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Guide | September 06, 2021

How Marketing Priorities Have Changed Since the Pandemic Started

Covid-19 has flipped the world upside down in any perspective possible. It opens ladders of opportunities for digitalization but at the same time, forces businesses to change their strategy to survive. For such a “black swan” event, marketers don’t have the luxury of adequate planning time but must act on cue. Two years into this pandemic, and now things start to be clearer now. eCommerce experts have predicted that those who use this time to move on from installing short-term fixes to planning for long-term success will give themselves a competitive advantage.

Stepping onto the first days of Quarter four, 2021, let’s discover key learnings since the first outbreak of Covid-19 and offer some suggested priorities for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

Key takeaways for eCommerce merchants since Covid-19

For many brands, 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021 have been a good time to experiment with new solutions to maintain business continuity and keep it prospering. Here are some important insights and corresponding actions you should take going forward.

Innovators are done with persona and instead, focus on personalization

Personalization has been a big topic since Covid-19 with one-third of marketers said they increased their focus on personalization in the last year. Now, it is preferable that a site can identify each customer, their browsing habits to retain customers and allow for product upselling. According to research from Newswire, personalization using behavioral data will be key for the post-pandemic customer experience journey. Enterprises' use of customer behavior analytics is forecast to grow 20% from 2020 to 2025.

Innovators are done with persona and instead, focus on personalization

Personalization using behavioral data will be key for the post-pandemic customer experience journey. Enterprises' use of customer behavior analytics is forecast to grow 20% from 2020 to 2025.

But what about the old-school buyer personas? Don’t we need it anymore? Well - yes and no. The reason why marketers are dropping out personas to try out personalization is that personas were too simplistic to reflect the unique attributes that differentiate individual customers and prospects from the mass of other similar customers and prospects. Essentially, that is the essence of true personalization.

To get the gist of it, we need to look at the numbers: According to Connie Weaver, over the past 12 months, there has been a surge in the number of companies that failed to increase their response and engagement based on their traditional persona-based segmentation. While buyer personas are a good starting point to identify the targeted customers, many limitations of persona-based marketing have become apparent as the consumer decision-making journey veered from its predictable linear path and increased in complexity, such as why customers bought, what motivated them to buy, what they want next from us, etc. 

So, to get ahead, you may need to amp up your maturity and start on your personalizing journey quicker. For those who are currently implementing personalizing on one or two digital channels, you may need to consider trying omnichannel personalization that serves all existing channels and connects your online and offline journeys. In a world where most brands are personalizing their content, those who offer the personal touch across every channel will truly stand out.

Control your content

According to Gartner, honesty and empathy are among the best features valued by customers amid the pandemic. The content that works best for this strange time is those that have a touch of “human” in it or make an effort to speak to consumers without the sales-ish pitch.

content that works best for this strange time is those that have a touch of “human” in it or make an effort to speak to consumers without the sales-ish pitch
Content that works best for this strange time is those that have a touch of “human” in it or make an effort to speak to consumers without the sales-ish pitch.

Moreover, while many marketers must take on additional responsibilities for content creation during the pandemic, not everyone leverages the existing content, from planning to creation to delivery. But, those who do so will be able to plan more effectively and harness the full power of their content from personalizing, repurposing, and reusing it to full effect across every channel. This allows brands to make full use of their resources and increase their content marketing ROI: a crucial advantage in the highly competitive recovery period.

With the death toll reported on national TV every day, it’s safe to say that many consumers are fed up with hearing about COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean marketers should ignore it because, in one recent survey, 77% of consumers said they want content from brands to show how your brand is helpful in this new everyday life. Some of the goals for your content might include:

  • Entertaining your audience
  • Establishing mutual long-term trust
  • Helping and supporting people through these unprecedented times
  • Educating consumers 
  • Engage the audience in creative ways

In other words, you should still mention Covid-19 but do it nicely and smartly.

Embrace the speed of innovation

According to Mckinsey, about 77% of US businesses want their tech stack to be more advanced in 2021 than in the previous three years combined. And whole people start to flock to the street again, more confident than ever thanks to the vaccines, keep in mind what’s possible and what’s not when your whole team works toward a common goal. The plan for 2020 and the first quarters of 2021 may be built to be adaptive, thus unsustainable in the long run – but the spirit of experimentation that came with it could be an incredibly useful tool for smart marketers.

Brands who retain this year-to-thrive attitude will urge their teams to develop, test, and refine new experiences at the pace customers demand. With the fast escalating situation today and the growth of technology advancement, forward-thinking brands jump in and find out what works while their competitors are still in the planning stage.

Brand loyalty is eroding

Before Covid’s first strike, there was a serious problem with brand loyalty. According to a report by Criteo sent to Business Insider Intelligence, over 80% of customers reported being “likely” or “very likely” to try a new grocery brand, with another 16% noting that they’re “somewhat likely” to do so. After two years of online shopping domination, brand loyalty, as we know it, is dying - and dying fast.

