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Roundtable Recap: Digital Customer Acquisition

Last month, the Stagwell Group hosted its fourth virtual roundtable of the fall, discussing strategies and tactics for cutting through the noise and reaching new customers online.

The conversation convened leaders who provided valuable perspective on both B2B and B2C marketing and what they can learn from each other. “Beyond the obvious” tactics were top of mind — all of our participants found unique value in their more innovative investments, including employee engagement as a customer acquisition tool and first-party data management (to prepare for a post-cookie world). The variety in approaches, budgets, and priorities was a reminder of the truth that one size does not fit all in digital marketing.

Below are our key takeaways for marketers:

Building Brand Loyalty Online

We all know that e-commerce is here to stay — 2020 made that more apparent than ever. Predictably, brands with established ecommerce platforms were in a much better position to adapt to the challenges and opportunities this year introduced, not only because of scalable systems and data infrastructure, but also because of well-developed brand loyalty and expectations.

But even with that advantage, one participant noted that “people have less brand loyalty online,” where ease of transaction and availability of product can become the most important factors. For example, as the pandemic began to sweep across the country earlier this year, people looking for necessities such as hand sanitizer and household products online were forced to switch brands based on availability and a pressing need for the product. The same participant noted, “everyone was game to change brands” because their immediate need for a specific good — such as toilet paper — outweighed any existing brand loyalty. As a result, brands are facing increased pressure to think of new ways to assure their “stickiness,” ranging from marketing-driven loyalty programs to increasingly sophisticated logistics operations that ensure products are produced, stocked, and distributed in a way that can meet dynamic consumer needs.

At the same time, the shift to digital is an opportunity to transform online shopping from transactional to experiential, supporting the entire customer journey with auxiliary content and activities, new formats like video, and more extensive product lines, unbound by physical store footprints. New platforms serving niche audiences can further build out brand identity and provide a wrap-around experience, speaking to customers in a dynamic and authentic way. Influencers and social media are a great example of this, opening the conversation with a hard-to-reach demographic and allowing the brand to start “talking to new people, not only the same people” that they always reach. As brand loyalty becomes less sticky, strategies for growing audience size becomes ever more important.

Regardless of the mix of in-person vs online engagement, it’s crucial that brands take the time to nurture relationships with customers rather than simply moving them into a transactional online brand experience. One of the best ways to foster strong brand loyalty is by consistently telling compelling stories that reflect consumers’ values across platforms, creating connection points and opportunity for relatability with the brand. As brands become increasingly vocal and align with social movements and values, patronizing a brand becomes a broader statement of one’s principles. Showing people how their values are reflected in a brands’ ethos reinforces their loyalty and demonstrates value and connection beyond the product itself.

A Treasure Trove of Data

The massive shift to e-commerce caused our participants to wholly reassess their digital platform mix and how it aligned with their new customer acquisition strategy. This unearthed a variety of strategic and technical challenges inherent in evaluating which platforms are best suited to reach specific audiences in a fast-paced and ever-evolving digital environment.

Fortunately, one of the most useful outputs of e-commerce is the invaluable consumer data it provides. Data informs every step of the consumer experience, from identification to acquisition to reinforcement. Brands have the opportunity to try a variety of strategies, collect data from each of the attempted efforts, and iterate, funneling resources into the channel strategy that will lead to success.

  • For some brands, that may mean investing in paid social or search
  • For others, it’s moving to platforms where they can tell a story and take customers on an online journey…
  • For still others, it may be spending fewer resources on advertising and new platforms and instead investing in employee engagement, encouraging them to carry the brand’s message online. (A participant from a B2B brand shared her company’s success utilizing employees as credible and valuable messengers, noting social advocacy through employees has had the greatest ROI for the company.)

Regardless of the platform, data collection provides insights that can be used to reallocate resources, concretely measure ROI, and account for every dollar being spent.

The world of digital marketing is complex, dynamic, and expansive, but in many ways it comes back to marketing basics. The task is to meet customers where they are, understand their needs, and put a value proposition in front of them that meets that need — whether its product, price, or a broader sense of value and community. The digital world is an opportunity to execute those customer acquisition efforts with more data, precision, and agility, and marketers are only becoming more nimble with time and experience.

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The Stagwell Group is a digital-first marketing company serving clients with simplicity and speed at scale. To learn more, head to www.stagwellgroup.com, or visit us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube.

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