Has the social distancing economy created a new consumer?

The Drum 10 Jul 2020 08:00
How do we start to translate some of the positives of the physical into that online experience?

With local delis shuttered, supermarket shelves bare, and Amazon’s stock depleted, many consumers found that a search for a bag of flour in March seemed hopeless. Were it not for venturing into uncharted territory – page two of a Google search – those consumers would never have stumbled across several pure play retailers with abundant stock, willing and able to help ameliorate the sometimes surprise shortages caused by the Covid-19 crisis. From looking for gym equipment to paintbrushes and even seedling tomatoes – consumers have been pursuing wholesome pastimes they previously never had time for.

According to a Criteo survey, most of us took up a pastime, and did so through a new brand with which we had never previously interacted. But as normality – or some semblance of it – returns, what does it mean for marketers? Will these new consumers stick around? Or were they an aberration born of necessity? This was the topic discussed during a panel titled ‘Has the social distancing economy created a new consumer?’ as part of the The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, in partnership with Criteo.

The panelists agreed that this new consumer is, at least in the short term, not going anywhere. In a world of quarantined products and socially-distanced shuffling, the high street browsing experience will never be the same.

Innovation, innovation, innovation

Rebuilding the customer journey to be digital-first has been a challenge for physical retailers whose primary revenue stream is, in ordinary times, the high street. Pandora, the trinket-bracelet maker, has in previous years sold only 10% of its stock online. A challenge, but Jennifer Glass, director of digital in North America, has relished this recalibration.

Now that stores are opening, what next?

Pandora’s Glass has seen this play out first-hand as its stores have begun to reopen. “The conversion rate in-store has skyrocketed because the person that's walking into the store is so educated – they've done their research. There's such a high intent to purchase that the online experience becomes that much more important to be able to set up the right conversation for the in-store associates.”

A brand’s utilisation of its customer data platform has, of course, played a significant role in determining how it fared throughout Covid-19 – something Criteo’s Ó Fathaigh has seen the very best - and worst - of over the last few months.

Incrementality has been at the heart of every conversation Criteo has had in recent months. Identifying the interaction that moves a user from passive to active has grown more important than ever: to understand the ROI that you are getting and correctly accounting for the source of that growth, and to enable optimisation across different paid channels so that you can decide where your next dollar of marketing budget should be spent.

So, will these new consumers stick around? Or were they an aberration born of necessity? Both answers are dependent on a brand’s ability to react. If you’ve gained new customers due to the pandemic, there is no reason you shouldn’t hold onto them, if your digital marketers are savvy.

Watch the full Can Do session here.

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