A Look Back and Ahead: Lessons for Brand Marketers

The last week of February 2021 saw yet another retail conference go virtual: eTail. The summit brought together thousands of retail innovators to discuss disruptive strategies and emerging trends. This year, however, is a year like no other. While it’s easy for disruption to feel like an overused buzzword, this is the time that retail marketers need to embrace it.

As we near the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdowns, here are 3 tips to help brand marketers innovate in the months ahead, based on lessons learned from the past year.

Break silos through an integrated marketing approach

The pandemic led to seismic shifts in consumer buying behaviors. In the first few months, agility was key. The brands that fared best were those able to define and analyze newly unfolding “pandemic personas” and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Now, as more people get vaccinated and we hopefully move toward normalcy, economists expect a massive boom in consumer spending. Retailers must prepare now to take advantage by remaining open, displaying agility and building a strong partner ecosystem to take advantage of this explosive growth alongside the likes of Amazon, Walmart and other big-box retailers.

It is imperative to establish an integrated marketing approach that breaks the silos and effectively engages ecommerce shoppers at every point of their purchase journey, in channel agnostic fashion. 

Identify, target, win high-value shoppers across channels, platforms

The pandemic saw a surge of new-to-online shoppers with many making their first online purchase ever within the first few weeks. Today, ecommerce only continues to grow. NetElixir data shows that high-value online shoppers account for more than 60% of online purchases across categories.

This is massive and indicates that, in the coming months, brand marketers that don’t identify, target and win those high-value shoppers across channels and platforms will lose out on substantial revenue.

The ability to gather, collect, and analyze actionable insights on consumer intelligence is critical. Now is also the time to quickly build, or fine tune, targeted, cross-channel engagement plans based on customer insights. As we move rapidly toward a future beyond 3P cookies, agencies and other research partners can help brands educate, identify and implement new identity and targeting strategies that maximize the use of first-party data. 

Understand the impact of emerging technologies

It’s no secret that the pandemic has left many feeling confused, stuck and isolated. While progress is being made toward a brighter future, the past year has left consumers craving a sense of escapism, whether through at-home entertainment, virtual meetups with family and friends or online shopping.

Fun, engaging, and interactive virtual shopping experiences have become crucial at a time when so many shoppers are still stuck at home and don’t feel comfortable returning to everyday activities in the outside world.

AI in retail is on the rise, with advances now evident from product assembly to post-sale customer interactions. Augmented reality is also having its moment. In fact, many brand marketers are now using these emerging technologies to find creative, innovative ways to cleverly enhance consumers’ virtual shopping experiences. Amazon was an early adopter of this concept.

As we approach the one-year mark of what has been a challenging time for all, let us take comfort that it has also been a year of great growth and innovation. Enhancements in integrated and collaborative marketing approaches, better identification of the needs and wants of high-value target customers, and accelerations in emerging technologies have arrived quicker than we could have hoped.

The lessons of this past year have shown brand marketers that anything is possible when we work together to prioritize the customer experience.

Udayan Bose is founder and CEO of NetElixir