Near's Harish Ganesh maps out how marketers can still leverage location data to inform strategy and campaigns, as the home-based audiences become a key targeting consideration even beyond post-lockdown measures.
Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis
This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic has upended the world, changing the way we work, shop, and communicate with people. This has brought forth a plethora of branding and marketing challenges from reinventing a brand purpose to finding newer ways to communicate with a relevant audience. Social distancing and quarantine measures have led to higher adoption of digital products, services, and platforms where online shopping, streaming on OTT platforms, and gaming have become the norm.
With this new normal, e-commerce and mobile commerce platforms have benefitted leaving offline players further behind. Triggered by panic buying, e-commerce sales surged by nearly 15% in the week of March 17-23 when compared to the same period last year.
To cope, offline businesses have joined the omnichannel game with a major focus on building an online presence. For instance, fitness brands have continued to engage with members by providing online training sessions and delivering food and essentials. Adidas too is promoting its brand with free Adidas Training and Running apps.
Location data enables brands to do proximity targeting. However, in the wake of COVID-19, where places are temporarily shut, and people are practising self-isolation, the traction has shifted to the online platforms with ‘home location’ emerging as the new primary location. To drive higher brand recall, it is imperative for brands to better understand and connect to this home location-based audience with consistent and relevant messaging.
How can brands stay relevant to a home location-based audience?
Consumers were already leaning towards online platforms even before the outbreak and there is a high likelihood that this trend will strengthen over time. Today, most people staying home are using an array of apps be it for shopping, online fitness classes, education training programs, ordering-in, gaming, or socialising.
Using advanced data science models, data platforms can merge historical and real-time visitation behaviour with the amount of time spent at a place of interest to bring a new segment of the audience - the home location-based audience. A home location-based audience is a person whose home location is known and who can be reached out for a specific use case by a brand. As businesses look for lucrative opportunities, having access to such consumer insights can be a game-changer as the use cases are manifold.
Due to limited mobility, in-store and OOH spends have reduced as mobile phones have become the primary screen for consumers. Therefore, we can expect marketing dollars to be directed at this channel. A good understanding of home location signals allows brands to target members of a household with differentiated messages, thus amplifying their brand preference.
For example, understanding behavioural patterns about consumers’ online shopping on an e-commerce platform coupled with the visitation data (from before the isolation measures) to a supermarket near the home location can help determine the brand affinity, frequency and platform to serve ads about the availability of products, new stocks, discounts, customized delivery/pick-up slots or even relief work.
[To read Near’s report on the changing behaviour of people in the real-world amid a global pandemic in full, click here.]
Delivering the right message at the right time to this home location-based audience can push them towards the end of the sales funnel, thereby, increasing the probability of conversion. This holds true even for when things normalize, and people are out and about.
How can brands engage with audiences post the isolation period?
The post-isolation phase will create a spectrum of audiences:
1. The risk-takers: This segment of the audience will bounce back faster into the real-world and revert to their old behaviour patterns.
2. The risk-averse: This is the home location-based audience who will avoid visiting place categories that have high crowding such as shopping centres, restaurants, public transport, etc. indicating a higher reliance on digital platforms for their essential needs and entertainment.
3. The balancers: This segment will balance their outdoor visitation and online activities depending on their need.
For example, the risk-takers will prefer to dine-in versus ordering online, therefore, proximity targeting and communication about outlet openings/launches can be used to drive in-store visitation. For the risk-averse audience, QSRs can share food delivery options. Lastly, for the balancers, a combination of proximity and online targeting can help increase brand affinity.
To drive effective marketing, having access to actionable intelligence can help marketers understand the behaviour of each audience segment and target them with the right channel and relevant messaging.
Most importantly, being a sensitive period, this is an opportunity for brands to showcase their human side. The most effective brand communication during times like these will not just focus on new customer acquisition but will also be driven by sincere empathy leading to a positive brand image.