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5 Takeaways Learned from COVID-19’s Impact on Consumer Behavior and Global E-Commerce Trends

Marketers know that changes in consumer behavior and global trends are never truly predictable — they aren’t predictable now, with COVID-19 looming as the elephant in the marketing meeting room (or, if you’re like me, Zoom meeting), and they weren’t in non-pandemic times.

However, the savvy brand marketer, with the right data and information, can identify patterns and glean insights that enable them to adapt to these changes, take action, and accelerate business outcomes.

In a recent webinar, Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys, and Matthew Furneaux, Global Commercial Director, Loqate (a GBG Solution), went in-depth and analyzed the recent changes in global trends and consumer behavior impacting retail and e-commerce throughout the world.

Here are five key takeaways these experts shared during the webinar, in their own words:

1. Every region, category, and retailer have been impacted differently

“Across different parts of the economy, we see different impacts. Not all retailers are experiencing the same thing at the same time.”
“What is very telling is, both in the US and here in Europe ... and throughout the rest of the world, online sales are booming. But there is a big difference in those growth rates regionally, as this kind of moves in different phases, [and], most importantly, in terms of categories.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

2. Consumers — not businesses — are firmly in control

“We’re not living in an age where businesses are in control of making people do things. We're living in an age [where], now more than ever, consumers are in charge of which brands they engage with and which methods they engage with.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“Some businesses are experiencing an unexpected surge in orders, which is stressing their operations. So making sure that you're capturing customer information in a way that you can use that and deliver to your customers, and meet their expectations, is absolutely critical.”

Want to hear more from industry experts about changes in consumer behavior and global macro trends caused by COVID-19?

3. Brands are doubling down on digital to stay connected to customers

“What we are seeing [now are] actually increases in digital communications. There are more emails being sent, more emails being opened, [and] more emails being clicked than any other time — other than Cyber Week 2019, which was a global record.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“We're just seeing some really good examples of where brands are maintaining the relationship with customers through social, keeping a web presence, keeping the conversation going and keeping that personalization going, even if there are no transactions [happening].”

4. The boom in digital has permanently expanded the online market

“The total addressable online market is obviously expanding enormously during these different times, but I think when it starts to contract back again … I think that addressable online market will be bigger than it was when we came in [to these times] ... It’s going to be required of online retailers to be ready for that.”
“For the very first time, we've got a very, very large increase in the digital population. And it's not just coming from a new generation ... It is coming from some established patterns of behavior within different generations really shifting towards the digital realm.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

5. To be successful, brands must adapt and respond to the new generations of online shoppers

“It’s going to be required of online retailers to … make sure it's simple for that older generation, or that less tech-savvy generation, to be active online. Make it easy to pay, make it easy to find what you want, make it easy to check out — something as simple as just entering your address. Make it really, really simple for those groups ... I think they'll stick with it, because they'll find it convenient.”
“Online population has just grown exponentially through a forced event on a global scale. How brands respond to this is going to be increasingly about how they look at those consumer trends and how they adapt to them to make sure that they're linking what their customers are looking for with what their business is looking for, and adapting their marketing strategies accordingly.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Final Thoughts

While the initial threat of COVID-19 slowly (but not completely) begins to wane, stores across the globe are reopening. Although some of the more radical and drastic changes happening in consumer behavior and global trends will begin to balance out, one thing is for sure — retail and e-commerce will never be the same.

To gain an even deeper sense of the true impact of COVID-19 on retail and e-commerce — including a look at the specific businesses and categories most impacted, and where new revenue opportunities exist for your brand — check out the full webinar.

We’ve seen unique trends across ALL industries and product categories. Find out which trends are fleeting, and which are here to stay.

Light speed zoom travel in  universe technology 3d illustration.Light speed zoom travel in  universe technology 3d illustration.Light speed zoom travel in  universe and milkyway star retro style 3d illustration.

How Retail and E-Commerce Brands are Finding New Opportunities in Their Data Sets (and Driving Business Results)

You’ve probably experienced what feels like a whirlwind shift in marketing over the past several years. All brands have.

It’s an evolution spurred forward by advances in marketing technology and sophistication of data. As a marketer, your goal is to take advantage of these changes so you can continue to build trusted, loyal, and lasting customer relationships and accelerate business outcomes for your brand.

