7 minute read

Retail Marketing Strategies to Prioritize During COVID-19

Right now, we’re all trying to adjust to a new normal. For retailers, that means quickly adapting your current strategies to meet a massive shift in shopper behavior and, for some of you, product demand. It means attempting to make your digital channels and campaigns more effective with the temporary shutdown of brick and mortar stores. And it means staying extremely sensitive to your customers’ needs, fears, and hardships—all while continuing to deliver the best brand experience possible. Sounds like a piece of cake, right?

In the last few weeks, many clients and industry connections have reached out to SmarterHQ for recommendations on what adjustments to make and how to best go about driving business forward. While this post isn't aimed at solving every challenge you’re experiencing, hopefully it will help you better understand what to focus on in order to provide the utmost convenience to your customers and how to keep your marketing efforts alive, tactful, and impactful at this time.

To hear about all of this and additional strategies in greater detail, listen to our recent webinar.

First, Keep These Things in Mind

To be able to pivot your campaigns and strategies accordingly, let’s first take a look at the current customer landscape—and what that means for your marketing approach.

Sensitivity is paramount.

Many are struggling due to the loss of income and the gravity of the situation as a whole. It’s important to be mindful of and empathetic to this. Put the needs and sensitivities of your customers first, especially if you’re not selling critical essentials.

    Many of your customers may see online shopping as a welcomed escape from reality, so don’t completely press pause on all of your campaigns—but do make adjustments. It’s important not to ignore the situation with messages that were created before everything changed. If your campaigns include copy like “Catch Spring Fever” or even “Wear this to your next big event!” press pause or update the creative immediately.

    Distraction is at an all-time high.

    Your customers are overwhelmed with uncertainty, urgent needs, adjusting to WFH, avoiding cabin fever, checking on loved ones—the list goes on. Consumers are already extremely distracted (95% say they’re doing other things while shopping), and since working parents are now doing so while also watching and teaching their kids, there will be even more chances for interruption. Your customers are most likely not getting to the cart anytime soon, let alone completing their purchase.

      Almost every retailer out there has an abandonment series, but does it take into account all cross-channel behavior? Is it set up for cart, purchase, category and product browse, and brand abandonment? Are you able to prioritize which channel to send the abandonment message to, depending on where the customer interacts most? Is it as real-time as possible? With hyper-distraction, your messages should be triggered when they haven't been on the site in hours, not days later. Best-in-class abandonment retargeting campaigns are crucial right now. Make sure they’re covering all your bases.

      Site traffic will continue to spike.

      With social distancing and store closings making online shopping a necessity, you might see an unprecedented amount of traffic to your site (and to your app if you have one). This is the most important time to ensure you have a way to properly identify all of these visitors without waiting for them to create or log into their accounts.

        Collecting your customers’ cross-channel data and email addresses without account log-in, and resolving it all into the right customer profile will ensure you can accurately understand each visitor’s behavior and engage with them in the best way. This allows you to message them based on their recent and historical interests and channel preferences—ensuring new and existing customers continue to shop with you long after this all settles.

        Treat this data differently.

        This is not the norm, so shopper interest and behaviors should be looked at differently. Treat this time period similar to how you'd treat your holiday or seasonal data and keep it separate. Remember, these actions might not be the same your customers will take later on this season, this year, or year over year.

        Stay flexible.

        As we all can see, things are changing every day. Don’t overcomplicate your processes or priorities right now. Your teams need to move quickly; keep execution simple so you can pivot when or as often as you need to.

          Campaigns & Strategies to Focus on Now

          Here are a few of our top recommendations to combat some of the changes—to your site traffic, customer buying behavior and engagement, inventory stock levels—happening right now. Many of the core strategies and further campaign details can be found in our Retail Playbook.

          1. Leverage in-store data to move customers online.

            This might be a watershed moment in getting your in-store customers to embrace digital channels and all of the omnichannel tactics (think BOPIS) that some retailers have invested in for years. Leverage in-store customer data to communicate with those who have been affected by temporary store closings and start engaging them online—make them aware of all that they still have available at their fingertips (“Your same favorites are available online,” “check out new arrivals online,” etc).

            For those who only purchase your products in-store, launch dedicated campaigns that introduce them to online and loyalty benefits, educate them on the perks of connecting with you digitally, and cross-sell/recommend items that are similar to or complement their recent in-store purchases. Replenishment campaigns are also a good way to remind customers that the consumable products and perennial favorites they previously purchased in person can easily be repurchased or refilled online.

            2. Offer convenience with website personalization.

              Your website is your storefront and your first impression for new visitors right now. Make sure it’s as straightforward to navigate as possible, with the most important information they need front and center. Use web pop-up and geo-targeted modals to showcase critical and timely messages around store closings, inventory, safety, new hours, etc. Use website transformations to feature a high-interest brand or category upon a visitor’s return to your site to make it easier for them to pick up where they left off. More website tips can be found here.

              3. Launch product alerts to combat inventory issues.

                We’re seeing some retailers pause or dial back promos and amp up their back in stock emails due to inventory issues. Product alerts are a simple yet highly effective way to notify customers about the essentials they need or the products they care about. Price drop, low inventory, and back in stock detection allows you to quickly target customers who have interacted with specific products—based on viewed, carted, purchased, and wishlist activity—and automate high-conversion messages.

                4. Use product recommendations to your advantage.

                  Product recommendations are a quick way to personalize your blast sends right now as well as offer relevancy and convenience on your website. They can also be leveraged to steer online purchases towards products with high inventory levels, as well as suppress products that are out of stock or low on inventory at the moment.

                  5. Keep an eye on customer wishlists.

                    Some customers may not be spending money at the moment, so they’re saving to their wishlist to buy later—or some may be favoriting items to “window shop” as a distraction. Identify audiences who have saved items in specific categories or brands and let these customers know when the products are now on sale, or feature these items in future messages to pique their interest down the road when they’re ready to purchase again.

                    6. Consider amping up mobile push.

                      Your customers are the most connected via mobile right now. Push notifications could be a great tactic to get in front of your younger audiences especially, who are most open to this type of brand communication. The key here is to be mindful of your audience’s preferences and multichannel activity, take into account the communications you’re sending to these customers on other channels and dial those down, and make the message as relevant as possible.

                      Planning for Post-Crisis: What Next?

                      A big play in all of this will be how brands will take care of their customers for months to come. Inventory issues are just starting, especially in retail. There will be months of tailwind issues.

                      Being able to react quickly, stay nimble, and adjust as inventory and sell-through rates change daily will be critical. Now is the time to capitalize on new customers and nurture them. Putting additional and recommended product options in front of the customer will be essential to increasing trust, engagement, and ultimately conversion.

                      If you want to know more about any of these recommendations or strategies, or to discuss your current priorities and where to go from here, please reach out to your Client Success Director or contact us here if you’re not currently a SmarterHQ client.

                      We will help you adapt, execute quickly, and meet your customers’ needs as much as possible at this time. Things might seem overwhelming, but we’re here for you.

                      For additional insights, watch our Pivoting to eCommerce-Only Marketing During COVID-19 webinar.