Pandemic lockdowns across the nation have turbocharged e-commerce, with online sales growing by triple-digits since social distancing went into effect. Many predict a longer-term change in buying habits that will continue after the crisis has passed. The new environment is pushing some AccuList’s clients, especially retailers, to up their online game. Is your marketing ready? Most marketers are not, according to a recent Profitero and Kantar survey of 200 brand executives, which found that only 17% believe their organizations are leading competitors in e-commerce.
E-commerce Marketers Need to Prioritize Key Strategies
E-commerce marketers need to quickly prioritize key strategies, advises a recent post by Forbes magazine’s CMO Network contributor Sarah Hofstetter. A problem identified by the Profitero and Kantar survey, for example, was that only 11% of organizations have functional-level e-commerce goals in place. Hofstetter urges organizations to make e-commerce a part of everyone’s job, from building e-commerce KPIs into bonuses to accountability for quality content on retailing websites to cross-functional e-commerce goals to overcome internal silos. Next, marketers should recognize that, because online consumers are likely to shift among brands in a time of limited inventory, delay and hyper-competition, they need to boost online profiles and product discovery efforts. That includes targeted SEO and SEM, strong ratings and reviews, engaging targeted content, and aligned multichannel outreach. Third, e-commerce’s new hyper-competition requires a shift from offline to speedier online tactics, such as algorithmic matching of competitor price changes and real-time tailoring of product assortments and promotional strategies by audience. Fourth, organizations can beat competitors by boosting online agility. Note that 63% of brands do not test and optimize their content to improve sales impact (Profitero and Kanta survey), and 61% do not use digital shelf analytics or shopper panel data to test, measure and improve digital execution. So brands that digitally test new products, new traffic-generating variables and new marketing messages can get ahead of the curve.
Messaging and Media Mix Can Adapt to New Realities
Janet Balis, a principal of Ernst & Young LLP, recently penned a Harvard Business Journal article offering broader advice for marketers as they lean into today’s new buyer realities. The nuances of creative messaging and brand voice have become more delicate, she notes, warning that commercially exploitative brands will not fare well. An example of smart messaging comes from Guinness, which shifted its usual St. Patrick’s Day focus from celebrations to longevity and well-being. Plus, organizations that promote doing good, from food bank donations to repurposed manufacturing for PPEs, enhance brand image for the longer term, as long as contributions are perceived as material and not solely for commercial benefit. Next, since the mix of consumer-preferred media platforms has changed during the crisis, marketers may want to modify their media mix, for example with more ad-supported premium video streaming to take advantage of spiking digital entertainment, or advertising around peaking news consumption (broadcast or digital). Finally, marketers will want to put a greater emphasis on behavior trends and response tracking to better adapt messaging and targeting. Closely observing trends on social-media platforms and e-commerce product pages can help more quickly spot opportunities and looming problems.
Even Small Retailers Can Use Google Tools to Boost Agility
Google is the lead search engine for e-commerce players, and it recently offered advice for using its tools to improve results during the pandemic and beyond. Even smaller, less sophisticated retailers can take advantage. For example, the online agility advised by Forbes and Harvard Business Journal articles requires staying informed of market and customer changes. Tools such as Google Trends and Google Alerts help users stay up-to-date on local conditions and customer mindsets, while retail-category metrics for Google Search and Shopping campaigns help spot shifts in product category demand. In the overcrowded e-commerce space, transparency and accuracy also loom large in capturing fickle visitors and buyers, so Google advises not only updating the customer-facing website but also the Buyer Profile on Google Maps and Search, for example to show changes in hours, extra safety precautions, shipping timelines, delivery or pickup options, etc. Finally, online customers now expect companies to rapidly adjust. So, within Google Ads, e-commerce efforts should update campaigns for any product or policy changes, and retailers should also enable automatic item updates in the Google Merchant Center to keep inventory and product data current, especially for price and availability.