The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has quickly changed the global marketing landscape, impacting consumer behavior in most markets. However, key global marketing trends around brand, digital, design, and localization in 2020 still hold true. Here’s what you need to know.

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19

With the growing uncertainty around the spread of COVID-19 and its economic impact, global consumers and businesses alike are increasingly cost-conscious, which is having a cascading impact across multiple industries.

However, many companies pivoting to solve evolving needs for both consumers and businesses are experiencing significant global growth.

In the videoconferencing space, Zoom’s stock has risen 75% year-to-date. And Houseparty – a consumer videochat app – had 50 million sign-ups worldwide in the space of a month, with growth 70 times above normal in some markets. The overall number of video calls on Microsoft Teams grew by 1,000% in March. 

With more people staying at home, video streaming services are also booming. Downloads of Netflix’s app have jumped 66% in Italy, and 35% in Spain. Twitch saw nearly $20 million in user spending in Q1, and was one of the most downloaded mobile apps globally. And YouTube collected $110 million for in-app spending during the same period. In general, mobile app downloads and usage are growing quickly.

Companies in industries that have been negatively impacted by the spread of COVID-19 can still succeed by approaching their audience with empathy and finding opportunities to add value.

Offering free, useful, and localized content can help drive engagement in key markets and position companies as trusted experts. When the crisis passes and budgets begin to free up, companies that take this approach will already have strong relationships with their key audiences, improving their likelihood of recovery.

BRAND

In 2019, the climate emergency finally took center stage. “Sustainability” became a hot topic as brands took steps to align with changing consumer values and better accommodate the “circular economy.”

In June 2019, Unilever announced it would dispose of brands that didn’t “stand for something.” They must start defining themselves in terms of their positive impact on society and the planet.

Unilever isn’t alone. 2020 will be an even stronger year for cause-related marketing, particularly in the face of COVID-19. The triple bottom line ethos of People, Planet, and Profit has become a priority for many businesses, with the focus on Planet gaining a lot of traction. COVID-19 arguably provides a stronger emphasis on People and the need for global citizenship than any other recent event.

91% of global consumers will switch to a brand that supports a good cause. And brand causes must stack up, or they’ll be accused of woke-washing or greenwashing. They could even find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Take WeWork’s commitment to “elevate the world’s consciousness” – arguably more baffling than inspirational. UK takeout delivery company Deliveroo’s support of midwives “as the best delivery service in the country” fell flat, too – especially given the workers’ rights issues dogging the company.

The need for brands to look after their people is particularly important as companies offer ways for users to navigate their changing situations amid COVID-19. Empathy and service are a common undercurrent in messaging. For example, In New York, meditation and mindfulness app Headspace is offering free guided meditation – in both English and in Spanish. They’re also giving free subscriptions to US and UK healthcare workers, as well as special content for educators in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Changes in recruitment patterns – including social media – have put the employer value proposition firmly in the spotlight. More than ever, the way brands manage this crisis will impact current and potential client relationships. To attract, engage, and retain the best people, companies need a compelling brand-story and positioning that go beyond compensation.

DIGITAL

Last year’s trends covered the impact of Google’s transition from search engine to answer engine. It’s a global marketing trend that’s continued in 2019 – and one digital marketers will have to tackle in 2020.

In June 2019, the number of zero-click searches passed the 50% mark for the first time. This means the majority of Google users don’t click on any links (paid or organic) after searching.

Why’s the number going up? Over the years, Google has introduced a variety of search results, like knowledge maps and featured snippets. It’s now prioritizing its own content over other sources – and not just Maps and Images. Users can watch videos, find hotels, follow sports results, and (as of December 2019) track packages without leaving the SERP.

This new information is starving third-party sites of clicks – brands like Expedia and TripAdvisor were already struggling because of this trend.

In other words, Google’s been evolving into a direct competitor. Already around 14% of all clicks go back to Google’s own properties. It’s a trend that mirrors Chinese search giant, Baidu, whose rich snippets can take up to 70% of the space on page one. That leaves little room for even high-ranking websites.

Chinese consumers also often skip search engines and go straight to virtual marketplaces. This trend is already spreading elsewhere. In the US, the majority of product searches start on Amazon.

So how can you boost your visibility in 2020? Here are some starting points:

  1. Optimize relevant content for zero-click searchers. Think featured snippets, CTR optimization, and the Google knowledge graph.
  2. Review brand visibility on all relevant sources – including social media and marketplaces, which are often imported into the SERP.
  3. Consider paid media to nudge awareness and post-search behavior on specific keywords.

With the advent of COVID-19 and the increase in eCommerce, search visibility becomes even more important, especially for businesses that are pivoting to an online model.

DESIGN

Design trends move fast – they always have. Here are a few we’re expecting to see more of in 2020:

Layout

With a huge range of templates available, competition for attention is fierce. Designers are breaking boundaries in a quest for viewers’ elusive attention.

Typography

Think bold fonts and independent text. Some brands are relying on type to the exclusion of all else.

Color

Metallic finishes are gaining traction. They work well with minimalist designs, while conveying luxury and good taste. Duotones will be used increasingly to simplify images and focus attention on content.

Of course, perceptions of design trends are deeply influenced by culture. Color associations, information density, and image choices are just the start. The best approach is to combine creative design know-how with local market insights.

LAYOUT

TYPOGRAPHY

COLOR

LOCALIZATION

The rapid rise of the Chinese economy has made China a firm localization priority for many brands in recent years. The advance of India and other emerging markets means we’re likely to see a further shift in language sets in the 2020s. And the global push toward technology as we adjust to life with COVID-19 will undoubtedly impact localization priorities for many tech and streaming companies.

Regardless, our predictions for 2020 are more closely related to factors that haven’t changed.

1. Localization shouldn’t be an afterthought

Localizing product or marketing content late in the development cycle can be challenging because late-stage changes are difficult to manage. Planning for internationalization from the start significantly reduces both localization cost and time to market.

2. Businesses need partners, not vendors

The localization industry runs on efficiency: accurate translations, competitive pricing, on-time delivery. But efficiency alone isn’t enough to solve the challenges businesses face when going global.

Companies need a partnership that goes far beyond delivering efficient translations and strategizes for brand-experience. When localization is carried out thoughtfully, in the context of your business and marketing goals, you’ll have not only a more effective end product, but a cost-effective investment in your long-term international growth.

3. Localization should demonstrate ROI

Business leaders don’t care about the number of words translated. They care about results. Yet the localization industry is more likely to report on words, deadlines, and accuracy.

ROI is especially important when it comes to product and marketing localization. True ROI means that sales and brand awareness at the local level directly drive international growth. Without this mindset, it will be difficult for brands to make the case for localization investment.

FINAL THOUGHT

The main takeaways for 2020? Empathy and value are crucial when responding to COVID-19. Corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven business practices are increasingly important to consumers. Account for zero-click search in your optimization strategy. Combine creative design know-how with local market insights into consumer behavior and expectations. And look for a localization partner who knows how to blend marketing and localization best practices.

Need help with a new project, or have a global marketing idea for 2020 you want to bounce off us? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch.