Marketers accelerate on Content, Commerce and CRM in the midst of the COVID crisis

Marketers Accelerate on Content Commerce and CRM in the Midst of the COVID Crisis

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Dentsu Aegis Network's survey of 1,000 CMOs found that 79% believed they must transform, not just optimise, their businesses through digital technologies. A new report by Dentsu Aegis Network, The Reality of Recovery: A Post COVID-19 World, based on the responses of 700+ clients across 36 markets, shows that if we are to derive one truth from the current events, it is that the pandemic accelerates brands’ transformation, especially regarding their digital capabilities.  


1.  Content is king in times of crisis, and investment in content is likely to stick 


When the crisis amplified and lockdown measures spread, many brands made theirs the ‘First, do no harm’ adage, by quickly adapting their content to not appear out of touch with the current events. More than half (55%) of respondents have adapted their creatives and content to respond to the consequences of the pandemic. It is by far the measure the most frequently taken by marketers (it ranks #1 across all regions), and 50% declare they will need to invest more in content over the long term.  


What does it mean for brands? 


What actions have you taken to consequences of the pandemic on your customers and your business? 


To generate a consistent consumer response, brands must have a clear understanding of the content created across the organisation, even when it is not under the direct responsibility of the marketing department. The buck doesn’t stop with rolling out an emotional hero TV commercial, and brands should not neglect the other types of content that serve consumers from either an emotional, informational or transactional perspective. A successful content strategy encompasses many facets such as delivering accurate information about logistics (e.g., up-to-date store hours in maps), temporary customer practices (e.g., clear return policies), product information (e.g., stock levels in search ads), etc. Making sure the content is consistent from the first interaction to the product page is fundamental. 


In the midst of the pandemic, brands should consider the following when reviewing their content strategy: 


  • Culture and process: How resilient is the creative process in the new ways of working? While working from home can provide more focus to creative teams, how does the organisation compensate for the missing energy of the office? 

  • Content optimisation: How is the existing content optimised for performance? Is the information easily accessible when people go to search engines or land on the brand’s website? SEOUX and CRO should not be afterthoughts.  

  • Technology: Is the business equipped to update content fast while minimising the risk of mistakes? Solutions like Product Information Management platforms can help brands centralise information so that each environment can be updated at once. 

2.  The pandemic acts as an e-commerce catalyst 


It is clear the current crisis will accelerate the adoption of e-commerce, both in terms of consumer usage and in terms of investment from brands. A third of respondents (33%) have already expanded their e-commerce presence amid the crisis. The push for e-commerce has been particularly strong for offline-driven businesses (37% vs. 17% for online-driven businesses) and for industries relying heavily on retailers (49% of FMCG and 53% of F&B respondents expanded their e-commerce presence) in an attempt to partially offset their lost offline sales. As many people still don’t feel comfortable leaving home (e.g., 48% in the US according to the Dentsu Crisis Navigator) and are still relying on online channels for their daily purchases (e.g., +74% online demand YOY for fashion collections in the NL according to iProspect), this e-commerce arms race shows no signs of slowing down in the immediate future. It should also continue beyond the pandemic, with six respondents out of ten (59%) declaring they need to invest in their e-commerce capabilities on the long term.  


In which capabilities do you think you will need to invest long-term in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic? 


What does it mean for brands? 

Growing online sales to be both profitable on the short term and viable on the long term is no easy feat. What worked for traditional retail isn’t guaranteed to work online, and the volume of parameters to consider, from logistics and technical infrastructure to advertising and customer support, can be overwhelming for brands, especially for the ones playing catch up. How can we make the most of marketplaces in a limited time? How can we quickly optimise our existing tech stack to optimise sales? How can feed management provide flexibility to adapt media efforts to real-time inventory? All these questions are all the more difficult when the company doesn’t have e-commerce specialists among its ranks.  


In 2019, we introduced the Commerce Success Framework (CSF) to help marketers drive their commerce strategy across four key areas: Availability, Findability, Buyability and Repeatability. In these challenging times, the CSF can provide marketers with a useful lens to prioritise the key actions necessary to build or maintain a robust commerce presence.  



3.  The pressure to get closer to customers has increased 


With media budgets under pressure, many marketers have paid particular attention to their existing customers: 32% of respondents increased their CRM activity, and 45% believe they will need to invest in CRM long term. Online-driven businesses, which typically have more direct relationships with their consumers, have been leveraging CRM more than their offline-driven counterparts. We can see clear differences between categories with stronger CRM programmes and the ones that don’t have access to a lot of customer data due to intermediation: while more than 40% of respondents in the Finance & Insurance, Travel & Tourism and Automotive categories have increased their CRM activity, only around 20% in the FMCG and F&B categories have done so. This deficit in direct access to customers is not news for categories depending on retailers, and many have started Direct-To-Consumer initiatives and tried new models (e.g., subscriptions) over the last few years to regain control over customer relationships (and data). By shutting down many points of sale, the COVID-19 crisis has exposed remaining disparities in CRM maturity. 


What does it mean for brands? 


Upgrading CRM capabilities is not an investment that proves useful only in times of crisis, it is a winning strategy in the long term. New depth of customer data can help the product development team adapt the product portfolio to address emerging consumer needs. It can help marketing and creative teams tap into new insights to build messages more aligned with customer priorities. It can be leveraged to build new services (e.g., customer frequent questions can help build a simple support chatbot in a few hours). First-party data can also power media targeting and help customer acquisition (e.g., modelling of similar audiences), and becomes all the more important as browsers are cracking down on third-party cookies and as legislators around the world are promoting more restrictive policies around data practices. All these applications for CRM enable stronger customer experiences, which are critical in a period where big life changes push consumers to reconsider their routines and purchase habits. 


It is particularly important for brands to have a clear strategy according to the engagement levels of their clients, and to avoid alienating customers and draining their existing customer base. Too many brands fell into the trap of suddenly mass emailing every single person who bought their products once, taking the risk of appearing opportunistic and damaging customer relationship. Additionally, brands need to have the technical infrastructure in place to support their long-term CRM ambition, and should avoid panic buying oversized solutions that are not be adaptable to their future growth needs or are inconsistent with their data strategy. 


Download your copy of the The Reality of Recovery: A Post COVID-19 World report today.