Marketing

How the Burden of Choice Impacts Your Customers

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by Jessica Dreiling, Sr. Consultant, Integrated Insight

Choice is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. We all want options, but often become paralyzed by the number of variables present. In a similar fashion, your customers can feel immobilized by the number of choices presented to them. This concept of “choice overload” has been understood as a cognitive impairment in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

During a recent shopping trip to furnish a house, my husband became paralyzed by the endless choices needed to purchase a sectional: style, shape, design, upholstery, structure, and stiffness. He spent an entire weekend researching options. Several weeks later, he still hasn’t picked one.

I am certain that if I had presented him with two couch options and said, “Pick one; which do you like better?” He would have easily chosen one and felt happy about it.

While large purchases have significant trade-offs when making choices, choice overload impacts small purchasing decisions as well.

A recent consumer report discovered that 54% of consumers experience so much frustration that they abandon e-commerce sites if they can’t choose. 42% admitted to abandoning a planned purchase altogether because there was too much choice.

If consumers cannot make a decision, it is extremely unlikely that they will make a purchase.

Simplifying Products in Travel and Tourism

It is very easy for consumers to experience choice overload when planning vacations. Whether a customer is in market filling spare time or still planning a vacation, make it easy for them to choose your experience by simplifying the presentation of your products.

In most cases, we have found it beneficial for our clients to streamline products down to a few core options.  We recommend presenting options in simple, predefined packages or bundles, in a progression of features and price. Simplifying the number of options will help to reduce the burden on the consumer and clarify the value proposition. A menu of three options is easy for customers to evaluate.

product stratification

A regional tourist destination with multiple attractions illustrates this point. This destination offers a variety of attractions, themed experiences, retail, and food and beverage. The options to purchase an experience online were overwhelming, with dozens of varieties of attraction combos and upgrades being presented together. This contributed to a perilous cart abandonment rate.

By reducing the number of products presented in the e-commerce funnel to three of the most demanded product combinations, the customer was presented with a clear “good, better, best” value proposition that facilitated decision making and improved online conversion by double digits.

Simplification Can Improve the Bottom Line for Restaurants

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants were forced to simplify in order to reduce costs. Simplification involved fewer moving parts and the ability to be significantly more productive. This required less labor, fewer deliveries, lower waste, and improved execution. It also eliminated broad and complex menus that were difficult for restaurants to execute profitability and consistently.

Restaurants realized that a menu does not need to be complex to be compelling. By reducing menus down to the most demanded items, patrons spent less time deciphering options, which ultimately increased table turn time, throughput, and profitability.

Fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger has been deemed the master of simplicity with a menu offering comprised of four product categories: burgers, fries, shakes and drinks. Out of the four categories, only two (burgers and fries) require any real processing at the point of purchase.

 

11.20_InNOut_menu

Without a complex menu, the average order time per customer is reduced to around 60 seconds. Additionally, the burger chain does not have the typical variability in purchases, standardizing process flows and minimizing bottlenecks. Keeping the menu simple and streamlined has additional operational impacts, such as improved customer service, maximizing labor and machine utilization, and reduced waste.

Ultimately, trying to be all things to all people does not mean you will be more profitable.

Understanding Your Customer

So, how much choice should you provide customers? The ultimate balance any company should aim to strike is the one between consumer appeal and higher sales and revenues. Reaching that goal requires measuring what matters and taking action to improve those metrics.

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Customer Loyalty Programs: The Ultimate Guide

by Stephen Davis, VP of Pricing and Revenue Services, Integrated Insight

Loyalty programs have become pretty commonplace for retailers in today’s market. It’s estimated roughly 7-in-10 adults are a member of at least one loyalty program.1 From simple punch cards to elaborate point structures, you can find them in just about every industry.

Loyalty reward programs are powerful tools for businesses. Offering perks for loyal customers improves retentionand encourages new customers to engage.

Let’s first answer some common questions about loyalty reward programs. Then we’ll jump into tactical components and strategies to help make sure you’re getting the most out of it, regardless of the type of program.

What Is the Goal of a Customer Loyalty Program?

