Just before the COVID-19 became a Pandemic, Hubspot published their “State of Marketing 2020 Report”, which let’s face it, is the go to guide for professional marketers worldwide. Although not specifically written for eCommerce, it has some great insights which are highly relevant to ecommerce marketing. Their Report is partly based on a Global survey, conducted annually, and is without doubt the biggest of its kind, from which they devise their report for the following year. It is compiled from input from thousands of marketers, including those working with eCommerce.
About Conversific’s Data
Conversific is a eCommerce analytics plaform for eCommerce etailers, currently available for WooCommerce and Shopify users. With 1000’s of eCommerce websites using our SaaS service it provides us unparalled insights into understanding the effect of COVID-19 and the consequential changing customer requirements on a product category level.
Hubspot’s report report was published prior to the COVID-19 became a pandemic and the world went into lockdown as social distancing came into effect. The insights gained from Conversific enable our customers to adapt quickly. By reading this report you will also learn how to adapt. The combination of Hubspots survey insights and our Analytics insights provides the ideal strategy for eCommerce for the remainder of 2020 and for as long as the Pandemic lasts.
The Consequences of COVID-19
Newly release data from a variety of sources shows that net effect on eCommerce overall was initially a negative one, but since then it has been a case of retail adaptation, with come brands and categories doing well and others not so much.
Shopify as since posted a 46% surge in transaction volumes in its quarterly results as shoppers turn to online shopping as their only option. In addition between March 13th and April 24 there was a 62% increase in the number of stores created as physical stores try to adapt to the online environment.
Clearly the overall effect on retail sector thus far, as a whole has been a negative one, and many eCommerce brands have suffered, – impacted hugely by unexpected changes in shopping habits and consumer spending, while those already selling items in demand have done well, but for others it really has become a case of adapt or die, – like the dinosaurs.
The winners, are the brands that undergo rapid digital transformation. The losers, brands that are unable to change or unwilling to do so will fail.
In the below guide we detail the new State of Marketing 2020, a new order of things focused on the aftermath of COVID-19, a world where social distancing is a long term necessity, prolonging trends established during the lockdown. We refer and reflect on the details provided in the Hubspot report prior to the Crisis (2019 survey for the 2020 report), and update these for the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on eCommerce.
Before the Crisis – Hubspot Insights.
The opening piece of data from the pre-crisis Hubspot report was that 70% of companies canvased were actively investing in content marketing. How has communication changed in relation to content during the months since then as the epidemic became a pandemic?
This question leads to a far broader question.
How should this once in a lifetime event effect our eCommerce strategy?
Every section of Hubspot’s State of Marketing Report 2020 raises many questions. Therefore, below we follow the reports structure referring to key points and respond with post COVID-19 insights.
Brands are Cutting Marketing Expenditure
With regards to eCommerce the UK is considered a canary in a coal mine, because of the high uptake of and use of eCommerce.
According to Q1 2020 IPA Bellwether Report, analysed by Marketing Week, UK advertising budgets are being cut aggressively from a +4% net balance in Q4 2019 to a -6.1% in March 2020.
More than 75% of eCommerce business have changed their UK marketing campaigns, certainly an indicator for the wider effects globally..
Advertising expenditure is to a large extent based on what has worked previously, but for most of us, a pandemic has not occurred in living memory, long before the internet and social media. The new dynamic, is one where nothing is certain except uncertainty, therefore the outcome from advertising and marketing expenditure is uncertain. Consquently, budgets have already been cut or are likely to be cut as campaigns are reviewed.
In addition, historically, marketers are among the first to be cut during times of upheavial and crisis. The survey responses that indicate that 85% or organisations are either delaying or reviewing new hires is concerning for marketing as an industry.
In the UK eCommerce sales, overall were down by over 5% year on year in March, which is perhaps a little surprising considering that high street stores and shopping malls have been closed, that being said times of extreme uncertainty (fear of job losses) always act as a brake to consumer spending. On the upside, it seems all these negative indicators are hiding drastic positive change in terms of
- Digital Transformation
- Consumer spending habits. (as reflected in Shopify’s recorded increase in tansaction data – mentioned above).
