3 minute read

Poll Results: How Retail Marketers Have Reacted to COVID-19

Last week, our VP of Client Services Kara Holthaus hosted a webinar to help retailers think through their digital campaigns and messaging during COVID-19. Some of the largest brands that have had to close their physical stores and rely on eCommerce-only marketing joined us and shared their own strategies and concerns via a live audience poll.

Here’s what retail marketers had to say about shifting their messaging strategy to accommodate recent changes and challenges:

100% have made adjustments based on unique customer behavior during the pandemic.

Good news: Retailers have shifted their previous marketing strategies to be sensitive to those who may not be currently shopping due to job loss or other virus-related impact, and they’re paying close attention to those who are actively shopping right now in order to engage them appropriately. Every marketer polled said that they have adjusted their messaging strategy in some way based on unique and changing customer behaviors during the pandemic.

As Kara noted in the webinar, many marketing teams are lean and have a lot going on at home right now, too, so it’s not all about completely redoing your strategies or spinning up new campaigns as fast as you can to accommodate each customer. Simple optimizations will go a long way—reducing frequency caps and campaign suppressions will help in the near-term to stay top of mind and combat consumer distraction.

44% have sent more personalized messages over the last two weeks.

Many retailers have stepped up their personalization efforts in response to COVID-19. 44% of those polled said they have prioritized sending more personalized messages to their customers, and another 44% said the amount of personalized messages has stayed the same. 12% of respondents said they are sending fewer personalized messages at this time.

In the last month, we have seen some retailers revert back to old marketing tactics (multiple sends daily to their entire list, blasting steep discounts comparable to Black Friday) out of fear of future unknowns. But the brands doing this could end up seeing higher unsubscribes and jeopardize that long-term relationship they’ve worked hard to establish, so now’s more important than ever to send the most relevant message to each customer. More tips on how to effectively do this can be found here.

46% are leveraging in-store data to encourage online shopping, and 39% are planning to.

We were pleased to discover that almost half of poll participants said they’re leveraging previous in-store shopping data to personalize messaging to customers to encourage online shopping. Another 39% said they are planning to leverage this data but are not quite there yet, while 15% do not plan on leveraging in-store shopping data at all.

For those who have access to this data and haven’t done so already, be sure to combine it asap with the rest of your cross-channel data to engage in-store customers with highly targeted messaging inviting them to shop online, cross-sell and recommend items based on their past in-store purchases, and communicate special news and discounts once stores reopen.

54% anticipate in-store sales loss to be their biggest challenge going forward.

When asked what they anticipate to be the biggest ongoing and post-pandemic challenge, 54% of retail marketers are most concerned with in-store sales loss, followed by inventory management (15%) and staffing/re-opening their stores (15%). New customer acquisition (8%) and online customer retention were also concerns (8%).

Many retailers are being affected by having too much inventory and trouble selling seasonal items, while other businesses are booming—home goods, loungewear, beauty, grocery retail to name a few—causing them to dial back their marketing efforts to keep up with demand. Others face anxiety around how to make up for lost in-store revenue and foresee staffing and re-opening stores as a huge hurdle given the anticipated increase in foot traffic for those wanting to get out and get social again.

If you’re a client of SmarterHQ looking for ways to combat current and anticipated challenges, please reach out to your Client Success Director. Contact us here if you’re not currently a SmarterHQ client.

To see the live poll in action and dive deeper into strategies to employ during this time, listen to our Pivoting to eCommerce-Only Marketing During COVID-19 webinar recording and read this blog post.

Additional poll result coverage and tactics can be found via MediaPost, Retail Info Systems, and eMail Monday.