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“Back to Normal” Is the New Normal

Jeff Cohn Aug 25 2021 10 AM | 5 min read

You’ve heard it all before: COVID-19 changed shopping behaviors overnight. When initial lockdowns led to office and store closures and forced people to stay home, retail consumers resorted to making purchases online—especially within household categories such as athleisure, home improvement, and meal kit services.

And while mask policies, social distancing protocols, and vaccination rates will continue to contribute to the zeitgeist of the 2020s, we are all wondering when we might officially return to “back to normal”, if at all.

What Does Normal Look Like?

In the U.S. there is a heightened sense of optimism. According to Zenreach the traffic flowing into U.S. stores, restaurants, and entertainment centers has risen by 55% since the start of 2021. Big-box and department store companies such as Macy's, Target, and Kohl's have all seen a recent uptick in clothing sales for categories including dresses and activewear. Specialty retail brands like American Eagle, Anthropologie, and Everlane are also seeing increased demand for updated and fresh wardrobes across workwear, dresses, cosmetics, and even tuxedos. 

While store visitation may be less habitual now in Europe, purchase intent and consumer confidence are positive. Retail Economics found that “shoppers expect to cut back on the frequency of visits to physical stores most in Italy, Spain, France and the U.K. Likewise, consumers across all countries surveyed showed further intent to increase the frequency of online shopping and the average transaction value of their purchases, particularly for online non-food products.”

This theme of maturing omnichannel retail is also playing out in Asia. Inside Retail’s outlook on the Asian market reflects that “in China, online to offline (O2O) was the fastest growing channel in 2020, particularly for affluent consumers in tier-one cities, combining fast delivery, security through contactless interactions and a wide range of in-demand goods — mainly fresh food and personal care items.”

While consumer expectations turn up the spotlight brightness on store safety, product sustainability, flexible shopping options, distancing, and hygiene, retail sales are holding strong. Just because the preferred ways of shopping have shifted to a more hybrid, omnichannel model does not mean we are no longer back to normal. It just means that we have accelerated.

The Impact on Advertising

While this may be the new normal for now, we don’t know what the lasting impact will be on consumer behavior. Those who don’t make the appropriate adjustments based on the constantly changing state of affairs might lose out on future market share and revenues. Therefore, there are three key things advertisers need to do in this new normal:

  1. Be able to pivot quickly when necessary

    Some retailers have seen the pandemic as a catalyst for change to sales, promotions, inventory, and partner strategies. This same mindset should also be adopted for ad campaigns—what percentage of your messaging should be based around deals; which channels have performed best since this new digital acceleration; and which campaign tactics and audiences are going to help drive the healthiest omnichannel ROAS in the future?
  2. Monitor performance on a more frequent basis

    It is crucial to focus on real-time campaign performance even more so than whatever your standard routine may be. This means conducting more pacing checks, having more eyes on cost-per metrics such as CPM, CPC, and CPA, and shifting budget between campaigns and platforms in real time to capitalize on these trends.
  3. Showcase your business’ flexibility

    Consumers have changed their buying habits. Some have started resorting to e-commerce while others have adopted options such as buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup. The more your ads can communicate with these shoppers in ways that feel relevant to their needs, the better your relationship with them will be in terms of acquiring and retaining their loyalty.

Embrace the New Normal with Smartly.io

Smartly.io is the go-to partner combining market-leading tech with expert strategy and services empowering advertisers to adapt their strategies to this new normal. We believe retail businesses in particular need to be equipped with the tools to speak to the developments across the landscape since retailers rely on both stores and e-commerce for sales, which we’ve seen as becoming nearly indivisible as of late.

These advertisers need ways to be able to speak to today’s shoppers in ways that will resonate with them. Through Smartly.io’s creative Image and Video Templates, the ability to hyper-localize social ad campaigns, and automation, retailers and retail brands can ensure they are following these continually evolving best practices.

With Smartly.io, you can:

  • Highlight in-store safety measures and sustainable practices wherever applicable
  • Call out flexible shopping options in ads—such as BOPIS, curbside pickup, free delivery, and buy now, pay later—to encourage checkout in all its forms
  • Tailor messaging to speak to local and relevant deals in order to surface the right message at the right time
  • Use one central hub for all workflows to better collaborate with coworkers in the remote world
  • Create fully customizable and automated reporting views to better analyze where revenue is strongest across platforms, campaigns, audiences, and creatives
  • Optimize towards your source of truth—such as Google or Adobe Analytics metrics— to conquer the ever-changing data revolution

It is important to understand the changes that will come with getting “back to normal”. All things considered, nothing in our world is for certain anymore...except for the fact that tuxedos will always be in style! So contact us to learn more about how our clients have adapted and let us know how we can help you, too.

   Coronavirus Social Marketer's Resource CHECK IT NOW <https://www.smartly.io/covid-19-insights-hub-social-advertising>
Author
Jeff Cohn
Jeff Cohn is a global product marketing manager at Smartly.io. His thought leadership and expertise within digital advertising and the retail industry stands out in the articles he writes. Prior to joining Smartly.io he managed social media advertising campaigns for some of the largest clients in the world including AT&T, Target, and Macy's. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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