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Digital Marketing Strategies for Uncertain Times

Laura Barker


In early 2020 as the pandemic picked up speed, many advertisers cut back on high-cost, targeted campaigns to focus on broader messaging or accommodate budget cuts. Because of this, the CPM for display advertising impressions  dropped drastically. As the pandemic eased and the world began its return to normalcy, the digital marketing industry followed. CPM trends shifted back toward pre-pandemic levels.

Now, new macroeconomic challenges have marketers once again scrambling to remain relevant while still hitting their business goals.

In times of uncertainty, use these strategies to keep your customers satisfied while protecting your brand.

Future-Proof Your Marketing

The best way to navigate a changing digital marketing landscape is to be proactive and plan for changes on the horizon.

For years, advertisers have used third-party cookies to collect and analyze data needed to serve personalized ads. In the medium term, however, the internet will say goodbye to third-party cookies entirely.

As technology advances and businesses continue collecting massive amounts of new consumer data, shoppers are becoming increasingly concerned about their online privacy. Rather than ignoring these concerns in the interest of profits, it’s important for advertisers to respect customer privacy (and upcoming policy changes) and be diligent in how they collect and record the permissions granted for the use of personal information. Providing site visitors with a clear and easy path to granting user consent is a good place to start.

To prepare for a cookieless future, marketers should be exploring new, cookie-less ways to identify audiences (like email, for example) and leveraging their own first-party data to engage customers.

Get the ultimate guide to third-party cookies here.

Contextual targeting

Contextual targeting is the practice of delivering ads that are most relevant to a website’s content, e.g., an ad for a new haircare line on a beauty blog article. The best part about this type of advertising? It doesn’t require cookies at all.

Contextual targeting campaigns require the help of a digital marketing or ad placement platform, which will scan and categorize website and app content based on keywords, themes, alt text, etc. By implementing this kind of strategy, you can place your ads alongside the meaningful and engaging content your customers crave in a way that doesn’t track their user behavior.

Customer loyalty

Perhaps the simplest way to ensure future success for your business is building a base of loyal customers who purchase repeatedly, frequently and without much consideration of the competition. To do this, marketers need to build strong customer relationships using methods like omnichannel campaigns, personalized shopping experiences and product recommendations, and advanced measurement and attribution tools.

At the end of the day, it costs less to retain customers than acquire new ones. By focusing on a loyalty strategy, you’ll build trust with your customers and keep them coming back for more — even during difficult or uncertain times. 

Approach Your Customers With Empathy

During the pandemic, we saw brands across virtually every industry walk a fine line when it came to brand messaging. Many companies felt it was necessary to communicate with customers about what was happening in the world and how it may impact their business, but without coming across as insensitive, self-serving, or unimportant given the context. 

A survey conducted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Instapanel found that during the pandemic, consumers favored brands who showed genuine compassion and communicated their efforts to help through informative advertising. And though the pandemic has slowed, the yearning for empathy in advertising remains — especially during a new wave of uncertainty. 

As a rule of thumb when crafting messaging to distressed audiences, be clear and to-the-point about how world events or changing circumstances may affect the way customers interact with your brand. Most importantly, remember that your customers are real people who may be feeling the effects of crisis, and that you value them as more than just numbers on your books. 

Optimize for ROI

In a period of economic uncertainty, marketers should be constantly weighing their priorities in terms of expected KPIs and adjusting their strategy accordingly. If your business is focused on short-term returns, it’s more important than ever to optimize your marketing activities to ensure you’re not just getting clicks, but conversions that generate real revenue. 

To optimize for ROI, try:

  • Using negative keywords. When buying PPC ads, pay attention to keywords that get clicks but rarely convert and add them to a negative keyword list. People who search these terms won’t see your ad, and you won’t pay for a click that won’t convert.

  • Using AI to adjust your bids in real time. Digital ad platforms automatically adjust advertising bids on an ongoing basis to prioritize high-value targets and spend less money on low-value targets.

  • Tailoring your landing pages to your ads. If a user clicks on an ad promoting camping gear, they should land on a page with clear information about camping gear. If customers have to search for what they saw in your ad, you’ll lose them and kill your ROI.

  • Targeting by location. If you don’t ship to a certain area, don’t pay for ads that reach people who live in that area. 

  • Taking steps to reduce cart abandonment. This could include using triggered discount offers, showing your site is secure, or using a live chat system.

  • Improving your Google quality score. A high score can reduce your ad prices and give you better ad positioning. To increase your score, update your creative to ensure it’s relevant and engaging. 

Moving Forward in a Changing World

As they say, the only thing certain is uncertainty — and digital marketers should be prepared to adjust and adapt quickly if they want to stay afloat. Though this new, post-pandemic era of ecommerce is already surfacing unfamiliar challenges, businesses that embrace change using the right strategies and technologies will win.

Learn more about how AdRoll can help you streamline your marketing operations, now and into the future.