The world is quite a different place than it was six months ago, and with the 2020 holiday season fast approaching, the pressure is on to meet revenue goals in what’s been an uncertain year.
In August, we surveyed 154 marketing executives to find out what they think is likely to happen this holiday season and how they’re preparing for it. The results are fascinating, and we’ve distilled them into clear actions you can take right now to adapt and prepare for a very different 2020 holiday season.
In this webinar, Eric Enge (Principal, Digital Marketing at Perficient) and Jim Hertzfeld (Chief Strategist, Digital at Perficient) discuss:
- How marketers have already adapted and where they see the most opportunity moving forward
- What will be different this holiday season and how to adjust your strategy accordingly
- Ways to identify and meet changing customer expectations, wants, and needs
- How to determine if your priorities or investments should change
- What actions you can take right now to be successful
Missed the webinar? Watch the on-demand webinar and read the transcript below:
Eric: Hello, everybody, this is Eric Enge here. I’m the Principal for the Digital Marketing Solutions Business Unit here at Perficient. With me today is Jim Hertzfeld, our Chief Digital Strategist. Jim, please introduce yourself.
Jim: Hi Eric, how are you doing? Sure. Yes, it’s great to be here. I am the Chief Digital Strategist for Perficient. Our focus is on customer experience-oriented strategy and aligning our clients’ technologies, investments, and what their business operations are that deliver a great customer experience. We do that in a lot of ways. Some of those ways we’ll end up talking about today. And it’s great to be here.
Eric: Awesome. And for those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been involved in digital marketing for over 20 years. I was the founder of a company called Stone Temple that got acquired by Perficient back in 2018. So, I’ve had the privilege of working with Jim for just a little over two years now. He’s an amazing talent in terms of overall digital strategy and really helping clients develop a vision and, for that matter, drive digital transformation. So, it’s great to do this together with you today, Jim.
Jim: Thanks, Eric. It’s been a great two years. I think you’ve helped us and our clients really jump some great hurdles. A lot of people may not know this, but you’re the author of “The Art of SEO” and a multiple award-winning Search Personality of the Year. It’s been a pleasure working with you and bringing some of your ideas to our digital strategies as well. What’s great about search—and I think this will be a great segue to get started as a digital marketing leader—the focus on search and the content that’s driving that search and the content analytics are where pretty much everyone begins their customer journey. I think that kind of capability is relevant to what we’re talking about today, as we think about how those capabilities are going to help others drive a holiday season that is, like the rest of the year, turning out to be something we’ve never seen before.
Eric: Exactly. So many new experiences packed into one year. But let’s look at our agenda here for a moment.
This is the kind of topic area that we would cover. At the core of what we’re talking about today, or something that we’ll certainly leverage a lot, is that we did some research to help support the contents of this webinar and everything we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about a lot of really good topics here. Obviously, the changes in the market, but how that’s driven the importance of agility beyond just how you deal with the pandemic—but the pandemic as a trigger for us, reevaluating that. And what’s going to be different this holiday season with all the changes we’ve seen over the past six months? Which of those are here to stay and will continue to grow? And how’s consumer buying behavior changing and how does that impact the need for brand trust? Personalization is another major topic area. And then finally, we’re going to get into what’s happening with digital marketing investments. Some of the data we have there is actually just crazy. So, we’re going to have good fun talking about all that.But first, here’s a little preview of the research we did that we’ll be leveraging throughout the webinar today. We surveyed 154 senior executives from enterprise organizations across all types of businesses and industries.
We’re going to show not only aggregate data across all these but, in some cases, we’ll show some specific slices. So, you may be in one specific industry area—we likely have you covered with at least part of our content. But first, Jim, let’s start with you and talk a little bit about what some of the changes have been in the market. What are some of the key lessons we can learn from the pandemic, and how should businesses behave differently?
Jim: It has been a heck of a year for everybody, and top of mind in a lot of ways. I think one of the things that, kind of bearing on the research and, honestly, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised—I think we all have been—and you’ll hear this word a lot, is resilience. You know, we’ve always talked about things changing quickly. And, what we really mean by that—I think that’s really the outcome of what we mean by agility. So, we’ve all heard about agile development. We’ve all heard about agile organizations, but I think this is the year that that was really put to the test.
