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Our Ecommerce Observations During the COVID-19 Situation

Riikka Söderlund Apr 1, 2020 4:40:53 AM

COVID-19 has affected the Ecom social advertising landscape in multiple ways. Variables such as the state of the epidemic and length of the lockdown by region, Ecom regional market maturity, and vertical demand, even down to specific product group level, mean social advertising strategies vary from brand to brand and even within one company, by market.

Even so, we are seeing some positive developments in Ecom as the industry as a whole adjusts to new demands and rebounds from the chaos we saw in March. We’ve been following the trends across the regions and verticals, and here’s what we’ve observed:

First and Foremost: Food Is Going Online

Many brands chose to pause advertising halfway through the month, although the causes for these pauses differed. Ecom ad spend as a whole is now back in recovery, driven by a strongly performing Asia and increased spend in the US and Europe. With CPM prices still very low in most regions, a lot of companies see significant increases in ROAS.

For example, meal kits and online deliveries generally paused ad spend as they experienced vastly increased organic traffic. This turn put pressure on supply chains and delivery capabilities to meet demand, which meant that they had to pause their ad spend. Consequently, many grocery chains have gone on massive hiring sprees for warehouse and delivery workers to fulfill demand. On the other hand, food delivery services are struggling with increased demand but a decrease in supply due to restaurant closures. Now those companies are coming back online with revised messaging, informing consumers about the situation market by market - even city by city - and giving advice on how to order deliveries in this changing environment.

With increased online traffic comes a whole batch of first-time shoppers that need guiding through the online experience - in the US, online grocery shopping has nearly tripled! Hence, Ecom ad creative should engage and inform these shoppers by providing a clear path for them to find and make purchases. Additionally, ad creative has changed to inform, support, and guide customers as the situation has developed, with higher engagement seen in social advertising campaigns adopting dynamic creative and ad content.

Supply Chains Need to Be Considered

Across the whole Ecom vertical, we have seen that supply chains and delivery capabilities are crucial right now as brands restructure their businesses to meet demand and keep goods in stock. Large international Ecom brands with robust supply chains focusing on consumer goods and products have carried on as usual, with ad spend not changing significantly.

Demand for different product groups has surprised many vendors. Pajamas, home office supplies, and cleaning equipment are flying off the virtual shelves. While these were not necessarily the product groups that brands were planning to highlight in their spring campaigns, companies are now coming up with inventive ways to adjust their advertising. While there is no one way to fix your messaging, the one commonality social advertisers are doing is removing aggressive promotions and sales and opting for a more subtle tone.

Even so, brands need to consider possible restrictions on international supply chains. If their goods are restricted from shipping internationally at some point, this may have an effect. To combat this, brands should focus on deploying advertising based on a product feed and a real-time inventory database to avoid advertising things that are out of stock.

Asia Is Already Rebounding

All of Asia seems to have weathered the current global situation, with business as usual observed in many instances. A possible factor to consider is the length of the lockdown, with regional brands having time to adjust and consumer behavior to calm.

Fashion has remained surprisingly strong in the region, with social advertising maintaining a steady momentum. Many fashion brands have been directing social traffic to their substantial online stores for a significant period of time already.

Social usage across the region has increased by about half, so increased brand messaging also in social channels may play an essential role in gaining share of voice - especially in a region where brand campaigns are not as common as elsewhere.

What’s Next for Ecom?

Although the situation is volatile, there are clear opportunities in the Ecom space. Brands that quickly adapt to match constantly changing consumer demand will be in a strong position to see the current situation through. Right now, Ecom advertisers are paying about a third less for a click than they did in January, so engaging with consumers is definitely cost-efficient.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and share everything relevant and useful we learn with you. You can visit our COVID-19 Insights Hub for more information and if you have any questions, contact your Customer Success Manager or send us a message at contact@smartly.io and we'll be in touch!

Author
Riikka Söderlund

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