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Six COVID-19 Utility Marketing Trends to Keep an Eye On

Published June 25, 2020

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend our daily routines, consumers are spending an unprecedented amount of time and energy at home. They are paying closer attention to what brands are saying—and even closer attention to what they’re doing.

For utility advertising, this brings challenges as well as opportunities. To help you navigate the new marketing landscape, here are six COVID-19 consumer media trends that look set to become the new normal.

  • Screen time. Perhaps the largest trend, unsurprisingly, has been the shift to digital. With families cooped up indoors, the digital world offers a portal to shopping, news, entertainment and socializing. Early data has shown that a significant portion of this increase comes from older customers getting newly acquainted with these digital channels, suggesting that it’s a trend that may stick around.

Internet use as a whole is up 50–70%, with YouTube (+21%) and display ads (+13%) greatly benefiting from the increased traffic. Social use has exploded as well, with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest all seeing record levels of engagement across their platforms. Interestingly, old-fashioned comforts like live TV (+40%) and even radio (28%) have also seen tremendous increases.

  • Staying in. These days, everybody is a homebody. Even as restrictions are lifted, ongoing economic and safety concerns mean that many consumers are making staying in a habit. Exhibit A: Bread makers, weight-training equipment, computer monitors and crafting supplies have all seen a huge spike in sales in the past few months.

  • Trust. As consumers look for trusted voices, utility email open rates are up 60–70% (source: CLEAResult). Consumers are more attuned to sincere and helpful messaging, leaving the door wide open for utility brands to offer meaningful advice, reassurance and assistance to customers in need.

  • Price sensitivity. With the 2008 recession still fresh in many people’s minds, a majority of consumers remain uncertain about whether the economy will bounce back quickly. This economic insecurity has naturally led to a hesitancy to spend money on luxury brands and nonessentials, with nearly half of U.S. consumers planning to cut their household spending in the coming weeks. Consumers are trying to save money wherever they can—and that includes energy costs.

  • Conscious consumption. While online shopping has seen a sharp rise as shoppers seek to avoid crowded stores, consumers have become much more locally and environmentally conscious. When available, sustainable, locally sourced and community-oriented options are often their first choice.

As expected during a pandemic, consumers are also paying special attention to health and wellness messaging. For utilities, this means messages around home comfort and air quality may resonate more than usual. These shopping habits are expected to stay intact long after the pandemic is contained.

  • Social responsibility. The current economic downturn, along with the previous recession, have seen a monumental shift in consumers’ expectations around the social responsibility of brands. Over 75% agreed that corporations should put society’s interest over their bottom line.

What’s all this mean for utility marketers? While 70% of media buyers have already reduced or halted their marketing spending, the data makes it clear that the right message at the right time can have a profound impact on an increasingly engaged audience. Stay tuned for additional guidelines on how to strike the right balance as you reach out and reconnect with your customers.

For an even deeper dive into the latest consumer and utility marketing trends, you can catch our latest webinar for free right here:

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