Rob McGowan – Chief Strategy Officer
The threats to human health emanating from COVID-19 will, hopefully, recede in a few months. In that time, however, it will force us to consider how we work, how we communicate and how we collectively re-assemble.
Are we potentially ushering in a new paradigm of socioeconomics, or are we returning to how things were just a few short weeks ago with an insatiable thirst for growth powering most business decisions? The answer likely lies somewhere in between, but the time horizon for us returning to a ‘new normal’ remains unknown.
For now, we face a profound economic slump, likely the worst since the Second World War, shuttering doors on businesses and for many workers, particularly in the gig economy or in businesses with little digital footprint, hardship and uncertainty.
Despite the unprecedented measures introduced by the UK government which safeguard a proportion of wages, the landscape of a post COVID-19 future remains unmapped.
While it could seem rather calculating to focus on how to drive business at this stage, the truth is that eventually the virus will pass. Once this happens, what we do in the following weeks and months to support the economy will dictate exactly what we must build upon when that moment comes.
Jack Welch, the late CEO of General Electric famously said, “Leaders emerge during trying times” and it is time for marketing, our industry, to step up and lead in our area of expertise: driving demand.
Based on historic events and the clues we’ve been given so far, there are a few things we do know will help going forward:
• Plan for the long term. Short term promotional mechanics are tempting, but anything that deviates from an established brand strategy may end up confusing or alienating established customers
• In previous downturns, brands which were able to increase their share of voice captured market share from weaker competitors – and often at a lower price than in healthier markets
• Continue to invest in customer analytics and research – identifying how this crisis is creating new consumer segments, likely based around disposable income and attitudes to longer term risk will identify opportunities for new product development. The recessions of the 80s, 90s and most recently in 2008 saw premium brands creating lower priced ‘fighter brands’ under a different name, enabling them to retain or grow share without impacting the premium brand reputation
• Tone of voice and content is critical. Reassuring messages that reinforce an emotional connection with the brand and create a sense of ‘being in this together’ are vital. Backing this up with action is even better – brands such as Pret, BP and McDonalds that have acted swiftly to support emergency service workers will be remembered favourably.
• Now is the time to offer help to your existing customers. Think how to use your owned channels to offer helpful advice related to your product. Rather than just try to sell me cleaning products, educate me in how to keep my house clean even when products are unavailable.
• Remember that marketing is not just about communications. Work on how pricing, promotion, distribution and new product development can be deployed to positively influence throughout this period, and in the future. Now is the time to delve into the data and research and connect with other disciplines in the business.
We owe it to ourselves and our communities to do everything we can to prepare for the inevitable bounce back.
In this document we look at how marketers can hopefully weather the storm and ensure their business is in optimal shape to help contribute to future growth.
Matt Cann – Campaign Delivery Director
Traditionally data hygiene gets pushed to the bottom of everyone’s to do list, but many traditions have just gone out the window.
BAU now looks quite different. Use this time to assess your data and your processes:
• Is your data working as hard as it possibly can?
• Are your cleanse routines delivering the results you need and are they running as efficiently as they can be?
• Is the loop closed so all results are fed back into your CRM platform ensuring you’re seeing the maximum benefit?
• In this post GDPR world do you have legacy data that needs to be deleted but BAU has always gotten in the way?
• Do you have duplicated processes that can be streamlined?
Now is the perfect time to start asking these questions (and many others) and implementing the answers. By using this time wisely, your business will be well placed to re-engage with your most valuable customers when the time comes.
Marc Dallimore– Director of Paid Media & Analytics
Conduct a digital and analytics audit
Ensuring your data and measurement reporting is accurate may never have been this important in your working lifetime.
With the current climate as it is, the need for an accurate view of your performance data allows you to make a true judgement on your media spend and where to focus in this period.
Regardless of the answer to “Should you be spending on media?”, there is going to be a drop in media spend, so why not use this time to get your house in order? There’s a chance that in this downtime we’ll have time to identify (using historic data) how performance should have been measured and how we can measure it going forward.
Begin with a micro audit on any analytical tool you’re using within your business, then consider a full audit and implementation if there’s an opportunity to do so.
Once the correct tools are in place and you’re able to measure data efficiently, it’s time to consider how to measure performance going forward, as it’s worth repeating: attribution of media spend has probably never been a bigger question in our lifetime.
Neill Horie – Associate Director of Digtial Strategy
Improving your CRO will also set you up for longer-term success
With many sectors seeing fewer customers available to buy and no new customers likely to come into market, getting the most conversions from prospects has never been more important.
On top of that, the way you try to lead people through the funnel may change over the current period. For some sectors, heavy-handed sales messages might put people off more than usual, whilst in other areas, hygiene, safety or reliability of the product might suddenly be your strongest selling points in an area people normally took for granted.
Luke Carthy – eCommerce Consultant
Now’s the time to nail your eCommerce
Ensuring you’re removing buyer frictions and technical issues from your eCommerce site is going to be critical.
Before conversion rate optimisation (CRO) was just about maximising sales. Now CRO is more likely to be what helps to underpin the survival of online brands. Internal Search queries are also going to be really important; as Internet traffic increases and browsing/buying habits shift, now is a good time to pay close attention to the search queries visitors and shoppers are using when using your eCommerce front end.
