The crisis is not the time to be away from your clients

This is a story I tell very often, it is a story about a crisis called 2008. Some bragged, others complained, and here is what happened to me ...

In 2008, I was as old as the average digital senior these days, and I worked as an account consultant at an agency that (among other things) created websites. As the crisis came slowly, so day by day more and more existing clients came to us with a story:

You know, listen, see, uf… crisis. We will now cut most of the costs and our website is one of the projects that we will unfortunately have to give up.

OK, it was clear to me that our future wasn’t going to be rosy, but I wasn’t losing hope, probably because I didn’t, like my boss, have an insight into the current ratio of incoming and outgoing bills, which wasn’t very optimistic. But as I was constantly in touch with clients, I knew how a smaller (but higher quality!) part of them was thinking. And indeed, some of them came to us with a story:

You know, listen, see, uf… crisis. We will now invest even more money in our website, but you have to allow us this, so this, and this…

It turned out that Pareto’s rule, according to which 20% of clients bring 80% of income, is valid in this case as well. Most of the clients who gave up on our services were clients who took up most of our time, with poor financial results. These 20% of clients believed in us because of the partnership, they knew how important quality online business is for them to overcome the crisis, and they believed in our knowledge and skills.

Do not stop, but use it wisely

Within a few weeks, we managed to develop several technical and analytical solutions that made our clients different from others, and which enabled them to primarily gain the best possible control over the spending of their investments.

Interestingly, these clients were mostly from the tourism industry, the one that was also claimed to be hit hardest by the crisis in 2008. They knew that there would be budget cuts and they wanted to invest in what the return on investment brings them the most, and in order to know that they first had to measure well and know what they have to measure.

So we embarked on the first more complex ecommerce implementations of web analytics, and the tourism industry helped us and many other colleagues then to start doing what is now called performance marketing. Moreover, colleagues from Europe can mention to me that we in Croatia had developed digital marketing long before other countries, because while in other countries or industries digital people were just thinking about introducing web stores or working only on a web-awareness campaign, in Croatia radio ecommerce performance marketing for export (because hotel websites are actually web stores that deliver products mainly for export). So much for the fact that tourism (does not) affect other industries.

We then used the crisis to pivot the company, our products and services, we became known for a specific product and we reached pre-crisis turnover very quickly. We can often hear such stories from many successful companies or projects. Personally, the crisis of 2008 prompted me to dedicate myself more to digital analysis, a job for which I am mostly known today.

Let’s stand on the ball, but let’s move on

A crisis is a time to step on the ball and think about what to do next. But after stopping, you should start as soon as possible. Given that in the current crisis we can see how much isolation would be much harder for us without the internet, reducing the budget for your online activities is not exactly the smartest decision.

In the first days of the “crown of the crisis”, I noticed that many brands stopped advertising, and today the big Coca Cola officially withdrew. This may be understandable in times when we don’t know what the future will be like, but now is not the time to be far away from our clients. Now is the time to show our clients that we are with them, because clients will remember just that when the crisis is over.

Given the currently increased consumption of Internet content (DotMetrics, a website traffic monitoring service, records about 50% more visits to regional portals compared to last year) there are plenty of places from which we can send our message. These messages should not be conversion messages (unless you sell toilet paper, masks or freezers), but messages that show that we are with them. Or as Davor Bruketa put it nicely, “In situations like this, you have the opportunity to do something that will make you important to people.

Red Rose Effect

The phenomenon called the “red rose effect” has long been known to economists, and it has been observed that it always occurs in difficult times. Since people in times of crisis do not have the money for large and expensive extravagances such as houses and expensive cars, they are “honored” with a small, more affordable luxury. Women buy lipsticks and cosmetics, and men buy small gadgets.

In the first days of the crisis, web stores that sell groceries recorded a huge increase in traffic, so Konzum Klik has not had delivery dates available for days. Home appliance stores, especially those that sell freezers and refrigerators, have also seen an increase in purchases, as has, say, The Wine and More, which supplies wine and beer throughout Croatia during the crisis. These are all commodities that are bought when we believe we need to prepare well for a crisis “that will last for months”.

