How to run a successful virtual meeting

Love it or hate it, virtual meetings are here to stay! The pandemic and the requirement to quarantine created the perfect conditions to push virtual meetings as part of a daily routine. Running a successful virtual meeting requires thorough planning and forethought. Before you jump into your session, spend some time thinking about your goals for the meeting and figuring out how you can make the most of your time together.

To run a successful virtual meeting, the Account Managers at Thinkr Marketing have put together a set of Do's and Don'ts to follow when preparing for a virtual meeting.

Do:

  1. Test your microphone and camera before the meeting begins. Avoiding any technical issues will avoid wasting valuable time at the start of your session. Technical problems can happen, but by testing beforehand, you can troubleshoot them before the meeting begins.
  1. Develop a short itinerary and an objective summary to send along with your meeting invitation. All attendees should know:
    1. The meeting purpose
    2. What topics you’ll cover
    3. How long the meeting will be
  1. Give clear login instructions. Ensure all participants have the proper login info before the meeting. Educate them if they need to download an application, and provide instructions for basic things like screen sharing and muting audio. Send all of this in an email as a reminder before the meeting starts for easy access.
  1. Come prepared. Keeping an agenda of topics you plan to discuss will help move the meeting along and will act as a guide to ensure you have covered everything. Put the agenda on a slide to use as an added visual reminder. If things get off track, the agenda is an easy reference to help attendees refocus.
  1. Send a follow-up summary. After your meeting is finished, set aside some time for a 10-15 minute meeting debrief with yourself or your team. Send a meeting summary to the client and outline your next steps in writing. This can act as a guide so you do not lose sight of anything and can reference it in the future.
  1. Save the small talk for the start and end of the meeting. Virtual meetings can easily get off topic. Connecting with your client is essential in any working relationship and instils trust. However, small talk can go overboard, so as the meeting host and director, it will be your job to mediate the discussion and keep track of what is essential.

Don't:

  1. Leave the microphone on when you are not speaking. Microphones can pick up background noise or just static, which can distract others in the meeting. Simply turn the mic off until it’s your turn to speak.
  1. Multitask during the meeting! If you are running the meeting you need to have your whole focus on the meeting screen. Don’t send any emails or chat on the side of the meeting. Stay on task when hosting a meeting. We are all busy, but it is important to pay attention.
  1. Overpromise or agree to due dates without discussing them with your team first! It can be challenging if a client puts you on the spot about due dates and deadlines; however, if you agree to them without confirming with your team that they are achievable, you can run into major difficulties later on. Instead, inform your client you will get back to them after the meeting and consult with your team about due dates, deadlines, and new project tasks. Not only does this benefit you, but it also benefits your client as you will provide them with quality information they can trust!
  1. Interrupt people unless necessary or return to the topic you were discussing if you missed a part. The best way to do this is to wait for an opening at the end of a topic of discussion or at the end of the meeting.

There's nothing like a personal face-to-face meeting to build rapport and generate actionable business insights. But in today's hyper-connected world, you don't always have the time or budget to travel to a distant location. That's where virtual meetings can shine: they allow you to connect with colleagues and clients from anywhere in the world at any time.

What to expect when working with a marketing agency

Whether you’re looking to reach new audiences, launch a new product or take some market share from your competitors, there IS an agency out there for you! Finding the right marketing partner for your business can be a daunting task. You might be wondering:

We’re here to help! Keep reading for our tips and tricks on finding the right agency for you, what to expect from the relationship and even how to decide between working with an agency or hiring internally.

What is a Marketing Agency?

A marketing agency is a company that serves clients by creating, implementing and sustaining marketing strategies across a variety of channels. There are many types of agencies, each with its own unique experience and areas of focus. Some agencies may specialize in one kind of service, such as public relations, social media or web design. Others may focus on specific industries like healthcare or food and beverage. Agencies can also vary in size, from one-person operations to large multinational firms.