Navigating Changing Consumer Behavior
Products for home but also garden leisure activities have experienced massive increases in sales. In some cases 1000%+ increase, up to a point where demand can not possibly meet the available supply, leading to price increases in some areas. In the table below provided by Deloitte China, clearly shows the winners and losers. For example jewelry stores have traditionally done well, but now, locked down citizens have no need to look their best. Video conferencing quality is a long way from 4k!
The above table does not really highlight the drastic effect on retail sales for eCommerce stores. So in the table below we have highlighted the huge change that is becoming apparent.
|Product||Year on Year Change (March 2020)|
Swiss Exercise Ball
Winners are stores are first and foremost, known – trusted brands selling specific items in winning categories (meeting consumer needs during the lockdown). However such is the demand, when supply is exhausted, consumers look elsewhere to source items.
Never has their been such opportunity to enter new markets if you have supply available. Manufacturers should be looking to sell direct.
For every single product doing well a logical conclusion can be deduced as to why. For example phone tripods is likely to be a result of video chatting and video conferencing needs, not just for business but for personal reasons, communication between friends and family during the lockdown.
This is a particularly good time to be a providers of digital products or services where supply is infinate. The examples of online courses springs to mind, ebook vendors. We all await the results for Netflix and Disney!
MultiChannel retailers (known bigger brands) are doing well, outperforming just online stores for the fist time since April 2019.
The eCommerce Losers
Those who fail to adapt to changing customer requirements, or for those who where adaptation was not even an option, for example, – the Fashion industry has been one of the biggest losers. There is less need to look good if you never go out! In addition the unseasonably good weather during Spring must have contributed to fashion retailers woes. Conversely, weather is likely to have positively contributed to the increased demand for garden equipment and products for garden leisure.
Just to illustrate how big an effect COVD-19 is having, according to retailgazette.co.UK, the biggest falls have occurred in men’s fashion, down 42.9% in March YOY.
Success in this retail environment relies on your ability to pivot away from non-performing items to those that are in demand. Easier said than done when demand outstrips supply in many product categories.
Shipping + Fulfillment
One of the greatest negative effects we have seen for etailers is for those who are dropshippers, specifically for those who rely on imports from China. Despite this disruption they have little to no risk financially because they have no stock to worry about. For all sellers, this is a great time to diversify to local suppliers if possible and focus on your local market.
Disruption of supply chains has been widely reported and so one of the greatest concerns for shoppers is order fulfilment. Thus by sorcing, marketing and selling locally you avoid many problems, such as international multimodal freight delivery delays.
The success of such a strategy is highly dependent upon your marketing strategy. Once again personalization comes to the fore, promoting being local and reassuring customers based on being of the same nationality reassures customers about the fulfilment of orders.
Your Terms and conditions and sales returns are another area that can be used to reassure customers regarding the effect of COVID-19 on your ability to deliver.
Double Down on What Works
Some products will do well while others will do badly. What we have seen at Conversific is that those eCommerce businesses that are able to pivot and adapt quickly are doing really well.
The infographic at the end of this article is a valuable indicator of what products/segments are doing well now, what people need and what to pivot to. Look to your own products to see what works and do more of it via your KPI reporting.
Focusing on what works means narrowing your targeting using precise terminology when referring to products. Social media, PPC, SEO and SEM are all crucial here to get the word out. Stay clear of the broad terms such as surgical gloves for describing products (only use them for categories) and go for longer chain terms that are more descriptive, and less competitive. For example the specific brand and subtype of items.
Consider what other products your customers might need considering the products they are choosing already. It’s time to review your frequently bought together products and how you sell these items together. Consider packaging items together and offering bigger pack sizes. Here your data is your friend, – analytics data, KPI reports and analytics dashboard, all of these are key to understanding what the changing requirements of your customers are, with this data correctly interpreted you will know what to offer and to whom. Conversific is a great option here because it provides recommendations, proscriptive recommendations that can have a big impact on your bottom line.
In terms of promoting your new offers it is vital to AB test your ideas via a tool like OptiMonk or Notifyvisitors before rolling the stategy out to everyone.
Content Marketing Strategy
While risking sounding like a broken record, it seems the message of increased personalization has yet to be embraced by the mainstream. For years the message of “the future of content marketing strategy is about ever increasing personalization” has been trumpeted. A static website can be technically dynamic, but if you offering the same thing to everyone then it makes no difference, it may as well be static.
