The last year has absolutely upended all of our lifestyles, transforming even the simplest elements of human interaction. One of the major changes for many people has been the introduction of working from home full-time.
Working remotely at home was certainly not the norm pre-pandemic: only around 5% of people considered themselves homeworkers before the first lockdown was imposed in the UK. Demonstrating the huge increase in WFH, ONS data shows that during the first week of February 2021, 46% of respondents worked from home due to Covid-19.
The WFH lifestyle doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon either. A Locatee survey commissioned by YouGov found that only 7% of the UK workforce wanted to return to the office on a full-time basis. So, if this is to become our way of life for at least the foreseeable future, we’re all going to have to learn how to adapt – including marketers.
Here are some of the key trends in marketing during the time of WFH…
Of course, the world was already extremely online pre-Covid, so it’s not as though companies have had to pivot to brand-new digital strategies overnight. However, with so many people more online than ever – (according to last summer’s Online Nation report, UK internet usage surged to a record high in April 2020) – any offline or traditional marketing plans have likely been shifted, and future planning for 2021 and beyond will be dominated by online content. Homeworkers have to spend that commute time somewhere, and data suggests many are heading online.
(Average time online per visitor per day, by age Ofcom)
Those marketers operating under verticals that have a strong online presence are likely to see the best performance in 2021, according to WARC. This should come as no surprise, but does further underline the importance of a strong digital footprint for any brand. Digital ad spend is expected to grow to 50% of all global ad spend in 2021, and with consumers reporting they spent 84% more time interacting with digital channels last year, creating engaging online content will continue to grow in importance month on month.
One of the obvious methodologies that many companies and marketing strategists have adopted is simply leaning into the new ways of life most consumers are now facing. Google Trends data shows an increase in search volume for some common lockdown terms like “loungewear”, “office chair”, “online delivery”, “work from home” and, of course, “banana bread” over the last 12 months.
(UK searches for “office chair” over the last 5 years, Google Trends)
(UK searches for “banana bread” over the last 5 years, Google Trends)
Brands that have adapted to WFH trends like these have recorded some notable results. There were straightforward strategies like this from Maltesers embracing the now universal video-call lifestyle, Expedia’s ad appealing to all itchy-toed travellers stuck at home, and Yorkshire Tea’s tongue-in-cheek teapot video – hot on the heels of the brand’s infamous Twitter exchange that demonstrated the importance of social conscience in today’s consumer sentiment.
Then there were companies who thought a bit outside the box – like the ‘Customer Service for Anything’ campaign at Zappos, which tapped into lockdown boredom, and Budweiser’s brilliant rework of their iconic Whassup ad, this time highlighting the importance of communication during quarantine isolation.
All this to say, brands can capture interactions and engagements by presenting relatable, topical content to consumers. Global lockdown, working from home and the pandemic in general offer the opportunity to provide universal experiences that appeal to the public as a whole. The big brands are doing it, so why can’t you?
Prior to this WFH wave, digital marketers knew roughly when their audience would be looking at their content. This typically meant that optimal posting times took the daily commute and ‘normal’ lunch breaks into consideration. Now that most people’s commute simply involves the walk from the bedroom to the sofa (or some other domestic configuration), times really have changed.
Sprout Social found that there were simply more peak times to post on Facebook and Instagram than before WFH began, due to increased online activity. This means that social posts will likely get more eyes and engagement now than before – so up your posting game. Users working from home have more time to be online and more opportunities to view your marketing content – so pre-2020 posting schedules are likely outdated and not connecting you with the best traffic.
Without IRL interactions and conversations with workmates, many people are turning to interactive media to fill a social void. The phenomenal visibility of that recent Weetabix tweet is surely an example of how social media and online conversation has become a huge part of everyday discourse. Interactive elements are rapidly growing in popularity – Instagram’s Stories are now viewed by 500 million users every day. Things like virtual Zoom events and a strong social media presence hot on reactive posts and replies will be important marketing tools for capturing an increasingly online customer base. Additionally, with VR tech coming into its heyday – bolstered by Facebook’s beta Horizon programme with Oculus – it looks as though virtual reality platforms will continue to offer those of us at home a way to escape from our sofas.
For marketing agencies themselves, a perhaps unexpected upside of WFH (and aren’t we all craving positivity right now?) has been access to a wider pool of potential employees than before. Without the constraints of location or necessity to commute to an office every day, companies can look beyond their usual scope to employ creatives and like-minded people in locations they might not have otherwise considered.
At Clicky, we’ve committed to a full flexible remote working policy, which has meant some of our team have been able to move further away from our HQ without any impact on productivity, communication or team spirit. It has been reported that the vast majority of employees in the UK are happier working remotely, so it’s not a bad idea for employers to continue to offer WFH benefits in the long-term. Our agency is an example of how it can benefit you too!