Real Time Banter: How marketers are adapting to consumer and ad market trends

In this Real Time Banter webinar, LiveIntent SVP of global marketing, Kerel Cooper, and VP of marketing, Nick Dujnic, speak with Valeria Chisca, VP of acquisition and paid retention at Rue Gilt Groupe, about adapting to consumer and market ad trends.

Key insights from Valeria Chisca

Rue Gilt Groupe helps shoppers access retail products from thousands of world-class brands through its two e-commerce platforms, RueLaLa and Gilt Brands.

Like many retailers, Rue Gilt Groupe saw a significant change in customer behavior due to COVID-19. As Chisca noted, about one-third of Americans suffered a decline in their savings and spending, and 70% saw a change in their usual routines. Many also expect these new behaviors to sustain for 4–6 months.

“From our data and broader industry trends, we’ve seen customers prioritize must-have-now items or services, whether it’s groceries, home supplies, or children products – the essentials,” Chisca said. “The story, of course, is very different for discretionary categories.”

For most categories, Rue Gilt Groupe has seen declines in spend, and the intent to spend remains about 20–40% lower than pre-COVID.

“We sell a lot of luxury products with higher value, and, of course, those bigger ticket purchases are delayed given the financial situation,” Chisca said. “Although there’s been some rebound based on credit card and sales data, it’s not yet at the pre-COVID level.”

To adapt, Rue Gilt Groupe has pinpointed new consumer trends that are likely here to stay. The first is the shift to online shopping.

“We’ve seen a significant shift online with 15–30% growth across most categories,” Chisca said. “I think consumers are getting used to waiting a couple of days for the convenience of online shopping. As a net-new segment of consumers are trying online for the first time, we definitely expect that to stick even beyond [the pandemic].”

Another trend is consumers’ willingness to try new brands and services as they shop from home and find replacements for sold-out or inaccessible products. According to Chisca, almost 80% of consumers said they’ve either tried a new brand, place to shop, or payment method.

“[There’s been] an accelerated and forced education, and onboarding for some exciting online tools,” Chisca said. “If you manage those experiences appropriately, they could be sustainable.”

Chisca also anticipated that new customers acquired during this time would deliver lower value. But that hasn’t been the case.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see both strong engagement and repeat purchase rates now from the customers that we’re acquiring,” she said. “But I think there is a fine balance in understanding: Is there a significant change in the consumer behavior? Does that impact their lifetime value? Does that change how much you’re willing to invest? And then being able to fine-tune that appropriately.”

That’s why Chisca stresses the importance of relying on automation and performance-based optimizations to drive marketing strategies.

“We’ve just seen categories come in and out in terms of what consumers are in the market for,” she said. “So using dynamic ads or automation to be able to react faster to those changes has been important for us, for both acquisition and retargeting.”

Chisca also advises other marketers to find that balance between “managing the now and planning for the future.”

“Managing the now requires nimbleness and adaption to take advantage of changing trends as much as possible,” she said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to be thinking short-term. You want to plan for the future and still invest in some longer-term innovation that’s in line with these significant shifts that we’re seeing now. Because one without the other will not be sustainable.”

Best practices for adapting to market changes

  • Focus on your at-home categories. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in the home, beauty, and casual athleisures – the comfort at home categories. And they’re growing strong.”
  • Harness unexpected opportunities in the market. “With the significant pullback in advertising budgets, it created very advantageous cost opportunities based on supply-demand dynamics. So it was actually a lot more cost-efficient to advertise on Facebook, TV, and email. That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes wide open and understand what’s happening in the market and with your consumers.”
  • Boost performance marketing efforts. “I think, increasingly, there’s been more focus on performance marketing, whether it was a move away from awareness more towards revenue-driving channels or a move away from flat fees or minimums to more performance-based costing.”
  • Work closely with ad partners. “Rely on partners and their knowledge. The benefit of working with some of the best partners in the ad tech space is it gives you this insight into hundreds of companies and millions of consumers. When everyone is trying to figure out what’s happening, [it’s important to get] that external perspective and discuss as much as you can to align on what is the best strategy for next week or next month.”
  • Negotiate! “Don’t be afraid to ask for concessions or be very creative in how you negotiate. We’ve had barter partnerships where we didn’t have to pay for anything, but there was a great exchange of value between us and a partner. There was openness from the partner side to accommodate given this reality. So definitely look at everything with a fresh perspective.”

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