Yet, just when it seemed that marketing couldn’t evolve any faster, a global pandemic set in, further altering how retailers and pure play e-tailers must engage customers and drive revenue and growth. Speed-to-market, agility in execution, and a robust digital strategy are essential.

In this webinar, we explored how brands can thrive in these ever-changing conditions by turning their existing data sets into revenue opportunities — quickly. Sometimes it’s better to hear valuable information directly from the sources, so to recap the webinar, here are seven key takeaways, as shared by:

  • Alex Timlin, SVP of Verticals, Emarsys
  • Ross Williams VP Retail, Emarsys  (former Digital Customer Experience and Digital Product Director of N Brown Group & Tesco)
  • Carolyn MacKenzie, Managing Director, Forever New
  • Lynn Barrett, Chief Digital Officer, National Tiles

 

1. Marketing has shifted to be more customer-centric

“Things have moved quickly [in marketing] ... And it’s moved even quicker in the last three months. Customers’ expectations are continuously being raised by the industry leaders who set the new normal. Customers expect the businesses to be communicating and serving them consistently across all channels they operate in, and often new channels as they come available.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys
“Consistency and timeliness are the key to offering excellent customer experience that customers want and deserve. From a business perspective, it’s really important right now [and] will continue to be going forward, so you can respond and adapt quickly to the current situation and the continuously changing situation.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys

2. Consolidate your customer data

“Getting your data into one place is one of the key opportunities that people have. Where you put it is less important than how you make sense of it.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“[Certain] point solutions may solve an immediate need, and a silo challenge, but [they’re] not going to enable you to get insight to making decisions and executing on those decisions in a timely manner … [or] in a personalized way at a speed that’s necessary to adapt to changing consumer needs.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys

3. Successful implementations are focused on business objectives, not the tech itself

“The successful [data] implementations aren’t really focusing on the technology and the technology capabilities, they’re really focusing on the problem they’re looking to solve for. And the brands are really being clear about: ‘What’s the business outcome we're looking to achieve, and how will we measure success?’”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“The technology isn’t as important as the problem… Be clear about the problem you’re solving for, and how your business is looking to measure success. It’s the responsibility of your agencies, partners, and vendors, and [teams] to look at, ‘What are the different opportunities we have at solving for these problems to help us hit those metrics and milestones that the business has set out?’”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Want to turn customer, product & sales data into new revenue opportunities, FAST?

4. Get more out of your customer behavior data by being proactive (not just reactive)

“Look at the browsing and abandoned cart behavior to recognize: Are there certain products that are being abandoned? ... Certain products being browsed? [This] really allows [brands] to capitalize and double down on some of these initiatives to squeeze every amount of performance from them.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“From my time being client side, a really high value, advanced use case is: Using AI to predict when people are going to exit, and moving from reacting to people exiting to predicting it in real time so that you can persuade that customer actually not to exit, and [instead], complete their purchase. Moving to predicting rather than reacting can be massively valuable, and to do that, you need to leverage AI.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys

5. Brands benefit by focusing on customer lifecycle opportunities

“We are seeing more and more of our clients look for opportunities inside of the customer lifecycle… First-time-to-repeat-buyer programs are one the most impactful programs that we have, [though] it's often the most difficult metric for marketers to influence.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“Some of the most advanced brands we’re working with are starting to integrate their [customer] loyalty and rewards communications with their marketing communications. The benefit from this is it can help to incentivize customers with less indiscriminate discounting because you can offer rewards instead of discounts. It’s a growing trend we’re seeing.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys

6. As demand and supply chains fluctuate, massive opportunities lie in your product data

“There is a huge opportunity in working with product data… The demand for these programs have been off the chart because of the current climate. If someone is looking at a product and hasn’t bought it, if that product comes back into stock, or if that product changes in price, those are automated feeds and automated behavior that are actually quite simple to pre-package and leverage."
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys
“Some of the valuable examples that we’ve seen in our client base of actually executing on this [product data] are identifying products that sell well or categories of products that sell well, and then automating recommendations off the back of that.”
Ross Williams, VP Retail, Emarsys
Ross Williams
VP Retail, Emarsys

