How the new normal has made online learning into a marketing strategy

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Although learning can be a daunting experience for students, people have turned to various forms of online learning to stay productive, improve personal and career development, and simply learn something new. The new normal did not bring upon a change of heart towards learning, but it did widen a number of people’s busy schedules. It is clear that time is the luxury most of us now have during the pandemic. Now that individuals are not as preoccupied as before, many have turned to the Internet for an avenue to learn more about their interests. 

Online learning is ultimately a Google search away. 

Resourcefulness and adaptability

Webinars. Online courses. Online workshops. Workout training sessions with a private coach. As these activities popped up on our digital screens, a semblance of normalcy returned to our lives even as most physical events were cancelled or postponed due to the strict restrictions on mass gatherings. This has made online learning an alternative option during this pandemic as we stay at home and maintain social distancing.

Companies have taken to online learning as an opportunity. For example, Unilever has set up webinars for fresh graduates to be equipped with job-hunting essentials such as creating effective resumes, utilizing LinkedIn, and preparing for job interviews. Aside from these businesses, gym trainers have created both free and paid workout sessions for a class or in private, benefiting those who did not have their own gym equipment at home. Usual physical workshops (of cooking, crafting, and so on ) have turned digital too, with many of them sending activity materials to participants prior to the event. 

A business strategy

Awareness must be built to gain participants or an audience, and companies do this through promoted ads found in their social media timelines, referrals from friends, and email newsletters from companies. It is clear that organizers do have specific audiences for their events, yet anyone is still welcome to participate. Furthermore, they did not simply organize these to offer free activities to keep people occupied in their homes. It is only a part of a bigger strategy.

Registration is not a “foot at the door”, yet the experience of an online event or course allows participants to be hooked. Companies must go above and beyond to manage their participants’ expectations from the short event or course description and company expertise. This can be ensured by utilizing a number of activities, choosing the appropriate speakers, setting and following an allotted time, asking feedback, and promoting conversations through posts threads and Q&As.

However, the bigger challenge here is keeping close to your already hooked participants, which can be done through providing them with more opportunities such as similar events or courses. They trust you on the quality of learning that you can provide which is an important factor. Some companies offer a series of classes to continue to engage old participants and invite new ones. 

With that being said, it is important to know your participants’ interests and their expected topics from the brand. For example, Shopee organized webinars focused on IT-related operations while Google’s Digital Garage aims to build skills on data and digital marketing. However, popular topics should not be forgotten such as work-life balance and remote work habits. It matters to know what are the pain points of these participants and adjust accordingly to them. 

Soft-selling is the key 

In the grand scheme of things, companies have marketed themselves during their events in one way or another. Businesses can be too focused on this objective when it comes to setting up their target audience, program, and campaign. For example, if they are conducting webinars, the speakers’ talk will most likely be based on their personal experience of working in the company. These insights subtly promote the company’s culture and work environment, which can help audiences gauge if they are best fit for working with the company. Objectives can vary from the following: product trial, brand identity, company expertise, employer branding, and etc.

They do this very effectively by making it as soft as a sell as possible, while slowly building up participants’ interest. The event itself can bring awareness, trust, and experience that will help establish a loyal customer base. While a few consumers will notice that they are being marketed to, they will choose to sit through it due to the benefits of online learning as it is cost-effective and flexible with their schedule and location. This is why online learning can truly be a great marketing opportunity as its business objective would not be too obvious to the consumer.

What lies in the future?

Online learning will not be gone even when the pandemic is over due to its potential. People now more than ever are aware of the benefits of this method of education, and it’s unlikely that they will turn away from it. It has been tested as an effective alternative to some activities that were once thought to be only done outside the comfort of our homes. It is the time-saving option for our fast-paced lifestyles. 

The global health crisis has left numerous people unemployed, and it has shown the importance of continually developing new skills in the face of risking a career change. Online learning is able to provide people with avenues to explore new skills, and some platforms have available data on how much it can improve their career pathing.

It is a vital part of the life of the tech-savvy generations, such as Gen Z. They grew up watching school-related content online when their school teachers could not explain the material well enough. It is a loss of opportunity to return back to the old normal when these soon-to-be working professionals will want to be exposed to online talks, such as TED talks. Ultimately, online learning can and will be part of what lies after the new normal and everyone has to be ready for it.

Visual by Chloe Gaw

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