Multichannel and content platforms as a way to diversify in difficult times
The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated need for social distance have caused several changes in consumer needs and behavior. The new perspective of customers staying at home has forced many companies to redefine their products, services, and communication channels. All this to find solutions that will allow them to continue selling, but in a way that fits the new reality.
How does coronavirus affect consumer buying behavior?
Research carried out after the outbreak in China has shown that there has been a significant increase in remote services. This trend has also been observed in Poland. This is confirmed by a significant increase in e-commerce – and not only in the food industry. In just one month, our client’s e-commerce pet shop recorded an increase in organic visits from Google by over 60% compared to the month before the pandemic, and in the case of another client running an online drugstore, this increase was almost 100%.
Increasing the number of potential customers is not a sufficient guarantee of success, which is why many companies are currently working on improving customer experience, e.g., by adapting their content platforms to fully respond to all needs within a consumer’s decision-making process. These experiences will be enhanced by graphic and video content, chatbots, augmented reality, or virtual advisors.
The need to stay at home has prompted society to test many new solutions. According to Kantar China Insights, as many as 84% of quarantined consumers tried at least one new service for the first time, the most popular being online medical consultations (34%), online education (33%), remote working tools (29%), and paid entertainment services (26%).
During the social isolation caused by the pandemic, media consumption increased. According to the Global Web Index, over 80% of those surveyed in the USA and the UK confirmed more frequent use of publishers’ websites, social media, or video platforms. This trend was also noted by one of our clients – the owner of a VOD platform, who reported an increase in organic visits from Google by over 80% compared to the month before the pandemic.
Many studies confirm that social distancing may need to be sustained for several months and that many restrictions will still be maintained afterward. Those who have so far carried out stationary purchases or services will be more inclined to do so via the Internet during an epidemiological emergency.
This is a great opportunity for many companies, provided that the sum of all the client’s experiences and emotions over the course of interacting with the brand continues to have at least the same value as before the outbreak of the pandemic.
The decision path – how to engage different channels during the crisis
For many companies in the retail sector, heavily affected by social distance decisions, multichannel, or multi-channel funnels, were already a long-term goal before the outbreak of the pandemic. As we have pointed out before, brands can now take advantage of the new situation to experiment with technology and prepare to introduce such communication to their whole audience. Due to the shifting of a significant part of consumption online, one of the important channels that brands are using at this time is e-commerce.
In theory, until March 2020, some large stores could afford not to engage in e-commerce without financial losses because they relied on point of sale activities. At the same time, for months, many of them had been running projects to implement online shops. The outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic caused brands to either increase their resources and complete this work or continue with nothing but budget cuts. For the latter, the closure of stationary stores for at least a month means an irreversible hole in the budget and a small chance to close the year in the black.
Implementation of an online store in express mode
However, some companies have chosen the third way and have decided to implement their online stores in express mode, mostly on SaaS platforms, where it can take only a dozen or so days to get ready for sale with the product range, supply chain, visual and technical aspects well organized. Thus created, e-commerce is not prepared for mass orders on a large scale but allows for smooth online sales.
The Emarsys study shows the validity of such actions. The chart below indicates how this year the number of purchases and revenue increased in stores focused mainly on e-commerce and in stores that so far have been based on stationary sales.
Increasing traffic and conversions in an online store – how to use other channels
It is known that due to COVID-19, a large part of marketing budgets are frozen. So how can you increase traffic and conversions in your online store at practically zero cost?
First of all, the service must be well designed, taking into account SEO and UX rules. The better position in SERPs of the service, the more natural traffic it gets free of charge, and the more tailored to the user’s needs and simpler it is built, the more valuable the conversions.
Don’t forget about quite affordable tools to generate leads and sales in the service and to increase CLV. This could be, e.g., live chat, marketing automation technology supporting cross-sell and up-sell (e.g., dynamic newsletters, web push, dynamic content, and site recommendations).
The better position in SERPs of the service, the more natural traffic it gets free of charge, and the more customized and simpler it is constructed, the more valuable the conversions.
Placing information about a functioning shop platform in all of your own media (e.g., such as a Facebook profile app, newsletters, a blog, or a separate content platform with engaging content) will additionally promote the online shop at a low cost. Using integration with, e.g., Allegro or widgets allowing you to place a frame with an online store on any page will additionally support the shop’s visibility.
Of course, the question remains: what about the usefulness of such a simple online store after the pandemic? Will it be able to scale the business, or will it be flexible enough to meet the individual expectations of each SaaS client? In the long run, if sales are growing intensely, you usually need to consider professional or dedicated shop platforms, tailored to the needs of a particular industry.
However, some elements of this jigsaw puzzle remain unchanged, and just as content distribution can change over time, so the content strategy itself is extremely important in the context of the long-term development of the e-commerce platform, regardless of the times we live in. It has to be adapted and respond in real-time to users’ needs.
Since, given the current situation, a user interested in purchasing a product cannot see it live or consult an assistant in the shop, the decision must be based solely on the information available on the Internet. This creates an opportunity for brands to share knowledge and advice with their potential customers – and thus build their online visibility. The place for this can be a content platform – the brand’s own space to communicate with the target group, a place where the brand can create its image and subtly present its products and services.
Content strategy is extremely important in the context of long-term development of the e-commerce platform. It must be tailored and respond to users’ needs in real-time
The role of content platforms in the decision-making path
The data show that we read, on average, 11 articles before making a purchase. At the beginning of the decision path, queries do not yet have a purchase intent, which means that the user does not ask directly about the product, but looks for solutions to his/her problem or answers to a topic of interest.
The brand’s content platform should provide answers to users’ queries that arise in the early stages of the decision-making path. In principle, it should show the brand not only as a creator of products that can be bought but also as an expert in a given field. A platform is a place where a brand can build its image, give pro-tips, and answer questions that users ask in search engines. This is about organic queries concerning not only products directly and with purchase intent (those answers can be found by users on the e-commerce websites described above), but also about search queries related to daily activities, needs, and users’ interests.
If the user finds interesting answers on the content platform, provided in a visually interesting way, and at the same time the brand offers its product in a non-intrusive way (also through a direct connection with an E-commerce store), brand awareness should increase. Thanks to building brand awareness at the very beginning of the decision path, the brand can only gain when the customer moves to the next stages.
The key is fully conscious user experience journey guidance. Since as many as 86% of users declare that their shopping path starts with a non-branded query, it is important to be able to offer content support to the user at every stage of their decision-making path.
There is one requirement – an unobtrusive and tailored product presentation. The product should be in the background of the content – visible, but not dominating. The brand must respond to the need with which the user visited the site. If we encourage the user to stay on the platform, for example, through internal linking, or hints of contextual solutions and additionally show off the products, we will successfully build brand awareness. In this way, the user, when making a purchase decision, will have already developed brand awareness and will know the product, thus increasing the likelihood of choosing it.
At Whites Agency we put Content Marketing at the center of our marketing activities. We combine editorial, SEO, Growth, and analytical skills, which allows us to effectively build online brand visibility.