Senior Director, Planning, M&C Saatchi Performance
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Keeping hold of your COVID-19 customers

27th Jan 2021
Senior Director, Planning, M&C Saatchi Performance
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2020 was hugely disruptive for brands. Amidst this disruption some brands have found themselves in high demand with an uptick in customers. Due to agile infrastructures they have been perfectly placed to shift into new categories or respond to changes in consumer behaviour and purchasing power, resulting in a wave of new customers and a fresh set of challenges.

Lockdown life means brands able to cater to an increased need for home-based entertainment are doing particularly well, with Disney+ achieving its five-year subscriber goals in just eight months. Those providing the technology to facilitate remote working are also booming, with Zoom expanding its user base by 2,000%. Supermarkets set up to deliver lockdown necessities, or retailers able to pivot into health and hygiene products such as face coverings or hand sanitiser are also thriving. Many of these brands are reaching entirely new audiences they would never have previously considered.    

As the new normal continues to evolve on a daily basis, these brands face their next challenge to retain the interest of their new customers, as well as to continue to diversify and expand their audiences. Now is the time to revise audience strategies, adapting marketing channels and messaging to reach receptive consumers in a way that works today, not one that worked last year or even six months ago. 

Real-time insight is key to audience strategy

The key to an effective audience strategy is being constantly on top of real-time data and using it to make data-led decisions. The more data points available, relating to consumer behaviour both inside and outside of the brand’s product, the better the marketing team can understand its audiences. Entirely new consumer personas are emerging as a result of continually changing behaviours and user journeys, and these need to be fully researched and communicated to the front lines of media campaigns to have a positive impact on targeting. A unique strategy needs to be built for each audience or persona; one size does not fit all.

At a time when tightening privacy regulations and restrictions on cookie tracking complicate the use of consumer data, a brand’s mobile app must play a central role in audience strategy. By directing both new and existing customers to their app, brands can gain an understanding of their rapidly changing needs, which products they engage with and how best to interact to move them through the sales funnel. Insight drawn from a brand’s mobile app can help to identify key audiences, understand their purchasing power and reach them with specific relevant messaging, which is continually refined based on engagement.

Adapting strategy to market demands

When brands have access to the insight that allows them to understand their audiences’ immediate needs, they can refine marketing efforts to successfully meet those needs, focussing particularly on lifetime value (LTV), remarketing, personalisation and solid customer relationship management (CRM) strategies. Reaching audiences while their behaviours are still unpredictable makes digital by far the most effective route to take. While channels such as out-of-home (OOH) grind to a halt, digital is thriving. With increased inventory availability and lower costs, now is the ideal time to experiment with emerging digital channels such as connected TV and digital audio which are increasingly accessible to buy programmatically.  

Brands can use audience insight to ensure ads are reaching consumers where they now spend their time. For instance, audiences who were gaming on smartphones while out and about are now likely to be gaming at home more frequently and able to spend their time on consoles or other big-screen devices, so brands could explore reaching them there as well as on mobile. Likewise, consumers that listened to music streaming services during the commute may no longer be plugged in during those times, but they may now be listening while cooking or exercising. They may also have expanded their listening into other types of content such as podcasts which have increased in popularity during lockdown. Brands can expand their audiences by targeting additional prospects who are also engaging in those activities or listening to similar content. New audiences won’t necessarily be reached and engaged in the same way as previous customers, and some brands will be building from the ground up, so it’s vital to continually re-evaluate strategies, channels and messaging to see what resonates best with consumers in their current context to drive engagement. 

The initial impact of COVID-19 and the first lockdown is stabilising, but as the country heads into lockdown 2.0, the situation is still changeable and the road ahead unclear. Using data insights to continually revise strategies will enable marketers to diversify and expand audiences, and to keep hold of those new customers gained during COVID-19, protecting brands and keeping them profitable in these uncertain times.

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