The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly altered consumers’ behaviors and attitudes, upending marketing strategies and media plans, for better or worse. But now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel—and getting a better understanding of the impact of these changes in the short and long terms.
So what does your business need to know and how does your marketing team need to adapt?
In episode 3 of the Measured Response podcast, longtime advertising analyst and host Rick Bruner explores the topic of media planning in a post-pandemic world. He was joined by forward-thinking marketing leaders: Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester’s VP & Principal Analyst (and guest co-host), Brian Wieser, GroupM’s Global President of Business Intelligence, and our very own Michael Mothner, Wpromote’s Founder & CEO.
They rolled up their sleeves to explore exactly how the rollercoaster of marketing changes in the wake of the pandemic is likely to impact the industry going forward: what new practices will become permanent fixtures of media planning and what will be relegated to the pile of short-term anomalies?
The acceleration of digital shopping is here to stay
Physical distancing and stay-at-home orders have forced entire consumer segments to shop in dramatically new and different ways. The explosion of e-commerce adoption and cross-channel shopping sees no signs of abating. In fact, the latest data suggests that there will be a huge increase of 169% in e-commerce purchases from new or low-frequency users post-pandemic. What’s more, the vast majority of consumers who increased their use of digital and omnichannel services, such as home delivery, curb-side pickup, or shopping via social media platforms, expect to keep right on doing it into the future.
To meet the needs of today’s savvy consumer, brands must eliminate silos and align marketing channels with their broader business strategy. This is also known as holistic channel integration: a full-funnel approach to marketing strategy that encompasses interactions with your brand through the entire customer journey across channels and platforms.
To take a holistic, integrated approach to your marketing moving forward, you’ll need to:
- Bring your teams together on every level
- Develop common strategies across marketing channels
- Continue to test, measure, and iterate your learnings
“The pandemic gave us a quick preview of what the future is going to look like. We probably saw three years’ worth of e-commerce progress in three months, and this e-commerce acceleration will only continue from here, getting bigger and bigger chunks of the total media pie.”
Changing customer expectations can mean declining brand loyalty
COVID-19 has undoubtedly tested our patience, our focus, and our compassion. It might also be testing our allegiance to brands. According to recent research from McKinsey, 75% of American shoppers have altered their brand preference through the pandemic.
There’s no one root cause for that change, but there are several key factors that have led to this erosion of brand loyalty your business needs to be aware of:
- Exposure to other brands through connected ratings and reviews
- Changing product positions in search results
- Additional promotional offers and perks offered by enterprising brands looking to steal market share
Your marketing team needs to be alert to signs shoppers are migrating between brands—and adapt quickly to staunch potential bleeding.
Get ahead of the curve by reading emerging signals in your customer data, and respond in real time to maximize new opportunities. To respond effectively to emerging trends, breaking news, and industry shifts, brands must tap into a framework that enables them to effectively deploy performance and behavioral insights at a mass scale in real time—all guided by a shared vision of their future goals and business strategy.
Budget fluidity is essential to driving agile business growth
Calling the current climate an interesting time for marketers would be an understatement. Figuring out the right message to convey via the right channels at the right time—all while working under budget and time constraints—is no easy undertaking. The key to navigating it all? Budget fluidity.
Budget fluidity is the heart of truly agile marketing. You need to start with a core strategy based on your overall business goals, a deep understanding of your customers, and a strong sense of your brand’s position in the market and voice, then get buy-in from your finance team to be able to deploy budgets to follow demand opportunistically in real time as performance data becomes available.
The trick is to make sure that you don’t sacrifice volume for efficiency if your goal is driving profits. Many marketers make the mistake of trying to maximize ROI, but that’s not actually the same thing as focusing on profit. Uncapping budgets and upping cash flows allow you to rapidly scale the highest performing channels and ultimately increase profitability for your business.
“Not enough marketers are carrying out a comprehensive analysis of their budgets, which they should be doing using current data all of the time. Advertisers are optimizing their trees, not their forests—so once they’ve decided that they have a goal that’s based on awareness, for example, they decide to optimize solely against that without looking at the entirety of their budget and what’s truly driving their business objectives.”
First-party data is the key to advanced audience targeting
In order to effectively react to what’s happening in each customer’s unique journey, marketers need to move away from the stone age of launching channel-specific campaign strategies and make the transition to orchestrating integrated experiences across touchpoints, throughout every stage of the customer life cycle. But that has to start with getting your first-party data house in order.
Here are four key steps for taking your first-party data strategy to the next level:
- Conduct a comprehensive data audit in order to break down marketing silos and create a single database of sources.
- Create a strategic roadmap for your first-party data that clearly defines your marketing goals, then outline the tactics and analytics required to break down those goals into actionable objectives.
- Integrate offline and online data into a company-wide identity asset to drive customer-centric programs that align marketing, product, and service teams.
- Continually evaluate your first-party data capabilities by consistently monitoring progress and integrating what you’ve learned at each step along the way.
“Leveraging first-party data to understand your audience is by far the most powerful way to overcome the deprecation of third-party cookies and the iOS changes that are happening as we speak. If you know things like what your customers are buying and how often, or what they’re doing right before they buy and right after—you can align your marketing strategy with those insights to reach your highest value customers and amplify performance.”