Determining the correct program to implement can make a difference in the value of the loyalty program for consumers and your business. There are three key goals loyalty programs aim to meet:

One of the key targets of a successful program is the ability to retain customers. According to a study by Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is at least three times higher than selling to a prospective customer.So maximizing retention means an easier sell.

A successful program should be structured to incent more purchases among loyalty members in a way that doesn’t “give away the farm.” More than 60% of loyalty program members report modifying their spending to maximize loyalty benefits.3  Achieving this goal is attainable with the right structure in place.

Loyalty programs provide more than one “win-win” for businesses and consumers. In addition to providing more value for customers and more revenue for businesses, loyalty programs also provide critical insights on customer behavior.  Convincing customers to participate in a program provides a way to learn more about them, including what they like and how they shop. Gaining clear insight on loyal consumers provides opportunity for meaningful engagement, which results in a better customer service experience.

It has become an expectation, not a differentiator, that companies put the wealth of data consumers share with them to work on their behalf.  In a business environment that has become less personalized towards the consumer due to technology, tracking consumer habits presents an opportunity to engage customers on a personal level once again.

In recent years, companies have taken this a step further by tracking purchases of customers and creating customized offers for those who use services. For instance, the CVS ExtraCare rewards program tracks purchases and prints coupons on receipts based on transaction history. Data from Bond Brand Loyalty shows that 87% of participants in loyalty programs are interested in having purchasing behavior and activity monitored in order to receive personalized rewards.

What Type of Loyalty Program Should I Use?

Let’s break down a few of the most popular loyalty programs that businesses use to increase customer base and encourage incremental purchases. There are benefits and limitations to each, so certain types of programs may work better for your business depending on products sold and available technology.

Punch cards are a tried and true loyalty program tactic. But the days of carrying around scraps of paper with unique punch holes are behind us. Today, nearly all consumers would much rather interact through modern technology.In recent years, punch cards have gone digital as businesses have published apps. Even those companies that have not published their own apps have been able to use third-party apps for their rewards programs.

Going digital with punch cards offers a few advantages. In addition to eliminating the need for keeping track of paper punch cards, a digital approach can reduce fraud by eliminating the ability for a customer to punch their own card and take advantage of the business. Additionally, it can lower cost to businesses in the long run and allows business to collect data to profile customers – one of the key goals of a loyalty program. Digital programs provide real-time data with each use, whereas punch cards only provide insights once customers complete earn all punches and have earned a reward.

The goal of the punch card style program is to incent incremental purchases with the offer of a free or greatly reduced purchase in the future. However, setting a fence around those reward items can help make a punch card even more efficient. For example, rather than allowing a customer to get a broad discount on their 11th purchase – create a structure so that the award after 10 purchases is an array of potential items, or discounts, fenced to specific products. A loyal customer is likely to use an indiscriminate discount on a product they’d already purchase. However, offering products that need a boost or are not frequently bought by customers can help incentivize trial purchases of other products you sell and avoid dilution.

Points systems are one of the simplest loyalty reward structures. Customers spend X number of dollars to receive Y number of points, which can then be used as a currency at your business. The points system is great for capturing many types of customers because it is based on the dollar amount that is spent. This means that all customers receive the same incentive relative to the dollar amount spent. 

The key to a successful points program is setting a structure that transparently communicates how customers earn points, what their value is, and what they can redeem. Being transparent about the entire structure upfront builds trust and helps customers see why the program is a benefit for them.

Paid subscriptions and memberships create a system in which only people who participate (pay money) for a service or privilege can access products or deals offered by a company. Companies like Sam’s and Costco use these memberships and offer huge discounts for products by selling in bulk. Online retailers, such as Amazon, also use this system in which members have access to special benefits and services, such as free shipping. These memberships are often profitable because they have low cost for customer acquisition while giving substantial benefits to customers. This allows these companies to attract consumers to buy subscriptions or memberships at a high volume.

It’s easy to see how a paid membership could pay off for a retailer. Receiving money up front regardless of usage is attractive, but that’s not the end goal. Retailers with paid loyalty program memberships have to leverage the relationship to pull members into higher levels of spending, but when faced with strong savings, there is little benefit for customers to shop elsewhere.

