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7 reasons why you need to monitor marketing ROI maniacally in AC (After Coronavirus)

By John Koetsier May 27, 2020

It’s tempting to start a marketing-in-the-Coronavirus-era post by saying that all of the old rules of performance marketing can be tossed out the window. It’s a different time. We’re in a volatile age. The future is unpredictable.

But that would be a lie.

Yes, we don’t know much about where things are going. And it’s true: uncertainty impacts marketing strategy and tactics.

But we do know that the same habits that made you successful in the past can make you successful today. You just may have to apply them a little differently. You have to be that much more agile. You do need some element of caution, but also a seasoning of risk tolerance. And, you absolutely do need to shake up your cadence.

Or, in other words, you need to monitor marketing ROI maniacally…

1. Past models aren’t predictive

Your past models were great. And they probably did a reasonably good job of predicting short and medium-term customer and user behavior. But the past is the past, and while in times of slow change (yes, the internet-speed dog years of the past decade are now slow change) they may have accurately modeled future results, you can toss those guarantees out the window now.

It’s just different AC (After Coronavirus):

“If previously players would hit a milestone after seven days, now with more free time they’re hitting it at day three.”
Rose Agozzino, Senior Marketing Specialist, Ludia Games

If you were checking metrics twice a week, double it. There’s so much change right now that user behavior is extremely volatile.

“If you were checking something every three days, check it every day.”
Martin MacMillan, CEO & founder, Pollen.vc

And as we move from shutdown to reopening to who-knows-what … this gets even more important. “Retention and monetization curves were RADICALLY different in March versus February,” Rovio and N3TWORK alum Eric Seufert says. Making decisions based on 4-week-old data might not work out.

2. Change is accelerated

Why aren’t past models predictive anymore? Change is accelerated in AC times.

Just one example: e-commerce sales in the U.S. jumped 50% in a single month. E-commerce has been only about 10-15% of total retail sales, growing 10-30% per year over the past decade or so. A single month of Coronavirus mainlined testosterone into digital sales, rocketing April’s numbers up 50% higher than March’s.

Adobe called it “Black Friday in April.”

“Our active user base has almost doubled in the last month. And activity has increased 2X of what it was during normal times”
Sai Srinivas Kiran G, CEO, Mobile Premier League

When things change quickly, you need to monitor them more frequently. That’s not rocket science. It’s just simple common sense. Because mobile publishers have seen the positive impact of COVID-19 metrics boosts as well as the potential negative.

(Talk to anyone in travel.)

3. Less margin for error

Look, times are tough. Even if you may be in a vertical that benefited from a lift in metrics since lockdown, the end result of tens of millions of people out of work and not earning a salary is not going to be good. A rising tide lifts all boats. A sinking tide … is also going to have an impact.

That means you need to conserve cash.

It’s important to understand what “conserve cash” means. It doesn’t mean lock up Scrooge McDuck and the big VC check in the bank and toss away the key. It does mean engaging in activities that have a defined ROI: particularly ones that have a shorter payback period and a higher confidence level in getting at least 100% ROAS.

“Capital efficiency is extremely important right now given that we’re likely at the turn of the business cycle.”
Grant Harbin, CEO, Headlight; Former VP Growth, KIXEYE

Not surprisingly, you maximize your opportunities for winning by closely monitoring campaigns and adjusting them as needed.

4. Channels are changing

What channels you use right now should NOT be predicated on what channels worked for you last year or last month. (If you’re wondering why … see above.)

There is currently massive upheaval in the global advertising ecosystem. Digital advertising rates are down 30%. Automobile ad spending is down — coincidentally or not — by 30% as well. (And with Hertz and other rental agencies tanking, that’s likely to continue. Rental agencies buy millions of cars annually under ordinary conditions.) Digital advertising has been somewhat spared, however. TV ads dropped even more: 35-50%.

What’s it all mean?

Costs are different. When Facebook and Google are staring down a $40-billion-plus revenue drop due to decreased demand, ad auctions are going to be less competitive and prices will drop. Clickthrough rates have likely changed as well. Entire verticals like travel are out of the picture.

That means channels you didn’t consider before — or channels that didn’t meet your ROAS criteria — might be interesting for you now. How are you going to find that out? By experimentation, of course.

Oh and — little hint — Singular offers bid data, which could highlight changing opportunities over time.

5. Consumer preferences are changing

We know consumer purchase behavior is changing. Consumer preferences are too. Just one example: how many more “in these challenging times” messages do you want to hear in ads?

I’m guessing: approximately minus 100.

When it comes to campaign messaging, you absolutely don’t want something that’s tone-deaf. But you also don’t want a message functionally equivalent to every other trying-desperately-to-be-sensitive brand sending out marketing and messaging right now.

“The rules of marketing have changed completely.”
Sunil Thomas, CEO, CleverTap

That means creative optimization — one of your last in-channel levers besides bids and budgets anyways, thanks to AI-driven black boxes — is a critical vector for testing. And the sooner you get it right, the less you’ll spend.

6. Segmentation is now more important than ever

Segmentation has always been important to tailor marketing and customer messages and offers. Now it’s more important than ever.

Every country is dealing with Coronavirus in a slightly different way. Within each country, different states/provinces/regions have different rules, regulations, and guidelines. Urban areas have different risk factors than rural. White-collar workers might not have had the shutdown that some retail workers had. Grocery employees faced a different reality than sales reps.

And not shockingly, how a customer or user reacts to a COVID-19 related marketing message might have a lot to do with his or her politics and beliefs.

Understanding your customers or users and treating them as much like individuals as you can has never been more critical. How? By leveraging your data.

“Our instinct has never been less equipped to help us through this. So we’re really doubling down on the data.”
Rebecca Nackson, CEO, Notable

7. You could be missing opportunities

There has always been gold in the adtech hills. With a sudden drop in advertising volume, there are now fewer prospectors chasing it. And that gives you an advantage.

Maybe you’re maxing out your budgets too quickly, finishing up your spend too early in the day or week. That might mean you need to reduce your bids or increase your spend, depending on whether or not your ROI and ROAS numbers are where you want them, and what your payback period is.

With a shorter payback period, you can take bigger risks and increase budgets. While it is a challenging time (cliche alert!) there are big opportunities for those who have the budget and the cojones to be aggressive.

“We’ve seen about roughly 20% uptick in terms of revenues. Retention is staying up there. It’s not across the whole industry necessarily, but what we’ve been seeing is falling acquisition costs, and lifetime values are holding up. That’s basically putting some clear blue water in the CAC to LTV equation, and actually enabling them to double down faster in terms of their own acquisition.”
Martin MacMillan, CEO, Pollen.vc

As another marketer told me recently, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. There are challenges, but there are also opportunities. We will exit this time, and some brands will exit like a bull charging from a tunnel into the arena. Some will walk out, and others will just limp out.

A lot of that depends on externalities like vertical, VC cash, and geography. But you should control what is within your control.

Not able to measure your marketing in near-real-time across multiple marketing platforms? You should chat with Singular.

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