It is no longer sufficient, to offer the same thing to everyone.
If your business has yet to embrace this concept you risk the loss of market share as others do adopt it.
Why, well purely because if your competitors are personalizing what they offer with dynamic content, growing into new markets and making life easier for customers, giving them what they want based on their differing needs, then they will take your business.
The below graphic is an interesting one, which if the increasing trend towards personalization is to continue will show increasing numbers of segments over the coming years. Why 4 segments is the least popular, lower than 5 segments is a bit of a mystery. We are open to comments as the reason for this. Is it just a strange quirk of human psychology, to go for 5 rather than 4?
Video Content is King
Hubspot’s report highlights the need for video in your content mix, our experience with video is that for eCommerce it is principally used for activities like unboxing or how-to videos using specific products to highlight their USP’s.
eCommerce, in general, have been slow to adapt to its potential for personalization, targeting customers on their different use cases and needs. Video is now a more popular content type than either infographics or blogs, but its potential is far greater than what it is currently being used for.
Talented video makers are in demand and therefore, they can now charge a premium, for inhouse marketing teams adapting to video production is a tough prospect, difficult to adapt to when technical expertise is lacking.
Video’s value is undeniable, its greatest value is
- Videos’ ability to communicate vast amounts of information in a short period of time (great for mobile).
- Video is easier to digest and understand (less effort)
- It is easier to convey emotion through video (all purchasing decisions have an emotional component).
- It is very effective on all channels but is fantastic for Social channels.
The saying “A picture is worth a 1000 words” well it is all too true, just consider how many pictures are in a video of just 1 minute!
As online search preferences have shifted away from desktop towards mobile, the need to communicate marketing content quickly has increased, thereby greatly enhancing the appeal of video.
Tip: Always include subtitles for viewers who are on the move, those who can watch but not listen to video content on trains or airplanes.
Content Marketing Strategy for COVID-19
While the drive towards personalization is the central message, In some respects COVID-19 is a great leveller, everyone is in the same COVID-19 boat of isolation. Our pain points are similar, fears and concerns.
Therefore our needs are similar.
For smaller retailers that are agile, quick to adapt to the new norm, COVID-19 is an opportunity like no other, to target the masses and grow dynamically. This is because the traditional market leaders tend to be slow to adapt to change, they are unable to pivot and provide customers what they need quickly, this is partly due to the problems of economies of scale that larger organizations typically need to address (factories in China rather than locally).
Physical store retailers do have a big advantage because they are trusted, if they go multichannel and are omnipresent, the physical local brand awareness and brand loyalty from an existing customer base makes it easier to pivot to selling online, (but only if supply chains are flexible). Larger stores need to go Agile and scale up their online operations. One important aspect of this is online communication, including the adoption of advanced sytems for targeting audiences and communicating offers, at the right time and the right place and to the right audience.
Obtaining feedback and supplying customer service is now commonly offered by chat/messaging.
COVID-19 lockdown is the perfect opportunity to trial conversational commerce because large numbers of people who previously did not buy online are more likely to / forced to. Addressing their concerns is part of the sales process. Customer support needs to adopt chat technology, chat bots for simple questions that escalate to RL support after a certain point.
What to Communicate: Covid-19 Sensitivity
What you communicate matters now, more now than ever before.
- It must be sensitive to the COVID-19 situation, what people are feeling, stuck in isolation and with loved ones at risk.
- Convey the feeling that they are not alone, because when in isolation this is particularly powerful in conveying social support through solidarity.
- Convey, that what you are selling is what everyone is/should be doing, and vast numbers are doing it.
- Place your product or service in the context of their situation (personalization) and in a unified collective purpose to isolation.
- Give them a light at the end of the tunnel of isolation
The value of COVID-19 marketing can not be understated, just as marketing during the second world war shows. Advertising is infinately memorable because COVID-19 is an extreme event, – unforgettable, providing you the opportunity to creatively place your brand or product. Make or break it.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
Of all the areas of marketing, this is the most commonly utilized now, with 74% of companies actively investing in social media marketing according to HubSpot Research, Global Survey, Nov-Dec 2019.
