As the coronavirus began to spread globally, and countries responded with nationwide lockdowns, one by one, brands were forced to adapt in order to remain relevant and to engage consumers during times of significant uncertainty.

As we start to move towards the Post-Covid ‘new normal’, marketers need to adapt their approach once again. The marketing strategies we had in place for 2020 are now likely unfit for the months to come, as we adapt to a new way of life.

In order to help marketers address the challenges ahead, our team have shared their collective insights into how brands can rebuild their marketing strategy moving forwards.

Paid Media– Claire Stanley-Manock

Relevancy and empathy in ads

Behaviours changed massively during the crisis, and brands followed suit by tailoring their messages to reflect the tough times. We managed to increase our average click through rate by 23% on an account by being empathetic to the public mood in our ad copy. As restrictions are relaxed and behaviours and moods change again, be sure to revise your ad copy, display ads and videos appropriately so they remain relevant, and don’t go stale.

Review competitor activity to reduce wasted spend

As more paid search advertisers start ramping up spend again, be sure to keep a close eye on auction insight reports and competitor activity. Over the past few months, media buying rates have decreased significantly across most platforms as competition has reduced, but this will change rapidly, alongside the change in behaviour as things return to normal.  To combat this, increase your bids and budgets to make sure you’re capturing the market share, but be careful not to pre-empt this and end up over-paying for traffic and damaging your CPA.

Keyword research

The things people are searching for, and the keywords people are using are also changing rapidly. Conduct regular search term analysis to identify any emerging keywords or changes to search behaviour. Make sure you have broader measures in place in your ad accounts to capture and capitalise on these opportunities.

Use your owned data

Utilise your audience lists of website visitors and past customers to communicate any changes to them; for example, letting them know that you’re now open for business. Make sure your website and landing pages also reflect any changes in service to ensure that all communication is clear, and that customers are informed.

We managed to increase our average click through rate by 23% on an account by being empathetic to the public mood in our ad copy. As restrictions are relaxed and behaviours and moods change again, be sure to revise your ad copy, display ads and videos appropriately so they remain relevant, and don’t go stale.

Claire Stanley ManockPaid Media Director

Organic Search – JJ Grice

Shifts in brand search

With the clients we work with, one of the biggest changes – and perhaps challenges – we have faced throughout the pandemic has been around the shifts in brand search within certain sectors.

In the DIY/hardware sector for example, Wickes and B&Q both had record months for brand searches. To put that into context, Wickes saw over 6 million brand searches (for the term “wickes”) in April and May (see below). Previously, their brand search was anywhere between 1.5-2 million searches per month, which represents a 3x brand uplift since pre-lockdown. Brand equity makes up at least some part of Google’s ranking algorithm and we have seen clear evidence of this where both brands mentioned saw visibility increases across several product verticals.

Wickes brand searches:

Actions for smaller businesses

It’s probably a relief for many small-medium sized businesses that we will start to see brand increases like this retract as things go back to normal in the coming months, but changes like this have created a bigger need for brands to double down on their SEO efforts.

Most businesses don’t have the luxury of being a household name, and for most, creating a nationally recognised brand isn’t going to happen overnight. However, businesses like this can absolutely get the ‘basics’ right. They can:

  • Create good content
  • Optimise content
  • Implement technical changes
  • Launch new products/services
  • Sign off campaigns; in most cases, faster than the ‘bigger’ companies can

Success with SEO can often be attributed to getting the basics right, and more often than not, the businesses that ‘win’ have search performance embedded into their technical, content and creative workflows. This absolutely needs to be the case for those brands looking to come out of the pandemic on the front foot with their digital marketing activity.

Market overview

There is a widely shared view that the pandemic has fast-tracked the shift to online for many businesses. This will create a more competitive, diverse organic landscape that businesses need to be fully aware of. This also further highlights the need to double down on SEO efforts to get ahead of new brands that may soon enter the space.

Since the middle of May, we have seen signs of a bounce back in consumer spending/interest in sectors that were previously hit hard by the pandemic. The brands that come out of the blocks the quickest will be those that have a clear understanding of their organic space and those that are already planning their next move.

JJ GriceOrganic Performance Director

Technical and Analytics – Alan Ng

Make working from home work for you

Understandably, digital-first businesses have struggled less within this turbulent period, and what this huge work from home experiment has shown is that businesses can still function and grow even when separated – if they have the right pieces of the jigsaw in place.