When this started going down, what I didn’t think about, and what people were dusting off, were business continuity plans. It’s sort of an artifact of…I was reminded of Y2K. It was sort of a Y2K RBAC. We’ve got to have a BCB. You’ve got to have not just disaster recovery, but how do you continue when there’s a major change? And that sort of came and went. And I think everyone talks about agility because they want to move faster. But continuity is around keeping things the same way. Right?
So, I think it was probably good for, let’s call it two weeks. The continuity plan is working enough for us to figure out what the heck is happening right now. We’ve got to go beyond continuity. Again, I thought it was really important. I thought it was a really great observation. But it really goes back to the flexibility of the business. Whether it’s a pandemic, or it’s a new competitor, or an upstart, the pandemic sort of drove a lot of fast changes so that we just had to respond to survive. And I would say that we were pleasantly surprised by everybody, including—I’ll pat ourselves on the back—our ability to shift and to react, not just keep things going and keep the lights on, but the ability to react.
It goes back to something we talk a lot about with digital strategy. We have clients that want to be agile. They want to be able to change their minds. They want to be able to react and personalize. They want to be able to change the business—not just the business strategy, but even the business tactics to evolve. So, this was really a great place for strategic thinking to come into play, but not in the way that we’re used to thinking about it. Strategic thinking is about looking ahead, maybe 18 months, 3 years, 5 years. Now we’re using the same kind of tools to ideate, to figure out how we change quickly, what we should do.
Nobody was thinking about curbside pickup in January. And that became table stakes for a lot of retailers. So, a lot of creative things have happened in the response, but I think it all comes back to something that we’re seeing on the slide here—that is, we need to be able to respond quickly. And what our study shows is that about three-fourths, about 76%, said they were able to respond within weeks. And we saw this—a lot of creativity, a lot of innovation, and again, resolving a lot of uncertainty pretty quickly.
Eric: So, there’s this demand for this quick response time, but how do you get brands to do that? What are the kinds of things that people need to be able to do to accomplish this?
Jim: First of all, we see things in terms of traditional sorts of layers. There’s the experience, there’s the business operations, and there’s the technology and data that has to drive it. You hope that, the experience to me is—and we’ve talked about this before, Eric, in other conversations—about empathy. It’s really having the sense to drive insights, understand, listen, understand their problems, understand their needs. I think that UX design practices, marketing analytics, both the qualitative and the quantitative, is all about sensing. I think a lot of brands do that really, really well. And that’s really putting the customer in front of your own needs, which is sometimes hard to do when you’re just trying to survive or make payroll, in some cases.
So, I think you always have to have an eye on what the customer is really looking for. In that middle tier, how do you operate differently? What we saw and what I think the really successful, most resilient companies have had is really a dropping of the silos, right? We still see this in a lot of companies where they’re fairly siloed…and sometimes for good reason. Sometimes, it’s just inertia. But it’s the ability to say, “Okay, we’re going to change the way we do this.” And I think there’s a lot of modern thinking that’s come into play. The hard part is on the technology. Is the technology brittle? Do you have access to the data that you need, do you really need all the data?
That’s where we work with a lot of clients too, because a fully realized omnichannel experience certainly depends on delivering the right experience. But, the complexity today with us is in the systems and the technologies that need to make it work. Things like having supply chain visibility when you’re not sure if your suppliers can make it, when you don’t know what you can promise, when you can’t get toilet paper back on the shelf. I know it’s kind of a cliche at this point, but those are tough supply chain problems that are largely technology problems. And, unfortunately, those investments are still needed, but none of those work if you don’t have that operational resilience. I’ve seen that a lot.
Eric: Here’s another chart that I put up here, Jim, because I thought it was interesting, too. These are some of the things that our survey respondents said about some of the things that they did in response to the pandemic.
New delivery options, obviously. I found it fascinating that 51% went with wholly new products and services. That says something about agility right there.