7. Better use of data helps brands be more efficient, agile, and profitable

“With Emarsys, we have been able to unify multichannel customer data, honing in on specific customers across every channel. Harnessing the power of automation and artificial intelligence to drive efficiencies and accelerate business outcomes has helped us to grow Forever New in a more profitable way.”
“What we did at National Tiles took months, not years. We found new, agile ways of working using incremental, iterative work sequences to continuously improve and react to unpredictable changes in the environment and consumer landscape.”
national tiles logo
Lynn Barrett
Chief Digital Officer, National Tiles

Watch the full webinar and get all the insights

For businesses to respond in times of economic change or uncertainty, they need to be empowered to discover opportunities for revenue and growth whenever and wherever possible. As we learned in the webinar, brands that can get the most out of their customer, product, and sales data are strongly positioned to find these opportunities (and turn them into business results).

But Alex and Ross offered many more actionable insights throughout the webinar — too many to share in this post. If you’re interested in learning more about how your data sets can be used to accelerate business outcomes for your brand, watch the full webinar here.

 

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Top Brands Reveal How to Drive Engaging Customer Experiences and Business Results with First-Party Data

Perhaps now more than ever, CMOs and marketing leaders are getting lost in the cacophony of hype around first-party data.

This data — they’re told — is pure gold when it comes to marketing. The manner in which they engage customers going forward (and whether or not their brand will successfully make the transition to omnichannel, which is imminent for the retail industry), may very well depend on how they leverage this precious asset.

The implications of this can be quite intimidating.

To help navigate the hype, the American Marketing Association recently hosted a CMO webinar to explore how brands are leveraging first-party data to drive engaging customer experiences and business outcomes. In the webinar, we hear from:

  • Leandi McMurphy, Director of Marketing for outdoor grill brand Char-Broil
  • Charlie Cole, Chief Executive Officer of FTD, a leading floral retailer with subsidiary brands like ProFlorist
  • Alex Timlin, SVP of Verticals at Emarsys.

These guest speakers share knowledge on how brands can best approach first-party data to create better experiences for customers, and ultimately, better results for the business.

Check out these four key takeaways from the webinar. They may permanently alter the way you think about first-party customer data and how your brand should leverage it to increase customer engagement.

1. Successful Brands Embrace Consumer-Led Marketing

Traditional customer communication was something like this: You had a list of your customers, you created a coordinated marketing message, and you blasted that message out to those customers across a certain number of channels. You would measure the direct response, and that would tell you something about the efficacy of your efforts.

But customer expectations (and customer behavior) have changed.

“If we’re looking at the average marketer and the average piece of technology they’ve got right now, it’s almost impossible to make sure that a customer goes to where you want them to go. Customers are fragmented in terms of where they spend their time and how they interact with your brand... Our customers are everywhere, but they’re very, very demanding, and they’re expecting a really personalized and really informative experience at all [the] different touchpoints.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP of Verticals, Emarsys

What consumers expect from a brand’s communications, and where they expect and want that engagement to occur (traditional channels, web, social media, etc.,) has necessitated and therefore driven the rapid emergence of new marketing technologies.

Now, to secure the loyalty of their current customers and win new ones, the marketer must be more savvy, more deliberate, and most importantly, more personalized with their approach.

“[Most marketers] are familiar with the idea of wanting to grow and retain customers and retain their loyalty. But what we do find is that customer data has to be tied to marketing execution.”
Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys
Alex Timlin
SVP of Verticals, Emarsys

A human- or customer-first perspective should inform the way you act on your data and the marketing use cases you execute. A good rule of thumb: If you were in the customer’s shoes, what kind of engagement would you like to receive from the brand? Being mindful of the messages you’re sending to customers is especially pertinent in the wake of COVID-19.

Be sensitive to the current situation, and make sure that, if you have a message, make sure it’s relevant to consumers during this time frame. This is where the human-first marketing element is so important.
Leandi McMurphy
Leandi McMurphy
Director of Marketing, Char-Broil

CMO Webinar | How Brands are Leveraging First-Party Data to Drive Engaging Customer Experiences and Business Outcomes

2. First Create a Business Case, Then Focus on Your Data

“So many people pursue data for data’s sake... [create] a business case first, or more importantly, identify the problems you want to solve, and then decide what your data infrastructure should be.”
Charlie Cole
Charlie Cole
CEO, FTD

Before you get too focused on data, it’s important to create a business case that’s winnable. How do you intend to use data in order to achieve better business outcomes for your organization?