Social media marketing strategy is
- more measureable than any other kind of marketing,
- It is easy to pivot your message
- Social Media is in real time, instant.
- It is easy to deliver personalization
- It can be viral – go viral.
- It supports all other marketing efforts, events etc.
To quote Diego Santos, HubSpots Marketing Manager, in relation to Social Media Strategy-
“Small and authentic will win over big and generic every time. Pay attention to private groups, micro-influencers, and social movements that are relevant to your brand.”
Personalization is central to all marketing channels; social media advertising makes it easy to reach any specific group and communicate a message relevant to them. CSR campaigns are a great way to do this, create campaigns and support causes close to the hearts of your audience.
What are the most popular Social Media Platforms for marketers in 2020?
- Linkedin (especially for B2B)
Social Media Marketing Strategy for COVID-19
Social media enables the real time reaction to world events thus providing the ability for people, – worldwide to unify in their response. COVID-19 provides you the opportunity to show that you care, create campaigns to demonstrate what you are doing for your community in relation to COVID-19.
Just as with other channels, try to frame your products and service in the context of COVID-19 while being sensitive to its impact on people’s lives.
Everyone’s pain point right now is isolation, loss of income, and the concern for loved ones, – in particular, concern for elderly. Sensitivity, emphathy and understanding are central to any campaign. The direct approach that you make have considered prior to COVID-19 should be considered carefully before implementation. An indirect sales approch is likely to be received better.
Communicate inventive ways to use your products during the crisis, and in general base your social media marketing upon products that might be needed during isolation. Here influencer marketing is invaluable
Digital Advertising Strategy
Hubspot’s digital advertising strategy section in the report had little of interest this year, just more of the same. There were no new insights, just more of the same personaliation mantra, while true it’s old news.
”Tailor your promotional strategy to ensure that audiences are seeing ads most relevant to them” – BARB GAGNE, Director of Marketing, Cybereason
The above quote could have been from 5 years ago and yet it is just as important to highlight now.
What is clear is that oversight on expenditure is lacking, with few businesses leveraging their data and measuring conversions to increase sales. Only 20% of those marketers participating in the survey thought that it was very important to measure ROI. The reality is that measuring conversion rates and ROI is now more important than ever because there is no reliable historical data to go by. What else is there to go by except your own customer behavior now, your customer and product analytics?
Digital Advertising strategy for COVID 19
Resist the urge to splurge on untested campaigns, testing your campaigns is not hard anymore with tools like OptiMonk. Simple AB testing can easily be rolled out for any purpose, and cost effectively too. COVID-19 is a once in a lifetime event, therefore what you learn is not particularly useful long term in many cases.
Stick with the obvious but double down on what works on the advertising front, ie products that are still in demand and are available.
Un-necessary eCommerce Mistakes
While important in every aspect of marketing strategy, relevancy is most important to consider in how people search or look for what you offer. Often how your potential customers look fors/searches for what you offer is not what you expect. Here, turn to your analytics traffic reports. What you learn from your customer analytics, specifically the Google search terms used, and personal data obtained can be used to improve your targeting, both onsite but also for digital advertising.
Common mistakes include: –
- Don’t advertise products that have low inventory! Obvious no?
- Don’t pay large amounts on driving traffic before testing the conversion rate of your presell and landing pages. Only upscale after AB testing.
- Failure to target website visitors that opt out, give them their own conversion funnel that requires very little and just apply very subtle nudges towards a sale.
At this time, where everyone is spending more time online, try to learn more about your customers, so you can use psychographic data to better target them in the future.
Top Tip: Stay on top of your inentory while rolling out digital advertising campaigns.
Another common mistake we find is that businesses often speak about their product or service in relation to what they think the value is, using advanced terminology as experts rather than the terminology of their customers, a simple mistake that is easily fixed just by talking to customers or by using an AB testing tool for testing website content.
You should use
your target audience language/terminology and not your own in your digital
advertising copy and for your website content.
Consider, what your customers are searching for now, in relation to your product, these might well have changed since COVID-19. Its’s time for an SEO/SEM review, dig deep.
