Building a New Game Plan for Consumer Action

2020 was undoubtedly a year without precedent. As Covid-19 swept across the globe, we witnessed a colossal shift in the role that digital channels play. Lockdowns came into effect and everyone was forced to do more online causing usage rates of digital solutions to spike. 

Lani Cummins

We saw this evidenced in rising search volumes and elevated consumption rates of all forms of digital media from social platforms through to streaming services and gaming.  

This change in behaviour forced businesses worldwide to look more seriously at their own digital capabilities leading to an acceleration in digital transformation. According to KPMG over 60% of businesses increased their digital transformation budget and accelerated their strategy since COVID-19. 

Despite lockdowns and Covid-variants causing continued uncertainty throughout the country, we continue to see growth and an increased focus on digital through 2021 with FY21 numbers showing online advertising grew 24% YoY and online sales in June growing by 18% YoY. eMarketer projects that by 2023 eCommerce will grow to > 22% of total retail sales, totaling over $6 trillion, almost double what it was in 2019.

Whereas 2020 saw the early adopters and online pure-play businesses thrive, we’re now seeing a broad lift in capability and investment in digital play out. This means that consumers are beyond spoiled for choice and their expectations for what makes a great shopping experience has changed. As a result competition for sales during peak season will be higher now than ever before which only highlights the need for advertisers to build a water-tight strategy that reflects and responds to shifting consumer behavior.

How to Prepare? 

There are three key areas to focus in on:

  1. Flexibility is key. Brands need to be prepared to be flexible with their budgets across channels, locations and timeframes. If you’re Omni, then be Omni, now more than ever you should be prepared to meet customers on their terms. Where you can be ready to meet demand as it rises, falls and shifts across channels. 
  2. Test early and test often. Use the lead up to key periods to refine your approach to audience targeting, channel selection, creative executions & other optimisations in order to be confident about where you should push hardest when it really matters. Google, Facebook, TikTok and a number of other digital platforms all offer the ability to run controlled lift studies for everything from brand recall and awareness to sales lift, use these as often as you can to ensure you know what’s actually driving your results.
  • Integrate and optimise your owned data. With changes to privacy standards and measurement protocols (thanks Apple) integrating your first party data sets for measurement and targeting is more important than ever. Beyond customer data sets other relevant elements include product feeds, margin data and offline conversion events (in-store, over the phone etc). The better and more available the data is, the more effectively you can leverage automation to drive incremental performance gains.

Using Historical Data

While historical data is invaluable, using 2020 as a baseline could be problematic for many reasons. 

In addition to the Covid-induced growth of online activity, there was also the certainty provided by the introduction of government programs that helped to buoy consumer confidence. With the lack of any equivalent support packages and the growing level of competition online driving increases in the cost of media it’s hard to see 2021 playing out in the same fashion. 

Instead our advice is to consider using 2019 as your baseline with adjustments for broad category trends across 2020 and into 2021, or alternatively try and find a timeframe or region that provides a cleaner set of data. You might for example review the results for a region with a high proportion of time in lockdown (VIC/NSW), against one with a much smaller number of days (WA) as a way of accounting for lockdown impacts. 

There are some great, easy to use references available online to help better contextualise how the above may have influenced your 2020 results: 

Mobility Data Sets: 



Search Trend Data:

Google Trends

ABS Data Sets – Including Interactive Maps:

Measuring the impacts of COVID-19

No doubt there are many other options and we’d love to hear how you’re trying to account for COVID impacts in your planning and forecasts as well as any great resources you’ve come across. 

Wherever you land in planning for the final push, we think staying agile and adjusting to market conditions and consumer behaviour will be key to driving success through the remainder of 2021.

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