Jim: Yeah. And I think sensing—curbside was a really creative response, clumsy at first, a lot of patience upfront. Now it’s almost expected and, brands are—we say this a lot—the experience is the brand. And those expectations move quickly. But I think having those options and the options to communicate too—not just the pickup, but how do you communicate to the right associate in the store and what’s the coverage in that store, and can they walk out? Will they walk out when it’s raining? I think a lot of those things got resolved quickly. But again, they become table stakes for now.
I like the idea of like new products and services. I think the easy ones here are the distillers who started making hand sanitizer and the fashion companies that started selling masks. Ford making ventilators. Those are some great examples of things that happened quickly. And again, I think they’re setting the bar. I think they always had the ability to do it. Right? We just didn’t have the drive to do it.
Jim: Again, back to agility. We just can’t say enough about it. Eric, I think that’s a lot about our shared experience, I think everybody on this call here over the last six months or so. But, now we’re coming up on a new—I don’t want to say a new normal. That’s a little cliché. But, hey, we’re coming up on the holiday season. We’re in the middle of it or on the cusp of it. So, what are you seeing, and what’s the study saying? What’s the survey saying differently about how the holiday season is going to be different this year?
It turned out the number one answer we got was that there will be no Cyber Quarter, followed immediately by people who do most of their shopping online instead of the store, which is closely related but not exactly the same kind of question. But this is a really interesting conversation area because it tells you it’s going to be a lot less pressure about one day being this big event, and having to make your entire company bet on some 24-hour period that makes or breaks your entire quarter. And that’s kind of the good news of it. The bad news of it is that you need a different plan, right? You need to be thinking about something that’s going to be drawn over a longer period of time and figure out how to spread out that excitement and intensity that people are feeling about this event that they’re used to.
We actually saw that many companies were still planning for there to be a Cyber Monday. You could see our data suggesting that only 22% have bought into that potential concept. And to be fair, the way we ask the question, it’s possible they are seeing that Cyber Monday won’t be as big a thing, but there still will be one. And I think that might be a fair interpretation of this result. But I do think and hope that businesses aren’t focused on just these two days the way that they were a few years ago, because I think the experience is going to be very, very different than it was a few years ago. I already mentioned Amazon, and Kohl’s, and the others that have been morphing on this.
It’s also interesting to see how this varies by market. If you look at a couple of questions here—this idea that there will be no Cyber Monday. I showed the aggregate data before but here we’ve broken it into different industries. Consumer retail actually scored the lowest here, which is interesting to me. And then there will be a Cyber Quarter, they scored the lowest here too. So, it suggests to me that maybe not everybody is yet prepared for how different it’s going to be. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how businesses manage their way through their whole process. I just don’t think you’re going to be able to steer everything towards one day with steep discounts on that one day because you’re going to have all this other competition, and I shared some of the names early on, that are going to be spreading their efforts across all kinds of time and press—a wide swath of the entire quarter. So, they’re going to be competing for that business over 90 days. You probably couldn’t make all your bet on a single day. So, that’s at least part of my thought process on that.
And to take it a little further, I’m just looking at “There Will Be No Black Friday.”
The Digital Essentials, Part 3
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Again, I’m not sure how ready consumers are going to be to pile in droves into stores late Thursday night and all through Friday. It’s going to be awfully hard to be socially distant and restrained in what historically has been somewhat of a frenzied environment. I’m just kind of cool in the way it was an event, but people are going to be less keen on that kind of event. Right? And then, of course, look at this data on what people think or various industries think about doing shopping online versus in-store.
So, this is a fascinating contrast. The same retailers that said that they didn’t think there was going to be a big Cyber Quarter are seeing 75% of people doing shopping online rather than in-store. That was pretty interesting to me as well in terms of this data. But just thinking about all the changes in the customer and consumer behavior that we’ve talked about over the past six months, what do you think? Do you think some of these are going become permanent?
Jim: I think all the evidence says so, right? And the evidence is really around the experiences that we’re seeing companies and brands providing. And there have been a lot—I mentioned curbside pickup—it’s table stakes. I think those are things that become table stakes. When we experiment with something and it works, we’re going to keep doing it. That’s how innovation has worked forever, at least for decades, from a business perspective, once innovation was sort of quantified. So, I think it’s been the purpose of agility. None of us wants make predictions, right? We want to be having options to move in and out. So, like I said, I think the behaviors will dictate them.