The graphic below demonstrated the importance of various SEO tasks, all of which should be performed periodically. The increasing importance of mobile is clearly understood by most. In terms of navigating mobile content, it should be the same as desktop content but greatly reduced version of of it, purely because the time available to read content on mobile devices is usually far shorter (hence the increasing value of video, mentioned elsewhere). As a result of Google Search Algorithm updates each year, one of the most underestimated areas of website improvement strategy is content optimization based on the changes, -algorithm updates. Items that may need modifiying.
- Make sure to use the full range of HTML titling tags in your content. (H1, H2, H3 and H4 etc)
- Keep your webpage URL’s short (less than 80 characters).
- Make sure your targeted search term is at the beginning of the title and url.
- Make sure your targeted search term is mentioned sufficiently considering the content length.
- Add a table + video!!!
- Make sure you have sufficent images for the content length.
- Keep your content titles (H1) below 70 characters
- Keep your content relevant to the times, – updated (alter it to make it fit / merge recreate or delete it).
In addition to the above list, and most crucial of all is that the content is engaging in terms of the buyers needs / job to be done. Therefore, for each product use case consider the questions they will ask and answers they seek, and write content/info/video, – provide content to address those learning needs. Here, once again, its personalization and video. With respects to the chart below, consider that a mobile optimized site is one that uses video.
It is interesting that while blogs are joint second as primary forms of media, that optimizing that content is way down the list of things to do, a common mistake we often see. This is reflected in the statistic that only 10% of those surveyed by Hubspot Research were measuring conversions, and instead placing a focus on driving traffic.
How does Driving traffic, – that doesn’t convert make any sense?!?
There is a common misconception here that a conversion has to be a sale. This unequivocally is NOT the case. A conversion can be as simple as a subscription to a newsletter, or a subscription to download or some other learning material. Ultimately it comes down to what you are tracking and how you are tracking it as to what you can use as a conversion to measure.
Literally anything can be measured, but what in your case makes sense to measure?
If you run an eCommerce based business the eCommerce analytics dashboard is a crucial tool for understanding how your business is truly performing. KPI reports enable the identification of opportunities for content, the need for presell pages or landing pages, and product content improvements to improve targeting. Consider the conversion funnel and level of product/service awareness during the customer journey in all content creation efforts.
Marketing departments have traditionally been the first considered for job cuts, and therefore, instinctively they often avoided KPIs, instead opting for Vanity metrics, those which paint their marketing activities in a good light despite the lack of sales. This is especially true during difficult times, such as those times of crisis.
Search Engine Optimization Strategy (SEO)
Know your competitors, and know what the key terminology your customers are using to find your products and the products of your competitors. Is it different to yours? If so AB test it!
What this boils down to is knowing the top 10 google ranking for every decent search term out there for your products or services. Then doing what needs to be done to supply the very best content out there about each of these same search terms.
SEO for COVID-19
SEO, CRO, content and advertising go hand in hand and so, while creating multipurpose content, make sure you adapt it for advertising purposes, including presell pages, placing your products or services in various usecases for people in COVID-19 isolation. Video of a products use in these interesting ways during lockdown will always have value in the future, as people reflect back to these times of lockdown.
Don’t forget we tend to remember the good and fun, not the bad, no, the bad memories tend to fade.
After determining content gaps, your research via SEO + SEM should always preceed your content creation.
Reporting and Attribution Strategy
Throughout this article I’ve mentioned the importance of reporting and analytics, ultimately the for attribution. eCommerce is a data driven business, if you are not using the free tools you have, – effectively then you are missing out on sales. Tools like Google analytics are tough to use, the data they provide often require a data analyst to obtain any meaningful insights. Tools like Conversific makes reporting simple and straight forward and provides insights so you don’t need to dig them out, so check it out (last sales pitch I promise!).
To summarise, at every stage of awareness you need to identify, segment and engage potential customers, driving them down your conversion funnel towards purchase. In order to do that you need to know at what stage every website visitor is at and then offer them what they are looking for.
Customer analytics (+product analytics) is at the heart of this drive towards personalization.
- Segmentation (customer journey pathways)
- Personalization (throughout the conversion funnel)
- Optimization (conversion rate optimization)
- Sales + customer feedback
- Reload for repeat sales customer journey + customer loyalty strategy (offers, discount promotions, etc)
- Review what you are doing every 6 mths.
