Following a turbulent two years of lockdowns and restrictions for Brits, e-commerce has become the go-to way to shop for nearly all consumers. But now we’re facing a cost of living crisis and e-commerce businesses will need to continue to adapt their digital marketing approach to stay competitive. 

Consumers have already begun to cut back on their spending over the past two months as the rising cost of living hit budgets hard.  In May 2022, it was reported that UK households are adopting a more frugal approach to living, as inflation climbed to its fastest pace in 40 years following a 54% increase in the cost of average gas and electricity bills.

This then led to a reduction in retail sales which fell by 1.1% in May, making it the worst month since January 2021 for the sector, according to data from KPMG and the British Retail Consortium trade association.

So what does this mean for e-commerce businesses? Leaders and decision-makers need to be considering a purpose-led approach to their marketing strategy for the remainder of 2022. And to help them along the way, we’ve pulled together five ways to adapt your marketing approach and messaging in light of the cost of living crisis: 

  • Increase your online visibility 

Brits are spending less time out and about and more time at home. So it’s key to make sure your brand and products are as visible as possible online. With fewer people going out, the upside is that more are browsing and purchasing online. And don’t forget, if your customers aren’t ready to buy now, staying in front of them means your brand, product or service will be first in mind when they are in a positive to convert.

Ensuring your SEO activity is up to scratch is key. This can be done with keyword optimisation, a consistent link-building and digital PR strategy to illustrate trust and authority in your sector. Making sure the technical SEO health of your website is the best it can possibly be is also essential and will ultimately strengthen your online visibility. And if you’ve also paused your paid activity, now is prime time to resume this! 

  • Continuous communication 

Communication is essential when it comes to maintaining consumer-brand relationships. Speaking regularly to customers through social media messaging and email marketing, letting them know where their orders are or offering practical product information will allow e-commerce businesses to keep transactions flowing.

With budgets tight at home, consumers are looking beyond price at things like their user experience on your site (how easy is your site to navigate etc.), can they make a trustworthy transaction and are the products of a high quality. So showcasing your best products with high-quality imagery and optimised product information alongside genuine reviews and positive post-purchase messaging should all be considered. 

This is not to say price points aren’t important – because they are! Utilising your CRM, social media channels and email marketing tools to alert your database of price drops on products they have previously shown an interest in could also help to drive more sales at this time. 

And don’t forget – maintaining a consistent stream of press coverage with reputable publications that your customers read is also a really effective way of keeping your business at the forefront of their minds and sustaining a consistent brand perception.

  • Increase personalisation

Shoppers that are concerned about cost and whether they should be spending can be more selective about the companies they choose to buy from. So e-commerce businesses need to portray a trustworthy brand that can be relied upon again and again. 

Offering a top-notch and personal customer experience which encourages loyalty through things like personalised and bespoke offers for newsletter sign-ups and loyalty programs allows for these relationships to be established. 

Direct communication through email marketing and paid social activity is a great way to reach out to your database on a personal level, offering them unique updates on items they’ve saved to their wishlists and even using their first name in subject lines. 

  • Review your data for a purpose-led approach

A recent Google trend report declared “relevance is as important as reach”, revealing that brands should no longer be looking to get their products and message out to as many people as possible. Concentrating your attention on channels that drive the strongest results for your e-commerce business is instead where you should focus your efforts. Keeping on top of your data and analytics is the best way to see which platforms are the most effective for you and why. 

Utilising tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics and SEO tools such as Semrush and SERanking can help to accurately attribute sales or conversions to a specific channel or campaign. This insight can then be used to shape your marketing strategy. 

In practical terms, this means developing a purpose-led approach for your customers which focuses on meaningfully reaching out and supporting your customers and their needs at this time via the channels they want to be communicated on. All of these can be identified by utilising the data you have access to. 

Great ways to do this are through dedicated PR campaigns offering practical tips and expert insight from key spokespeople within the business supported by blog post content which can be easily found on your website and shared on social media pages. You should also consider email campaigns for existing customers advising them on how best to take care of their products can show an understanding that your customers are looking for long-term value. ​​

Ultimately, your website copy, blog content, press stories, paid campaigns and social media copy should all focus on the benefits that you bring to your customer to get the best results.

  • Adjust your SEO strategy

With more Brits living on a budget, search terms around ‘Days out on a budget’ ‘or ‘How to save on energy bills’ have increased drastically compared to previous months. So it’s essential that e-commerce businesses optimise their website content to be in line with these trending search terms. 

Whether you offer budget-friendly deals, or you sell an eco-friendly product, writing a blog post around it or developing a specific digital PR campaign to tie your business into current events will help to pull in traffic and leads. 

E-commerce businesses are finding margins are being squeezed due to rising costs and customer uncertainty. So many will be considering streamlining some areas of their business in order to keep costs down, but we cannot stress enough that brands should continue to invest in activities such as PR and marketing in order to stay relevant and come out stronger on the other side by simply adapting their approach. 

Before the pandemic, brands would perhaps invest less or even pause their marketing activity during times of economic downturn. But the COVID-19 lockdowns revealed that brands which maintained their relevance were more successful at recovering post-pandemic, compared to those that didn’t survive. 

To find out more about how we’ve supported e-commerce businesses through bespoke marketing activity, head over to our case studies. And if you have any questions about how we might be able to support you, why not contact us today

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