A digital-first approach has been the go-to for brands looking to navigate turbulence as a result of COVID-19. A strong but flexible structure is needed for marketing activities, but there is no blueprint for how an ideal plan will look.
In actual fact, digital marketing strategies will take inspiration from all avenues, with firepower likely coming from both in-house and agency teams.
As we navigate new lockdowns and new challenges, businesses are looking for avenues they haven’t yet fully tapped into — one of those being the gig economy.
The rise of gig work
The gig economy, which came to the fore during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, is based on flexible, freelance, or temporary jobs. The concept has existed for a long time but has spiked in popularity because of COVID-19, as permanent job roles changed and we were encouraged to work from home or remotely. Many people are now leaving behind their 9-to-5 job working for one employer, and moving to less traditional means of employment.
It is now much easier for workers to create income from short-term tasks. The first thing that comes to mind might be Uber and Lyft, but the gig economy extends far beyond taxi service and into the provision of skilled work from specialists. Marketers can now reach a network of copywriters, designers, and technical SEO experts on demand. There are more opportunities for independent contractors in many fields to provide work and services for businesses as and when they are needed, with the attractive benefit for businesses of being flexible and cost-effective.
A new kind of business contract
Digital platforms transformed the accessibility of this independent work. Web platforms and mobile apps brought together enormous groups of workers and businesses, allowing workers to share their expertise, and businesses to share their needs so they can be matched together.
These platforms allow organisations to tap into a network of specialists as an alternative to fixed full-time employees. It’s beneficial for businesses wanting to start small and then scale up to meet new needs as they arise, whether that’s busy retail peak periods or a fixed-term project such as a website migration. They can either increase the amount of work given to individuals or alternatively take on more workers for larger projects.
In our recent report launch, Non-executive Chairman of Croud, Jerry Buhlmann explains to what extent the pandemic forced brands to think differently to meet the needs of both their employees and customers.
He advises that marketers looking to explore their options should start planning as soon as possible, as new approaches take a long time to execute properly. There are many different aspects to consider too, for instance: what works best on a case-by-case basis for your business; where can you add value; and what are the biggest challenges you face right now?
As a result of the pandemic, marketers might have found the changes to how we work created knowledge or experience gaps, which could not be filled with the expertise of the current team. This is exactly the kind of situation that could benefit from a worker in the gig economy with a niche skillset.
Finding the right talent for building your team
In our research report, findings show that the pandemic has made it exceptionally challenging to retain talent in-house. Half (51%) of UK respondents say they have lost in-house digital talent since COVID-19, leaving teams understaffed and facing uncertainty. This has been most pertinent for the creative sector, with 52% of respondents saying they lost creative in-house talent.
Here the case is made for flexible, gig workers, providing an exact set of skills and expertise to pick up a creative project where it has been left off. With external time pressures and client work to complete, there is no time to waste.
There might be an initial concern that gig economy workers, coming in from the outside, might always sit on the cusp, but this is not the case. If a company provides a welcoming culture, there is nothing stopping them from getting stuck in.
Ben Knight, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Croud, also discussed how an excellent culture is one of the driving forces behind a successful company and a factor that will attract highly skilled gig workers. The relationship must be mutually beneficial, and a gig worker will assess the benefits they will receive from this relationship too.
A key benefit of gig economy workers is that the person shares the common goals of the company and works towards clear objectives — there are no agency best practices to adhere to or any external pressures that might mean they have to stay distanced. This sharing of common goals will be even more crucial now we are working remotely, and gig economy workers are very much used to adapting to new scenarios on the fly.
So as business leaders create new roadmaps, and consider their capabilities, using gig economy workers is an excellent choice, but that doesn’t completely rule out other options.
It is accepted wisdom this is not a binary process, taking on new workers can lead to a hybrid model, secondment, training, or accessing a global network of digital specialists directly. The right solution is based upon delivery of the objectives: from cost-savings to transparency, through agility.
Looking to the future
The key takeaway is that businesses now have more scalable and flexible options than before. They can scale up or scale back as and when they need to, and this is ideal for staying agile and competitive.
Our research explores the driving forces behind changes to the modern workforce, a key finding being that 44% of CMOs in the UK and the US believe that the COVID-19 crisis will increase their likelihood of in-housing, often with the help of dispersed, remote workers.
In the coming months, it’s vital that businesses have the potential to dial-up or down their resources so they can stay agile and keep up with what the industry demands of them.
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