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Marketing Your eCommerce Brand During a Global Pandemic

September 22, 2020
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In the midst of a global pandemic, consumers and businesses are encountering uncertain times. As businesses experience varying degrees of closures and consumer habits shift, business owners are challenged with some of the toughest decisions of their career.  So should you stop marketing during a pandemic? The answer is no. 

Marketing your business strategically is more important than ever. Whether you’re a retail business shifting your efforts to eCommerce or an eCommerce business looking to grow your revenue – having a strong, creative, and flexible digital marketing strategy is key. In fact, businesses need to rely on digital marketing now more than ever.  Let’s take a look at how industry trends have shifted over the past couple months before we dive into recommendations and ideas that you can use for your business. 

The age of Digital

When we first went into lockdown, nobody knew what to expect. Brick and mortar businesses were forced to close their doors, offices went remote, children came home from school indefinitely and many people were left without jobs.  40% of retailers* had to close their doors due to the impact of COVID-19, and consumers are shopping almost exclusively online. 

According to Google, brick and mortar sales are expected to decline significantly throughout the remainder of 2020 (-10%, ~$571B) while digital is projected to increase by 18% (~108B).  

From an eCommerce perspective, almost every vertical and industry saw a huge spike in revenue numbers from April – June, with online sales surpassing the peak 2019 holiday season.   Not only is almost every eCommerce business in a position of strength, but the pandemic has helped introduce new consumers to these brands.

In a recent study from Google, 30% of consumers shopped with new retailers online during COVID-19. 

While that statistic alone sounds wild,  it makes sense as COVID-19 has forced us to adapt to change quickly.  Consumers are spending even more time on their phones turning to online shopping for all their consumer needs.  As noted in a study from Facebook, self-gifting and seasonal shopping brings people a positive outlet during these difficult times, in turn giving eCommerce businesses the unique opportunity to grow. 

Increase emphasis on Social Responsibility

Not only has the pandemic forced consumer trends to shift as a whole from a behavioral standpoint, it’s also influenced a shift in brand voice – meaning more authenticity and social responsibility.

“IAB data shows that 73% of advertisers have modified or developed new assets since the start of the pandemic. Of these, 53% are increasing messaging that emphasizes the mission of the company.” 

Consumers are looking for brands that are making a positive impact both from a socio-political standpoint and from an environmental standpoint.  There’s been an influx of support from brands to not just “make a statement” but to actually do something good. All in all, the landscape has changed dramatically from the consumer side, so what about the brand’s marketing tactics and strategy? eCommerce companies have had to make a complete shift when it comes to HOW they are marketing to people.  

How have brands adjusted their ad spend? 

When it comes to advertising spend, many brands have been pretty conservative since the coronavirus began. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 24% of brands paused spending until the end of Q2, while 46% indicated they would adjust their ad spend down over the same time period. While it makes sense for brands to pull back on ad spend if they’re not seeing a strong return, digital marketing can also serve as the lifeblood of their business. This presents an opportunity for brands to take advantage of lower acquisition costs as other brands pull back on spend.

Not only has the pandemic provided lower advertising costs across the major ad platforms like Facebook and Google, but has also served as an opportunity for brands to emerge on new paid media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest, CTV and Youtube.  

 

The Power Digital Effect 

At Power Digital, we have a wide range of eCommerce clients varying from SMBs to multimillion dollar enterprise companies, providing valuable insights into the consumer’s and businesses’ responses during the pandemic. So how has the pandemic impacted the businesses we work with? eCommerce brands are thriving! 

When looking at some of our top eCommerce clients, new users are surging, with most brands seeing an average of +30% YoY growth in new users while driving a 20-60% YoY increase in revenue.  So what has been our secret sauce in driving this INSANE growth for our eCommerce clients within a very short period of time? 

  • Investing further in digital marketing and taking advantage of lower acquisition costs 
  • Diversifying where we’re spending our ad dollars and testing new channels
  • Revamping our targeting strategies to nurture the new audiences we’ve reached 
  • Overhauling our creative and messaging to showcase how our brands are uniquely positioned to bring value for their consumers during these uncertain times 
  • Gathering reviews and testimonials from happy customers
  • Strategically planned promotions 

What worked pre-COVID-19 is not going to work mid-pandemic, so it’s time to get scrappy, which means you’re willing to take risks and throw traditional thinking out the window. It’s time to get very creative. 

2020 isn’t over yet – How to make H2 a Success!

