COVID-19 has changed a lot of things for businesses—namely the security they felt with in-person sales. After the disruption of the global pandemic, brands that weren’t interested in developing their digital presence found it was a necessity.
Ameel Sajjad is a marketing consultant based in Dubai who helps clients all over the world improve their strategies for digital growth and keep up with current marketing trends. He offers tips and insights that brands should be pursuing for 2021.
Ameel Sajjad Stresses Accuracy Online
One major issue brands ran into during the pandemic was keeping their sites accurate and up-to-date. With changing store hours, policies, and stocking issues, brands sometimes failed to make changes known on their website and public listings.
Ameel Sajjad stresses that accuracy online is important for a solid brand reputation.
Brands have to have a committed professional or team dedicated to keeping their content accurate. The right inventory tracking software is also important for companies that may run out of certain products when facing a disrupted value supply chain.
A massive digital migration occurred between 2020 and 2021 as brands faced pandemic challenges. Not only did COVID-19 restrictions push many companies online, but many saw the writing on the wall and knew things were headed in this direction—a global pandemic gave them the push they needed to make changes, focusing on building a stronger digital presence.
“The problem is that the lack of an in-store, in-person experience makes it easy for one company to blend in with another,” Ameel Sajjad writes. “So what does one do to stand out?” Sajjad states that it will be the consistent branding, cohesive experience, and personalized shopping that makes the difference.
Excellent User Experience
“With the pandemic raging on, now is the time to make websites more engaging than ever,” states Sajjad. Websites should be easy to navigate on mobile and utilize intuitive design. When visitors stop in, sites should be optimized to streamline their message, provide value and offer a buyer’s journey that flows seamlessly. If users run into bottleneck issues, like confusing site features, slow loading times, or unnecessary hoops to jump through, then they are going to bounce.
Personalization goes so much further than just adding in a user’s name on the email subject line. Today’s customer wants to know the brand isn’t just pushing a generic sales pitch at them—they expect so much more. Humanity, in general, has passed the age of information and has moved into the age of convenience.
Customers now expect brands to help them cut through the clutter by personalizing their marketing approach to offer them the content they want and need. Top personalized marketing strategies include:
- Segmented e-mail lists
- Call analytics for first-party data
- Multi-channel CRM tracking
- Behavior-based suggestions
- Supportive and relevant content
Ameel Sajjad’s Flexible Strategy
“If the pandemic taught retailers anything, it’s the importance of adjustability,” says Sajjad. “The pandemic has thrown us all for a loop and, in the case of retail, even the best-laid plans can go awry.” From big to small, businesses and organizations have to be prepared to adjust in a moment’s notice.
This is one place where small businesses can often have the edge over the enterprise. When it comes to changing strategies and being adaptable, small businesses typically have fewer stakeholders to convince or processes to go through before they can shift direction.
However, Sajjad warns that agility practices can be taken too far—businesses have to be insightful enough to avoid wasting money on strategies that aren’t working and not bounce around from idea to idea.
There were several highly controversial and intense things that came up during 2020. Sajjad says that “when people are worried about their nation’s future, bombarding them with ads seems tasteless and ineffective.” Brands have to be careful to have a complete awareness of what they are saying and how that will come across to their audience.
In some cases, Sajjad says it may make sense for a brand to take a public stance on a social issue. In those cases, he encourages brands to clarify what they want to say and make their position very obvious. “Make a bold statement and back it up with your brand messages to make it clear you are owning your stand while eliminating possible miscommunication,” he says. “Assemble a team so you can deal with any potential crisis and put out fires before they escalate.”
Ameel Sajjad notes, “When it comes to keywords, Google favors consistency.” And, this holds true for consumers as well. Brands should work on keeping their content approach consistent with their posting dates, voice, branding, and value offers. They will build up an audience if the audience feels there is a reason to keep returning for more.
Go Beyond Google
Admittedly, Google is far and away the largest search engine, but Ameel Sajjad says marketers shouldn’t ignore the other options. “Search engines like DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Neva, and You.com are starting to come up in the ranks,” he notes. “Meanwhile, Google has been undergoing scrutiny due to business practices that are considered unethical.” He encourages brands to reach out and start working on optimization and advertising on other search engines in case they get an even larger following.
Stores often push a future holiday well before consumers are truly ready to think about it—but there is a reason this works. Now, Sajjad says online companies are doing the same thing. In 2020, some retailers were posting Christmas ads before Halloween.
In part, this was because of unstable supply chains. “Retailers were also relying heavily on analytics to see how targeting was going, what they should be cutting back on, and where they should be spending their money,” he says. “Early advertising helped them catch trends in their developing stages so they could adjust accordingly.”
One trend Ameel Sajjad sees occurring over and over is the importance of the human touch. Digital marketing should not be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing, he notes.
Over-automating can lead to a lot of mistakes or missed opportunities. Humans are able to consider if ads will strike the right note or offer a timely prompt. Sajjad warns against becoming too automated, despite the many tools that increase automation to help companies save time.
Hiring a Professional: Ameel Sajjad
Companies of all sizes are starting to outsource more and more of their strategy and digital component creation. This move allows them to get an outside expert opinion and avoid overtasking inexperienced employees.
“It’s never a bad idea to hire a consultant to get your company headed in the right direction and provide follow-up if necessary,” Sajjad explains. “But the inside scoop is that consultants today are urging clients to rethink their strategic planning in the new year.”
About Ameel Sajjad
As an expert in online marketing, Ameel Sajjad helps clients develop powerful digital strategies and social media campaigns for growth. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Wollongong in Dubai in 2018. He started up Ameel Sajjad Consulting in Dubai where he has worked with over 125 clients and won a variety of awards for website design and innovative marketing.