Predicting 2021—Udayan Bose on How Retail Marketers Can “Pivot” Toward Success in the New Year

By Udayan Bose, founder and CEO of NetElixir

It should be no surprise that the 2020 word of the year was “pivot,” because that’s exactly what retail marketers had to do this year to reach some benchmark of success. As the pandemic shut down the country, in-store foot traffic dwindled at an alarming rate in certain regions; and online shopping may have surged, but with new product categories becoming the center of customers’ attention (hello, Clorox shortages!).

While the world at large was reeling, businesses and brand marketers alike had to adapt and find their own version of the “new normal,” as they struggled to keep up with consumer demands. It was a time of great stress, but also great ingenuity. In fact, as a result, many retail businesses experienced exponential growth and have become more agile and creative in their marketing efforts.

So, what can we learn from all of this as we head into the new year? Let’s explore five trends that marketers should be mindful of as they plan for success in the months ahead.

  • Rapid experimentation and creativity are key to effectively marketing to consumers.

Consumer behavior changed rapidly as a result of the pandemic, and many marketers struggled to keep up with the demand. As consumers continue to reevaluate what’s important to them, and how they will shop in 2021, brands will need to refocus their strategies and overall business models to ensure they have the agile mindset and appropriate tactics in place to keep up with today’s consumers.

Through rapid experimentation, marketers can utilize their consumer data in the months ahead to ensure that they are developing customized, targeted campaigns that effectively meet their consumers’ needs. Consumers crave personalization. They want to feel seen and understood by the businesses they plan to support with their hard-earned dollars in the new year.

  • Evaluate how the pandemic shifted consumer behavior; define those customer personas, and work them into your strategy.

As consumers continue to focus on personal safety and wellness in 2021, their shopping behaviors will reflect much of the same. The coming year will see many consumers focusing on their needs, rather than their wants. This trend mainly started to take shape during the 2020 Cyber 5 holiday shopping weekend, with food and groceries observed to have been one of the most successful segments during the holiday weekend, rising 15% year-over-year, according to NetElixir data.

Identifying these new pandemic personas will help marketers develop smarter campaigns that focus on those essential goods, as safety and well-being continue to be top of mind. Marketers should rely on their consumer data to reveal up-to-date shopping behaviors, to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers.

  • It’s time for brand marketers to get involved in key social issues. No more lip service; 2021 is the time for actionable change.

Marketers not only saw the rise of a more value-conscious shopper, but also saw consumers become more socially conscious and, with that, demand more accountability from brands. Heading into the new year, it will be important for brands to take a definitive stand and play an active role in social movements that matter to their core customer demographics.

How can brands do this? Checking a box with a bland social media post that acknowledges the issue or movement at hand is no longer enough. It’s about more than awareness; it’s about action. Brands must proactively participate in social causes to show to their consumers that these issues are important to them. When brands are proactive in advocating for social justice, it makes consumers feel that by supporting them, they’re also doing their part to help the greater society.

  • With mobile shopping set in place as a safe alternative for consumers, retail marketers will need to up their game.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, created a love affair between consumers and mobile shopping. In fact, NetElixir found a 55 percent increase in mobile traffic during the 2020 Cyber 5 holiday shopping weekend. This, coupled with the significant decreases in foot traffic, signifies that it is not a time for retail marketers to grow complacent with their current mobile shopping experiences; it’s a time for reinvention.

Rely on market research. Marketers, tap into your brand audience to understand what pain points or challenges they may be currently experiencing while shopping on your mobile platform. Times are stressful enough; work with marketers to ensure that you are creating an easy and seamless experience for the customer.

  • Leverage emerging technologies to create a virtual shopping experience for consumers that’s almost as good, if not better, than shopping in person.

We just spoke about amplifying the mobile shopping experience, but it’s about more than updating coding and visual layouts. The new year will be the time to consider the implementation of augmented-reality technology to create an immersive, engaging shopping experience. Virtual experiences will be a vital method of engagement to strengthen brand relationships and loyalty in the 2021. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the consumer should be the primary focus. Retail marketers must remain dialed into consumer sentiment in the weeks and months ahead; it will continue to change, and rapidly at that. It is the retail marketers who stay on the pulse and stay committed to helping consumers ride out this remaining turbulence who will find success in 2021.

Udayan Bose, CEO of NetElixir (Princeton), founded the company with a vision of providing online marketers worldwide with a paid search-campaign-optimization solution capable of delivering magical performance. Udayan recognized the potential of search marketing as an essential advertising channel in 2004. Having experienced firsthand the complexity involved in running a profitable paid search campaign, he was driven to develop a system that delivers a predictable and efficient campaign performance, allowing marketers to fully leverage the power of paid search as a high-value sales generator. Prior to starting NetElixir, Udayan was director of business development at PartyGaming (Gibraltar), the world’s largest online gaming company. In that role, he was responsible for building a new business unit from scratch, PartyBingo, which went on to become a major revenue generator for the company. Udayan regularly lectures MBA classes at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University; Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College (New York) and the Indian School of Business (Hyderabad). He has been featured in The New York Times, as well as in Forbes and Time magazines. Udayan holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

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