This blog post has been contributed by Suzanne Zimmerman, Account Director, SGK.
As the world faces the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have drastically changed their shopping behaviors both in terms of what and how they buy. Across every region, consumers are avoiding brick-and-mortar stores, whether by choice or by government mandate, and this means they are turning to online purchases to help fill the void. However, growth in eCommerce sales since the start of the pandemic isn’t a given across the board.
All categories are not equal.
In certain categories, online purchases have risen exponentially. According to a Nielsen survey in the United States, purchase of personal care, medical supplies, household, and pantry staples has surged significantly, in some cases as much as 85% compared to last year. Similarly in China, French grocery retailer Carrefour reported a 600% increase in vegetable deliveries in the Lunar New Year, and online retailer JD.com reported a sales spike of 215% in late January/early February 2020.
But other sectors haven’t fared as well. With hints of a recession on the horizon, consumers are restricting their purchases to only the necessities. This has had devastating effects on certain categories, including apparel, travel equipment, and luxury brands, which have all experienced steep declines in online purchases, sometimes by as much as 77%.
So what can brand owners do to help build resiliency into their marketing ecosystems when it comes to eCommerce? Whether you are experiencing an uptick or downturn in your online sales, now is a good time to improve your eCommerce content strategies. Below are several areas to help you rethink your online presence:
1. Remap Your Consumers’ Journeys
Discoverability (the ability to find and identify your product amongst a sea of competitors) and buyability (the ability to quickly identify product attributes important to consumers’ buying decisions) are important factors in building marketing resiliency when it comes to your eCommerce content. Therefore, it’s time to revisit your consumers’ experience with your products online.
For brands currently experiencing growth in online purchases, consider some of these questions to boost sales even more:
Answering these questions will help you determine where you can make improvements so that your consumers’ journeys will navigate easily to your product.
For brands facing a decline, it’s important to create emotional connections with your consumers that will carry your brands through these tough times. Remapping your consumers’ journeys will help identify and target your audience by rebuilding personas to match consumers with the right omnichannel experience.
Understanding your consumers’ journeys will help identify new potential buyers, rediscover your top goals, find opportunities to connect consumers to your products in unique ways, account for every audience, and ultimately, create better content. It will also make it easier to redefine your eCommerce content strategy so that consumers carry goodwill for your brand forward into better times.
2. Reallocate Your eCommerce Marketing Spend
No doubt marketers across the board have been spending a significant amount of their budget on eCommerce content, but now is the time to reevalute and refocus your spend in this area.
In categories that are currently performing well, decreasing out-of-home spend, for example, and applying it to eCommerce content, at least temporarily, is a smart move as consumers continue social distancing and avoid public areas and gatherings. This shift will allow you to sustain consumer interest and provide them with a brand experience that they can’t currently find elsewhere.
For categories that are struggling, it’s time to get personal and reallocate budget to personalizing brand experiences online. Consider diverting spend towards direct-to-consumer-style marketing, which will afford you more control over your brand’s messaging and greater ownership over your relationship with your consumers. A more personalized approach will keep your brand top of mind with your consumers so that when conditions improve, they will be ready to spend.
3. Rethink eCommerce Content Deployment
Whether your brand is flourishing or stagnating in the current COVID-19 environment, it’s a good idea to reconsider how you are creating and producing your eCommerce content. Achieving the agility to create accurate, high-quality eCommerce content at scale is important so that you can pivot quickly as conditions change.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to think about connecting your eCommerce content production to your general packaging production as it offers the most efficient means of generating digital imagery. By unifying your digital content supply chain around your existing packaging process, you can update your online products across channels while also maximizing search results across online retailers.
You can also optimize your eCommerce content during the production process for mobile deployment so that consumers using mobile devices can quickly recognize your products and get the key information they need to make a purchase decision.
Further, you will need to create a greater volume of eCommerce content so that consumers remain engaged across not only retail sites but social media platforms as well. Once again, connecting these activities to your packaging production can provide you the greatest agility as your pack assets can be the genesis of a variety of eCommerce content, from 3D imagery to video. Creating eCommerce content quickly and at scale will be key to forging consumer connections that fuel and sustain consumer interest in your brands when physical interactions are limited.
4. Prioritize Retailers to Maximize Your Brand’s Content
Maintaining a strong presence across key retailers will help keep your product in front of consumers, whether or not they are currently buying them. As you look to online syndication, all brands, no matter their current performance, should develop a standard asset bundle that can be scaled across multiple retailers. This ensures that the requirements of priority retailers are met while reducing duplication of efforts, streamlining content production and delivery, and maximizing shrinking budgets.
Brands can leverage syndication services to further tailor content to meet specific retailer needs (i.e., product title and hero product image) or further optimize for retailer-specific keywords. Following GS1 industry specifications will ensure product imagery is created to align with varying retailer standards.
5. Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
While you’re certainly already optimizing your eCommerce content, it’s a good time for all marketers to take a second look at your optimization strategies to be sure your products are front and center whenever they are searched. Optimization takes many forms when it comes to eCommerce content, but pay special attention to things like search rankings, copy, mobile imagery, and image sets.
While we may not know for some time the long-term effects of the COVID-19 on consumer behaviors, rethinking how your consumers engage with your products online, where your marketing dollars are spent, how you produce and deploy your eCommerce content, and your eCommerce content optimization strategies are important ways to build resiliency across your marketing ecosystem.
Even with the current strain on your marketing ecosystem, restrategizing your eCommerce content and taking a more nuanced approach to your online presence will position your brand for sustained success both during and after this pandemic.
Suzanne Zimmerman: Suzanne brings 6+ years of experience delivering strategic digital content across health development and consumer packaged goods verticals. As an agency partner for B2B/B2C CPG organizations, Suzanne leads eCommerce content strategy and asset development and delivery. She works with organizations to create scalable workflows to drive content consistency and usability across all channels, and increase eCommerce conversion across online retailers with best in class digital content.