 

Whether you’re an eCommerce business owner looking to drive sales or a marketer wondering what to do for your clients next – here’s our top 5 recommendations to make H2 a success! 

Diversify your Ad Dollars

You’ve likely heard the saying “don’t spend your money all in one place?” Similarly, you shouldn’t spend all of your advertising dollars in one channel.  Diversify your media mix to ensure you’re top of mind for consumers whether they’re on a social platform, reading a newsworthy article, or searching on google. Now more than ever, brands should be online… everywhere.  Each digital marketing platform serves a different purpose:  

  • Use social media platforms to tell your brand story and share your mission. Invest in paid advertising across social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok.  This is important for brands to connect and form relationships with their consumers.  The social platforms are meant to be fun, visual, and engaging.  Every picture and video tells a story, so lean into that.  
  • Programmatic and Display advertising serve as a great way to reach your consumers as they browse online.  
  • Search engines allow you to reach high intent users searching for a specific need your brand can help solve. Harvesting your broad match campaigns can help to identify additional long tail keywords to break through the noise, and reach other niche audiences in search of your products or service. 
  • Google Dynamic Shopping ads allows you to expand your reach through multiple placements as well as more visual representations of your offering for both prospecting & remarketing.

Not only is it important to find the right places to advertise, it’s equally as important to understand who your audience is and how your audience might be evolving. 

Revamp your Targeting

Throughout the pandemic, regulations and closures have varied by county, city, and state – so consumer trends typically align with those changes.  Keeping a pulse on trends around the major metropolitan cities or your brand’s core demographics will be super important throughout the pandemic. Not only that, but it’s going to be even more important to continue prospecting new customers, since they are looking for some retail therapy to boost their mood. Each platform comes with their unique targeting capabilities, so think about your consumer journey as  a whole.  Ons strategy might involve heavier prospecting on some channels and remarketing on another, or a hybrid of both. Being nimble and versatile when it comes to targeting will be key throughout the rest of this pandemic. 

Overhauling your creative and messaging

Making sure your ads stand out is key to success when building out your H2 marketing plan.  Adjusting your messaging to align with how people are feeling, what people need to feel comfortable, and highlighting aspects of your business that make you unique. Whether that involves your brand’s social responsibility, empathy, unique solutions, or all of the above – this is the winning formula right now. One tactic that worked well for our eCommerce brands was leaning into messaging around “supporting local small businesses” paired with localized targeting. Little changes can make a big difference for consumers looking to support their cities economy.  Tap into the emotional aspect of the consumer – how are they feeling and what can you (as the brand) do about it? Another great tactic is to leverage user generated content to showcase authentic brand loyalty and lean into 5 star reviews and testimonials to influence potential buyers.  

Gather Reviews and Testimonials from happy customers

Did you know 76% of consumers say reviews and photos from past buyers influenced their purchasing decisions. (Source) Furthermore, 77% of consumers admit authentic customer photos have a bigger impact on their purchasing decisions than polished images created by marketing departments. (Source). Big takeaway here is to prioritize getting customers to review the product.  You can accomplish this by: 

  • Enabling an email campaign to collect reviews
  • Reach out to happy customers directly via social media
  • Install a review app within your Shopify store to make it easy for past customers to add their reviews 
  • Partner with micro-influencers to provide free product in exchange for an authentic review.  

Whatever the strategy may be, go get those reviews! 

Plan Monthly Promotions

Throughout the pandemic, consumers have an increased appetite and expectation for deals and promotions.  It’s time to throw the old thinking out the window that promos de-value your brand.  It’s about being tactful in the promos you do execute on…and trust me, you’ll need them.  1 in 3 people surveyed from Facebook say they will wait for products to be on sale before purchasing.  Flash Sales are a great way to cycle through specific SKUs or product inventory, while creating urgency to the consumer and giving eCommerce brands a healthy revenue pop to help mitigate the downturn they might be facing from their retailer partners.  Sitewide promos are good to save for calendar holidays when other brands will be competing for the purchase and comparison shopping will be king.  Don’t be afraid to be promotional throughout this time.  As long as you’re profitable and your COGS are healthy, we say “go for it!”  

 

In summary, life and marketing will be different for the foreseeable future. As marketers and as business owners, we are adapting to the “new norm.” Nobody knows what the rest of 2020 looks like, so it’s about forging your own path to success and utilizing the resources you have available. While we may face challenges ahead, a ton of opportunity awaits. It’s important to think on the bright side, make decisions based on the “now,” and have conversations with your consumers.  We’re all going to come out of this stronger than ever.

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