Working with an agency vs hiring internally

When deciding between working with an external agency or hiring an internal marketing team, it’s important to know the difference between the two and what they can do for your business.
An internal marketing person or team knows the ins and outs of the business and can prioritize tasks accordingly. They can focus more energy on the work because they aren’t juggling multiple clients. In-house teams are also immersed in the company culture, which an agency can learn in time and is invaluable for consistent brand messaging. However, even a very dedicated in-house marketing person may eventually wear many hats and, as a result, may not have time for the continued education and in-depth analysis required to refine your strategy and continuously grow marketing efforts.
Reaching the right person with the right message at the right time has become increasingly complex. The best programs use in-depth research and data analysis to market to multiple platforms and mediums. That said, it's a lot for one person or small teams to manage, and no one can be an expert in everything. These limitations may leave in-house teams hesitant to try new tactics or sink their teeth into the latest tools, which means you could miss out on opportunities to grow your business. While an external agency may present an additional cost for your business, it comes with the additional expertise, increased capacity for marketing efforts and access to powerful tools and insights that can catalyze business growth.

The benefits of collective experience

One of the most significant benefits of hiring an agency is the level of expertise and collective experience you gain access to. A good agency brings together individual experts, all with distinct disciplines, unique experiences and education. These individuals can dive deeper into their field and generate better results than a generalist, resulting in greater returns for your business. Collectively, especially if the agency you’re considering has been around for a while, they’ll also have experience with strategies, tactics, and challenges for businesses like yours.

Cost savings, really?

Yes! We know hiring an agency means another invoice but bear with us. Remember all those experts we mentioned above? They’re Web Developers, Graphic Designers, SEO Specialists, Social Media Experts, Photographers and Videographers, and of course, Marketing Specialists and Coordinators. Finding and retaining quality people in even one of these roles is challenging and expensive. An agency brings all of them, for the same cost of about one of those salaries.

When it comes to execution, all the experience an agency brings means they know which tactics will provide the best ROI and have access to the data to back that up. For example, an experienced digital specialist can spot opportunities to save on ad costs sooner than a marketing generalist might be able to.

Expand your efforts

Even if you already have an internal marketing team, hiring an agency is a great way to expand your capacity and resources. The right agency collaborates with your internal teams to deliver more creative solutions, deeper insights and results on a larger scale.

Keep it fresh

Good agencies are results-driven. They’re expert problem solvers and will always seek ways to drive the best outcomes for your business. This laser focus on measurable goals helps you evaluate the agency relationship and investment over time. The depth of experience and variety of perspectives under one roof also creates an environment where fresh ideas and innovation can thrive, so your marketing won’t go stale.

Can it be both?

Yes! Hiring an in-house marketing coordinator, for example, and an agency is not uncommon. We recommend it for some businesses as they scale. Communicating with your marketing agency shouldn’t overwhelm your day-to-day, but it does require a time commitment. As you grow, a marketing coordinator can oversee the day-to-day with the agency and help speed up the approvals and feedback cycle. At the same time, you can focus on your overall vision and running your business .

What should I look for when choosing an agency?

Marketing moves fast. Trends and technologies change at lightning speed, and an algorithm or platform update can bump you to the bottom of the results page overnight. With so many factors to consider, it can be challenging to know where to begin. The type of agency you select will depend on the goals you’re trying to accomplish. Think about your business or project needs, being as specific as possible.

Keeping your answers to these questions in mind will help you evaluate which agencies might be the right fit for your needs. It’s also important to consider your budget. Pricing between agencies may vary and is usually based on the services they provide and the kinds of clients they serve. You’ll likely have to ask about pricing by speaking to one of the sales team, but this interaction can be valuable too. Look for an agency that is transparent about its costs and how they’re structured.

Next, review their portfolio of work. Most agencies will have an online portfolio to browse. Through your discovery process with a sales team, they should include other examples or case studies relevant to your business or project needs. Considering their work, does it look like they can handle your project or brand needs?

Finally, seek a second opinion. Or third, or fourth….you get it. Check out online reviews and reach out through your networks for a word-of-mouth recommendation. You can even ask your prospective agency if they can provide some references.