I think there are a few things and a few reasons why— frankly, business reasons why—some of these things will stay. You know, there was a joke, it was kind of a running joke, some people may have seen it right away. I think this joke even came out in March. There was a poll question, “Who led your digital transformation? The CIO, the CEO, or COVID-19?” And it’s a great joke because it has been an accelerant. But I look at this through a couple of lenses—from a consumer lens, or a B2C lens, and from a B2B lens. I think from a lifestyle perspective, we were all immersed in virtual and video everything, right? Then we were suddenly homeschooling. We’re on video calls, which is great because I could see more than I used to, right, just on video. So it’s a lot of lifestyle changes. And again, some of these are really innovations—outdoor restaurant dining, alcohol pickup, to-go cocktails—who would have thought that those things would have happened?
But I think that is immersing us in getting consumers more comfortable with some of these virtual options. Telehealth is a great example. Telehealth has been slowly making its way into healthcare. There are a lot of really practical reasons for it, because of travel or maybe mobility limitations that some patients have. But now it’s access, right? I think the healthcare providers said you can get access, I can get access to any doctor. I can acquire a provider or a doctor on the other side of the world. I mean, that has been part of the promise of telehealth. And, as people and organizations get more comfortable with that, and they’ve been forced to do that, then some of those things have been accelerated by COVID.
So, there’s a voice of the customer and the voice of the business. Those will dictate whether these things stick ultimately or not. There’s a bit of a fatigue factor. I miss traveling. We all do. I miss my friends. I miss seeing you in person. But, there are a lot of other practical advantages and those things will always drive it. And I think, more on the consumer side, we’re seeing much more AR and VR, something we’ve been talking about forever, really taking off. We’re working with a client right now, building a fit finder experience, it’s really innovative. And this is from the manufacturer who’s going to go direct to consumer. So, you’re seeing some of these business models come into play, like DTC in a very different way. We’ll have more to talk about on that later—certainly, and obviously, commerce, right? And not just buying, but also returns. I don’t know if anybody’s noticed that but I don’t want to go out once, much less twice.
But I think on the B2B side, if I can just cover that for a second, we’re also seeing some big changes. And I think this will manifest itself in the employee experience. But, again, everything’s going virtual on video—virtual conferences, virtual sales, virtual happy hours, virtual wine tastings—it’s all there. It’s fun, but will it last? I don’t know. We’ve gone from working from home to living at work. So again, I think huge productivity gains, but can the workforce really sustain it? I think there are some great things and we’ll talk about some of these distinctions and personalization later.
I think we’re seeing a real shift in B2B sales in the sense that you used to have a rep that would come out, visit you or take you to lunch, or meet you on the job site. That went from in-person to a phone call, and went from a phone call to a Zoom call, to driving you to ECOM self-service or the contact center, or inside sales. A lot of people on this call may not be familiar with those use cases, but we’re getting kind of a comfort level. And a lot of B2B, a lot of manufacturers wanted—field salesforce is expensive, and how do we channel those people to the right clients on the right products, and then economically serve the rest of the client community? So, I think we’re seeing a lot of accelerants in a lot of different ways. But that agility is likely to become permanent if the customers and businesses can justify it.
Eric: Yes, indeed. And it will change in many ways the way businesses behave, right? Do you have examples of that you can share?
Jim: I touched on a couple of them. I mentioned working from home to living at work. I think we’re seeing a lot of rethinking the office environment. Do I need an office? How much office space do I need? The other thing I think that’s really interesting is the talent rate. We’ve had clients too where, for a lot of reasons—because of great teamwork, because of our sense of community or security reasons—everyone has to be in the building together. Well, that changed overnight. And, so it changes the value proposition of a geography or an office and business. Now, I can hire anyone. I could hire anyone, anywhere, in any time zone, on any continent. So, I think we’re going to see a lot more globalization take shape coming out of that, as well.
