The COVID-19 pandemic required businesses of all sizes to reevaluate digital marketing and advertising strategies. Consumers around the world were spending more time at home and pivoting to shopping primarily online. About 55% of consumers told us they currently buy products online that they previously only bought in-store, and 39% are expected to only buy online within five years.
Digital marketing and advertising campaigns take weeks or months to plan and execute, but when the pandemic began, businesses didn’t have much time to optimize marketing strategies for consumers’ sudden new shopping habits.
We recently spoke with a few of our partners who have successfully revamped digital marketing and advertising strategies during the pandemic to learn what advice they have to offer to other merchants out there. See their answers below.
How have you seen digital marketing and advertising strategies shift since the start of the pandemic and rush to online selling?
“At the start of the pandemic, more people were connected to devices than ever before. In fact, a Statista report cited a 40% increase in smartphone usage and a 37% increase in laptop usage in the US in March 2020. For digital advertisers, this correlated with an even wider audience size for ads on paid social and paid search channels. The biggest shifts we noticed were:
- More businesses looking to start advertising or increasing ad spend on digital channels
- Businesses searching for new ways to sell products or services online
- Companies taking a step back and reassessing marketing strategies and channels”
“When the pandemic first shut down all of retail, many merchants went all-in on advertising a .com presence. Today, we’re seeing many of our clients turn to hybridized approaches where online advertising and ecommerce experiences are integrated into in-person shopping. Whether it’s shop online, reserve in-store or shop in-store and purchase online, we’re seeing merchants find ways to leverage both physical retail and online offerings as part of a holistic digital marketing campaign.” – Jordan Brannon, President at Coalition Technologies
“The pandemic has led to a shift in the kind of content consumers enjoy, focusing particularly on video-based and influencer-led content. As a result, retailers have had to leverage channels optimized for this kind of content to reach their customers and communicate their brand value, hence the rising use of TikTok and Instagram Reels.” – Paul Myers, Digital Marketing Director at Velstar
“While some companies completely paused media, we encouraged businesses to keep accounts active while competitors paused, and platforms became more cost-effective. Active brands largely came out ahead and were able to scale more quickly than others.
However, moving into 2022, the marketing space has become much more competitive as traditional brick-and-mortar players realize the importance of ecommerce. Now, digital inventory is more costly, and with industry-wide privacy changes on iOS, targeting and measurement are less accurate.” – Jessica Dawson, Vice President of Performance Marketing at BVA
What areas/channels within digital marketing and advertising do you feel brands need to be focusing more on? Are there any areas that brands should focus less on?
“We’d suggest that brands don’t ‘build their house on rented ground’ and ensure they are using a multi-channel strategy. At Cake Agency, we push a fully holistic marketing mix, using a suite of paid, owned, and earned media tactics. We believe a combination of all three delivers the best results for a brand over time.” – Kieran Delpech, Performance Manager at Cake Agency
“Businesses need to reduce their cost of acquiring customers by tapping into their community of brand ambassadors to promote their products. The brand incentivizes ambassadors through gift cards or a percentage of a referred sale. Then, these ambassadors offer discounts, usually through a unique link or code, to their friends, families, and social circle. This strategy allows brands to reward fans for word-of-mouth marketing, while only paying for sales that are generated versus clicks on an ad.” – Alex Markov, Founder & CEO at Refersion
“Which channels perform best are very specific to the product and brand. Many of our clients are either shifting their focus to social (specifically social ads) or adding social in addition to what they are already doing. Google search and shopping ads are still a primary channel and deliver a quality return.” – Chelsey Giambrone, Paid Ad Strategist at DigitlHaus Agency
“The specific channels brands should focus on depend on audience insights. Audio content, and more specifically podcasts, has exploded over recent years and is definitely worth considering. Additionally, social media marketing is essential for almost every brand these days. TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter all have extremely high engagement rates, so it’s in your brand’s best interest to market there as well.