Asking the right questions is vital when looking for a marketing agency. Sourcing and interviewing the right agency for your business may take some time, but the results are well worth it. The extra capacity and the right team of marketing experts in your corner can help you scale your business more efficiently than going at it alone. So, if you're ready to make a move, reach out to Thinkr today for a quick discovery session and put everything you’ve learned to work! In the meantime, download our guide of top questions to ask when interviewing potential marketing agencies and red flags to watch out for!

The Importance of Wireframing in Web Design

Why is Wireframing Important in Web Design?

Wireframing is an effective way to identify usability issues early in the web design process. Creating a wireframe gives the client, the developer, and the designer an opportunity to take a critical look at the structure of the website, see how content is organized, and make revisions easily. In addition, it gets everyone involved on the same page about what the website is supposed to do and how it is supposed to function.

What is a Wireframe in Web Design?

A wireframe is a skeleton or blueprint of a web page. This blueprint is a low-fidelity mock-up, void of colour, graphics, branding elements, and stylized fonts. A wireframe outlines the page’s navigation menu, spacing of elements, and how content is prioritized on the page. The wireframe also identifies functionalities and how users will interact with the site. Wireframing plays a vital role in connecting information architecture to the visual aspects of the design by showing pathways between pages.

We like to think of a wireframe the same as a blueprint for building a house; you wouldn’t focus on the interior design first, like wall colours, fabrics, or furniture, before dividing rooms or mapping out plumbing and electrical.

Tips to Make the Most of the Wireframing Process

  1. Remember that wireframes are a visual representation of the sitemap. Before we start wireframing, it’s important to know the site’s structure, such as primary pages, subpages, etc. The sitemap helps identify the user flow through conversion funnels and then later the layout is brought to the forefront when the wireframe is developed.
  2. Keep your wireframes simple. Wireframes are simple low-fidelity monochromatic layouts that outline page structure, functionality, and user journeys within a website. Working with a monochromatic mockup helps maintain focus on the layout and doesn’t distract with design elements. Starting with a simple wireframe is easier to work with if you decide to change and move things around.
  3. Should you wireframe every single page? Creating a wireframe doesn’t usually require that you lay out every single page from the sitemap. To keep the process efficient, wireframe only the high priority pages. This can include as few as two pages – for example, the homepage and a single internal page - or wireframing other important sections such as products or resource libraries where there will be a lot of data to organize.
  4. Don’t add too much detail. More details can be added later in the design process. Adding too many elements in the beginning can be confusing and hard to navigate. Drawing on paper is always a great place to start, and rough sketches allow you to jot ideas down quickly. Mocking up the wireframe in programs such as Adobe XD give the ability to add interactive elements, illustrate functionality and the freedom to browse from page to page. Seeing features without any creative influence forces everyone to look objectively at a website’s ease of use, conversion paths, link naming, and placement of elements. Wireframes can point out flaws in your site architecture or how a specific feature may work.
  5. Incorporate better responsive design from the start. Wireframing both desktop and mobile layouts are integral to the design process. Data shows that mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage since 2016. With this in mind, it is important to wireframe how the website layout will look and function to most website visitors. Creating both desktop and mobile wireframe layouts allows the client to see how the structure and arrangement of content will change and ensures nothing will be lost between devices.
  6. Think mobile first. Rather than starting with a complex desktop design and cutting out functions and content to make it compatible on smaller screens, a mobile-first approach focuses attention on how content is prioritized on smaller screens and helps identify what is essential to design elements and layouts.

    A mobile-first approach can address any UX issues early on and ensures a better user experience by starting with basic functionality. For example, if a feature relies heavily on hover effects to display content—which is only supported by a mouse cursor —those actions will be lost on mobile. As a result, mobile visitors might miss seeing important data. Therefore, the mobile version includes the most basic functions and features. We will add more advanced features, interactions, and more complicated effects for desktop later. A mobile-first approach also drives us to think of creative ways to arrange large amounts of content on mobile to relieve “scrolling fatigue.” We never recommend simply stacking content for mobile; visitors lose interest when scrolling long pages.

