In our webinar, An Inside Look at Changing Consumer Habits and How Marketers Can Respond, thought leaders from Fluent sat down with Lily Gardner, Marketing Associate, User Acquisition at Ibotta and Drew Crawford, Senior Account Manager at AdParlor to discuss tips for driving long-term loyalty and engagement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Check out some key takeaways from their conversion below and watch the full webinar here.

Tip #1 for Marketers

Pivot your messaging and targeting to align with consumers’ changing needs and interests.

Predictions on a Return to Normalcy Chart

According to a recent Fluent Pulse survey, 40% of Americans think life will never return to normal in the U.S. In the last three months, the number of people who believe life is never going back to normal in America has increased by 82%. Now more than ever it is important for brands to practice empathy in addressing the struggles that many of their customers are facing during this uncertain time.

For example, while Ibotta specializes in offering cashback on groceries and other household items, the company has had to acknowledge the ways in which grocery shopping habits have changed during the pandemic. Ibotta found that their core customers were shopping less frequently but making much larger shopping trips.

Lily Gardner Headshot

According to Lily, “We’ve had to pivot our message to make sure we’re being sensitive to our audience’s ability to go grocery shopping right now while also encouraging smart shopping habits like social distancing.”

Rather than deploying new signup deals or welcomes bonuses, Ibotta has partnered with retail and CPG partners to launch campaigns that built credibility and trust with existing and new users. Lily referenced Ibotta’s “Here to Help” campaign which highlighted not only the value that Ibotta provides but also the value that the company’s brand partners bring. According to Lily, “The co-branded message was really powerful and resonated well with our users.”

On the retail front, Drew and his team had to think outside the box in terms of new habits consumers were adopting while in quarantine. In shifting his strategy for an athletic retail client, Drew saw success with a new interest-based audience on Facebook– runners. According to Drew, “Because the gyms have been closed, more people were getting into walking and running than ever before. By introducing an audience that paired with that new activity, we saw a huge jump in our numbers.”

Tip #2 for Marketers

Focus your acquisition efforts on the channels where consumers are already actively engaged.

At the start of the pandemic, Drew saw many of his clients shift their marketing dollars to their loyal customer base. Retargeting held steady, while prospecting saw a dip. Over time though, as more advertisers pulled back on spend, there was a surge in efficiency from a delivery standpoint for advertisers that were able to “keep the lights on.” According to Drew, brands that held steady in their marketing efforts were able to reach more consumers than they had before due to changes in the social advertising landscape.  

Ibotta has also had to reevaluate their user acquisition strategy during this time. The savings app company wanted to make sure their ad dollars were going to the channels that their users were already engaging with – TV, streaming, and social – while also leaning into affiliate partners to see how they could leverage their influencer and online content. Lily explained that once the team at Ibotta identified these channels, they had to shift their messaging to ensure they were reminding users how they could save money with their app during the pandemic.

Tip #3 for Marketers

Launch new offerings to eliminate points of friction and make shoppers’ lives easier.

The brands that have fared the best throughout the pandemic are those that were quickly able to adapt to the changing circumstances. Drew explains, “One of our home décor clients has a core customer base that is very used to shopping in-store. We saw a surge in performance when they launched a buy online and pick up on curb program, coupled with advertising investment behind the new service.”

In order to make consumers feel more comfortable shopping in physical stores, brick and mortar locations have also begun offering contactless payment, reducing the number of customers allowed in the store, increasing sanitation on carts and entrances, and creating more safety barriers between employees and customers.

Changes in Shopping Habits Charts

Yet, while some shoppers are ready to return to stores, we found that 27% of Americans expect to continue shopping more online even after the pandemic subsides. This presents an important opportunity for brands to reduce points of friction that exist within their website, mobile app, and other touchpoints along the online shopping journey.

Among his clients, Drew has seen a large uptick in the buy online, pick-up-on-curb offering, as well as free delivery options. Because many retailers are having trouble keeping up with inventory, they are also shipping from stores where they do have stock in order to speed up delivery times.

Ibotta is also making it easier for consumers to shop for groceries online either through the app or a new browser extension that is in the testing phase. According to Lily, “Our research has shown that more and more people want to either get their groceries delivered or order ahead for curbside pickup.”

Main Takeaways:

At the start of this outbreak, Drew saw many advertising clients trying to predict how consumers would behave, and in most instances, those predictions could not have been farther from the truth.

Drew Crawford Headshot

According to Drew, “It’s most important to let the data speak for itself. We all have assumptions but make sure to test and learn and listen to what consumers are actually doing, rather than what we assume they will do.”

2020 has been a year unlike any other. It is impossible to compare campaign performance or analyze year-over-year trends to measure success in this environment. Best advice according to Drew – come up with contingency plans to reallocate dollars and adjust expectations as we move into the second half of the year.

If you want to learn how Fluent can help your company establish one-to-one relationships with consumers amidst this changing advertising landscape, drop us a line here.