As far as channels to focus on less, it really depends on the industry you’re operating in and which channels are already working and not working for you. Take Pinterest, for example. The channel works wonders for B2C brands that utilize all of the features it has to offer. However, for some B2B brands, marketing on Pinterest can be more difficult and, in some cases, even pointless.” – Americaneagle.com
What are a few things brands need to be aware of to make sure they are getting the most value out of their digital marketing and advertising strategy?
“The tactic of using the same creative across channels is now dead. For example, TikTok’s slogan is ‘don’t make ads, make TikToks.’ Consumers just scroll right past ads that are obviously reused from other channels. To get the most out of each channel, make sure the experience feels native to the platform. It is much better to run on fewer platforms with the right creative assets than to run across many platforms with a poor user experience.” – Jessica Dawson, Vice President of Performance Marketing at BVA
“Brands need to be cognizant of scaling their marketing programs as their customer base rapidly expands. Providing stellar customer service, time-sensitive fulfillment, and properly tracking affiliate marketing campaigns should always be top of mind.” – Alex Markov, Founder & CEO at Refersion
“Ensure every decision you make is data-driven. This way, your campaigns will be a lot more targeted. And don’t forget to keep track of all your marketing efforts. This data is invaluable. It will allow you to analyze, learn, and adapt your strategy to ensure you always stay one step ahead of the curve.” – Paul Myers, Digital Marketing Director at Velstar
“These are the top three things to be aware of:
- Target Audience – Research the audience makeup of your advertising channels before determining which channels are worth your time and which aren’t.
- Budget – We’ve seen businesses make the mistake of starting too small or too large with their ad spend. Find a balance where you have enough dollars devoted to each marketing channel to make an impact at the beginning, but wait to scale-up until you’ve achieved a desirable cost-per-acquisition.
- Creative – Once you’ve found the right channel and budget to reach your audience, the right combination of copywriting and visuals are what will ultimately make prospective customers stop scrolling, click your ad, and visit your website.”
Are there any specific metrics brands should be looking at to gauge performance of marketing and advertising efforts?
“There’s a myriad of metrics brands can look at to gauge performance. One of the most important metrics to track is overall website traffic. Your website serves as your brand’s home base, so it’s likely all of your marketing efforts focus on driving traffic there. Traffic by source – organic search, direct visitors, referrals, and social – is another important metric to be tracking because it allows you to narrow down which areas you’ll want to spend the most time on.” – Americaneagle.com
“Track conversions like sales, phone calls, form submissions, etc. Gauge performance over time, and take factors into consideration such as seasons and how they affect your business. Keep an eye on impression share so you know how much traffic is missed and how much room you have to expand.” – Chelsey Giambrone, Paid Ad Strategist at DigitlHaus Agency
“Not only has it become harder to retarget and retain customers, but purchase attribution data isn’t as accurate as it used to be. We ran a test on a few of the brands we work with which consisted of adding a unique offer code to a Facebook ad and ensured that this code was only accessible through this channel. We found that Facebook only attributed an average of 35% of the sales made using this specific code, meaning the revenue data we were reading within Facebook was only a third of the story.
To combat this, we use MCOS% as a top KPI, which stands for marketing cost of sale (Media Spend /Gross Revenue= MCOS%). This gives us a true indication of profitability through media spend, and this is now one of the main ways that we report our success to our brands.
Too many brands are dialed in on the last click reporting only, and they need to develop a better picture of what adds value throughout their funnel. Very few products are sold through single interactions, and brands that live and die on single interaction tend to struggle to build sustainable growth through digital marketing.” – Kieran Delpech, Performance Manager at Cake Agency
How will you optimize digital marketing and advertising for 2022?
While we’re no longer in the height of the pandemic, consumers’ new online behaviors are here to stay. In the same survey mentioned above, only 27% of consumers said they will continue to shop the same way they did before the crisis.
Brands and retailers need to ensure that digital marketing and advertising strategies are optimized to meet and engage online consumers where they are. Knowing which channels to use and which metrics to track will be crucial when it comes to choosing which marketing efforts will be most valuable to your brand in 2022 and beyond.
Brightpearl and our amazing partner network are by your side to support your ecommerce marketing efforts. Explore our partner network here.