E-Commerce x The Pandemic
"E-Commerce is booming" has been the catch-phrase of this pandemic. New businesses have entered the ad space and have attempted to ride the wave of high intent customers. But what effect has the pandemic had on service teams and how can you as an agency/consultancy owner help them?
THE AD SPACE
The first wave caught us all off-guard - personally and professionally. March 22, 2020, the country initiated its first full lockdown - limited movement of people and parcels to only essentials; and we were in the midst of scaling an energy drink brand and we couldn't help but notice the irony. In the weeks that followed, it became apparent that all non-essential e-commerce brands had to throw in the towel, temporarily, until COVID-19 decided to show some leniency.
But, for the brands that came under the essentials category, it was the beginning of a 2-month long revenue surplus.
- With numerous brands choosing to halt or drastically reduce advertising spends, the ads space became "less crowded." In other words, while the audience size of potential buyers remained the same or increased, the number of brands competing for these consumers drastically reduced.
- During this time there was another factor at play - customers were now hoarding essential products in the fear of both running out of supplies and not being able to step out to re-stock.
Now, high intent customers were shopping in a less crowded ad space, and the results were phenomenal.
- The impression per rupee (the number of impressions your ad gets for ₹1) skyrocketed from an average of 22 impressions to 45+ impressions.
- The average cost per link click on an ad had reduced to as little as ₹5.
- Conversion percentages trended upwards.
- Revenue numbers doubled, if not tripled and quadrupled, on advertising spends that had either stayed the same or increased only marginally.
Then, as things began to ease, and the flow of people and parcels became less restricted, between the first and the second wave of the COVID-19 virus, a whole host of businesses flocked online. Businesses that had hitherto paid little attention to their online presence couldn't ignore it any further. Websites were built with a keen eye on a customer's journey with the final objective of a legitimate sale or lead. Customer behaviour was tracked and re-targeted keeping this final objective in mind. The dramatic US elections also took place. And our fear of the virus was slowly replaced with subpar mask-wearing etiquette.
The resultant effect on the digital advertising world? Well, it overcrowded, and the algorithm made that apparent.
- The cost to get a single link click on an ad jumped from an average of ₹7 to ₹15+
- The cost therefore for a customer to load a landing page also increased.
- And overall, the cost of acquiring a customer, and all intent ratios preceding a sale (add to cart -- checkout -- add payment info) increased by an average of 25%.
The country with the lowest advertising cost started to seem expensive. You now had a digital advertising world where a large marble conglomerate was bidding for a customer's attention, while a snacking company and a 100-year old jewellery company were too.
This second wave has been nothing short of scary. We're right back to where we were exactly a year ago. Some non-essential brands have stopped advertising, the ad space is relatively less crowded, essential brands continue to do well.
Where do consultancies like TYS Performance Marketing Consultants LLP and other agencies - both big and small - find themselves in the midst of a world that is effectively burning? Well, it's been bitter-sweet.
- First things first, all teams began working from home. Zoom became our best friend. All hours seemed to become "working hours." Team building activities reduced. Morale was down.
- During the very beginning of the pandemic, as all non-essential businesses shut, teams momentarily sat idle and companies went through salary cuts.
- About a month into the pandemic, consultancies servicing businesses that fall under essentials flourished. The number of clients increased and team sizes did in tandem.
- Consultancies founded new services for their current clients to avail.
Of course, the above generalises the experience within reasonable limits. But, there is something we haven't addressed or rather, need to address in far more detail.
WHAT WE REALLY NEED TO ADDRESS
For all the objectivity of the numbers we churn, we're subjective and emotion-driven humans at the end of it. We all either know someone who has lost their life to this virus or then has directly lost someone. It's all too close for comfort and has been since the pandemic started. This nerve-wracking pandemic means that overall team morale is low even as consultancies scale, productivity isn't at its optimal, and deadlines aren't always met. Yes, service levels do fall in the face of unforeseeable circumstances, something that the whole world is dealing with today.
As a consultancy how do you navigate this? Well, empathy and compassion is the key, in addition to making sure resources are freely available to your team and their dependants for when they want or need it. Empathy for those who are directly and indirectly affected by the pandemic, compassion for those who once affected cannot perform and outperform their pre-pandemic selves.
And this empathy and compassion are best reflected in a company's policies that guide every team member. The following should be normalised -
- Financial support that covers both doses of the vaccination in addition to travel expenses to and fro.
- Paid leaves on the grounds of mental health, which are approved as the need arises.
- On-call therapist expensed to the company, that can be made available to all team members at a moments notice.
These are just 3 substantial suggestions, but the efficacy of these lies first in how forthcoming a company is about organising the above, in addition to how approachable the company is about keeping an open forum for conversation that increases the above list from 3 to many.
Our service teams aren't "disposable" assets but rather growth drivers that need to be invested in as much as we invest in our clients. Genuine growth opportunities with positive work environments are what keeps a team robust. So, treat your team so well that they never leave, but teach your team well enough that they tomorrow have the conviction to do something of their own, something that abides by the working principles you as a company imbibed, to begin with.