Make Wireframing a Fundamental Step in Your Web Development Process

The wireframing step in the web development process pays off in several ways:

  • Designs are more calculated, prioritizing a smooth user experience
  • Development teams will understand what they are building and how to lay out the pages, speeding up the next phase of the build
  • Content creation becomes clearer and more organized
  • Potential issues with function or user experience can be identified and addressed early
  • Everyone from the web team and client team will all be on the same page about what the website should do and how it is supposed to function.

Wireframing pushes usability to the forefront and is a strong way to illustrate the layout and functionality of pages. Using a wireframe is an objective way to look at the ease of use and conversion paths, while giving teams opportunity to identify flaws early. Wireframes create a more fluid creative process which leads to a more intuitive product.

At Thinkr Marketing we use wireframing to ensure everyone involved understands the overall vision for a website, saving time and costs for client projects. It’s a valuable part of our arsenal to bring the best service and most effective strategy possible to our clients.

Brands and Branding - Why Branding Matters

Branding is not that easily defined. Sure, there are many definitions for branding but branding is something that is emotive and subjective and not something that can easily be measured.

Brands and Branding

A brand is a set of expectations, memories, relationships and stories that if properly combined, make a buyer choose one service or product over another.

On the other hand, branding can be described as doing everything to influence the decision to actively choose your brand over another.

Types of Brands and Functions of Branding

When done right, a brand creates lasting awareness and remains, as we call it, ‘top-of-mind’, while creating trust and loyalty. It influences decisions, creates change, and ultimately grows market share. Brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, Nike, Google, Mercedes, and many more we all recognize and admire, have developed and maintained a very active and successful branding strategy. These companies understand the power of branding and they continually utilize their brand in every aspect of their business and marketing to create and maintain customer loyalty.

Brand vs Branding vs Identity

Not only does branding create the aforementioned values, but it also gives your business an identity. It establishes employee pride and loyalty and of course it enhances your business’s value.

You may think, well sure, it is important for these big brands like Coca Cola, but why is it important for my small local business that my clients already know? Your brand matters regardless of the size of your company and it matters even more for small businesses where there are often more buying options. Your brand influences every aspect of your customer's perceptions of your company. Branding builds trust, recognition, loyalty, and reputation.

What About Brand Names, Logos (and more…)?

So, we talked about the importance of a brand and branding, but what are the elements that you can control in order to have a great brand? There are essentially two types of brand elements, visual branding elements and non-visual brand elements. Let’s take a look at what these consist of.

Visual Elements of a Brand

Brand Name

Brand Colours

Typography

Logo

Slogan and Tag Line

Non-Visual Elements of a Brand

Some Non-visual elements forming part of your brand are your mission and vision statements.

Mission Statement

Vision Statement

There are many other non-visual brand elements such as brand values, brand identity, brand story, brand voice and personality, and brand extensions.

The Importance of Branding for Brands

As you can tell, there is a lot that creates and influences a brand and branding. We at Thinkr help our clients develop, audit, or fine tune their brand and branding, which consists of addressing all the brand elements mentioned. A successful company understands the importance of branding and how all these elements, when developed and tuned right, will accelerate a company, and set it apart from its competitors. After all, he who has the most brand equity wins!

Fostering A Successful Client-Agency Relationship

Creating long-term value for clients, especially in marketing, comes down to how well the relationship is managed. Getting to know your client, their business and goals is the first step but to take it further requires looking at ways to keep bringing them value. This is done with a balance of:  

  1. Process Development 
  2. Managing Expectations 
  3. Measuring and Reporting 
  4. Communication 

The willingness to learn, improve and understand clients are all equally important in long-term success. Relationship management and fostering client-agency relations is vital to delivering long-term success.

So, how do you set yourself up for success from the start? Let’s dive into the 4 elements necessary in establishing a successful client-agency relationship. 

1. Process Development 

Over the course of an agency's relationship with a client, it is critical to establish a set of processes and standards for your interactions with them.  

Doing so builds trust and provides confidence while reaffirming your expertise. It also helps to keep things organized - from standards in communications or the best times for meetings to turnarounds on approvals.   

