There are a lot of “marketing speak” terms and phrases used to illustrate wins in strategy (sometimes overused, to be honest). “We really moved the needle on our KPIs” or “Our shift to more focused smarketing made a significant impact on ROI.”
With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps no term was more frequently used than pivot. And rightfully so. What else were businesses supposed to do when the world came crashing down?
Danger of Being Caught Flat-Footed
As a teen, I mostly knew pivot in basketball language—an important skill out on the court, especially if you were like me and were much better at assists than actually scoring. Of course, the concept is similar in overall business strategy. You find yourself in a bit of a pickle, but you can’t just stand there and do nothing, flat-footed.
You have to be nimble and find a way out of your predicament.
Recognize, Adapt, Implement
A few strategies we've witnessed among online retailers is to focus on the fact that a lot of people were (and still are) at home.
For example, brands have invested more in paid search to get eyes on their products/services. Some retailers immediately shifted their digital advertising to reflect an at-home experience, rather than continuing with a “business as usual” perspective.
One area of retail to which WSMG was privy was the home renovation industry, which experienced a boom during this time. This presented a number of opportunities for content development and outreach. Highlighting designers and new design ideas, encouraging folks to order samples, maybe a spotlight on a new product (or a new way to use that product)... these are all ways to foster customer engagement, while simultaneously stimulating creativity--and future sales as a result.
A Tale of Two Retailers
When it was clear the pandemic was no false alarm, companies that were able to quickly recognize, adapt, and implement new strategies not only came out ahead from a survival standpoint—but they were also more likely to bring their customers with them. It’s not just about keeping the doors open. You have to have people coming through those doors (virtual or otherwise).
This really hit home after watching a session from a recent virtual leadership summit, where one of the panel members referenced the dichotomy between two clothing retailers. The first seemed to go on with business as usual, unaware of its tone-deaf approach of continuing to deploy digital advertising featuring “work wear.” As if everyone was still going into an office and needed a smart blazer or a snazzy button-down.
The second brand immediately supplemented its website with content that included tips on working from home, styling your home office, mindfulness and meditation, and most importantly, happy hour at home. Imagine seeing the first company’s Instagram story compared to the second. What would your reaction be?
Think Like Your Savvy Buyer
From a marketer’s perspective, it’s our job to pick up on those kinds of strategies that either keep the status quo (often to one’s detriment) or make a necessary shift. But, it’s also important to remember who is on the receiving end of those strategies: the customers. Buyers are savvy, and they’re having to become even savvier due to the pandemic’s effects. Dollars have to stretch further, and non-essential items must be chosen carefully.
“Buyers are savvy, and they’re having to become even savvier due to the pandemic.”
In reality, it’s not really about the products a company sells—it’s about how they chose to engage with consumers.
Even brands that play in the “essentials” game need to keep this in mind. If you’re not keeping customers—and the customer experience—as a core part of your marketing strategy, those consumers may not stick with you… even when the next pandemic-like scenario rolls around.