As people begin to emerge from lockdown, blinking into the bright lights of flashing billboards, there’s a pent-up demand for consumer goods.
But, having just adjusted to new habits, consumers aren’t about to spring back to their pre-COVID behaviors, so what does this mean for advertisers?
Retailers are trying to drive customers back into stores, but this is something people are reluctant to do – 52% of people intend to keep the habits they’ve developed over lockdown. They no longer like to window shop, instead, they’ve taken to browsing online from the safety of their own homes.
When they do venture out, they’re primarily concerned about how close the store is. Being able to physically touch a product makes choices easier, and immediately being able to take it away is what makes traveling to a physical store worth it.
So what does online convenience look like? We’ve moved past free shipping and being able to easily compare prices and specs of products. Today, online convenience takes more of a psychological form: a recent Google study shows that consumers have limited mental bandwidth when it comes to processing the infinite purchase options available online.
This essentially means that whilst a user is aware of an average of 13 stores, they will typically stick to using just three. Now, convenience to a customer means they can easily recall your brand will satisfy their needs.
As advertisers, our aim is to be the brand that instantly springs to mind. Staying at the forefront of shoppers’ minds with consistent advertising is the bread and butter of what we know. However, in today’s world, it’s no longer enough.
How To Be A Convenient Brand
Online shoppers are more demanding, curious, and time-short than ever before. This means you can no longer overlook things such as clunky website navigation, confusing customer journeys, and mixed messaging. The mantra of your site has to be convenience with every single click.
But, you need to strike the right balance between convenience and lack of choice: you want to guide, but not strong-arm. Be aware of what matters to people now too; for instance, implementing an autofill feature for your forms will save customers time, but you need to be cautious of how you’re seen to be treating their personal data.
Similarly, if your site isn’t optimized for mobile browsing, then you’re likely to lose people to scrolling fatigue. We’ve already established users can’t cope with seemingly infinite options, so forcing them down a rabbit hole will simply end with cart abandonment. What people may have been prepared to put up with in 2019, they now are no longer prepared to tolerate – so get to that backlog of ‘nice to haves’ sooner, rather than later.
By investing in your customer experience, you’ll drive better customer retention (something which is 7x cheaper than acquiring new clients) which, in turn, leads to recommendations, which fuels loyalty and customer perception. Genuine recommendations are the golden nuggets that take a brand from 0 to 100; once you’ve become someone’s go-to place to buy online – the one they instantly think of – it’ll be hard to sway them elsewhere.
Deciding What’s Important
Paid search has essentially taken a rocket-fueled boost – the likes of which were only previously seen in Mario Kart. COVID-19 did a good job at accelerating the online behaviors which would have otherwise taken years to fully form. As a result, advertisers are now scrambling to adjust course. Here are some strategic ideas on what you can introduce right now to go from 8th to 1st in the race.
It’s common for marketing strategies to hone in on the first stage of a customer’s journey (awareness) and the final stage (decision making), and to neglect the middle stage (consideration). This can be a frustrating stage for everyone involved; consumers can be indecisive; brands impatient. But moving a user through the three stages doesn’t just happen, the materials need to be there for them to grab on to. Think of it as rock climbing: if the hand-holds aren’t there, the climber isn’t moving up.
So, how do you move people along?
Firstly, prioritize benefit-driven copy because, whilst you might know exactly why you’re so great, these people clearly don’t, otherwise they’d be at the final stage already. Consider what their hesitancy surrounds. If there’s a common sticking point, you need to do more to reassure the buyer.
If they’re just faffing around, then create some urgency with a targeted offer. Make sure you’re aware of what they’re doing too. The funnel isn’t actually a straight line, and it’s easy for buyers to get themselves knotted up. Ensure your attribution model is set up for multi-touch so you can fully understand what value you’re providing in each channel.
Furthermore, make sure you’re knitting your big campaigns with your brand awareness ads. Stop splitting things so formally and consider how overlap and hybrid strategies can ensure your messaging makes sense across them all. That way, if people in the consideration stage bumble around, they’re not getting confused.
Automate Where Possible
The reason that automation is taking over the tech world is that it’s damn good at what it does. Trying to be across everything as a human being is near impossible (unless you don’t like sleeping.) Not only that, but some manual tasks are dull as dishwater and are best left to a machine.
We use automation here at PPC Protect to keep the millions of invalid traffic sources out there in check – something which would cost the PPC industry thousands every month without.
So, make sure you’re dishing out laborious tasks to software where possible, and make sure you’re taking advantage of the smart technology out there. A well-placed ad in the consideration stage of a user journey can be enough to sway 18-44% of people away from their first choice brand towards their second. Getting your ads in front of the right people at the right time has never been easier, or more crucial.
Optimize From The Best Data
An increase in online advertising and consumer demands means invalid traffic sources have gone from looking at a tasty meal… to a humongous banquet. The opportunities for fraudsters to deplete ad budgets have shot skyward as advertisers pump more and more money into their campaigns.
Making sure botnets, click farms, competitors, and people who have no interest in making a purchase aren’t clicking your ads is not only an easy way to claw back some of your ad spend, but it improves everything downstream.
With clean data, your optimizations become entirely influenced by genuine customers. This is the difference between generating average leads and leads which are your ideal type of buyer.
A lot of PPC managers assume that Google monitors invalid traffic on your behalf, but we’ve identified why this isn’t in their interest – namely they profit from clicks wherever they come from. You can check the true quality of your traffic with a free traffic audit, and find out if protecting your campaigns is something worthwhile for your business.
Build A New Hybrid Ad Strategy
As consumers decide whether they want to continue shopping predominantly online or begin to include physical stores again, it’s more important than ever that your strategy takes a hybrid approach.
Customer journeys, particularly right now, commonly combine online and offline; wanting to minimize their time in-store, buyers will research online and then head to the store to pick it up. Anticipating this behavior is imperative to catch the right data – if your tracking isn’t right, your data will be telling you that they never completed their purchase, when in fact they just didn’t online.
Online’s rapid growth doesn’t mean the death of physical stores. In fact, paid search drives 50% of the revenue that is captured in-store. Even Google has just opened its first permanent physical store. It simply means that in-store experiences need to showcase exactly what makes it worthwhile visiting.
Personalization is key, whether that be the campaign that captures their attention or the warm, in-store welcome. Spend your budget on local inventory ads to persuade those who don’t want to wait for delivery to drive and collect it that day; use ad extensions to provide extra information about how COVID-safe you are; double-up on your budgets as your digital channels are responsible for both on and offline now.
What’s Changed About Your Customers?
Now is the time to assess how your customer’s behaviors will look going forward. What long-term habits have they adopted which will change the way they shop and interact with brands? Ensuring your strategy and campaigns reflect these altered personas is imperative to success.
Make the most of the emerging technology out there to enable you to work smarter, and check you’re still getting the basics right. What worked pre-pandemic, and even during, may not work going forward, so ensure you’re checking the quality of your traffic regularly, and adjust to these new types of behavior.