Start building your process by visualizing all the interactions with your business and the major touchpoints of the project both internally and client-facing. Then leverage each one as an opportunity to provide updates, next steps and source feedback. You're mapping out a journey.  

An example of this from my role as Business Development Manager is in my sales pipeline. Customizing this pipeline helps me stay organized with multiple opportunities in the balance at one time. At each step of the process, there are a set of tasks to accomplish and client touch points all the way through, with opportunities for feedback too.  

It's important to bring clients into the discussion of process as well – so you can take advantage of opportunities where yours and theirs intersect. To build on my earlier example, we want feedback from clients on which decision makers to include at which stages, past experience with services like ours, and preferred timelines. This information helps us customize and align our approach within the established framework with the client's for a more seamless experience.   

As a marketer, this might mean collaborating with sales teams to find ways of improving the flow of leads through their own pipeline as you build a new drip campaign or diving into challenges with their employee retention to build creative rewards programs.   

Established processes are an important foundation in relationship building and a powerful tool in your toolbox for managing expectations as well.  

2. Managing Expectations 

In managing expectations it is important to be honest and transparent from the beginning. Not all clients are experts in marketing- which is why they've reached out to begin with. Plus, as you grow together, they'll learn more and there will be more opportunities to express the levels of value to the marketing strategy in place.  

Setting SMART goals and clear deliverables is next alongside assigning roles and responsibilities. Setting these early, and revisiting them often are helpful to keeping things on track. Don’t be afraid to use tools like shared to-do lists, calendars or Teams channels to keep things on track as well. Take the time to set clear boundaries and limitations as well to avoid unrealistic expectations.  

A great way to bring extra value to clients is by anticipating their needs and meeting them with creative solutions. A simple way to put this into practice is by knowing important cycles in the client's industry. For example, we might plan a campaign for an accounting firm around tax season. The foundations of this principle at Thinkr come from thorough research and regular brainstorming for all our clients.  

3. Measuring and Reporting 

Clear deliverables and SMART goals should always be measurable. This not only provides a tangible way of demonstrating project success, but also opportunities to track important changes, influences and growth over time.  

Elaborating with key takeaways, trends, and implications of any data in this phase showcases that deeper meaning in the work that really shows clients you understand their business.  

4. Communication  

We've heard it before, but it remains true: good communication is the foundation of a successful relationship!  

Establishing regular status updates, monthly reporting, quarterly reviews and such both with the client and with internal teams will help keep things on track and allow you to get ahead of any issues.   

It's important to make sure that the client feels heard and understood too so ask lots of questions, solicit feedback often and listen carefully. This is a great way to learn more about certain industries directly from the experts.  

Taking the time to really get to know clients is incredibly rewarding. Doing so can be tricky sometimes, especially when we can't meet in person, but this is where we get to be creative! For example, if I know the client likes coffee, I'll send a bag from a local roastery with an invitation to chat over a cup.  

Building Successful Client-Agency Relationships

Agencies can be the right hand of their client if they know how to make the most of them. When time is invested from the start on these four elements the chances of a successful client-agency relationship increases. These are keys to building a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

Top Trends in E-commerce for 2021 and Beyond

Of the many ways to describe 2020, one phrase unlikely to be used is “business as usual”. Businesses the world over have been forced to make significant changes in their operations or risk closing doors permanently. This has ushered in an era of impressive growth and ingenuity within e-commerce. While retail slowed down, with customers being unable to physically visit stores, online sales smashed  projections and broke records. 

Emerging E-commerce Trends for 2021

E-commerce in 2021 shows no sign of slowing down. The following trends are examples of the innovations pushing e-commerce adoption and sales forward:

  1. Extending experience beyond the website
  2. Bringing an in-store experience online
  3. Expanding loyalty programs.
  4. Diversifying payment options.
  5. Improving website performance and core vitals

Extending the experience beyond the website

The most prominent and impactful trend in e-commerce of late is the move toward what’s known as omnichannel commerce. Previously, as brick-and-mortar retailers expanded into different digital avenues for selling, they employed a multichannel approach, meaning different options for shopping (e.g. physical stores, e-commerce websites, mobile apps) had their own infrastructure, with very little interconnectivity between them. 