But it’s painfully obvious, all this shift to digital, this level of comfort with digital means we’ve got to get better, brands have to get better at commerce, at digitizing and building agility. It’s a rethinking of the way we’re doing branding and digital marketing because the awareness challenges are totally different. We’re not driving down the street looking at billboards or stopping at the mall. So, it’s a real shift. I think we’ll see some of those later. So, I think some of us have experienced the customer and employee experiences that we have to think about, but it really comes down to shopper and buyer behavior. Businesses are changing, but Eric, how is the buying behavior changing?
Eric: It is changing, and I think some of it is changing potentially forever, right? A little bit of a yes and no to that. And I think, like you said in the last question that I asked you, some of that stuff will stick for a longer period of time, and some of it won’t so much. But we also looked at another aspect of consumer buying behavior. And this is one of the questions that we asked people about major changes that they were expecting to see. And it’s really interesting. A big focus in the response on buying more in bulk, that’s kind of obvious, and then buying more branded versus generic. And I think what we’re seeing is that many brands are expecting the shift in consumer behavior to be really permanent—not just the specific experiences, but also on a more global level. And that’s where we see the interest in buying in bulk and in buying brands. For one thing, people just got used to it. So, the behavior change becomes a habit.
But the way I think about the brain conversation is, we’re an environment where trust became a lot more important. Do I trust that the company I’m buying from is handling products the right way, following the right safety procedures, that they have enough of the caring about me as a customer, that they’re doing the right thing? And, if you think about brand more generally, why would that equate to trust? There are a lot of reasons for that. Longevity. If you’ve been around for a long while, that creates a sense of trust. Relatability. I always use Flo from Progressive as the example. You know, you like her. So that makes it more relatable and the like. And of course, authority. If you feel like you’re dealing with the best, that creates a great deal of confidence. Accountability, especially if, as a brand, you do a good job of holding yourself accountable when the time comes.
And the existence of social proof. Large brands that do a good job tend to do this really, really well. And so, all of these equate from a consumer perspective to feel like there’s less risk. The buying in bulk thing I think is really a bit more about the convenience of it. First of all, you might have something that you used to run down the corner store to buy, and now you don’t feel like running down to the corner store anymore, so you buy it online. Well, there actually was a good thing about the corner store. I could discover at 9:00 in the morning that I was out of something, and by 9:30 I could have gone down to the corner store and picked it up. And while Amazon made incredible strides in delivery—A, that’s Amazon, it’s not everybody. And B, there’s a less bit of immediacy when you’re buying online. So, I think that drives a tendency to buy more.
And then there’s the desire to do fewer transactions. There might be a little hoarding mentality going on there. We certainly saw that early on in the toilet paper arena. But anyway, given all these changes in how consumers are buying, that leads me to the next question. What are businesses doing to more directly address their individual visitors and tailor their experiences based on the people on their site? What are they doing about personalization, basically?
Jim: Yeah, I would say right up until this hit, I think there wasn’t a client or brand that didn’t have a personalization ambition, right? I think a lot of things in this experience, some of those ambitions, took a little bit of a backseat. There were bigger fish to fry. So, I still think there are ambitions here, but I think what this has done is probably served the opportunities or focused the personalization opportunity. So, when we talk about personalization, there really is a lot of ground to cover. It’s one of those phrases or one of those terms that sort of means everything and nothing. And we talk about anonymous personalization, and captive personalization, and personalizing the content, and am I authenticated? And what are the implications? Ultimately, what we’re trying to do with personalization is we’re trying to drive an event. You’re personalizing, you’re making a recommendation because you want them to add that to the cart. You’re giving them an order history that’s personalized to them because you want to provide some convenience so they keep coming back. And maybe they reorder, right? So, every personalization experiment is really an experiment in conversion in my mind.
I think what we’ve seen—I’ll split this into a B2C perspective and a B2B perspective. I’ll start with B2C because I think that’s been a little simpler. I think the kinds of personalization problems that we were trying to solve a year ago were what I would put in the omnichannel category. We’re trying to use personalization. For example, I’m shopping online for a car and I build a price. I’ve dialed in the vehicle that I want, the color, the options. I may have even looked at dealer inventory. And then I contact the dealer or I drive up on the lot, and they don’t know anything about me, right? So, I’ve lost the personalization opportunity. I’m not picking on a dealer or an OEM, but I think it’s a relatable use case. But that’s an omnichannel use case. How do I get that continuity in the purchase process? Because those are opportunities. Again, I’m reducing friction, I am making it in the buying process. I am expressing interest in that customer. I’m able to respond to what sort of lifestyle I am supporting if I’m buying a pickup truck versus a minivan or a crossover. So, those are great opportunities to nurture a buying journey.
