While nobody can predict what a post-coronavirus reality would look like, one thing is certain for marketers – digital channels are more important than ever. Online channels now play an increasingly crucial role, as people continue to self-isolate and spend more time online. In Italy, for instance, once the government introduced country-wide quarantines in mid-March, online traffic spiked 30 per cent.
Today, we are seeing similar trends occur globally. In these sensitive times, Niki Hall, Chief Marketing Officer at Selligent, looks at what digital marketing strategies marketers should consider as they strive to communicate appropriately with consumers.
Responding to customer needs empathetically, in a personalised manner, while respecting new personal restrictions and circumstances, is crucial. To enable this sort of personalisation – and at scale – marketers need to ensure they use, or optimise their use of, the various marketing technologies available to them. Aside from that, it is worth reviewing and implementing the following strategies.
1. Redefine your business goals
The disrupted marketing landscape requires a thorough reassessment of an organisation’s business goals against its supporting marketing strategy. Is brand purpose and messaging still relevant? Ask questions like: What do customers want now? What do they need to hear? Can your brand fulfil that need now?
Assuming it can, make your critical contribution the central focus of marketing messaging. If not, does your brand require a redistribution of marketing budgets, and will consumers need to be directed from physical to digital storefronts? Updating your marketing mix and budget allocations is the next step (see 3. Omnichannel). Funds could be drawn from, for example, in-person event marketing to support.
2. Save outbound messages for critical communications
Before you send a coronavirus-related email to your entire mailing list, remember – you’re communicating in an over-messaged environment. Use segmentation and ensure your message counts.
Are you cancelling an event, product rollout or service offering? Do you have crucial information about product inventory or delivery times? Of course, a message to affected consumers is in order. Otherwise, silence is golden. The pandemic is not a marketing trend, although lots of companies are chiming in. Ensure relevance and value in every communication.
Further, perform an audit to control the cadence of marketing automation. How often do customers want to hear from you? Crossing the line might annoy some and sour brand reputation. Instead, encourage people to come to you. Ensure consumers can find answers to questions easily (see 4. Inbound).
3. Use omnichannel to your advantage
In the UK, all shops selling “non-essential” goods have been ordered to close but online retail is still open and encouraged. Therefore, redefining your brand’s business goals will help identify the strong points in your omnichannel offering.
Ensuring marketing automation no longer nudges physical store visits is important, too. Rather, formulate campaigns that reward online shopping (eg double rewards on digital purchases). Moreover, if you can identify your most loyal offline customers, use that information to encourage online conversion.
As people wait for the current situation to get better, a little personal acknowledgement goes a long way. Using data from profiles in your customer data platforms, serve personalised experiences across channels and devices. Although the shopping experience is hard to replicate online, individualised product recommendations – created with AI engines and delivered at scale – can make your message stand out.
4. Test-drive your inbound marketing for COVID-19
In the event of a surge in online traffic, are you prepared for more consumers proactively researching your business? Or indirectly arriving at your website through SEO and paid search? Remove the guesswork. Test-drive inbound marketing – including websites, chatbots, videos, and brochures, etc – for an array of search journeys.
Can people easily find your business via search engines? What about voice search? Does your website content offer answers to current questions? Now is a good time to update your website FAQs too, also benefitting voice search rankings, with new information relating to COVID-19 in particular. Use data from web sessions and contact centres (see 5. Data) to see what consumers need right now.
5. Analyse and measure everything
During this pandemic, new search trends will emerge almost daily. That’s why data analysis and reporting are crucial. Learning what pages consumers visit and what searches they perform can help fine-tune marketing messages on the go (see 1.) and deliver relevant content.
Ask questions like: Who are my most valuable offline customers? How can I nudge them towards online conversion? Which messages create the most engagement now, and can I create more? Do I have relevant information for consumers living in a specific area? Can I identify key workers and offer a token of gratitude?
Owning actionable data about consumers is key, and marketing automation technology typically offers this capability and can use it effectively. In times like these, it is about using that power and combining it with smart ideas for targeted campaigns based on real-time data. Today we have the tools to gain insights on what consumers need in the moment and respond with personal relevance at an unprecedented scale. Taking advantage of this will be key while consumers are distancing themselves physically, but remain connected digitally, perhaps closer than ever.