Omnichannel solutions on the other hand offer a unified, seamless experience across all purchasing platforms to better serve the customer. A customer, for instance, can make a purchase directly from a social media ad, arrange for curbside pickup at a physical store, and coordinate a return through a seller’s online portal.

Bringing in-store experiences online

Many consumers, despite major shifts in behaviour, still prefer aspects of an in-person retail experience, such as tangible interactions with salespeople and with products themselves. 

Retailers are consequently turning to unique technological  solutions that bridge this gap. To approximate the experience of speaking one-on-one with a sales representative Live Chat Functions or Video Conferencing Software have been gaining popularity. AR (Augmented Reality) is helping shoppers visualize larger purchases in their own spaces.

Expanding loyalty programs

Loyalty or Reward programs have been a growing trend for retail in recent years. They’re a benefit to retailers in the way they can encourage repeat business and accumulate detailed customer data. Establishing a strong e-commerce presence means extending these benefits (for buyer and seller alike) to the online experience. 

A diverse loyalty program is an extension of an Omnichannel Commerce environment; if a customer is confident using such a program across more platforms, they’re more likely to shop with this company.

Providing diverse payment options

Another way that e-commerce entities are evolving, in ways similar to traditional brick and mortar stores, is how they offer growing numbers of payment options for customers. 

Services like Apple Pay and Google Pay are being integrated into online shopping carts for transaction simplicity. For bigger ticket purchases, online financing providers, such as Afterpay, Paybright, or Flexiti, provide a relatively short-term alternative to store-specific financing and credit cards.

Improving website performance

At their core, e-commerce websites are still websites. They must be optimized for search engines as well as customers. 

Google’s upcoming major algorithm change, with its focus on Core Web Vitals, is going to impact e-commerce sites in a major way. Managing and optimizing these sites presents unique challenges when compared to simpler websites. Some common performance enhancements don’t apply to shopping cart sites for instance. Content structure is generally more complex, and needs to be streamlined for mobile devices without sacrificing usability. We have to be very mindful of such hurdles when working on data and layout elements.

Overall, the prevailing theme across e-commerce trends is lowering the barrier to entry for customers still reluctant to adopt online shopping.

The Future of E-Commerce Post Pandemic

While restrictions in place due to COVID-19 have pushed consumers to adapt, it’s up to businesses to make the transition as comfortable and inviting as possible to gain a competitive edge in a rapidly expanding market. Learn more about the effective digital marketing strategies businesses have embraced to pivot in uncertain times.

As we eventually transition into a post-pandemic world, we may see other factors influence change and growth in e-commerce. There is little doubt though, that we’ll continue to see businesses pivot to the online marketplace confidently, using increasingly advanced technology to succeed.

Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for 2021

In the fast-paced digital landscape, the rate of adoption needed is unprecedented. Lessons learnt earlier in the year when every business was forced to adapt on the fly now inform marketing strategies during the second wave. The following tactics used together, in a holistic approach will help to build a solid digital marketing framework. 

Increasing Engagement 

While mobile usability and friendliness are important, it is critical to understand that people use multiple devices more so than ever. In a multi-platform world, it is necessary to optimize the whole journey rather than a single touchpoint. Brands active and diversified across all platforms are more likely to grow in their following, engagement and brand presence. Engagement is particularly important, especially for brands that can’t directly serve their audience and non-essential businesses. 

Maximizing Social Media Impact

For companies or non-profits mindful of marketing budgets, there’s been an increased reliance on organic, user-generated information. With more consumers spending time online for social purposes, this is an opportunity for businesses to share brand-related information. These types of platforms are critical to increasing brand reach. 

Message Consistency  

Brands are now faced with becoming as human as possible across social media channels, while juggling necessary bits of marketing and selling. The ability to have consistent messaging across all mediums for specific types of traffic is more important than ever. 

