How D2C and eCommerce brands can pivot in a post-pandemic world

The pandemic presented D2C and eCommerce brands with a unique opportunity: grow their businesses by reaching stuck-at-home audiences directly with online content and products.

Now that we’re entering a post-pandemic world, however, advertisers are left wondering if the eCommerce boom will wear out and campaign prices will rise again. And although Google has delayed the deprecation of third-party cookies to 2023, businesses still need to rethink their approaches to collecting data and targeting.

To help brands navigate these changes, Mark Friedman, president and founder of Details Interactive, shared his insights about the evolving state of D2C and eCommerce marketing.

How has the pandemic affected D2C and eCommerce?

Each brand faced its own unique set of challenges during the pandemic. Those retailers that already had digital-first approaches built into their funnel, like online shopping options, were better positioned to succeed.

“If you had buy-online-pickup-in-store, you were able to morph that technology pretty easily and make it buy-online-pick-up-in-the-parking-lot,” said Friedman. “For those businesses that didn’t have that capability, it made it very difficult.”

Businesses also became more focused on what Friedman calls “the ‘A’ word:” attribution.

“As people were looking for more ways to drive revenue, it just added more complexity,” he said. “How is that dollar driving revenue? How are you going to attribute the sale? How are you going to change your media mix based upon what you thought really was driving the business?”

While many D2C brands acquired new customers with digital-first approaches in 2020, they’re now under pressure to retain those audiences and ensure they don’t lose more shoppers to big retailers.

Do you think advertising costs will increase in 2021?

Now that large travel brands are jumping back into the online ad space, the industry expects CPMs and CPAs to grow, which could force some D2C advertisers back out.

“I think we’re seeing some of that, depending upon the channel that you’re playing with,” Friedman said. “Just this morning, I heard consumer spending in many cases is running 20% ahead of 2019. And as a retailer, you wonder, are you going to get any of that back in 2021 and 2022 because there’s this pent-up demand?”

Advice on building advertising strategies in a world without third-party cookies

With third-party cookies slated to depart Chrome by 2023, brands are looking for new ways to collect data and build direct relationships with their customers. Friedman suggests gathering first-party data through email surveys and loyalty programs, for example – as long as you’re clear about your value exchange.

“You have to have a promise, and you have to deliver,” Friedman said. “I’m going to give you something of value in exchange for the information that I’m asking you for, and that should all tie into how I make a better shopping experience for my customer.”

Once collected, the data can’t just sit there either. Brands must have the tools and strategies to activate it and deliver more personalized messaging.

“You wind up with businesses that are still treating many of their customers very similarly, even though the top 10% of customers are driving a third of the revenue,” Friedman said. “There’s more that we should be doing to call out those people that are really important to the health of the business and, frankly, spending more time finding those people who have a high probability of becoming one of those best customers.”

Let’s start with what’s overrated: spreading your business too thin across too many marketing channels.

“Everybody feels like they have to have a multiple-platform strategy. What’s my TikTok strategy? What’s my Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram strategy?” Friedman said. “Unless you’re a huge retailer, I’m not sure if you’ve got the bandwidth to really create the content, do the targeting, and be compelling for your consumers.”

Now for what’s underrated: building your own loyalty program that provides true value.

“The ones that I think are really imaginative give you something that you can’t possibly buy,” Friedman said.

Most importantly, brands need to hone in on a few core strategies that make the most sense for their customers and their bottom line.

“I think most businesses are trying to do way too much with the resources that they’re devoting to marketing,” Friedman said. “[They’re] not prioritizing. You need to be focused on those things that really matter.”

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