The business – and consumer – response to the pandemic has seen the pace of technological change gather momentum, and digital innovation is set to accelerate further during the next 12 months.
Business leaders who took part in a well-attended recent Zoom seminar jointly hosted by HURST and Barclaycard gained an understanding of some of the key digital developments during 2020 and a look ahead to trends we can expect to emerge this year.
The event, entitled A Leap in Lockdown, heard experts at creative agency Fluid Ideas, online disruptor Wine&Something and Barclaycard describe their insights and experiences as they explored the digital transformation which has stepped up several gears since the coronavirus crisis unfolded.
Innovation and new opportunities
Ben Meakin, the head of search and social at Fluid Ideas, spoke about innovation and the opportunities it presents for brands and businesses seeking to move to the next level.
It is a case of ‘out with the old tactic, in with the new’ across many aspects of digital strategy, he said. In 2021, search engine optimisation, traditional social media and TV advertising and celebrity influencers will be seen as ‘old’ tactics, said Ben.
Although Google rankings appear to be the ‘holy grail’ from a marketing perspective, Ben said more than 90 per cent of all content gets no clicks from Google, as people browsing the internet simply fall off after viewing the first couple of pages. From April, Google will introduce Core Web Vitals, which will ensure websites that rank highly on the search engine will be those that deliver the best performance.
Big influencers on the market
Ben said this will make the internet a better place, but urged businesses to make sure their websites load quickly, are visually stable and are interactive to meet the demands of this Google innovation. Social media is an ‘incredibly powerful’ sales tool for businesses but a new tactic of social commerce is emerging, said Ben.
This involves consumers accessing digital shopping channels without ever leaving the platform they are on, such as Instagram or WhatsApp. New functionality means consumers can buy goods without actually having to visit the retailer’s website. Ben said Chinese platforms are blazing a trail in this area.
TV advertising is being modernised through innovations such as Sky AdSmart. Traditional ads are ignored by many viewers, but Sky AdSmart targets them according to demographics, postcodes and data. It also has the advantage of a lower cost of entry for advertisers, said Ben.
Celebrity influencers are falling out of favour and are being replaced by those with ‘micro’ followings (5-10) and ‘nano’ followings (1- 5,000) on Instagram, said Ben.
Don’t go chasing the big numbers
“Those with micro and nano followings have loyal fan bases, nurture a community, showcase products to their followers and will go through each comment and reply to them. Their followers do go out and buy products if they are recommended. It’s a great opportunity for businesses to expand their audience.”
Ben also outlined ways in which companies can boost their digital marketing:
- Using Google Analytics, which is a superb source of information about which channels are driving traffic to a website and whether there are any major issues, such as a lack of dwell time.
- Installing the Facebook pixel or the LinkedIn Insight tag on their website along with cookies that track them around the web, to ensure their brands and services are constantly thrust in front of internet users.
- Employee advocacy, which can be a great way to showcase a brand and extend its reach. Employees can use their own social media presence to share information about, for example, new products, vastly increasing awareness among a wider audience.
- Researching their industry on Google Trends. This can throw up valuable information about the terms people are searching for, which can help when launching a product or assessing whether there is a gap in the market for one.
- Facebook’s Ads Library. This provides information about the advertisements running on Facebook. A company can check what their competitors are up to, and even what they are not doing, which may give them the edge.
Further challenges for retailers
Earlier, Dale Agar, managing director of Wine&Something, described how the online wine retailer altered its strategy in response to the pandemic.
Wine&Something began life selling to bars, restaurants, venues and corporates, with a longer-term vision to move into the consumer sector. When the first lockdown came into effect, the business was left with £250,000 of stock. Dale said the company brought forward its digital transformation and, in partnership with Fluid Ideas, developed a more dynamic brand and social media following to make itself relevant to consumers.
Tips on how to succeed amid the new digital landscape
These include knowing your niche, generating digital content, investing in e-commerce, preparing for scale, choosing your partners carefully and using software on demand rather than investing in infrastructure which may not be required.
“Our journey is only really starting,” he said. Wine&Something is focusing on driving traffic to its website and customer acquisition and retention.
“The conversion rate makes an enormous difference to the success of the business,” said Dale.
He said he did not advocate making huge changes, adding that making small tweaks goes a long way, then evolving and using data to one’s advantage.
Chris Challoner, corporate sales manager at Barclaycard, was the third speaker at the event.
He discussed the impact of Covid-19 on the e-commerce and digital trading landscape. Chris charted the huge rise in e-commerce transactions during the pandemic and explained how Barclaycard was working with north west businesses to help update their payment systems amid the huge shift to online spending.
Click and collect services have seen a large upsurge, along with touchless commerce and mobile payment solutions as the trend towards a cashless society gains ground.
Simon Brownbill, a HURST partner and director of practice development, hosted the event and said the firm is increasingly working with clients on their digital strategies.
"The topic has shot up the business agenda and many companies have brought forward their plans due to the pandemic. Others which previously had not considered it are looking at it more and more." said Simon.
You can view the recording below via our YouTube channel.