How the Digital World has changed over the last year
When the first murmurs of a virus that was affecting the population of Wuhan first started to reach the west in late 2019, it seemed like an unfortunate, but not an earth-shattering, phenomenon.
But gradually the murmurs became louder and news gathered pace about its spread westwards and . . . well we don’t need to tell you the rest. Suffice to say, it all led to an unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented” as well as countless tragedies for those who have been affected by Covid 19 and their families.
One of the less expected, but highly predictable, side effects of the global pandemic has been the changing ways in which many people have started to interact with the digital world, often through necessity and sometimes through choice.
We’ll get on to what the relevance for this might be both for ourselves as a digital agency and for clients a little, later on, But, first, let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes that there have been.
Screens have become our window on the world.
Suddenly, on March 23rd last year, we found ourselves unable to leave home except for vital shopping and an hour’s exercise each day. Many of us were furloughed but others had to quickly adapt to working from home, holding meetings in our kitchens and having no physical contact whatsoever with our co-workers.
The really remarkable thing was, and is, just how quickly people adapted to this way of working. Soon, many of us became whizzes at arranging Zoom meetings and masters, and mistresses, of Microsoft Teams. This is backed up by the stats that show that there were 10 million Zoom meetings being held daily in December 2019 but by March 2020 this figure had sky-rocketed to 300 million a day.
Working from home also became the new normal, by no means a simple exercise for those of us who had also found ourselves home-schooling too.
So screens, of various types and sizes, really did become our window on the world.
We’ve been brought closer together.
For some years now marketers have faced a landscape that has become increasingly fragmented in terms of trying to reach specific groups, A multitude of different media channels, and an explosion of different media, have made the mass communication of previous times harder and far more expensive to achieve. The conventional wisdom has been that audiences have atomised but during the pandemic, the digital world has shown its power in pulling them together.
One only has to look at how Joe Wicks quickly proved that there was a mass audience out there ready and willing to take part in his home fitness classes every day.
Streaming services like Netflix saw exactly the same thing with many of its shows generating real water-cooler moments, except there were no water coolers to gather around, for the time being at least. So the nation gathered together at home instead to watch the story unfold about Joe Exotic and his tigers, to see how The Crown handled the 1980s and even to enjoy period drama with a distinctly contemporary twist in Bridgerton.
Yes, it could be that a lack of other entertainment opportunities had something to do with this but it still remains true that if the proposition is compelling enough then it is possible to gather a mass audience, all of whom are potential consumers.
The virtual is virtually as good as the actual.
If there’s a theme emerging, it’s definitely that the world has taken a huge leap forward in terms of living a life online. All those activities that we took for granted like going to the gym, taking a trip to the theatre and seeing live music were suddenly put on hold.
For the first few weeks of the first lockdown, all the questions being asked were how these could be replaced now that we were under a benign kind of house arrest. But slowly alternatives started to emerge.
Sales of home fitness equipment soared and so did subscriptions to home workouts from providers like Peloton – up from 1.4 million members to over 3 million. Theatres started to stream performances and plays began to be written specifically to be performed online.
Musicians also did their bit by live-streaming concerts and even Glastonbury got in on the act, although unfortunate online technical issues did mean this ran far from smoothly.
Over the course of the year, it meant that many people did find these events a good enough substitute for the real experiences and this is a learning that should put many businesses, not just cultural ones, on a far more digital footing in the future.
The relevance for Cefar and our clients.
There’s no denying that we are coming out into a very different post-Covid world. And if there is one lesson that all businesses, and the service industries that support them, must take on board, is that having a digital presence and maximising the number of touchpoints is vital.
It also means that many will have to raise their games as consumers out there have become more digital-savvy. So websites that are just “quite good” won’t cut it anymore. And brands will have to be seen to be making a real effort to engage with consumers on a wide number of fronts including social media.
This is all going to take a more sophisticated and interwoven approach than ever before and have the right commercial and professional partners will be key.
Over the last year, we at Cefar have also been on a steep learning curve having found ourselves on the front line while trying to keep our own business and those of our clients going in these unprecedented times. Now we are ready to put much of this experience into practice to help our clients come back better, stronger and more focused on success.
So hopefully this will be yet another example of exactly why the Chinese word for problem can also mean opportunity – it’s all just a question of perspective.