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How Brands Can Become Futureproof in the ‘New Normal’

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Change is the ultimate litmus test. As the global economy embraces a work-from-home policy, and foot traffic to the high street falls, brands have had to move quickly to reposition their offering or face the threat of extinction.

We’ve seen retail manufacturers convert their workshops into assembly lines for protective shields; delivery drivers instituting no-contact policies; even beer brands making hand sanitiser.

But while these adjustments are impressive, there needs to be a short-and-long term strategy to weather the storm and come out the other side stronger than ever.

Here are three key steps we believe will help.

In the here and now: Overhaul – or create – a digital presence

Footfall to the high street has been falling like clockwork every year since 2009. The pandemic has simply hastened this process and, in the short term, made some consumers fearful of going back.

Our data tells us that many people are still concerned about visiting retailers in person (45% are set to avoid shopping centres while 27% will steer clear of shops in general), with a wave of people upping their online spend while claimed in-store spend remains flat.

The good news? A nationwide lockdown has forced brick and mortar companies to take action. Brands should learn from this period of uncertainty and keep innovating online.

The National Theatre in London, for instance, has spent 16 weeks streaming full length plays to homes with the request for a donation in return. Cinema chain Curzon has aired its art-house fare via its dedicated online portal. Health guru Joe Wicks has been a fixture on YouTube, and gyms have spent lockdown trying to engage people virtually as well.

Businesses should look to emerge from 2020 with a digital presence – something that will help them survive high street uncertainty in the future.

In the medium term: Invest in search

According to Google Trends, Avengers Endgame, Joker, Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi and the Rugby World Cup were all hot topics in 2019.

But a national lockdown, coupled with a scaling back of the entertainment industry, has meant 2020 results are shaping up very differently.

Covid-19, recessions and home improvements are capturing our interest -- with DIY searches up 38% YoY.

Despite this, entertainment brands should invest in search for the year ahead.

Why? Two reasons: One, search engine optimisation – SEO – takes time to get right. Two, by appearing prominently for searches in 2021 – when the lockdown has lifted – you give yourself the best chance to thrive.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You need to optimise your site first, because the smallest things can have a bearing on your ability to rank. Page URL, tags, and even the size of your images all matter.

  • Next, you should be concentrating on creating high-quality content. Google has long rewarded sites that do this, and you could do far worse than starting a blog and posting to it regularly. 

  • And finally, you want to earn backlinks. These are links from other websites pointing back to your domain. 

  • The best way to do this is to create content that’s unique, noteworthy, and likely to grab the attention of reputable news publications who, by referencing your work, will need to cite you. 

Just imagine appearing front and centre for searches in 2021.

In the long term: leverage voice technology

Alexa, Amazon Echo and other AI-enabled voice assistants have been around a while, but Covid has accelerated their rate of adoption, in part because people don’t want to touch a physical device and risk transmission of the disease.

Going forward, brands should make voice a big point of difference in their offering.

Imagine a clothing store which, when you visit it, allows you to speak to an AI assistant for advice tailored to your specific needs.

Or voice-activated checkouts that free you from the hassle of tapping buttons on a screen.

It’s almost a cliché to say it, but change is inevitable. What stands a business in good stead is adapting to that change swiftly. The good news is that Covid has forced businesses to act, and with exciting new technologies on the horizon, there’s reason to be optimistic.

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