Bernard May is the CEO of National Positions, a 5-time Inc. 500 company, award-winning marketing agency and Google Premier Partner.
To say that the COVID-19 crisis has altered the marketing landscape is to understate the matter enormously. Many business owners today feel like survivors of a sinking ship who were forced to take refuge in a lifeboat — their only real goal is to make it to safety any way they can.
In circumstances like these, all that marketing talk about “performance metrics” can seem like a luxury that can and should be ignored for the time being. This is the wrong way to look at the matter, though. Your performance metrics remain important. As a matter of fact, they may be more important now than ever before.
Consumer habits have changed rapidly in the “new normal” world of social distancing and shelter-in-place living. Analyzing your brand’s performance metrics gives you the opportunity to leverage this information during and even after the pandemic. What follows are a few vital performance metrics that you should examine.
Website Traffic Sources (Desktop Vs. Mobile)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was undeniably true that marketing trends were leaning toward mobile search. Consumers looking for goods or services were spending less time in front of their laptops and more on their mobile phones. As these handheld devices became increasingly prevalent, and businesses learned the art of making their websites mobile-friendly, old-fashioned desktop searches started lagging behind.
However, laptop and desktop search seems to have made something of a comeback in recent months. The use of laptop and desktop computers has boomed among all age groups during the COVID-19 lockdown. For example, 42% of millennials report using their laptops more.
It’s not difficult to see why this is happening. Mobile shopping is chiefly an “on the go” phenomenon — we use our smartphones and related devices to look for goods and services when we’re eating lunch, waiting for the train, sitting in traffic, and so on. Now that we’re spending most of the day indoors, we can simply turn to our laptops instead.
As a marketer, you owe it to yourself to analyze your website traffic, and compare it to your historical data, to see whether your customers’ recent search preferences reflect the trend toward laptop/desktop use. If it does, you may wish to realign your ad spend or bidding strategies accordingly.
Shrinking Conversion Timelines
We’re not just seeing a change in the kinds of devices consumers are using to find products online — there’s also evidence of a shift toward greater urgency in the shopping process.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt supply chains, people are grabbing what they can while they can. Items that sell out aren’t getting restocked as readily as they did just a few months ago. That means consumers are less likely to leave stuff in their online shopping carts for future purchases and less inclined to browse around your website in search of random bargains. They want to buy, and they want to do it now.
Another factor driving this urgency is the sharp decline in comparison shopping. It’s widely known that many consumers like to compare and contrast online prices before traveling to a physical retail location to pick up the items they need. All that has gone out the window since the COVID-19 lockdowns began, as many brick-and-mortar stores are closed or, at best, have limited openings. Consequently, a higher proportion of online shoppers these days aren’t playing the price comparison game. Many consumers are buying online and nowhere else.
So what does this mean as far as digital marketers are concerned? You need to make it as easy as possible for all those anxious shoppers to buy from you. You can do that by trimming the fat from your online ordering process. Here are a handful of suggestions for streamlining things for your customers:
• Enable guest checkout. Forcing customers to create a brand-new online account just for your site will cost you conversions.
• Provide multiple payment options. Not everyone is comfortable giving you their Visa or Mastercard info. Offering a PayPal option, which does not allow the business to access the customer’s private financial data, is one way to get around their reluctance.
• Add a ‘buy again’ button. If you sell perishables that customers tend to buy on a regular basis, make it easy for them to purchase the exact same items again with the press of a button.
• Leverage chat communications. As more online shoppers know exactly what they are looking for, consider improving chat capabilities to answer questions quickly, reduce conversion friction and lessen reliance on website forms.
Little website additions like these can go a long way toward helping customers more rapidly, reducing buyer friction and even building a better, longer-lasting relationship with customers.
Taking Advantage Of ‘Me Time’
Social pressure is an underappreciated driver of consumer behavior.
We tend to buy things that help us fulfill the various roles and functions that society demands of us. These may include fashionable clothes for a nice evening at dinner, gym memberships to improve health and dare we say “physical aesthetics,” or even that latest smartphone release — as highlighted by a 20% purchase dip in Q1 of 2020. COVID-19 has shifted perspective on this more social aspect of online shopping as well.
Because most people aren’t spending as much time on “physically” social activities, purchases related to social obligations have taken a bit of a hit. To a large extent, consumers are buying for themselves, not their public selves.
Consider these dramatic changes in online keyword search trends, which were pulled from a Google Trends report:
• “bread machines” = increase of over 650%
• “weight training” = increase of 300%
• “computer monitors” = increase of over 170%
• “cameras” = decrease of over 60%
• “women’s suits & dresses” = decrease of over 50%
• “cell phones” = decrease of almost 40%
Understanding why your customers’ purchase habits have shifted, how they’re searching, as well as how their needs have changed, will help you successfully traverse the unique marketplace conditions that have arisen since the arrival of COVID-19.
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Author: Bernard May, Forbes Councils Member