Making the Most of Ad Budgets

Competition online has increased as pretty much every retailer has jumped online increasing cost per click (CPC) and cost per impressions (CPM). Campaigns running last year at certain budgets are looking at higher budgets this year for relatively the same amount of quality traffic. Ad quality is something to be cautious about. Anywhere there is a bidding situation, get used to seeing dramatic increases in ad spend. 

Adapting Search Engine Optimization

SEO is an adaptable resource that can be used in all sorts of online settings including search engine results, Google My Business, as well as social and blogging. Consumers are shifting how they search for different things online. Understanding the intent behind those search queries and how they are using their devices will help capture a greater share of attention. The right approach will translate to showing up higher across these efforts. 

Shift to E-Commerce 

One of the biggest changes in search engine results is how often e-Commerce shops come up in search rankings. This comes down to changes in user behaviour and intent. Shifts in purchasing behaviours have shaped the consumer path toward a heavy post-pandemic reliance on e-Commerce. 

When someone searches for something online and they are looking to purchase, the website they find must satisfy that intent. With more users looking to take action, intent on shopping and not venturing out, Google and search algorithms have started to adjust search results accordingly to be more satisfactory to those types of queries and intents. 

Going forward, e-Commerce will be a core component of business operations. While select industries may go back to normal, the ecomm infrastructure that has been embraced at this magnitude is not going away. 

Digital Transformation for a post-COVID-19 Era

A new digital landscape is taking shape. Going forwards, brands doubling down on changes by becoming more integrative, bringing more systems online, sharing data across platforms and getting more targeted in the way they operate will succeed. Post- COVID recovery will largely be data- driven. 

Rethinking Strategies to Emerge Stronger

How permanent the implications COVID-19 are in terms of consumer behaviour is unknown. Lockdowns have accelerated the adoption of new technologies, expanding what they can do. Brands that continue to embrace and adapt to shifting consumer behaviours will see increased  brand authority and opportunities for expansion.

Major Shifts in Digital Behaviours for 2020

Major shifts in digital behaviours are apparent for the vast majority of Canadians and Canadian businesses that are adapting to a challenging 2020 economy.

Consumer behaviours shifted violently in March of 2020, so much so that Google rolled out an (unconfirmed) update around the 11th of March to match consumers change in search behaviours during that same time frame. This was driven primarily due to the pandemic, however search result pages across Canada and Ontario, had major changes in the type of websites that ranked (showed first on Google search).

By mid-April, Google published how search behaviours had changed due to the pandemic. What Google saw was categorized into 5 areas, with the biggest category called “Assembling Critical Information”. This category included searches related to retail and home delivery as the biggest sub-topics. These areas make up part of Google’s own push to “YMYL” (Your Money, Your Life) types of search results, which aims to provide the best search results possible that are related to users searches that involve a user's money (such as e-com) or a user’s life (such as breakout searches for ‘can you freeze..’ type of searches).

After Google had published the changes in behaviours on search in mid-April, Google rolled-out and confirmed a major update on May 4th. This update had a major effect on rankings across Google. Seeing how Google’s focus is on the most relevant search results for their users, it makes sense that Google’s May update had further focus on “YMYL” types of searches/results during early 2020. Here at Thinkr, we continued to see significant ranking and traffic increases for our e-commerce clients during the same time period. One in particular was experiencing record setting week after week in terms of web traffic as well as real world sales.

Businesses that had already invested in and embraced their online presence (especially e-commerce) before any of the updates in 2020, were very well positioned to make gains early in the year.

The speed at which Canadian consumers have embraced the digital realm has been a quantum leap forward, considering that Canadians are typically slower to embrace new technologies and new ways of doing things in their daily lives. More specifically, working from home has had a major impact on the internet usage behaviours of Canadians across the country for both work and entertainment purposes. A typical workday has been condensed due to not commuting and distractions at home, as seen in this specific case of online usage trends below.

The traditional workday as seen in 2019 and earlier spread across 7 am to 6 pm, accounting for commuting time and the earlier birds into a workplace setting. This clearly has shrunk in 2020 to a more defined 9 am to 4 pm timeframe in the day. This, plus noticeable drops in session length, suggests narrowing of attention spans and the importance of high quality and specific content for intended audiences.

