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Trying to Stay Relevant? 4 Things Marketers Should Keep in Mind.

Trying to Stay Relevant? 4 Things Marketers Should Keep in Mind.

To say the past year was tough would be an understatement –– the pandemic completely uprooted our lives, flipped entire industries upside down and forced many SMBs to rethink their entire business strategy. As the vaccine rollout speeds up and the world starts to return to some semblance of normalcy, we’re finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And while this is something to celebrate, it’s important to remember that people could still be reeling from the impacts of the past year for quite some time.

SMBs need to take a flexible, transparent, and, most importantly, empathetic approach to their marketing and communications efforts. In practice, this means understanding where their customers are at, both physically and emotionally, and finding savvy ways to reach them through marketing materials. As we move into the latter half of the year, here are a few tips for small businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers to successfully engage their audiences.

Authenticity is key

The pandemic permanently altered how we see the world and, therefore, how we consume visual content. As a result, today’s consumers are seeking imagery that accurately and authentically depicts what is going on in the world, and brands need to deliver or they risk getting left behind.

At iStock, we understand the nuances of this landscape and aim to provide customers with not only the best imagery, but a better understanding of visual trends. For instance, we invest in ongoing research studies like our Visual GPS report, a survey of over 10,000 people and professionals around the world, to stay ahead of changing visual preferences and provide SMBs with the guidance they need to choose visuals that resonate with their target audience.

According to Visual GPS, people want to see realness and authenticity in visuals, with nearly 80% of respondents saying that brands need to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures, and 68% of respondents saying it’s important that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds. Searches for body positivity have increased 478% since last year. Search terms like real people, real body type, and real skin can help you source images that feature people like the ones you see every day—skin issues, imperfect teeth, different sizes, or even just worn down by daily stress. In fact, unretouched photos is one of the fastest-growing search terms on iStock. The data here speaks for itself and should serve as a clear sign to SMBs that using more authentic content will lead to stronger customer engagement.

Empathy pays off

As we head into the summer, it’s crucial for business leaders to demonstrate empathy toward their employees and their customers. The fact is many are still dealing with fear, anxiety, loss, financial ramifications and so much more. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and SMBs need to reflect that awareness and messaging in their visual communications.

While the pandemic had plenty of adverse effects on the world, it also highlighted the importance of human connection. According to 2020 iStock search data, searches for “Family,” “Community,” “Thanksgiving”, and “Christmas” all ranked in the top 10 overall searches, making it clear that consumers are seeking the comfort of holiday traditions, celebrations and the support of loved ones now more than ever. In a year that forced everyone to reflect and reprioritize, make sure your campaigns and marketing efforts lead with values, humanity, and empathy.

Leverage video to better engage with customers

While imagery is and always will be an important device for visual storytelling, video is a powerful tool that can create a deeper connection with customers. According to recent reports, 85% of marketers say video generates leads and encourages people to buy a product or service, while 93% of brands have converted new customers with video they’ve shared on social. It can help SMBs capture certain moods and feelings, and emulate emotions tied to family, travel and current events.

When marketers hear “video,” they typically think of the cost associated with it due to the expensive equipment, talent and editing software often required to create it. But instead of shooting new video and racking up unnecessary expenses, consider a strategic workaround: stock video. A more efficient and cost-effective solution, high-quality stock video can serve as an excellent way to develop more engaging content without breaking the bank. Check out tools like Promo that offer easy DIY editing capability and sites like iStock for quality visuals and tips on how to pick the right ones for your company or campaign.

Differentiate your brand from bigger retailers through social media

It’s no secret that we’ve all spent more time online during the pandemic, whether you’re doom-scrolling Instagram and Twitter or binge-watching hours of a show on Netflix. According to a study last fall, 72% of people agreed that their social media consumption increased during COVID-19. While usage is likely to shift with the emergence of new apps and our daily activities returning to normal-ish, there’s still a unique opportunity right now for SMBs to establish a brand presence online.

When it comes to social media, SMBs can engage with their customers on a more personal level than bigger retailers, and they should use this to their advantage. During the pandemic, many people have been eager to support small and local businesses, particularly Generation Z and Millennials. According to recent research iStock conducted in the UK, consumers are around three times more likely to trust small businesses over large retailers. The reason for this? They believe small businesses care more about their customers. Champion the values your customers care about and focus on what differentiates you from your competition–large or small. By taking a tailored approach to social media and understanding what apps their target audience use, small businesses can drive results – including increased sales and website traffic.

As a society, we’ve learned plenty of lessons over the last 12 months – some of the most important being to expect the unexpected and lead with empathy. Make sure to put these learnings into practice when developing your marketing strategies to help forge stronger customer relationships that can withstand the inevitable curveballs and changes ahead.

Contributor

Yara Ohashi – As the head of Digital Marketing for AMER and APAC at iStock and Getty Images, Yara Ohashi is focused on growing commerce sales and revenue through Paid Search, Paid Social and Affiliates investment. Prior to joining Getty Images in 2014, she worked in the travel and media industries serving global brands like Expedia. She is passionate about all things data, especially when it comes to using data to unlock creative, innovative ideas, and is a big fan of testing to unearth learnings and identify improvements. As she’ll tell you, one of the things she loves most about what she does is the innate ability to see—almost in real time—how a test is impacting performance.
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