• Claire Roos

The Great Pivot of 2020: Evolving Channel Strategy

After being in a pandemic for more than a year, we’ve all had to adapt to how we eat, how we socialize, and how we educate our kids as the world around us has so drastically changed. Certain trends that emerged as COVID “band-aids” are now solidified as habits – from ordering groceries with a click on a screen to virtually attending cooking class for adults and geometry class for kids. Our purchasing behavior has changed dramatically as new norms have been established and people move into new routines. The distinction is becoming clear between brands that that have chosen to pivot and brands that are sticking to the ‘tried and true’ model in this environment.

Going ‘all-in’ on digital has been the recipe for large and small brands alike this past year. Some companies, like Thor Industries, the owner of many leading brands of RVs, have had to rethink and invest in a new reality as their customer base shifted during the pandemic. With the traditional in-person sales channels preferred by the Baby Boomers largely closed off, Thor pivoted to optimize their digital sales experience to cater to the emerging interest in RVs of the younger Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials. This move not only facilitated sales from a new customer base through a previously inaccessible channel, it also took advantage of the changing marketplace to highlight their benefit – freedom through traveling – in a time when so many of us felt trapped.

If you’re like me, I’m also rooting for small, local brands I hear about that have re-tooled to meet consumer demand where they are and in a way that meets evolving needs.

One such small business is a (single location) co-working space for Moms, Honey Space, that, pre-COVID, not only provided a collaborative space for moms to work, but also mental health services and childcare.

When lockdown forced the physical location to close, Honey Space transformed into a digital company to serve parents, offering extensive online programming and critical mental health services virtually that everyone, especially parents, have needed even more lately. As a result, this local co-working space is now national and soon to develop an app to access all their digital content.

But not everyone who has put more effort into a new channel strategy has won. So how do they do it?

There are three keys to success we see for brands who have been able to pull away from the pack:

  1. Know – and properly frame – your core offering. Whether it’s ‘go everywhere; stay anywhere’ or an inclusive, safe ‘clubhouse’ for moms, it’s critical to go back to your brand’s roots and ensure you bring to life the benefit the brand delivers, regardless of channel.

  2. Understand where ‘your people’ are. Where and how are they consuming media? Have they upped their time on social media and become even more glued to streaming services (like Disney+, which launched during the early days of COVID-19)? Brands must modify their marketing mix to accommodate changing consumer behavior – and in this case, recognize an increasing focus on different (in-home) channels and forms of media. Meet them where their eyes are now. And continuously revise.

  3. Make it easy – and a positive experience – to buy. Sounds simple enough, but if I have to buy 44 granola bars online because that’s a shipping case, I’m not going to do that. If I do, I won’t very often. The online shopping experience can be a complete delighter. Or a complete disappointment. Customer service and satisfaction can't be limited to brick-and-mortar!

The reality is that ecommerce and omni-channel brands were emerging long before COVID-19. Those making the transition earlier may have had an easier time during the pandemic, but it isn’t too late. Delivering a strong brand benefit, talking to people where they are, and providing the right kind of shopper experience can help a brand turn a pivot into a WIN, now and in the long-term.