changing Consumer Behaviors

According to the research, 61% of consumers expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than they did before COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown. Lockdowns changed people’s habits during their free time, and the change is unlikely to shift back to pre-pandemic behaviors in the near future.

For cannabis businesses, more consumers increasing their online time means your brand needs to be there too. You may have to adjust your marketing investments and move more of your budget to digital marketing tactics. SEO, email, and content marketing are more important than ever, so start testing now.

2. Changing Consumer Expectations

Salesforce’s study revealed 88% of consumers expect companies to speed up their digital initiatives as a result of COVID-19. As explained in #1 above, consumers are spending more time online, so it makes sense that they expect companies to speed up their digital initiatives. This includes marketing initiatives.

The problem for marketers, including marketers working in and with the cannabis industry, is most struggle to innovate their marketing technology, strategies, and tactics. Agile companies will win in the fast-moving and ever-changing cannabis industry, so it’s essential that cannabis businesses step up their games to keep up with consumer expectations.

3. Changing Consumer Demands

The future is all about innovation as far as consumers are concerned. The study found that 69% of consumers believe companies should offer new ways to get products and services because of COVID-19.

Interestingly, marketers stated that innovating is their top priority today according to the study results, but they also reported that innovating is their second biggest challenge (behind engaging with customers in real time).

To keep up with changing consumer demands, approximately 90% of marketers have changed their digital engagement strategy, marketing channel mix, and content strategy. The brands that will win post-pandemic will be among that 90% of marketers.

4. Changing Consumer Experiences

Eight out of 10 consumers (80%) say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. This mindset needs to be communicated to and understood by cannabis business leaders as well as the marketing team in order for a brand to be competitive in today’s world.

For the most part, marketers already understand how important customer experiences are to brand growth and increased sales. In fact, 80% of marketers in the study reported that customer experience is the key competitive differentiator, which is something cannabis brands should take note of as the industry continues to get more competitive every day.

With that said, 72% of marketers reported that meeting customer expectations today is more difficult than it was a year ago. For cannabis marketers, creating brand experiences for customers across channels should be a top priority despite the challenges.

5. Changing Consumer Engagement

With consumers spending more time online than before the pandemic, marketers understand they need to ramp up their digital marketing plans. This requires rethinking how they invest in digital marketing as well as how much they invest in digital marketing.

Overall, 90% of marketers who participated in the Salesforce study said their digital engagement strategies had changed since the pandemic began. Digging a bit deeper, 89% of marketers said their marketing channel mix has changed.

Video will be particularly popular among marketers in both pre-recorded and live streaming formats. Here is a breakdown from the study results that shows the percentage of marketers who plan to use specific digital marketing tactics:

  • Pre-produced video: 94%
  • Influencer marketing: 93%
  • User-generated content: 93%
  • Livestream video: 92%
  • Interactive content: 91%
  • Social GIF/memes: 88%
  • Virtual customer communities: 86%
  • Pre-produced audio: 84%
  • Live audio: 83%
  • Virtual experiences: 79%

Cannabis marketers should consider adding or increasing the amount of video content they produce. Not only is it extremely popular and highly effective at driving digital traffic to your brand, but also, if competitor brands are building a library of video content, your brand should be creating even better video content.

Bottom-line, your brand needs to be present and deliver the amazing experiences that consumers demand and expect in today’s environment.

Key Takeaways about Marketing Post COVID-19

To be successful in today’s world, cannabis marketers should pay attention to changing consumer behaviors, expectations, demands, experiences, and engagement. They should also prepare to adapt as consumers’ preferences evolve. The pandemic isn’t over yet, and consumers will continue to evolve long after the pandemic comes to an end.

Susan GuneliusSusan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. (KeySplashCreative.com), a marketing communications company established in 2008 offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO services. Susan has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. She spent the first half of her 30-year marketing career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as businesses of all sizes around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing. She is also a Certified Career and Business Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business (WomenOnBusiness.com), an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.

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