Many larger businesses pair with credit card companies to create cards which have added incentives for spending at a brand’s location. While a typical credit card may offer 1-3% cashback at retailers and restaurants, these cards often offer upwards of 5% cashback. This brings in customers as they are fundamentally receiving a discount from purchases at the brand, though they can spend the money received through cashback perks anywhere.

The real value of brand credit cards for a business though are the referral payments for getting a customer to sign up for the card. Though this can be very attractive, it typically only pencils out for major retailers with a national brand.

Conclusion

Picking a loyalty program method will depend on the nature of a business and technology capabilities. But in nearly all instances, a loyalty program can be designed with the right value proposition to drive desirable behaviors.

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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5 Cost-Effective Restaurant Marketing Strategies during the Coronavirus Era

by Jessica Dreiling, Senior Consultant, Integrated Insight

While Germany and the United Kingdom are showing pent-up restaurant demand as bookings have already returned to pre-COVID levels after reopening, it is uncertain how the U.S. market will respond.  There is a lot for restaurant owners to consider regarding space optimization, cost savings, and safety requirements when reopening for dine-in guests, but it is also important for them to reassess marketing strategies with the new 2020 conditions.

Proactive marketing can be an effective tool for restaurants, but with limited cash flow, how should restaurants be advertising, and how should marketing priorities change?

Here are 5 Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies that Restaurants Can Implement to Increase Foot Traffic:

1. Proactively Communicate Safety Precautions

Today, more than ever, when choosing where and what to eat, safety is paramount. In fact, search interest for “is food delivery safe” has increased 650% across the U.S. since the beginning of March. Reassuring customers that you understand the concerns for safety and are taking important steps to address the current situation is key.

In addition, a research study by Market Force Information shows that 80% of consumers will be visiting brands that they trust.1 In order to re-establish trust with customers, restaurants will need to look for ways to communicate that they’re taking health and safety seriously.

Communicating the new operational procedures through organic social channels will help customers feel comfortable. However, restaurant operators should focus less on talking about the frequency of cleaning since customers may feel that should have been the standard pre-COVID. Rather, talking about contactless payment, mobile menu ordering, virtual wait lines, and table spacing is a better option.

2. Communicate Support for the Community

Customers with emotional relationships with a brand have a  lifetime value of more than 300% and will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. And a Mintel study shows that a company’s charitable giving affects over 70% of Americans’ purchase decisions, while 8 in 10 consumers say it’s important that a company supports a charitable cause.

Companies that make sincere efforts to be part of communities will receive customer loyalty.2   Right now, the communities in need are front-line workers in health care and the black community. With limited cash flow, restaurants can still show support through non-monetary efforts. Examples include social media posts, lighting up store-front signs with support messages, and stating a pledge to uphold safety precautions.

Americans have been living in isolation for months, and on top of that, the current social climate has left them frustrated, sad, and drained. Restaurants that show authentic support for their community will reap the rewards with increased referrals and organic social media reach.

3. Increase Repeat Visitation by Enhancing the Guest Experience

Instead of spending hours creating online content for potential customers to see, restaurants that focus on enhancing the guest experience for their current customers will see the most repeat business in 2020. Cost per Acquisition (CPA) is lower for repeat customers than trying to acquire new leads. And we all know word of mouth marketing is the most cost-effective acquisition strategy.

Rather than spending money on ad campaigns, retraining staff to treat each customer as a valued guest will go farther. Lee Cockerell, former Executive VP of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort, recommends implementing the Guest Experience Cycle to increase repeat business in one week. This is a tool to ensure every guest is treated like a “VIP” from the first contact with the restaurant until departure.

In our article regarding space optimization for restaurants, we recommend a few ways to elevate the customer experience when wait times will increase due to social distancing requirements. This can include adding an option for virtual queuing and providing for spaced-out waiting areas or outdoor queues.

4. Increase Word of Mouth Marketing with Product Innovation

We all know that Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) is the most effective customer acquisition strategy, but what are the steps for restaurants to achieve it? Customers will do the talking for you when a product or experience is unique and different. “Purple Cow”  is a marketing concept developed by entrepreneur Seth Godin that states that companies must build things worth noticing right into their products or services in order to sell.

