For many brands, the pandemic has been acting as an amplifier. It is the time when an organisation’s deficiencies and advantages have been exposed the most. The anecdotal survey asking who drives your innovation efforts: CEO, CTO or COVID-19, is funny because it is often true. The coronavirus has compelled businesses to invent new working solutions in an exceptionally short period of time.
Many online merchants across home and garden, technology and grocery categories have benefitted from the increased demand since the lockdown. Yet, there was not much chance to celebrate new sales volumes. Instead, these firms needed to promptly revamp their operations to secure a safe and healthy environment for their staff, while ensuring their customers continue to receive orders on time.
On the other hand, certain categories of brands have faced drastic drops in consumer interest. Many travel and entertainment companies are urgently rethinking their overall models; some have managed to pivot and introduce entirely new products or service lines, but many will not survive.
While the long-term effects on the economy are yet to be seen, we now have months of data to help make better decisions. Knowing what we know so far, what are the performance marketing strategies that advertisers should consider?
Any crisis offers an opportunity to reset. Brands that successfully steer through it are those that recognise the alterations of consumer interest early and plan to adapt to the change.
The prominent examples are fashion shops, including luxury brands such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, who refocussed their production lines to manufacture and sell face masks online.
In the groceries sector, some local food traders have teamed up with online marketplace platforms that take care of distribution and deliveries. An excellent case of such collaboration is a partnership between the Borough Market sellers and the Goodsixty company.
Hobbies and crafts shops such as the Works have redesigned their websites to showcase items that are most relevant for days in lockdown.
For improved performance marketing results, it is useful to identify the core product ranges that are more likely to trend in the next six to twelve month and form awareness and promotional campaigns around those sets.
The lockdown has naturally shifted and widened the audience profile for some companies. Customers who prefer to buy in physical stores were pushed to try online shopping. With items being out of stock on top websites, buyers continued to search elsewhere. Throughout the quarantine period, many less-known SMEs ended up acquiring a high number of new clients by merely having essential items in stock and being able to deliver within weeks.
Equally, there are examples of more deliberate exploration of a new audience. A high-end accessory brand has recognised the potential of building relationships with resellers online. The company is now redesigning its sales confirmation pages to be able to process wholesale orders. It will allow them to work with online boutiques that want to submit low volume bulk orders and avoid chunky contractual negotiations.
The changing shopper profiles mean that the advertisers should focus on enlarging their affiliate mix. Many publishers are specialised on audience discovery and engagement. From CSS partners such as NMPi or Redbrain to Native Advertising via Taboola, to various niche content sites partners, there are plenty of options to test and broaden brand reach.
It’s also an excellent time to build partnerships with on-site conversion optimisation partners such as Increasingly, Smarterclick or Ve. These companies help persuade the website visitors to complete the orders and drive healthier basket volumes.
Companies that stood up during the first few weeks of the pandemic were those who continued to speak with their customers via personalised emails, informing them about the company approach to protecting staff. Later, these brands continued to share regular updates around delivery times and products that were in delay.
Adding a human touch to business announcements felt very timely and appropriate. An inspiring example of authentic communication came from the Liha Beauty owners Abi and Liha. They have released profound letters to customers talking about the mission and the importance of community.
Just like customers, affiliates are keen to hear from the brands they collaborate with. Besides the standard offer or voucher related communication releases, it is useful to inform your partners about new products, change in direction and website developments. In turn, affiliates will be able to plan their campaigns better, share accurate information with the end-users in a timely manner and feature the brand in the most beneficial light.
Advertisers who need proactive advice and hands-on support around their performance strategy might want to review the vendors they currently work with. Partners who operate on the edge of profitability are more exposed to risks when things don’t go right. While low prices might seem attractive short term, such arrangements often come at the expense of quality and a lack of tailored assistance. As in any other industry, the lower the price, the less customisation and relevance one can expect from the affiliate network or agency.
Very often, companies that can accommodate bargain contracts do so by sacrificing their tech development as well as staff education and retention budgets. For an advertiser, it usually translates into tracking hiccups, constant change in account management and minimal strategic advice.
A significant discovery of the crisis so far is the importance of diversification. On average, companies with broader product ranges and distribution channels coped better with the extreme market change. It’s in times like these that having a dedicated R&D budget pays off.
The same principle can be applied to the performance marketing strategy. In parallel to maintaining collaborations with the core affiliates, advertisers should diligently trial new partnership opportunities. Granting test budgets and investing in building new relationships increases the chances of new moneymaker’s discovery. Some recent interesting examples of newbies in the affiliate space include companies like Bing, Social Chain, Gocertify.me and Sendmeavoucher.
The Coronavirus pandemic may be the perfect moment to review and reinvent your affiliate channel strategy. One of the key advantages of the channel is that it can be as small-scaled or paramount as one needs it to be. On average, the performance channel contributes to 15 to 20% of overall online revenue but its potential is many times higher than that.
There are many examples of companies across retail, beauty, apparel and tourism who work with most of their suppliers on the performance-based model. And so, the effective contribution of the channel increases to 50-60%. By employing the performance-based model, these companies significantly grow their revenue volumes while keeping a strong return on investment.