Device type data also showed the trend of Canadians across the country staying home during early 2020. An increase in desktop sessions in 2020 versus 2019 shows that Canadians across the country were less mobile, in the sense of being out of the home, while also spending more time on larger screen devices such as desktops and tablets.

This is confirmed through complied data from CIRA’s 2020 Internet Factbook of Canada:

We can also explore this data through the Toronto Internet Exchange public traffic stats; the start of the pandemic and work-from-home mandates across Ontario noted by the red arrow.

What is interesting with this data, is that although a typical workday is ‘shorter’, Canadians are using the internet far more than ever. Entertainment, shopping, social networking, and finances, overall usage time of the internet is up. This is one of the reasons why digital marketing popularity has increased so heavily in 2020.

With the increased usage of the internet in all aspects of Canadian life, businesses have been innovating and adapting to connect with their audiences and customers online in several ways. Of course, digital marketing, re-marketing, tracking, and attribution, are all critical elements to a digital campaign; however, competition on digital platforms is increasing. This increase in competition online is leading to audiences that are increasingly desensitized to digital ads, are more aware of ‘typical’ online ads, and avoid ads either on purpose or subconsciously.

Businesses that are advertising online now, and in the coming year, need to make sure that their ads span across multiple mediums, stand out from the competition in terms of visual and audio creative, capture analytics and key-performance-indicators, as well as being supported by a marketing strategy.

10 Ways to Effectively Pivot Your Marketing Strategies During the Pandemic

Here are the most effective marketing strategies you can take to re-evaluate your marketing plans during challenging times. 

Be ready to react to the reaction: After the initial shock of a new situation, consumers will react and create new trends, such as online shopping and social media behaviour. Adjust quickly; even if it is initially not ideal, clients are forgiving!

Be Brand ready: Is your brand updated and ready for the new normal? Is it E-friendly? Given the pandemic, and for the foreseeable future, there is limited physical engagement, word of mouth and socializing. Is your brand attuned to leave that lasting impression and keep you top of mind? Can it represent your business (virtually) as you would do personally, does it portray the right image and personality?

Find new opportunities: Are there new markets that have opened up? Can you change your product or service offering to address current needs? Can your skills and/or production equipment be used to support a changed need and make a profit?

Support your community: With unprecedented changes come unexpected situations and suffering. Be a good corporate citizen and help where you can. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen incredible support for local and independent businesses. A friend in need is a friend indeed! You will build a stronger brand and leave lasting impressions.

Offer convenience: Adapting to the new normal by offering convenience brought on by the pandemic. Curb-side pick-up, local delivery, online shopping, virtual shopping experiences, virtual communication etc.

Don’t curb marketing spend, redirect it! Now is not the time to go quiet and disappear. Redirect marketing spend to what works today. Paid ads, Search campaigns, aligning social media channels, build audiences and a following, have e-commerce ability, build your digital presence and signature.

Be ready for the future: We are getting used to dealing with major change. Learn from this process on how we (successfully) adapt and be ready to do it again! The pandemic, and with that the cause and effect, is an ongoing evolution we need to be ready for. Will there be a 2nd wave? What is our economic future and how do we position and prepare ourselves? Develop a strategy a roadmap.

Online Marketing Strategy: With the onslaught of digital marketing comes the ability to measure and analyze. There is much more data available. Use the data to adjust and fine-tune!

Think before you cut (your marketing team): Cost savings by reducing your marketing resources will backfire! In the virtual world we live in today, being marketing savvy and ensuring brand presence and awareness is a must. If you don’t do it, your competitor will…

Do it right: Managing your brand and ensuring your brand is visible will continue to play a key role in reaching your business goals. Doing this professionally, using experienced and capable people, resources and tools, will make your brand stand out from the rest. Your brand is your companies’ image and personality, if it looks bad or out of place, your target markets will perceive it that way!

Don’t stay idle. Build a foundation for the future by adapting your marketing strategy for the world that comes after by leaning into community, brand building, and timely insights.