• What new search queries are emerging?
• What search terms are in high volume but lack suitable products?
• What questions are people looking for answers to?
Being able to answer these questions can help you to identify missed opportunities and improve your CRO and UX.
eCommerce will likely see certain areas of growth:
• Home and garden and home office supplies.
• Luxury creature comforts and low-cost indulgence (and possible comfortable leisure wear).
• Home study/entertainment, education and books.
All of these may all see an uplift.
However, all brands will need to understand that for the foreseeable future, consumers will buy on trust over price – you’ll need to reassure your buyers that their order will be fulfilled and you’re there to deal with any problems.
Be clear with your stock levels and ability to deliver – consumers are very forgiving as long as you’re transparent and striving to do well.
Please email [email protected] for any enquries.
Gary Arnold – Strategic Consulting Director
Reassess your marketing technology stack and enterprise tools
Your customers are now more connected than ever. Phone, TV, mobile, web, virtual assistant… there are multiple ways they may engage with your brand, and it’s likely they will use combinations of them simultaneously (one eye on the TV whilst browsing their phone or using an Alexa skill to find out something of interest).
This drives the importance of being able to deliver a consistent experience across the different channels you operate in.
It’s time to focus your attention on the marketing technology that helps you detect a person’s interactions, recognise them, understand the context of that interaction (with consideration of other interactions happening simultaneously) and put interesting content or offers in front of them.
That means technologies such as Customer Data Platforms (that can connect the data dots and unify all the interactions a person has) and Journey Orchestration Engines (that can make a decision about what content/offer to share and put that in front of the customer in real-time).
This doesn’t mean ripping out all your existing tech either – choose well and these components can integrate with what you already have (your website, your email provider, your call centre etc) and deliver consistent, seamless interactions.
Secondly, your teams are likely having to embrace remote working.
For marketing teams specifically, it will have implications on the types of technologies you choose to coordinate your team as they work to get campaigns out of the door.
Marketing resource management tools can be a great investment, helping you to co-ordinate across teams (content, data, communication planning, product, finance) and collaborate to deliver exceptional marketing.
Once the domain of large, distributed marketing functions and carrying a whiff of bureaucracy and micro-managing, the new wave of these technologies now offers much lighter weight, streamlined capabilities that focus on what’s important.
This includes simple user interfaces that help teams visualise and co-ordinate work and features like artificial intelligence that automate the manual and monotonous tasks to free up time for creativity and strategy.
Neill Horie – Associate Director of Digital Strategy
Make sure your product/delivery support information is crystal clear
People are less prepared to take risks and are looking for a straightforward answer rather than digging in the weeds. Make sure your product information clarifies your approach to delivery and hygiene, reliability and support procedure (especially during this time).
What is clear is that this is not the time to implement a heavy sales strategy. Uncertainty around income, drastically reduced high street foot traffic, and general slowing of demand for a lot of items means that selling is a no-no.
This means that many brands need to go back to the drawing board on what BAU looks like. They need to ensure their customers are still engaged for when things begin to pick up again.
So how can they create engagement without selling?
First and foremost, return to your customer data. By understanding what your customer groups look like, you will be able to segment them to ensure they only get messages that are relevant to them. Whilst this has always been what underpins basic CRM, it has never been more important than now.
Social listening and customer service centres will also prove useful in times like these. Hearing first- hand what customers want to see will enable FAQs to be created on-site, giving customers any easy way to find out what they need to know without waiting on hold or for an email back to their question.
Email campaigns should also include CTAs that drive to FAQ pages. Not only does this work for segments and generic comms alike, but it is easier to keep up to date given the current rate of change.
Customer Connectivity CRM (CC-CRM), in this respect, is the point that user experience meets customer experience.
It’s important for all brands to both pro-actively and re-actively understand and link the relative need/requirement of the customer in this period of “COVID isolation” to the demographic CRM data you hold.
Service messaging content and CTA’s are then defined by this understanding – keeping your customer connected to the brand and the brand connected to the customer.
Let’s use supermarkets as an example of this. In the current climate, many are putting dedicated opening hours into effect for elderly people to ensure they can buy necessities in a calmer environment whilst being able to social distance and get any extra help they need.
But to make this a truly successful initiative, you need to let them know you’re doing this. Using your available customer data, segment your base by age group and craft an email telling them what time they can do their shopping in peace.
Brands with stores still open may also want to harness any location data they have on their customers. Reminding customers that you are still there and local to them can help free up your delivery slots for other people who may need them more.
The reverse of this is also true: let customers whose local shop is closed know either where another similar-distance shop is, or how to get the most out of your brand online.
Analysing performance will also allow you to understand the impact of the campaign in relation to its complexity. The golden combination is a simple-to-execute campaign that is high impact in achieving your objectives and longer-lasting engagement in the medium-long term.
Double down on these and take resource away from campaigns that are complex to implement but don’t make much impact wherever possible.
One thing that shouldn’t change as part of your BAU comms is conducting post-campaign analysis. Like social listening above, customers will show with their opens and clicks whether the content you’re sharing with them is engaging enough.
If you’re using this time to try out new types of content that focus more on brand awareness, it’s important to follow up and think how insights from this could inform future brand strategy.
To read the rest of What Matters Now? please download the full report here