For many marketers, the events of 2020 and 2021 heralded a sea change that has forced them to reassess almost every aspect of their work.

From the plethora of digital channels marketers use to engage with customers, to their day-to-day internal workflows, the industry is virtually unrecognisable from how it looked before the pandemic struck.

Amid the widespread uncertainty and economic upheaval that the crisis has brought, however, Salesforce research suggests that marketers are actually optimistic about what the future holds, with 77% feeling that their work provides more value than it did a year ago, while a further 66% expect to see revenue growth over the next 12 to 18 months.

In order to secure this success though, it is important to reflect on the key marketing lessons of 2021 and assess how this newfound knowledge can be carried across into 2022.  

Video has soared in popularity

As persistent lockdowns and restrictive measures caused disruption to everyday life during the first half of 2021, marketers had to take an even more digitally focused approach to customer engagement than ever before, and this has prompted many to re-evaluate which channels deserve increased or decreased investment.

It will come as no surprise that because customers – prospective and otherwise – have spent so much time using their devices at home, digital marketing channels have seen a huge uptick in engagement, with video platforms like YouTube and Twitch experiencing an especially significant boost in value. 

With a recent study finding that 81% of consumers and business buyers expect to spend more time online once the pandemic ends that they did before it started, it is more than likely that video will continue to surge in popularity, and as such marketers would do well to consider what they stand to gain from using this medium to their advantage.


Websites are more important than ever

Websites have long been one of the best ways to drive conversions, but with the pandemic having brought mandatory store closures, more customers than ever before have come online, highlighting the need for websites to act like store fronts.

In this sense, marketers have had to put a great deal of thought into how to get key sales messages across on their organisation’s website, and how to optimise the site so as to make it as accessible and easy to use as possible for visitors.

Now that the vast majority of shops that survived the economic downturn of the crisis have reopened, however, many new converts to online are actually choosing to stay off the high street, with PwC figures showing that nearly 50 outlets a day are closing as a result of the pandemic.

This means that marketers need to consider investing more than ever before in their online output moving forward, and coming up with new and innovative ways of standing out from their competitors in the digital marketplace. 

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Reassessment of how to engage with customers and co-workers

Just as interacting with customers in person was out of the question for many high street retailers during lockdown, speaking with prospective customers via their work phones was an impossibility for office-based salespeople.

This has made engaging with customers no matter where they are, as well as tapping into how they want to buy, all the more important.

In accordance with this, marketers have worked tirelessly to deliver solid experiences to consumers over a variety of touch points, and in doing so avoid disjointed journeys that often dissuade or aggravate buyers.

However, it is not just consumers who have changed their physical locations and behaviour online – marketers have also had to adapt their approach to communicate internally within their own organisations. 

Gone are the days when team members are perpetually tethered to their desks – the pandemic has proven that, in many ways, this approach is no longer wholly fit for purpose, either from a productivity or wellbeing perspective – and finding the right workflows to connect with teams effectively has been a learning curve.

But with the world of work and the organisational structure have changed so dramatically in the wake of the pandemic alongside customer behaviour, this is a lesson that marketers can carry into the remote, always-online future that awaits us.


Changing approaches to using cookies

Marketers have also learned of Google’s intention to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome browsers in 2022, as well as Apple’s changes to iOS 14 that will make tracking customer behaviour considerably more difficult.

For years, brands have relied on cookies to track website visitors, improve user experience and collect data that helps them to target ads to the most appropriate audiences, but these announcements mean that a dramatic change is on the horizon. 

To be best prepared for the changes to come, marketers must now think about what alternative methods they can use to make their digital advertising efforts effective without the need for cookies.

For example, contextual advertising – ads that are relevant to other content on the screen – is already experiencing a resurgence, while people-based marketing enables marketers to meet customers in the places and times they actually want to engage with them without a reliance on third-party cookies to track users or gather data.

The changes being brought to tracking through cookies will certainly make it more difficult to collect customer data, but marketers must recognise that these changes are unavoidable and a reflection of the times, and therefore they must now think about alternative approaches that they can take.


Looking to the future

There’s no doubt that COVID has made a marketer’s job far more challenging than ever before, and there have been many new lessons for those in the sector over the past two years.

If marketers can use this knowledge to create new strategies and approaches that can be effective in the future then the experience of battling and surviving the pandemic can surely be seen to be a valuable one for the industry as whole as it looks to 2022 and beyond.