Twitter was the first major tech company to allow working from home indefinitely and I can only see this expanding to other areas and sectors, so here are some things to consider to make the WFH experience less isolating and less frustrating:

  • Internet connection – if you’re planning to work from home for the long term, you’ll need to ensure your internet connection is up to it. If you’re uploading files regularly or working with large documents, you’ll need to ensure you have not only fast download speeds but good upload speeds too.
  • Somewhere to work – according to a recent poll, for every one minute of distraction, you lose 25 minutes. Ensuring you have a set up a decent place to work will boost productivity:
  • Monitors – multiple monitors have been proven to improve productivity. Some people like them, and some people don’t. Most agency side folk will rock dual monitor setups and we’ve allowed people to take home second screens.
  • Connectivity platform – by now if you’ve been working from home, your business will most likely have settled on a connectivity platform of choice. We’ve set up from the get-go to be cloud-based, using Office365. The biggest change has been the progression of comms away from emails and towards Teams for more interactive communications via chat and voice calls; along with the integration of Sharepoint, which allows us to work and share files seamlessly.
  • Workflow platform – getting a handle of task flow is far more important now that everyone’s remote. We use the Monday.com platform to manage our task and project workflow.

Data analytics

Measurement and monitoring

YoY metrics for weekly or monthly traffic and revenue just won’t work well if your site traffic has seen large swings during this period. If you’re trying to gauge channel value to prioritise activity, it’s probably better to switch to per user metrics to help guide you – this includes metrics such as revenue per user, transactions per user and per session value.

While the above are more suited to e-commerce sites, if you have a lead gen site, setting goal values will also allow you to use these equivalent metrics for goals. To be able to surface these metrics in Google Analytics, you’ll need to set up a custom report, like the below:

Implementation – remove unnecessary baggage

If you’ve used Google Tag Manager or an equivalent tag management system to implement your site tracking, chances are there will be a lot of old or redundant tags that could be slowing down your site. This is the ideal opportunity to audit and remove any unnecessary baggage from your data analytics reporting.

Strategy

Understanding the landscape and competitor activity will be paramount to helping to answer questions such as when you should increase activity. Keeping track of your competitors’ organic and paid search market share will show who is being active and where – the below is an example of our custom competitor analysis report. If you’d like to see what competitors are up to in your niche, then reach out for your custom report today.

 

YoY metrics for weekly or monthly traffic and revenue just won’t work well if your site traffic has seen large swings during this period. If you’re trying to gauge channel value to prioritise activity, it’s probably better to switch to per user metrics to help guide you – this includes metrics such as revenue per user, transactions per user and per session value.

Alan NgTechnical & Insights Director

Content Marketing – David White

Many brands and agencies view larger creative campaigns as the sole focus of their content marketing strategy, however what COVID has highlighted is that by focussing on this as a sole strategy, you are placing all your eggs in one basket, meaning if the news agenda changes (as it did with COVID) you may be left with a campaign that is set to fail.

What brands and agencies need to do now is to have an ‘always on’ approach. This means running creatives whilst simultaneously being reactive and looking on-site and across the business for proactive opportunities. We’ve supported previous clients by amplifying current business activity such as TV commercials, managerial changes, new offices, and charity work to ensure that the business adopts a digital first approach to BAU activity. I’ve talked about this previously in a post on our strategic creativity methodology, which encompasses our framework for this approach.

We applied this approach when working with our client thortful, taking product-led content and using that to outreach with, or even creating content around a specific newsworthy upcoming event. From Yorkshire Day cards, to LGBTQ+ cards created to generate headlines and link building opportunities – find out more about this three tiered approach over on our case studies section.

Ultimately, when adopting an approach that is not just focussed on one large creative campaign, you’re empowering your business or clients to not only deliver better results, but it gives you flexibility and less reliance on the news agenda.

What brands and agencies need to do now is to have an ‘always on’ approach. This means running creatives whilst simultaneously being reactive and looking on-site and across the business for proactive opportunities.

David WhiteContent Marketing Director

What lies ahead – Tim Grice

It’s early days, but we are starting to see signs of change and recovery in our clients’ consumer activity, as outlined by JJ above. From what we’ve seen so far, there are three overarching post-COVID trends for businesses that I wanted to highlight:

Digital is now a priority

It’s hard to believe anyone has got to 2020 without making it a priority; however, many businesses were still stuck in the past and digital initiatives were painfully slow. These seem to have all been pushed to the front of the queue, with digital specialists in the business now getting a seat at the table.

Flexibility

This unusual landscape has led to strange consumer patterns, some channels are suddenly working while others have dialled down. The need for agencies to be flexible and multi-disciplined has never been more important, being able to switch effort across different areas is now an expectation of all digital partners.

Additional support

Due to the financial hardships caused by COVID, we are seeing a reduction in headcount across businesses and streamlining of service areas. This inevitably leaves gaps in skills and resource; and businesses are turning to agencies for support to fill these gaps.

Next steps

Hopefully the above insights have given some perspective on how to adapt as a marketer as we head back out into the post-coronavirus world. If however, there is a specific topic, sector or market challenge you would like further information on then please don’t hesitate to let us know, by reaching out to us directly.