Actionable Analytics for Shopify Stores
Conversific help you optimize your traffic and conversion, gather better data and grow online sales 📈Try Conversific Now
Email Marketing Strategy
Your email marketing strategy must be based on your conversion funnel and the differing stages of it. Your customer journey map will be useful here, at each stage of the funnel you should be communicating a personalized experience to their level of experience/awareness. Map your promotional offers and advertising to their level to make it relevant to their needs.
Email Marketing Strategy for COVID-19.
Your content strategy should be crisis framing the use of your products with isolation and social distancing in mind, your email content should show empathy and sympathy with customers’ pain points. At the same time build up the dream of the post-pandemic world. We all like to dream right? This vision of the future is what triggers the buying emotion, the single biggest factor in the buying decision-making process.
Conversational Marketing Strategy
Conversational Marketing is personalized marketing. Through live chat and chat bots on websites, (according to Hubspot, 45% of businesses now utilize these) you can engage your customers at any point during the customer journey.
Start by adding Chat on your most successful pages where purchase intent is most obvious, here the questions that will be asked will be related to the purchase process and payment. Once you understand their concerns you can add sections to your Q&A page that can be assigned to the bot to reply to, directing future questions directly with a link to the answers they seek, added to the Q&A page, this will take the work load off your customer service team and save you money.
Social listening for issues surrounding coronovirus will provide you with opportunites to respond and engage with others when relevant to your brand, products or services or in relation to what you are doing (CSR) to help your community with the Coronovirus effort. Utilize the features of your social listening tool, for example the word cloud feature of Sprout Social is a great tool to understand the words associated with the Covid-19 topic and consequently, you can gain an insight into the terminology that people are using, and therefore should be used in your content.
Conversiation Marketing in terms of Covid-19
Your conversational marketing strategy should be geared towards helping online shoppers who are new to buying online, those who may have lots of questions, relating to security, delivery and potential sales returns. Conversational marketing is one way to supply this, an ideal opportunity.
Market Research Strategy
Where you stand within your market segement in part dictates what you can offer and to whom. Therefore your competitive analysis is an important waypoint for product placement.
Who, where, why, what and when is central to marketing anything your reasearch should answer all of these questions.
Customer surveys, feedback popups, chat conversations all povide a great opportunity to engages your customers and to improve what you offer.
Market Research Covid-19
Marketing research into what your customers are doing with your products during COVID-19 is of little value because that use case is of limited time. That being said your analytics data will provide the means to determine if any changing patterns of behavior are happening and warrant further investigation (a survey, a phone call?). Requests for customer service is an important listening point. Do they need to buy in bulk? Method of delivery/pickup points etc.
By investigating how your competitors are handling the COVID-19 crisis, how are they changing what they offer? What products are they cross-marketing, upselling? What promotional offers are they making?
Perhaps the most interesting findings from Hubspots Global survey was that while the top priority for marketers was “Generating Leads” in 2020, yet “only 53.85% of marketers surveyed say they measure Acquisition costs. In addition, roughly ONLY 12% measure conversions, which means that only 12% of business are doing any kind of data based conversion rate optimization.
This disparity highlights a glaring omission in strategy, the need for analytics and effective interpretation of analytics, both customer analytics and product analytics and based upon this data, then conversion rate optimization with AB testing should be carried out to determine the right message.
In another of the global survey results HubSpot found that 64% of marketers said that their marketing budget had increased for 2020. Again, this highlights the need for analytics, without understanding customer acquisition costs and conversion optimization, how can you improve results through marketing spend on advertising? Marketing without effective customer acquisition tracking and reporting, marketing spend will be miss-spent.
Without conversion rate optimization and AB testing content to differing target groups, advertising budget spend will not bring optimal results.
Your customer data sheds light on how to plan based on their track history, which based on normal events is a great course of action, but in times of traumatic events like COVID-19, customers purchasing patterns change dramatically. Past behavior no longer predicts future behavior. Marketing channels previously used by customers are no longer used. Adapting to these changing times requires an
- ability to understand the changes taking place
- willingness to change your strategy to meet your customers changing needs.
- Flexibility in supply chain or in service
The key takeaway from Hubspot’s additional findings is that customer analytics are essential, necessary to track expenditure and improve what is offered and especially in times of COVID-19, to quickly spot changes in purchasing, in order to meet fast changing requirements.