Online shopping has been both a boon and a bane for many different brands. With the rapid adoption brought about by the pandemic and changes in purchasing habits, many brands had hoped to see a drastic uptake in online sales. Unfortunately for most, the online sales figures just don’t compare to the brick-and-mortar sales volumes that brands had hoped for.
While the pandemic has indeed accelerated the adoption of ecommerce and exponentially increased online sales for most brands, the results show that brands, especially consumer ones, cannot rely on a single channel for awareness and conversion. Winning brands practice a mix of channels and strategies that evolve with the times.
This is also where many small medium businesses have fallen prey to the idea that they would be sheltered from the economic problems resulting from the pandemic if they were to embrace online commerce. However, this simply isn’t true for the following reasons:
Target audience is everything
If your product or brand isn’t reaching the right person there will be zero conversion and very little brand recall. People are being served thousands of online ads daily – from Google shoppable ads to ads within their Facebook feed, product recommendations within apps on their mobile, and the list goes on. Shoppers online have grown blind to the barrage of online advertisements and are less likely to pay attention unless they already have intent to purchase a product in the same category.
The bottom-line is that brands need to know their target audience well and ensure that ad targeting is mapped to the right audience profiles, their interest spheres and their search keywords. By understanding consumer profiles and targeting mix, online retailers should start to see a healthier conversion rate for their programmes.
People don’t purchase unless they are triggered to
The pandemic has brought changes in consumer purchasing behaviour and while a vast majority have taken their purchases online, what they are buying and how much they buy has drastically changed. Middle to low-income earners have increasingly become more conservative with their spending, prioritising daily necessities, groceries, hygiene care and other recommended products by friends and families over other luxuries.
So, unless a product is seen or heard, the desire to purchase is miniscule. This is where influencers play an important role in conversions and helping brands engage consumers online for new product launches. This is especially true for sectors such as healthcare, wellness, home and décor and baby care.
Impulse buy and point-of-sale is almost non-existent online
Generating a see-and-buy impulse online is more difficult than traditional brick and mortar models. Additionally, search algorithms are based on current purchasing habits which means you’re unlikely to get a recommendation to purchase something more…off-the-beaten-track. So, unless you were searching for massage or spa treatment, the thought of buying a new luxurious foot bath may not have crossed your mind. Having said that, even with spa or massage keywords, foot baths might not even be part of the product recommendation.
On the flipside, walking past a nail salon might take you into a consideration mindset as you start to wonder when the last time was that you indulged in a pedicure, if you’d even make the effort to leave your home of the fact that getting an appointment during COVID is even possible. According to research, impulse buying contributes up to 62% of in-store sales, a clear study that show why it would be hard for online commerce to compete with physical sales volumes.
How should brands approach these challenges?
Research and data
In order to get the right channel and marketing strategy mix, start with understanding your target audience, their buying behaviours and triggers. Brands can do this in through small focus groups or surveys to obtain a greater accuracy. Once these behaviours have been determined, brands can then formulate a more definitive strategy.
Take an omnichannel approach
Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Every channel has its strengths and weaknesses depending on industry, distribution capabilities and accessibility. Going multi-channel ensures you reach as many people as you can. The challenge brands will face lies in determining what channels work best. Be bold – start by experimenting with different channels and once the testing phase is complete, analyse your data, measure your results, and adjust your budgets, focusing on areas that generate the best performance.
Adapt, adapt, adapt!
While this may sound like the obvious thing to do, there are still brands today that are unwilling to change their ways or simply do not see a current need to fix an unbroken wheel. If there is one lesson the pandemic has taught us, it’s that resistance to change and complacency can lead to the downfall of a brand regardless of industry, size or geography.
Marketing and communication strategies must always match the needs of consumers in the current moment or climate. Monitor your social channels to get an indication of what your consumers are talking about, what they like about your brand or product, the issues and pain points they fact, and adapt your marketing strategies accordingly. When consumers feel that brands are listening and connected to them, there is a higher chance to increase conversion and develop brand loyalty.
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