All Articles Marketing Marketing Strategy Marketers need to rethink their strategies for these extraordinary times: Embrace digital and optimization

Marketers need to rethink their strategies for these extraordinary times: Embrace digital and optimization

Airship’s Mike Herrick explores how B2C and B2B marketers should “embrace customers digitally” and explore new ways to experiment to maintain their customer connections during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

5 min read

Marketing Strategy

Marketers need to rethink their strategies for these extraordinary times: Embrace digital and optimization

Harish Sharma / Pixabay

It’s become obvious that marketers need to create an events-proof strategy for the remainder of 2020. Mobile World Congress, South by Southwest, Advertising Week Europe and various other marketing events — more than 200 in total — have shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while Cannes Lions, which typically happens in June, has been postponed until October, who knows whether that awards gala or Advertising Week New York will happen this fall. For business-to-consumers players, live sports and large entertainment events have been indefinitely put on hold, so the opportunity to reach consumers through sponsorships is unusually limited compared to normal.

What’s more, scores of folks are working from home, and when they are not working, social distancing means they’re staying in their houses or apartments as much as possible. Physical retailers are making significant adjustments. For instance, Walmart, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are either cutting store hours to ensure employees can safely clean and restock shelves or observing “senior shopping hour” for those 60 years of age and older. Quick-serve restaurants are strongly leaning on their digital platforms. Chipotle is offering free delivery through the end of March, and Starbucks is shifting toward a to-go model nationwide, and it’s safe to say that most of those subsequent orders will come through the brands’ mobile apps. 

People will be shopping online more than ever in the coming weeks. Marketers and customer experience (CX) teams that already have established audiences across multiple digital channels are better positioned to reach customers for new policies, services, tips or offers to assuage fears. Let’s look at a couple of key ways in which all marketers can rework their strategies by applying a greater digital lens. 

Embrace customers digitally 

It’s going to be a while before we shake hands to seal a deal, but business still needs to be conducted. Business-to-business marketers should use video conference startups like Hopin, On24 and Zoom or employ live video on social platforms such as LinkedIn Live. Chat platforms like Slack and Google Hangouts are also going to become more critical for B2B communications. 

If you run a conference, follow the example some marketers are already setting by holding the event online only. For instance, Google Cloud Next, WWDC and Collision — conferences that are usually attended by tens of thousands of people — will livestream their events in the coming weeks without an in-person audience. 

Getting people to break from their busy workday schedules and show up is one of the major pain points with online events such as livestreams or webinars. Therefore, marketers should have a sophisticated plan to remind them via text message, push notification, web notification, email or a time-triggered mobile wallet event pass in the days and hours leading up to the event. These messages should include a data-driven messaging orchestration that homes in on the channels that the recipient prefers most. And don’t bury the lede — explain to recipients in pithy fashion what they won’t want to miss. 

Drive success with experimentation

Let’s face it: The economic fallout from this pandemic will be real, and it’s now every marketer’s job to figure out how to mitigate damage and find growth opportunities by being responsive to customers in-the-moment while embracing new things. A culture of experimentation has led to many great marketing breakthroughs like Subway’s $5 footlong, McDonald’s all-day breakfast and Amazon Web Services, which has become a multibillion-dollar arm for Amazon.  

Experimentation can help marketers optimize all digital products and channels so the CX hums at every turn. But that’s just scratching the surface. They can and should also test against their own CX biases to see what better results are possible, and they should even aim to disrupt industry best practices because digital consumers’ behavior evolves so rapidly (especially when our typical routines are so disrupted).

Brands should bake experimentation into everything they do to establish a growth culture that works both during trying times like these and times when it is business as usual. Note that some industry watchers estimate that product-led brands grow 10X faster. And yet, only four out of 10 marketers view testing and experimentation as a critical success factor. Digital experimentation mixes technology and human creativity to test hypotheses and prove their value, which is important right now for marketers and businesses. 

Indeed, it’s incredibly important to remember in the coming weeks and months that focusing on digital communications and data-based optimization does not mean brands becoming less human. In fact, the opposite needs to be true. Therefore, make these online relationships personal in every way they should be — and above all focus on being helpful and handy.

The power of people is what’s going to get our marketing community — and everyone else, for that matter — through these extraordinary times. The circumstances may be unprecedented, but marketing professionals should view it as another opportunity to step up to the plate and deliver.


Mike Herrick is the SVP of Product and Engineering at Airship and is responsible for developing, operating, supporting, and sustaining Airship’s products. Prior to Airship, Mike was the vice president of Products for Collaborative Software Initiative. In that role, he was responsible for product management, product development, technical support and hosted operations.


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