Rather than relying on creative advertising and content production, only to spend money to be placed in a crowded media landscape, restaurants should focus on creating a great product and experience. When these elements provide significant value, restaurant goers will tell their friends.

Seito Sushi, a local Japanese restaurant, created a “build your own” sushi platter for take-out customers when the quarantine started in March. The product went viral on social media and it sold out nearly every day. It may have been the saving grace for the restaurant during the quarantine – all with $0 advertising cost, no additional food cost, and reduced labor cost.

Restaurant innovation does not need to be food-related to gain traction. Adding a surprise-and-delight element such as live entertainment, socially-distanced mobile trivia, and themed beverages can also be effective.

seito sushi is a great example of product innovation to help restaurants with marketing during coronavirus
5. Assess Pricing and Promotional Strategies

While all of these strategies can increase foot traffic to your restaurant, focusing on pricing strategies can increase sales of profitable items. In our recent article on menu engineering, we provide a guide on how restaurants can design their menu to improve profitability during these harsh times. Taking a slight price increase on very popular and profitable items will be advantageous to restaurants, as it will all fall straight to the bottom line.

Promotional strategies can improve restaurant sales by attracting new customers. Partnerships with local social media influencers can be a powerful promotional tool when customers are spending so much time online. In addition, providing a coupon in delivery and pickup orders can prompt future visits.

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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Your customers can feel immobilized by the number of choices presented to them. The ultimate balance any company should aim to strike is the one between consumer appeal and higher sales and revenues.

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loyalty program to help businesses during coronavirus

How Loyalty Programs Can Help Businesses in Post-Covid Economy

by Stephen Davis, VP, Integrated Insight

Published May 12, 2020

Businesses will face monumental challenges in the coming year as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. For many, this is their first time operating in an economic crisis. Unfortunately for some, it will also be their last and only.

The United States’ economy slumped in the first quarter of 2020. The economy will likely  be in a recession through the end of the year. Over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Historic double-digit unemployment rates are expected in the months to come. Economic uncertainty is spreading, and consumers are worried about short-term job prospects and financial security.

As Americans tighten their belts, competition for wallet share will intensify. Current business strategies need to focus on customer retention and low customer acquisition costs. This can be achieved through a customer loyalty program. Loyalty programs also increase customer engagement, frequency of engagement, and spending - all of which improves the bottom line.

For businesses without a rewards program in place, now is the time for action. For those with an existing program, now is the time to fortify the use of best practices and dive into customer loyalty program insights.

Successful loyalty programs do three things:

  1. Create a relationship.
  2. Engage with customers.
  3. Reward loyalty.

To implement these three strategies, businesses need to know the loyalty member, engage them, and reward them.

 

Let’s take a deeper look at how customer loyalty programs can help businesses in the Post-COVID economy.

1. Create a relationship.

Most businesses understand the importance of customer relationships. A loyalty program can deepen the relationship and provide a direct connection to customers. The relationship starts with a strategic membership sign-up process. Here is an example.

Dan’s Diner has five restaurants and has been hit hard by social distancing restrictions. Dan’s is popular among locals and has a solid existing customer base. However, the current climate has the restaurant owners worried about losing share to other local restaurants. They know competition for takeout is tough. Reopening at reduced capacity may not be enough to sustain the business.

To help retain customers and promote brand loyalty, Dan’s Diner implements a rewards program where members can earn points to redeem on future purchases. Members use their e-mail and provide basic information to sign-up. During the process there are a few questions that help the restaurant get to know the customer. This creates a direct line of communication to loyal customers and a tool to incent repeat visits.

2. Engage with customers.

Creating the relationship is just the first step towards a successful loyalty program. Next, companies need to engage with customers by leveraging the sign-up information to personalize messages. Consumers are bombarded with emails and notifications from businesses. In order to be engaging, companies need to personalize communication to stand out from the noise.

-  Dan’s Diner wants to find ways to announce their re-opening without spending more dollars on advertising. They decide to engage with their most loyal customers first. The diner provides tailored information to members with details on new operating hours and social distancing guidelines for their nearest location.