Is the aim to generate more value from the customers you already have (so you don’t have to spend money acquiring new ones)? Are you looking to increase engagement and drive revenue without having to send even more emails (through better targeting, segmentation, and personalization)? Brands that succeed will decide on their end goal, and figure out how first-party data will aid them in achieving it.

“Start with an easy win, look at your data [and] identify a way that you can use that data and create predictable business outcomes… [Create] business cases in an area that you know very well from a tactical perspective, and then use data to bring it to the next level.”
Charlie Cole
Charlie Cole
CEO, FTD

3. When Pitching the Business Value of First-Party Data to Stakeholders, Be Practical in Your Approach

Some may tell you to invest in marketing technology now to help you pursue and consolidate data, even without a specific business goal or outcome in mind, because it’s more important to simply have the data. You can always figure out how to leverage it later. Not only does this pursuit risk your time and resources, but it’s much less likely to hold water with your C-level leadership.

“If you’re going to be able to take a business case and sell that [to] upper management... you’re going to have to have very clear and actionable items for how you can leverage the data and how it’s actually going to impact the business in a positive way. Especially if you’re sitting in front of a CFO, because they will always want to know the actual ROI from that.”
Leandi McMurphy
Leandi McMurphy
Director of Marketing, Char-Broil

It’s important to consider that, while the marketer in you may leap at the notion of having more and more first-party data, your CFO may raise an eyebrow at the idea of investing in more three-letter-acronym tech to capture, organize, and potentiate this data if it doesn’t align with a bottom-line business result in an immediate, obvious way. 

“If you look at what each business is trying to achieve, they’re trying to be able to engage their customers more, to be able to at the end of the day drive more sales. That is something we can all find a good anchor point in. So always start with that specifically.”
Leandi McMurphy
Leandi McMurphy
Director of Marketing, Char-Broil

Successful brands know how their customer engagement platform will serve their overall business objectives of increasing sales and driving revenue.

4. Successful Brand Marketers Use Data Wisely (and Avoid Unnecessary Complications)

As the lines between online and offline retail blur, the way that customers come to know and engage with your brand changes, which impacts your customer lifecycle, lifetime value, and data.

Now, customers interact with a brand at various stages and points over time across increasingly fragmented channels. Brands can end up with a scattered wealth of behavioral, identity, purchase, and product data. The brands that are most successful with leveraging their data understand that it’s important to bring these disparate sources together in a single, coherent view of a customer, and then use the data wisely.

“Even with a fragmented data set, if you can think from a consumer’s point of view, you can do some special things.”
Charlie Cole
Charlie Cole
CEO, FTD

With access to this kind of data, there’s a potential of becoming too hyper-focused on maximizing the data, and then losing sight of your long-term marketing goals, the company’s overall goals, or even the consumer’s relationship to your brand. Aim for balance and judiciousness in your use of data, avoid unnecessary complexity, and remember the organization’s broader business goals.

“My keyword for 2020 is balance, and especially in marketing… [Being] hyper-focused [on] data can often create a scenario where you lose sight of the larger audience opportunity, the scale that you need to drive the amount of sales that you need, and simply create complexity for complexity’s sake.”
Leandi McMurphy
Leandi McMurphy
Director of Marketing

Discover How Leading Brands Use First-Party Data to Deliver 1:1 Customer Experiences and Accelerate Business Outcomes

What Will First-Party Data Do for Your Brand?

Now is the time to think deeply about what opportunities customer data will afford you and your brand, why it’s business-critical (when used correctly), and how you will make a business case for leveraging it responsibly to achieve better business outcomes.

Those who attended the webinar know these 4 takeaways were just the tip of the iceberg — there were many more powerful insights that could be gleaned from the full presentation.

If you weren’t able to join the webinar, but would like to learn more, no problem. You can access the full webinar recording in its entirety here.

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