Some websites also record a drop in traffic, but most websites still record an increase, which is to be expected because most of us in isolation shorten our boredom – by surfing. But I see that already in the third week, there has been an increase in traffic in other web stores, those that allow us to buy “a little something for ourselves”, to feel better, which is – the effect of red lipstick. Similar results are shown by the latest research by the Equestris agency on changes in consumer habits in online shopping due to the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.

66 days to the habit

Some brands probably thought they should (just) start a web store now, while some decided to improve their web store. We need to know that in the next period, the increase in web traffic will primarily affect those brands that have already had an online and offline store, whose brands customers already know and whose trust they have already earned. Customers will give them an advantage over a new, unknown brand, whose experience they have not yet experienced (offline). An example from the offline world these days are kiosks, which as well-known outlets record record sales not only of newspapers – people go to the kiosk to drink coffee, pay utilities, play Lotto

Of course, as I already mentioned, customers will also be attracted by those brands that communicate positively with them (e.g. portals without clickbait or panic titles now create a future permanent audience) and which customers are now becoming important to. It would be good if the portals now adopted the writing of positive news, and, for example, emphasized the number of cured people in the headlines on a daily basis, and not the number of infected people.

There are few events in our lives that can lead us to change consumer habits or brand (such as moving to another country or having a child), and this crisis is definitely one of those events. We are “beings of habit” and as such we are predictable, but a new habit can be acquired more easily than we think. Some psychological research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit, while some can be acquired after as little as 18 days.

Insulation shapes new consumer habits

What does that mean? Today, some probably think that this crisis will pass quickly and that customers will return to their old spending habits. This is partly true, but as we will be safe in isolation for more than 18 days, your current customers are likely to acquire new habits of reading, communicating, or shopping. If they have positive experiences, they will continue to pay bills, communicate, teach, shop and the like via the Internet. They will realize that “that internet” is not so much a specter and will use it to a greater extent than before the crisis. If another brand “takes” them from you now, you will lose them forever. Or until some next big crisis.

In the last couple of years, we have often heard that we have to use the so-called mobile-first access, ie the creation of web content primarily for smartphone users, because they use the web to a greater extent. From this crisis, brands will have to start using the online-first approach, according to which the brand should first build its online presence, and only then offline.

Measure three times, cut once

To know what needs to change on your website, what’s wrong at the moment, and what’s good, you don’t need to ask the owner or a new designer, but you need to ask your customers. No, you don’t need to put together a survey for this, because customers in surveys usually give desirable answers (read: lie). Moreover, customers have probably already “told” you everything you need and their answers are visible in the web analytics data, but you can’t read them.

In the research that my colleague Jelena Brekalo presented with me at the CRO Commerce 2020 conference, we showed that most web store owners either mistakenly think they are using or do not know what analytics they are using in their web shop! In practice, I have seen many times that webmasters do not know which numbers to look at or are looking at the wrong metrics or are misinterpreting them. This leads them to wrong conclusions, which in turn lead to wrong changes, and which lead to unwanted results.

A popular saying goes “measure three times, cut once” because a change made after a wrong measurement can cost us dearly. Likewise, no opinion of a consultant can replace the information you received with an accurate measurement, and accurate measurements are at your fingertips, you just need to know how to measure and read them.

So I ask you all to first analyze well the data you have about your web – but don’t look at users, reach or followers – and then make changes. The changes that are necessary for your brand to survive and survive this crisis. Update your website, start creating and posting new types of content and measure, measure, measure. Specifically, make a change on the web, measure its impact, analyze the data obtained, decide if it made sense or not, and start making a new change. This is the only way you can know what is better for your customers and not for your Boss or Boss (and their other halves).

In good times, numbers are analyzed so now – learn!

And finally a disclaimer.

Those who knew before the crisis what was good for them on the web and why, they would potentially adapt better to the crisis. Those who have just started measuring the success of their online activities or have only just started online online they simply want or will not have the luck, which we always need a little in life and work. We just don’t have to rely on much of our business for luck, but prepare for better days.

So listen to the advice your uncle will give you. Digital marketing is one of the few industries in which with smart work, targeted changes, measurement, analysis and quality reactions to analysis you can learn something new about your business every day and be a better version of yourself every day. There are few jobs that offer such an opportunity. The only question is are we ready to learn and be better every day?