To engage the loyalty members further, the diner holds a contest among members with a prize. Loyalty program members who post the re-opening announcement have a chance to be the first patrons back at Dan’s. To spice it up, the winners also receive a free meal for them and three guests.

3. Reward loyalty.

The end goal of reward programs is to encourage customers to make incremental purchases. Creating incentives that reward loyalty without diluting current business requires a strategic approach.

-  Dan’s Diner has re-opened and is making ends meet but could use extra business. Their customer loyalty program has been popular, and they now have 2,000 members. Repeat customers show a high affinity for the program. Based on past purchase behavior, Dan’s finds that Tuesday through Thursday afternoons between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. are the slowest periods that have the least amount of member purchases. Conversely, on Friday and Saturday nights the restaurant is constrained due to social distancing guidelines. On these nights, members make up the majority of customers.

Dan’s customer loyalty program is a tool the diner can use to shift member demand away from weekend nights and into weekday afternoons. In order to do this, the diner offers double reward points for members that visit from Tuesday through Thursday in the low-demand periods. On Friday and Saturday nights, Dan’s offers a free appetizer for members when purchasing a to-go or delivery order. By offering these bonus rewards to members, Dan’s Diner can free up capacity on the weekends and encourage purchases during the week.

Once businesses create customer loyalty programs, the work doesn’t stop there. Successful loyalty programs are dynamic. They continuously monitor usage and adjust reward structures to optimize behavior. Businesses that can execute effective loyalty programs will have a competitive advantage in the upcoming months of economic uncertainty.

For more information on pricing strategy and how we partner with brands across the globe, please contact us at info@integratedinsight.com

 

5 step marketing guide for coronavirus outbreak

Adapting Your Marketing Plans for the Coronavirus Downturn

by Jessica Dreiling, Consultant, Integrated Insight

The COVID-19 outbreak presents marketers with tough decisions about what is the best message to have in market, and when and where it is appropriate to deliver. For many, this may be the most crucial time in their company’s history to stay connected to audiences. Companies will need to adapt their marketing plans for the Coronavirus downturn, especially to manage cash flow.

 

Moreover, businesses will need to understand what true empathy and adaptability mean by stepping into the consumers’ shoes. Here are some quick facts to guide us, from data collected by InnovateMR:

- Over 1/3 of Americans have lost income, with Americans under 30 enduring the biggest impact (50% reporting they have lost income).

- 1 out of 2 people feel anxious about the future, with younger Americans reporting a higher level of anxiety.

- Most Americans do not expect life to get back to "normal" within the next 5 months.

- Americans plan to continue activities that have developed in quarantine in the post-COVID world, including cooking at home, socializing at home with friends and family, and staying connected via video chat.

- Future financial habits will include a priority towards saving for an emergency fund and preventative health care.

When digesting this data about consumer behavior in the post-COVID world, try to understand: what are your consumers thinking right now? How can your business meet them where they are at and alleviate a burden or provide new value? Agility and adaptability are winning keys in this time.

 

Here are 5 steps you can take to tactfully adapt your marketing plan for the Coronavirus downturn:

  1. Start planning for the aftermath.
  2. Work smart to retain your existing customer base.
  3. Focus on Organic Reach.
  4. Fine-tune your online conversion funnel.
  5. Maintain your marketing budget.

While the world is social distancing, don’t let your customer base become distant from you. Maintain marketing messages and pulse them consistently to stay top of mind.

1. Start planning for the aftermath.

Customers are sensitive to spending money. But research shows that they are still spending in certain industries. It is important to keep focused on what they are spending their money on now and forecast spending behavior for the rest of the year.

-  Keep an eye on consumer behavior to understand aftermath behavior and stay prepared. MarketWatch has been collecting data and tracking consumer sentiment since the outbreak started. This is a great resource to understand how the consumer currently feels and to project sentiment in the coming months.

 

-  Plan ahead of the curve. Economists say the repercussions of COVID-19 are expected to last for months. Businesses need to get ahead of the curve and develop a plan with multiple scenarios for months to come: 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months from now.

 

- Prioritize strategies that are sure wins and fit best for this time period. Tactics that will take extraordinary effort to be fruitful need to be put on the back burner. If Q2 goals are dampened by these extenuating circumstances, brainstorm activations to launch in Q3 and Q4 that may be feasible during recovery.