What we’re seeing immediately is how do we build more awareness, right? So, I’m calling personalization, post-COVID, more of an awareness device. Because like I said at the beginning, every shopping journey starts with a web search or, more accurately, a mobile search. That’s building awareness, right? So, whether it’s targeted Instagram ads or social ads or just driving really good search results and SEO results and relevance, that was already where we started. Our consumers were starting their journeys. And now we’ve just elevated that. Again, we’ve accelerated that need. So, I think on the B2C side, we’re going from, let’s reduce friction, especially in considered purchases, to let’s drive awareness. I think there are some opportunities to do that so those initiations are relevant to me.
And I think that translates well to the B2B side. I would argue that I don’t think we’re seeing a lot on the B2B side around personalization as being really driven by COVID. That is much more around just the B2B universe, kind of slowly building their maturity. I think they are a little behind. But I think there’s good reason for that. I think B2B purchases, purchasing rather, we like to say it’s a team sport, right? It’s a team sport where you’re spending other people’s money, right? So, there is a process to it. There are not a lot of impulse purchases in the B2B world. And I think there’s other research on this as well, but driving relevance is more important than individual customization. I think you see that here in the data, too. On the B2C side, when we’re talking about a customer journey, we’re really talking about the beginning of that journey and using personalization as an awareness device.
But on the B2B side, and we’re seeing this is a continuation of the trend, we’re seeing a lot more, I would call it nano-targeting. Really defining much more narrow and narrower audiences for different products or different configurations of products. Having a deep focus on a specific industry. So, if you’re a construction manufacturer or a truck manufacturer, are you focusing on certain industries? Let’s say, am I focusing on ice cream trucks? I’m not kidding, this is how deep it’s getting. Am I focusing on certain types of landscapers, right? I think those are the types of hyper-segmentation.
The other thing we’re seeing on the B2B side is this term called “recovery agent.” So, as we come out of COVID economic recovery, a lot of the B2B focus is on—there’s a lot of B2B opportunity on businesses helping other businesses recover. I think it’s a really cool concept. So, I think that may have an influence on the relevance of personalization. I could go on. Eric, there’s a lot we’ve already covered. I do want to mention for the audience, in these last 20 minutes, I think we’ll have some time for Q&A. So, if you’ve been thinking about questions, if you have questions, we’d love to field those in our last few minutes. So, feel free to drop those in the chatbox.
Eric, like I said, we did cover a lot. I think it’s a great springboard for personalization into “what does this all mean?” Lessons learned in the past, coming up on a holiday season. One of the things I like about a Cyber Quarter is that you mentioned it’s not a big bet on one day, right? We have a lot of window to tune, to sense and respond, to use analytics to our advantage, to think about merchandising and promotions a totally different way. I mean, what else is the data and what are you seeing in terms of driving digital marketing for the rest of the year?
Eric: Yeah, and just to follow up to what you said there, I think that’s such as important point, Jim. When you think about agility in a different way, how important it is that businesses think about making sure they have the systems in place to rapidly gather information and respond in real-time. That’s so much more than just a COVID-19 or a pandemic response type of thing. It’s going to be table stakes going forward, your ability to recognize small ripples in the market and capitalize on them with great speed, and having the infrastructure in place for that. From a digital marketing perspective, analytics is actually a piece of that, for sure. But, then again, so is your website more generally.
We did ask a few different questions. I actually have a bunch of slides that share some really cool data. Here’s what happened when we asked our participants what they saw about the importance of their website and how that was impacted by the pandemic.
It’s fascinating. 67% saw it increasing. It was more than five times as many who saw the importance decreasing. And think about if, six months ago, I told you something is going to happen that’s going to accelerate the growth of e-commerce, you would have laughed at me. “Yeah, come on, Eric. It’s already taken over the world,” right? Of course, not every business is in that situation, but a lot are. But it’s clear the focus on the website was often in a pretty dramatic way.
