As the world went into lockdown, consumer behaviours changed almost overnight. As we emerge into a post-lockdown world, the changes are expected to develop at a slower rate, with the threat of localised lockdowns making people cautious around getting back to their old ways of life.
Understanding these shifts in behaviour against different stages of economic and broader recovery will help brands determine ‘where to play’ and ‘how to win’.
1. Stay close to the trends, activate and test accordingly
Staying close to consumer behaviour in your sector, both domestically and internationally, can be achieved by close integration of your search advertising, wider Google trends and social listening.
The emergence of new trends should fuel testing programs. It is impossible to say exactly what a new normal will look like, as some lockdown habits remain, some return to a pre-COVID state, and even more, are new to develop. With all this uncertainty, there is no guarantee that the marketing tactics which worked in 2019 will work this year. Therefore, a continuous approach to testing and iterating will stand any advertiser in good stead.
2. Flash sales & discounting
Flash sales are a great way of getting a fast revenue injection into businesses that are already set up to sell direct to consumer, using performance channels such as affiliates search and social. The associated time limit and availability of inventory can be used to drive demand against specific audiences.
Flash sales can be controlled by smart usage of first-party data to hit only the customers you want to reach and bring a controlled revenue boost. It is also a great way to build affinity to a brand’s DTC (direct to consumer) proposition and build a customer base for later reengagement. Flash sales can also be a very effective way to reduce excess stock quickly, to free up warehouse space or reliance on items that will be going to be out of season.
3. Virtual showrooming
Even as shops reopen, footfall is expected to be lower than pre-lockdown, as consumers’ regain confidence to hit the high street.
Immersive showroom experiences across performance channels are a great way to get your products in front of customers virtually, with VR (virtual reality) advertising opportunities available from the likes of Facebook and Snapchat. Returning to the ‘new normal’ has accelerated our path to future retail and can be used to remove typical buyer seller friction associated with in store visits (e.g. bad weather, motorway traffic) and delivering greater convenience and increased scale through virtual footfall.
With increased demand and customisation, performance marketers will need to ensure experiences are agile, and creative is personalised according to customer centricity. Virtual showrooming should also make more customer data available to analyse and feed into performance and business planning optimisation, particularly within shopping feed promotions.
4. Pivot to retention
For many entertainment and DTC subscription brands, COVID-19 has seen a huge boom in new acquisitions. You only have to look at the rapid growth of Netflix and Disney+ over this period to see the largest examples of this, while many smaller more niche businesses also seeing a similar period of growth. The key driver for this is increased time spent at home.
The challenge post-lockdown will be to keep these customers engaged and loyal to the brands. This should be tackled with a data-centric strategy focused on CRM and paid media tactics to reach these customers before they become disengaged. Performance marketers will need to ensure that frequency and messaging is useful for the consumer, and increased engagement and loyalty is being driven by a value exchange.
5. Focus on SEO by building ‘peace of mind’ led content
With many brands re-evaluating their marketing budgets, now is a great time to ensure your SEO programme is fit for purpose and focused on driving long-term, sustainable growth. A well run SEO programme will pay dividends over time, especially as particular verticals reach a new normal.
Brands should be using this time to generate ‘peace of mind’ content in a world where consumers are more cautious about price promises, protected deposits, cleanliness and speed of delivery. Prominently promoted USPs and information that is easy to find and digest will reassure customers which, in return, will help brands win.