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Do you have any idea what’s going to happen with the election, the stock market, COVID vaccines, or consumer behavior over the next quarter? I sure don’t. I do know that Q4, as usual, is going to make or break 2020 for many retail and eCommerce companies, and stress and uncertainty are higher than ever.

Where a lot of executives and marketers are seeing limits in the uncertainty, we’re leaning into our “Accept No Limits” value to turn uncertainty into opportunity. I’d like to inspire you to do the same with lessons gleaned from examples of how we’ve helped our clients achieve incredible pivots over the past year.

Re-Examine Old Performance Through a 2020 Lens

For one of our B2C clients focused on hands-on tasks like moving, cleaning, and home improvement, 2020 sent typically high-performing categories into a spiral. On the other hand, categories that had historically performed poorly – including delivery – suddenly presented new opportunities.

Very early in March, our account team began an aggressive roll-out of:

  • testing for new creative and ad copy featuring themes (e.g. “contactless”) that met customer needs
  • supporting expansion of services (e.g. errands, grocery delivery) that were brand new to the client
  • geo-specific breakouts to accommodate precise demand surges
  • new-channel testing

As a result, those services went from 3% of the client’s February revenue to nearly half of the client’s March revenue.

The upshot: look for ways to expand your services and build brand awareness in categories that will persist long after COVID subsides.

Build Your Own Benchmarks

In years past, many companies could use the previous year’s Q4 performance for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc., as benchmarks. That’s obviously not the case this year.

Brands have to build much different strategies, with different resources, to make sure they’re set up to optimize growth from the Q4 retail surge. And in this case, we actually do have a great lesson to draw on from 2019.

A big-box retail client runs a yearly one-day sale in early November that represents a major portion of Q4 revenue and spend. Before 2019, latency resulted in consistent underestimates for conversion volume, which led the client to be excessively conservative with bidding across channels.

To address this, we used Supermetrics to build a report across channels and search engines to pull in hourly data, and we used historical latency data to course-correct in real time. As real-time data came in, we adjusted budgets and targets. As a result, the client’s revenue increased by over 66% year over year, withinn efficiency goals.

The upshot: build capabilities to meet the moment, even if you can’t predict what the moment will bring.

Go Where Your Customers Are: Online

No matter your target geos, it’s safe to say consumers will be doing less mall shopping and more online shopping in Q4 (and beyond that) and that blowout, doorbuster deals may not produce the brick & mortar stampedes of years past.

That means people will be spending more time at home, looking for deals online.

For one of our banking clients, all in-person branches were closed for a couple of months during COVID-19. During this time, we helped the client pivot to continue to meet customer needs by scaling online spend in new channels, tailoring messaging, and optimizing UX of the website and mobile apps. This led to the best quarter in the history of the client’s digital program in both scale and efficiency.

The upshot: when customers still need you, figure out how (and where) to best meet their needs.

Get Agile with Video

In May, one of our clients launched a promotion offering SMB owners a free product for five years to help provide COVID-19 relief. The client wanted to spread the word quickly with video consumption at an all-time high, but in-person and production restrictions produced by COVID meant that they weren’t able to create new video fast enough to get this message out to grow and capture demand.

3Q had already reserved high-profile YouTube placements for the client for Small Business Week. To capitalize on both the placement and the incredible client offer, we enlisted the help of Google’s YouTube team and edited an existing video to highlight the offer (at no cost to the client). As a result, the placement with the edited video reached 22% of the business professional audience in the U.S., beat CTR benchmarks by 23%, and significantly lifted brand search during the week of the video launch.

The upshot: leverage your partnerships and your resourcefulness to produce content that performs.

There’s no doubt Q4 is going to bring a range of new, unforeseen challenges. Build a resourceful mentality with your team, and always look for ways to turn “limits” into opportunities. You’ll do more than meet the moment; you’ll put yourself in position to take market share from more timid competitors.