You can take that a little further and look at the change in the actual investment in the website.
Here, the numbers are even more stark. More than ten times as many brands were seeing their website investment going up as a result of the pandemic than going down. And that’s just a crazy illustration of a part of this landscape that has changed so dramatically as a result of this. So, I think it’s going to cause a little bit of a race, because you don’t really want to watch your competitor transforming into this new environment more quickly than you and stealing a market edge on you by getting there faster. We’re already seeing that with a number of businesses that are just really doubling down, literally, on what they’re spending on the website in a broader sense. We actually broke this down into various market segments.
In the chart on the left, the bar chart is showing the ratio of businesses that were increasing their view of website importance. In technology, only 3.3 times as many saw it going up as down, but it’s still really high. For the Other Industries category, we had to call it other industries, even though there are six or seven industries in it because we just didn’t feel that each individual industry was statistically significant enough to break out individually. But across the board, what you see is a huge sense of the importance. And then on the right, we’re actually talking about the stats in terms of investment. Apologies for the little typo in the title there. But, you know, 6.3 times as many people in technology are increasing their investment. And nobody in consumer retail is seeing a decrease. We had around 12% that were staying flat and everybody else is all-in upping their investment. But it’s across the board, it really tells such a strong story about how people are viewing all this.
So, we’re excited already by all this data, but we actually broke it down even further into five of the individual disciplines.
And again, here we’re looking at a ratio of those who said they were increasing their investment over those who said they were decreasing it. So, five times as many said they’re increasing SEO investment as decreasing, and so forth. The weakest category was still quite strong with automation at 3.3. So, it’s across the board, and I love the fact that CRO came in at the highest-rated category because that to me is about doing more with less, right? So, you have a certain number of visitors to your website and you have a market where a lot of them are less likely to spend more or spend as much. They might be getting more conservative with their dollar because you certainly have unemployed people—sadly, too many of those who are going to be spending less.
So, look to your conversion rate. I always love talking about this. You have 10,000 visitors to a section of your site currently converting 2%, say. What if you could make that 2.4%? Revenue just went up 20% and all I did was work on conversion rate optimization for a while. So that’s just crazy interesting data when you look at this stuff. If we dig in a little deeper, though, which we did, we broke this out by the various types of businesses, because a lot of times, it’s like, “Oh, that’s just like a B2C thing.” But it turns out that it’s applied across the board—B2B, B2C, and even B2G were upping their investment.
In fact, the interesting thing here is B2G was the most impressive category of businesses across the board. But, everybody, effectively every type of business, was committing heavily to significant increases in digital marketing across all the various disciplines we looked at.
And then another slice of the data here is by the various types of industries.
I had them highlight in red the consumer retail side of things because that was what was crazy to me here. Literally, nobody was decreasing—yes, there were some that weren’t increasing, and then a whole large swath of people were really significantly increasing their investment. But even across all the other types of channels and industries, and in areas of investment, everything is increasing. So, talk about digital transformation, Jim. This is a piece of it right here. What do you think about all of this?
Jim: Yeah, I think it’s interesting to see the data. Again, everything’s moving so fast and we’ve been living this and experiencing it. I think when you talk about conversion rate optimization, CRO, I’ve always thought there’s an under-appreciated discipline from a marketing and a commerce perspective, in particular. I think I got started in commerce, where we think about cart conversion. But, there are applications across every event. And we’ve talked a lot about personalization. I mean, every one of those personalization experiments, every A/B test, is an opportunity for conversion science.
To me, I think that stands out because it’s one of those continuous improvement type of tactics that, if you’re not sure—again, you’re dealing with uncertainty or your funding is just limited or everyone’s on hold—it’s a great tactic to just feel those interactions one at a time. So, I think there are a lot of opportunities to do that, right? SEO is a great opportunity, CRO. I won’t go into all the TLAs or 303 that are acronyms, but those are the two TLAs that I think stand out the most because they are continuous improvement opportunities, right? So, when your team’s at home and you’re not sure what’s going on, those were great investment opportunities.
