The new year has brought new hope for many Americans, particularly as vaccines are being distributed (albeit slowly) across the country. But even with a glimmer of normalcy on the horizon—the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel—we’re finding that many of the consumer behaviors ushered in by the pandemic are likely here for good. 

We’ve seen that, even in places where stay-at-home orders have been lifted, consumers are following orders of their own and staying at home. They have traded live entertainment for multiple digital streaming services, air travel for online get-togethers, dining out for mobile-based delivery apps, and the gym for a high-tech stationary bike or even a set of dumbbells and the app of their choice—just to name a few. 

And while they have made many of these adjustments in the name of safety, they have realized just how convenient it is to be able to access products and services—from groceries to therapy—from the comfort of their couch. As a result, those adjustments are not going anywhere. Research indicates that online purchases from those who are new to online shopping—or who rarely do so—are likely to increase by whopping 169 percent, even after the pandemic recedes. Meanwhile, those who have been buying online are expected to continue doing so. 

In addition, when buyers do go out, they’re shopping closer to home—frequenting stores in their neighborhood and seeking out local vendors at large. Further, the lifestyle changes many of us have adopted have even motivated people to move, leaving tightly packed cities for the sprawl of suburban and rural communities—and taking their business with them when they go. 

As convenience and a focus on shopping locally remain a priority, buyers will select products and services based on their accessibility rather than brand loyalty. And that means marketers don’t have the luxury of resting on their laurels. With all that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about how to meet your clients’ and customers’ new needs and interests for the long haul if you haven’t already.

Get your digital ducks in order. First off, you’ve got to be where your customer is spending most of their time—and that’s online. You’ve likely made alterations to your strategy already, incorporating digital content and outreach as a bigger piece of your marketing pie. If you haven’t yet, now is the time. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been spending more time reading, watching and listening to things online. As such, think about whether you could be doing more to capture their attention on these channels with additional paid advertising. 

You can’t stop there, though. Your digital presence has to go beyond ads and social media. Regardless of the industry you are in, your customers should be able to find everything they need with the click of a button, from booking appointments to ordering supplies, paying invoices and more. 

You may also want to consider new ways to provide value that can be accessed from home. Telehealth options, online educational sessions, workouts that can be streamed and virtual cooking classes are just some of the ways businesses across industries have been connecting with customers and clients. Don’t be afraid to get creative—at a time when everyone is looking to engage, chances are you’ll be playing to a captive audience. 

Keep your community close—and your neighbors closer. We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: When it comes to making new sales, those who have continued to buy from you are your best bet. Investing time, energy and funds in determining how to serve them well has been shown to provide better ROI than hunting down new customers and clients—especially in a tough economic climate. 

Think of your current buyers as part of your community—whether they are located down the block or on the other side of the world—and treat them as well as you would your favorite neighbor. 

And given the emphasis on spending dollars locally, don’t hesitate to provide insights, content and offers targeted to those who are truly close by. In an age where personalization is key, they’ll appreciate the additional effort. 

Reevaluate, reevaluate and reevaluate. So much of our lives remain in flux, and that means you’ve got to stay on your toes. Keep checking in to ensure the strategies you’ve put in place are continuing to provide the outcomes you’re looking for. If something doesn’t seem to be working the way it used to, step back, devise a thorough plan and take action. In this market, fortune favors the agile. 

Above all, stay hopeful and optimistic. This pandemic can’t last forever—and the skills you’ve built as you’ve adapted to the changes it’s thrown your way time and again will serve you for years to come. 

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