Why the worst thing brands can do right now is stand still – and what they SHOULD be doing to survive COVID-19

As lockdown hit earlier this year, the response from many brands, particularly in retail and travel was, perhaps understandably, to switch all marketing off.

Crimtan’s International Sales Director Jon Weeks explains why this was (and still is) the worst thing they could do, and what brands should be doing instead to thrive during and post-COVID-19.

What impact has COVID-19 had on the retail sector in the UK?

Like all markets, retail has seen a massive drop off during COVID-19. That said, there have been a few success stories. 

Retailers who rely purely on a UK supply chain have seen less impact on supply, whereas brands and retailers that have cross border supply chains have been dramatically impacted. 

Farfetch has positioned itself well, as has YOOX (Net-a-Porter, Mr. Porter) as the future of luxury retailing is seemingly dependent on digital. 

There won’t have been many retailers kicking themselves more so than Irish fashion retailer Primark. With no eCommerce footprint going in to COVID-19 it is no surprise that lockdown has cost Primark £800m.  

How has COVID-19 impacted Crimtan clients’ campaigns, or planning?

I think retail and travel were arguably the two sectors that our clients felt the negative impact of COVID-19 most. 

We have spent the last 24 months repositioning and educating clients on our lifecycle approach to programmatic advertising. That said, as COVID-19 tightened its grip, retail and travel really felt it. 

Planning completely went out the window. Early April saw almost a total standstill, with everyone catching their breath and trying to understand how best to navigate with an end date seemingly unobtainable. 

But as the new norm has settled in, clients are beginning to feel comfortable planning activity, and discussing new ways to hit performance KPIs. 

I think we have seen less focus on attribution and less on the true value of channels. And ultimately CFOs are pressuring marketing teams to simple hit targets that have been slightly reduced, whilst slashing their marketing budgets exponentially. 

Essentially every Dollar, Pound, Euro and the like is being made to work harder than it ever has done previously. 

What’s the biggest challenge currently facing retail and travel brands?

I think the biggest challenge currently facing brands is still an uncertainty about the future. We have started to see regional lockdowns, and looking globally we see markets such as Australia fearful of a second wave, which could result in a second lockdown. 

Having said that, there is some optimism throughout the market. Travel has seen increases in drive and lodging, with people now willing to travel up to 200km from their homes for a staycation. 

However, the sector as a whole is at 36% of where it was last year. Retail saw high supply with diminishing demand. And the effective shut down of all physical retail stores on the high street, combined with rapidly shifting consumer habits paints a bleak picture for traditional high street retailers

There is hope for the high street, however their survival relies on evolution and adaptation. Areas such as collaboration, sustainability, the digital, data-driven high street are key pillars in driving evolution and adaptation until we land on a new dawn for high street retailing.

How have we adapted to the challenge and overcome it to achieve results for our clients?

It sounds simple, but firstly just being available for our clients. It’s easy to only engage and interact with clients when they are spending, but we have seen our relationships, our partnerships and collaborations solidify during lockdown, and this is testament to our client service team. 

We’ve always prided ourselves on being agile, on not being an off the shelf technology, which has allowed us to adapt quicker and smarter to new client needs and requests. 

A big emphasis has been on insights and analytics; on looking even deeper at the numbers. And this has given us and our clients the opportunity to plan for an even better partnership post-COVID-19. 

In what is usually such a fast-paced world, lockdown has given us time to breathe, to get back to basics and listen to one another, plan better and execute smarter. 

What are the biggest mistakes brands are currently making?

I think one of the biggest mistakes brands are currently making is pausing all marketing altogether and standing still. 

These are unprecedented times, and we have seen too many brands turn everything off without any real evaluation of the data. Brands need to understand the constraints and challenges of the current climate, and access appropriate partners to be “on” during this time and maintain agility to move budgets fluidly to other channels. 

AB testing is crucial, but it is a hard bargain to drive when CFOs are demanding immediate performance to help hit quarterly goals. 

What do brands need to do to be successful post COVID-19?

Be ready. I think the most frustrating conversations are the ones that start with, “We are waiting to see…”

If brands stand still, they will get left behind. As McKinseyDigital say in their report Digital strategy in a time of crisis:

“Strange as it may seem, right now, in a moment of crisis, is precisely the time to boldly advance your digital agenda.”

I am excited to see the emergence of new brands, to see a resurgence in local shops, and brands must be proactive in understanding what the world will look as the recovery begins. 

To do this, their partners will play a crucial role in sharing market insights, trends and patterns across the industry to drive performance. 

At Crimtan we are committed more than ever in being able to deliver the only complete lifecycle marketing solution, powered by our unique proprietary technology that combines audience, investment and creative intelligence.

What advice do you have for brands worried about the future?

This will end. A new normal will land, and brands must be ready for this.

Lockdown has given us time to get under the hood of the brands we partner with and work with them to better our offering, knowing that as the recovery begins we will be at the forefront in delivering relevant advertising across the lifecycle.

Love to find out more about how intelligent lifecycle marketing can help you thrive during and post-COVID-19? Get in touch and we’ll be very happy to explain more.