The other thing that we haven’t gotten into is the effect of globalization. I talked about it in terms of staffing, and a little bit in supply chain, but I think the way global delivery is going to be slowly coming back, it’ll get more attention. Again, I’ll mention supply chain. It’s a whole other domain to go into but this event is going to spotlight some other opportunities to bring resilience, and business continuity, and agility back into play. So, again, all of that gives us the option to apply things a little more tactically.
Eric: Cool. So why don’t we see if we have any questions out there? “So, with so many areas considered and decisions to make, what should my first priority be? Where should I start? What will have the most impact?” Jim, why don’t you take that?
Jim: Yeah, that goes back to this uncertainty, right? One of the ways we like to think about this is we have an approach we call “Now New Next.” Now New Next is when you’re faced with 100 ideas or 1,000 ideas—and ideation is great, don’t get me wrong—but there are so many ideas. How do you boil that down to the 20 ideas that matter, to the five ideas that are going to move the needle, and the one idea that you’re going to get funding and buy-in for? That’s a tough one. I think one of the ways to do that is you really have to look at a portfolio. The way we think about these is, if I’ve got 100 ideas, and I have to make a tough choice, do I take a risk and innovate on something or do I keep the lights on and double down on what I’m doing? The answer is you kind of have to do both. And we call that a portfolio approach.
I think you have to have good rules of engagement. Where those rules are delivered really go back to things I talked about, the voice of the customer and the voice of the business. We talked about this so many times, Eric. Have customer empathy, have a sense of what they want, and a lot of that is driven by expectations. And a lot of those expectations come from outside your category. We didn’t talk too much about restaurants but, Open Table—you’ve got to reserve a table to get it. If you want to sit down in a restaurant today, if you’re lucky enough to do that where you live, then you’ve got to reserve it. And so, that Open Table experience, how does that translate to scheduling my doctor’s appointment, even if it’s a telemedicine appointment?
Sometimes those expectations can drive the value and the voice of the customer in those decisions. But to me, it’s about having visibility into what those expectations are, figuring out which ones matter from a business perspective, and then getting really good at having an objective scorecard about which ones to choose. And don’t overthink it. We have a phrase we use a lot. Think big, start small, move fast. So think back to agility, think small releases, and what you can do, and how you can iterate on making those changes.
Eric: Yeah, and from a digital and marketing perspective, to me, it’s a clear case of having the right information about what’s going on is power—you know that old saying, “Information is power,” right? You just need to make sure you have the right data sources so you can come up with the right strategy. And you have to be in the position to get that data and respond to it quickly. And certainly, your analytics data is key in terms of what’s going on with your website, but also third-party analyst data, if you can get access to that, third-party research reports, Google Trends. These are all tools that are really critical to having the right information so that you can figure out. Is it SEO, or CRO, or do I want to go with paid media? We saw a lot of people saying they’re going to up their paid media spend, even though most of our respondents agreed that paid media costs are going to go way up. That drives a need basically to get more efficient, right? So, with all these things, you have to make sure you have the right information sources.
We do have another question. This one is, “Any particular tools and tips for conversion rate optimization?” I think I’ll take that one if that’s all right. Justin, I think the first thing is you have to make sure you have the right systems put in place to get data, right? I mean, certainly, there’s a lot you can do at a qualitative level and look at a page, and make judgments about why a page might be underperforming or not. And that’s a big key, a very useful thing to do. But set up things like Hotjar to track mouse movements on a page, or even place one of the many tools out there for A/B testing, actual A/B testing. Getting that kind of data is critical to start.
And my next tip on the conversion rate optimization side of things is, don’t be afraid to be bold, right? You will read stories out there about someone who changed the color of a button from green to orange and conversion rates went up by 20%. It used to be thought that orange was the color of conversion. And you’ll read those things. In a lot of cases, it’s smarter to re-envision the approach and not be afraid to do something fairly dramatic, especially in the context of an A/B test where you can show one version of a screen to some users and another version to others. And that’s the last point that I’ll add on to that one. With that, I think we are at time, so thank you all for attending. Hopefully, you found this interesting.
Jim: Thanks, everyone, for joining, and thanks to our study participants. Take care, Eric.
Eric: You too, Jim.