Think back to last March 2020 (a scary thought for many): toilet paper was running scarce, emotions were on high, and consumers across the nation were left feeling dazed and confused, trapped within their homes for the unforeseeable future. While marketing activities came to what felt like a screeching halt across many industries, there were two that fared exceedingly well: food and grocery, and home improvement. Why? Because they closely followed, identified and catered to their customers’ immediate needs, while prioritizing their health and safety during a very uncertain time.
Fast forward to today. With hope on the horizon and many wishing for a return to normal in the coming months, how can marketers — particularly those across industries that experienced massive behavioral buying shifts as a result of the pandemic — rebound and drive growth in the months ahead?
Focus on High-Value Customer Data; Understand Their New Shopping Habits
As we approach the official demise of third-party cookies, many marketers are facing the challenge of how to better identify, categorize and target their high-value shoppers. It’s a challenge worth facing. According to NetElixir data, on average, 13% of high-value customers contribute to 39% of ecommerce sales. This is a staggering percentage and one that signifies that it is imperative for marketers to take time to research, effectively measure and analyze the new behavioral shopping patterns of their high-value customers. Understanding how to target those customers will be critical as marketers look to adopt and implement new strategies for growth in the months ahead.
With that, don’t discount new-to-online shoppers. For instance, at the start of the pandemic, new-to-online shoppers in the food and gourmet category purchased as much in total product value in 2.5 months as pre-pandemic new-to-online shoppers. We anticipate that this behavioral pattern will be one repeated across many market segments; in fact, retail marketers would be wise to consider new-to-online shoppers as a new golden segment of opportunity.
Acknowledge Shifting Consumer Behaviors; Actionable Insights Spur Meaningful Engagement
The pandemic forced many marketers to pay closer attention to live consumer and sales data, and then apply those derived actionable insights to run agile campaigns. Given the rapid pace at which consumer shopping behaviors are currently shifting, very few marketers can cross this chasm of uncertainty alone.
For instance, consumers are continuing to prioritize the purchasing of products driven by needs (i.e. essential items, home decor, home tools) versus wants (i.e. jewelry, apparel and beauty) as the pandemic continues. They are also hyper-focused on value, and if the January retail reports are any indication, they’re willing to spend at a much higher rate than previous years.
In the months ahead, marketers should look to build a strong partnership support system. This means aligning with agencies or market research firms that can help brand marketers find innovative ways to increase their first-party data, better leverage those insights for future campaigns, and create unique engagement opportunities for current customers.
The goal is for marketers to prioritize the customer, and more importantly the “high value customer.” There is significant pent-up demand in the retail sector, and to quote a recent New York Times article, when the pandemic ends, “cash could be unleashed like melting snow in the Rockies.” Having this pinpointed knowledge about the changing needs of your high value customer will be a key competitive advantage.
Increase Attention on Mobile UX and Social Ecommerce Marketing
Mobile shopping surged in the first few months of the pandemic, a surge that it has been able to retain ever since. In fact, recent stats show that the marketing industry is experiencing a major shift in mobile engagement. According to recent NetElixir data, mobile phones now drive more than 72% of all website shopping sessions and 55% of all website sales.
Yet legacy systems and fixed mindsets continue to inhibit many marketers from reaching their full mobile potential. Now is not the time for marketers to grow complacent with their current mobile and social strategies. It is, instead, the time to lean in. Adjust ad formatting to account for vertical viewing. Leverage augmented reality and other emerging technologies to create virtual experiences for the mobile/social shopper. Consumers are, for the most part, trapped indoors and yearning for activities that can comfort them with a sense of escapism. Help create the world they envision. Make shopping less of another daily chore, and more personalized, interactive and engaging.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that success in 2021 will likely not be linear. It will instead be constantly evolving, and correlate directly to the shifting sentiments and buying behavioral patterns of the brand’s target consumers. Marketers will need to consistently be tapping into the pulse of their intended market audience, adapting strategies as needed — and often. Those who are most successful will closely monitor and cater to their consumers’ evolving preferences and needs, and adapt with them…through even the toughest of times.
Tauseef Syed has built his career helping retailers achieve ecommerce success and is a veteran in strategic consulting for online retailers. As Director of Digital Marketing at NetElixir, he spearheads cross-functional teams in helping retailers achieve success across search marketing, social advertising, organic search and tech development.