 

- Meet the consumer where they are at with your product or service to remain relevant. Even when quarantine lifts, consumers will be maintaining social distancing habits to feel safe.

2. Work smart to retain your existing customer base.

Cost per acquisition is always lower for an existing customer than trying to capture a new one. When adapting your marketing plan for the coronavirus, focus on this market to capture quick cash flow. Here’s how:

-  Maintain excellent, if not superb, customer service. Supply chains and organizational structure have been disrupted and it is more difficult than ever to maintain customer service standards. Being nimble and focusing on delivering consistent service will be key for word of mouth marketing.

 

-  Enhance the customer experience by providing additional value. Some businesses are providing toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and face masks, even though this isn't their product line.

 

-  Respond to ALL customers on your communication channels. It would be easy for the small businesses to neglect Facebook Messenger when they are trying to manage the crisis operationally. Ensure one team member is delegated to responding to customer communication on all channels.

3. Focus on Organic Reach

In a time when finances are tight, businesses need to put extra focus on reaching their target market organically. It is the most cost-effective way to deliver marketing messages. Due to social distancing, screen time has undoubtedly increased digital consumption on organic platforms.  Here are a few tips on how to ramp up your organic reach:

-  Consistently communicate to your audiences on social media. If your business is open, it is even more important, and you should consider posting twice daily on every platform: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc. This is just as critical for small businesses.

 

-  Reach out to influencers and brand platforms to establish a partnership. A lot of influencers are offering free posts to companies that they are loyal to and want to see survive.

 

-  Revamp marketing automation. Email marketing will be key to communicate long-format messages to connect with customers during this time.  However, pulse the messages tactfully, as many companies have taken advantage of this time and inundated customer inboxes. And the consumers are not responding positively.

-  Communicate the right message. Assess how sensitive your audience is to the current situation. Due to COVID-19, customers are understandably more sentitive to marketing messages. It is always better to communicate value to your audience rather than resort to hard selling. Right now, that is even more important.

4. Fine-tune your online conversion funnel.

While you are adapting your marketing plan for the coronavirus downturn, it is a great time to fine-tune your online conversion funnel. Small changes to the user journey can produce a significant increase in incremental sales. Make it as easy as possible for customers to understand your product and to purchase it. In a time where advertising resources are restricted, inbound customers and cash flow are even more valuable, so making it easy for them to buy your product before leaving the website is essential.

Here are tips to improve online conversion that we have seen help businesses capture up to a 10% increase in sales.

-  Delve into Google Analytics to find key metrics on your website performance. Pull together a report on landing page bounce rates, dropouts, average time spent on site, pages viewed per visit, etc. Find holes that need to be fixed.

 

-  Ensure Enhanced Ecommerce reporting is set up in Google Analytics. Enhanced Ecommerce reports critical data on how users interact with on-site marketing, product pages, and the checkout process. Most businesses don't set this up and are missing critical data.

 

-  Identify holes in the funnel that are causing dropout and collaborate with the web development team to fix them.

 

-  Reduce the clicks to purchase your products or services. It is no secret that consumer attention spans are smaller than ever. The booking engine needs to be as short and simple as possible to capture the sale.

5. Maintain your marketing budget.

Most leadership teams will see the marketing budget as a soft opportunity to cut costs during a financial crisis and as such during the coronavirus pandemic. Cutting the marketing budget is a short-term fix that will have long term consequences. Here is what you should do instead:

-  Re-allocate resources based on the data that you have. This includes cutting ineffective campaigns and allocating that spend to the most viable campaign that is active. It may also include the difficult decision to transition from the expensive marketing agency to the more affordable one.

 

-  Allocate advertising budgets toward website development to ensure your conversion funnel is in tip-top shape. Given that messaging needs to be communicated fast and wide, as well as changed often, tech vendors can play an essential role in helping brands stay visible and relevant in the right way.

 

-  Focus on developing campaigns for Q3 & Q4. What will your message be, based on consumer sentiment and research that you have?

 

For more information on marketing strategy and how we partner with brands across the globe, please contact us at info@integratedinsight.com

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