The coronavirus lockdown in the UK disrupted the retail landscape almost immediately, prompting a frenzied rush from brands and agencies to adapt marketing strategies over the coming months.

We see three challenges for brand marketers right now: surging ecommerce popularity, comprehensive media budget cuts, and significant changes in consumer wants, needs and interests. 

Here, we lay out our top tips for digital marketers. The good news is: for a lot of marketers these challenges aren’t entirely new, just an acceleration of developments that were changing the market anyway.

Hopefully you’re already exploring these strategies, in which case you’re well-placed to double down. And if not, starting now will benefit you not just through the pandemic, but long after.

Challenge 1: Sudden ecommerce demand

Online shopping is more popular than ever, and for some consumers, and in lots of product categories, it’s the only way to shop. 

Your digital marketing should take account of the fact that it’s currently the primary purchase channel and avoid unnecessary friction. And as this will likely be a catalyst for long term changes in consumer behaviour, there’s a big opportunity for brands to become part of shoppers’ new habits.    

That means it’s more important than ever to make sure your marketing seamlessly closes the gap between inspiration and purchase, whether conversion is the primary goal or not.

Wherever they engage, help shoppers find and buy your products quickly through tools that offer a direct ecommerce experience or send the shopper on to an appropriate retail partner. 

This can be tricky: across your key retail partners, you’ll need to stay on top of daily changes to range, availability, delivery capacity and other factors impacting conversion like online queuing systems. If you send every shopper to a retailer that is predetermined at campaign kick-off, these changes can kill your conversion rates. 

The answer is to stay flexible and use technology to make your campaign dynamic and respond to these factors as they change, so that you don’t pay for media that sends shoppers to a dead end, where they can’t buy your product. 

For the best conversion rates, include multiple retailers in the campaign to let shoppers choose – or better yet, use data to identify or predict each shopper’s preferred merchant. If D2C is part of your mix, consider that some shoppers will be much more likely to convert with a retail partner whom they trust and already have an account with. 

By being dynamic, your campaigns can support D2C alongside your retail partners and deliver better ROI across the board.

Challenge 2: Media budget pressure

Amidst lots of uncertainty and a likely recession, campaigns are being paused or cancelled and media budgets scaled-back or cut. Where budgets remain, brands are focusing on ROAS with performance and retail media – but neglecting brand-building now poses a big risk for subsequent quarters.

So how do you continue to maintain performance across all of your key metrics when budgets are under such pressure? 

The problem is that many organisations allow their marketing efforts to operate in silos. If you can find ways for your brand, social, performance, trade marketing teams, etc. to work together and support each other’s goals, then you won’t be at risk of a big KPI drop-off when one of those budgets is cut. 

What’s more, ROI will be much higher if each team’s campaign supports every teams’ KPIs.

Unfortunately, most ecommerce marketing experiences don’t offer much in the way of storytelling or brand-building; i.e. if you send a shopper to a retailer’s product detail page, it’s usually a clinical experience. 

Sending your shoppers there means you’ll miss out on fostering awareness and engagement with shoppers who aren’t yet ready to convert. At a time when shoppers can’t touch and feel in store, but have time and attention to spare, brands that effectively showcase their products will lay strong foundations for the ‘bounce-back’.

With marketing teams working remotely, you’ll want to streamline execution as much as possible. It’s tempting to put all of your budget into Facebook, or Amazon, but doing so means you’ll neglect lots of audiences and shoppers.

Look to technology to help you to build consistent campaigns across any platform, channel or retailer; minimising management costs, but continuing to reach and engage all your key audiences.

Challenge 3: New wants and needs

Whether because of financial pressure, health concerns or lifestyles changes and new interests brought about by social distancing, consumer wants, needs and mindsets are changing day by day. 

Naturally, for your marketing to resonate, you need to make sure that the products you showcase and the creative and messaging you use are considerate of these changes.

The key issue is that the campaign and content you prepared last quarter won’t work today, and what works today might not work next week.

 If your campaign sends shoppers through to your site or brand page at a retailer where the content hasn’t been updated since January, it’s going to fall flat.

So stay flexible and dynamic. Have a strategy and tech stack that enables you to turn around content and campaigns in hours, not weeks. This applies not just to your ad creative but the ecommerce experience too.

 Coordinate wherever possible with retail partners so that the products and creative showcased in the landing page are in sync with your marketing.  

Consumers are in varying predicaments, depending on the sector of the economy they work in and their financial stability going into the crisis. Using dynamic content to showcase different products to different audiences and making sure your messaging resonates with their changing needs and concerns, will ensure your campaigns perform really well.

Stay flexible and collaborate

After this pandemic has passed, ecommerce will likely remain a much bigger part of your business than you might’ve expected.

Marketing budgets will always come under pressure and responding effectively to changing consumer wants and needs will drive growth, so tackling these challenges now will serve you extremely well in the future. 

It’s vital that you find ways to break down marketing silos, collaborate with retail partners and use data and technology to deliver relevant, rich and engaging campaigns that seamlessly move shoppers along the path-to-purchase and maximise your ROI potential.

Guy Hay is Head of ecommerce partnerships at landing spaces specialist