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What a year it has been! Businesses of all types — and their marketing teams — struggled with uncertainty, surpluses and shortfalls in demand, strained supply chains, and ever-changing challenges for brands to reach consumers. Marketers have had their hands full more than ever.

The marketers that adapted best were the ones who used the pandemic to accelerate change towards standards and methodologies that were long overdue and adopt new tactics to communicate with consumers in a more meaningful way that was relevant, yet sensitive, to their current mindsets and situations.

As we transition out of a challenging year and look forward to a 2021 in which we prepare for the challenges ahead, the marketing industry has found itself evolving faster than expected — and in many cases, that’s just in time.

Finding a Way Back Home

As pandemic-fueled lockdowns hit and millions of Americans made adjustments in their lives, the importance of the home as the central place for influencing purchase behaviors intensified. What was once a trend before COVID-19 became a surge: we’ve spent more time at home and made more important purchase decisions at home than ever before.

In response, marketers quickly adapted to fortify their business and adjust their marketing to focus on the most important business objectives given the climate. Here are some of the impacts we saw up close.

Getting off the Chain 

Starting in the spring, some businesses, such as travel, were (and still are) heavily impacted with their website traffic dropping dramatically and marketing budgets paused — a trend we noticed across the board and monitored throughout the year

However, many brands across consumer packaged goods, meal delivery, and wellness services saw a surge in demand. For some, that represented a healthy business flow. Still, others struggled to meet demand as supply chains were disrupted, and marketing budgets were cut as they worked to fulfill their existing orders. 

Many of our brands that navigated through this period accelerated their investment in their supply chain infrastructure to future-proof their business. This change propelled brands to stop looking at DTC as a type of company and have begun looking at it as a capability — a muscle that is critical to developing as a well-run enterprise. This acceleration and tightening relationships directly with the consumer is arguably a silver lining of 2020.

Necessity is the Mother of Innovation

With physical limitations preventing many in-person and experiential-based marketing strategies, and with out-of-home strategies losing relevance, brands had to innovate with pandemic-proof processes. 

For some, that meant shifting their tactics to focus on retaining and satisfying their existing customers versus acquiring new ones, while others were looking to leverage every tool in their toolbox to reach consumers on their terms.  

We made our own contribution. In March, PebblePost added two significant new products to our Programmatic Direct Mail® platform: Lookalikes for better prospecting and Graph Mail for better retention marketing, as a complement to our flagship Retargeting product. 

We launched these products in the most challenging months of the year, yet they have been met with high adoption as marketers look for innovative ways to connect with consumers through relevant and high-quality mail. 

2021 Will be the Year Of…

It’s a meme at this point in our industry: Will 2021 be the year of privacy? Of omnichannel? Of data? The year of contextual? One thing is certain: We had to think differently in 2020.

As marketers, as technology platforms, as consumers, and as family members. We’ve experienced significant changes, whether from macro events, changing regulations, or consumers finding a voice in the privacy conversation. Many of these have been in the forward direction, but all have been seismic.

It’s forced us to look at things anew — how we support our brands, how we run our business, how we treat our employees, and what impact we want to leave on the industry and the world.

I’m so excited to get back to work in January with our team because we have stayed focused on what we believe matters most: helping brands reach consumers at home with relevance and respect. Our brands have been able to move the needle this year by believing the same thing and, in turn, driving incremental sales — at scale — with Programmatic Direct Mail®.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a bright and meaningful New Year.

Jacob Ross is the CEO of PebblePost.

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