Today, almost half of consumers are trying new brands with a third are incorporating new private-label brands into their shopping repertoire. This is quite alarming for marketers, but at the same time, it opens ladders of opportunities when shoppers are migrating between brands. It is believed that an increase in promotional activity and consumer relationships reinforcement can be the cure to this. According to Forrester Research in 2020, most marketers will increase their spending on loyalty and retention marketing by 15% in 2021 and beyond, all the while cutting back on the product or performance-based marketing.

3 priorities for the rest of 2021 and beyond 

What do these four key takeaways mean? Focus on these areas to turn the past learnings into long-term success with:

Optimize your tools

The solutions that businesses implemented during 2020 could be a foundation for the ongoing digital transformation. You would want to analyze them to see whether they can be seamlessly integrated into the business processes, or if their usability makes them an asset or a liability. Defining is an important task as it helps you know where to start and which to implement. If done well, it can help you optimize your processes at best.

Optimize your tools

You would want to analyze them to see whether they can be seamlessly integrated into the business processes, or if their usability makes them an asset or a liability.

A great example of this priority is headlines commerce. While your old enterprise-grade eCommerce platforms weren’t built to serve the way customers of a digital-first world purchase, a headless, API-first solution is the revolution to serve today’s tech-savvy customers. Read more about Headless commerce HERE

Many organizations have started this process already. In fact, 34% are working on integrating multiple tech stacks to streamline processes. Don't be the one lagging behind!

Go cloud-first

Security, data modernization, and cost are among the top drivers for cloud migration - that’s why more and more businesses are planning to join the 37% of brands who are moving their marketing technology to the cloud, according to Deloitte. Another reason can be attributed to the increasing and more sophisticated cybersecurity attacks amid the pandemic. With a shortage of IT skills, many companies are struggling to manage security in-house. Thus, some companies are turning to third-party services delivering sophisticated cyber capabilities and solutions with the potential of helping to mitigate security incidents.

Take action with a vision towards future

Last but not least, you should really think about your most important digital presence - your website: how is it performing? What insights can I get from it? How can I take it to the next level? And so on. Believe it or not, your problem can be solved by choosing the right platform and having the right companion.

Adobe Commerce - Magento Commerce

Magento empowers thousands of retailers and brands with the best eCommerce platforms and flexible cloud solutions to rapidly innovate and grow. This platform encourages customer personalization, enables smooth and large-scale inventory management, and includes insightful analytics and data visualization. Marketers can export data directly to people’s inboxes, get quick average order value insights and other important data, such as lifetime value, retention rates, and more.

Being Magento’s one and only Gold Solution Partner in Vietnam, SmartOSC has been a partner with Magento for 15+ years and has empowered 500+ merchants to solidify the control of their system's resources. 

See more of our Magento capabilities.


Sitecore is a leading digital experience software used by organizations globally to create seamless, personalized digital experiences. It enriches your customer experience, from content to commerce with each update offering new innovative tools for its users. The cloud-first digital experience platform also offers shopping experiences through Sitecore Experience Commerce.

SmartOSC has attained many achievements with Sitecore. From being the Gold Partner of Sitecore to many awards in 2018 and 2020, we are here to provide a smarter and personalized customer journey based on its Experience Platform and solid Commerce capabilities.

In 2020, SmartOSC was given an Honorable Mention for Most Sophisticated Implementation in the 2020 Sitecore Experience Awards for its work with Ricoh Asia Pacific. The Sitecore Experience Awards (SEA) are held annually and celebrate brands that build digital experiences for their customers using Sitecore®️ technology. Following on from winning the award in 2018, SmartOSC was recognised this year for its use of Sitecore’s powerful eCommerce tools to deploy a new digital platform for Ricoh Asia Pacific, which Sitecore said showcased “the complex capabilities and scalability that Sitecore enables for organizations and brands”.

See more of our Sitecore capabilities.


BigCommerce defines itself to be an all-in-one solution to all sizes of businesses with a focus on various out-of-the-box features. This open SaaS eCommerce platform is well-tailored for enterprise-level companies or those who want to scale up their store thanks to the agility and hiccup-free experience it creates.

SmartOSC offers extensive development and strategic knowledge that will equip merchants with the right direction and capabilities to scale using BigCommerce. 

See more of our BigCommerce capabilities.

Shopify Plus 

If you are seeking a top eCommerce platform with always-on availability, Shopify Plus may be the answer to your quest. This is the eCommerce platform that provides total creative control across all touchpoints to deliver a cohesive customer experience with great site-performance speed and tailor-made analytics and data visualization.

SmartOSC is the pioneer Shopify Plus partner and currently the largest Shopify Plus agency in Southeast Asia. We offer fast go-to-market solutions, helping brands and retailers to launch and grow their online businesses rapidly and sustainably.

See more of our Shopify Plus capabilities.

SmartOSC would love to partner with you through your digital transformation journey. Contact us for further information, or read more about our capabilities and industrial authority with SmartOSC whitepapers

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