2020 changed the way we shop forever.

Some experts say movement from offline to online shopping accelerated 10 years in just eight weeks. Constant digital connections have led to screen fatigue. As brick-and-mortar retailers adjust to new realities, in some cases, consumers suffer through inconvenience.

Dramatic shifts like these create opportunities. Here’s how marketers can act immediately and take advantage.

1. Invest in owned media to increase brand equity.

Owned media has the power to enhance the customer experience, reinforce and elevate brand perception, and drive online and offline sales. They can’t do all of that independently, though— they have to be connected to a broader marketing strategy.

Eighty-six percent of customers shop through multiple channels. The impact of your brand is a composite of all those customer experiences. For example, direct mail pieces make personal connections. They can drive shoppers online for deeper engagement. They’re more effective when offline and online work together.

Still, trust quickly breaks when the customer navigates online only to find that their coupon code doesn’t work, or the product they’re looking for isn’t available. Your strategy must sync up with your overall marketing strategy to drive measurable results.

2. Enhance convenience and experience above all else.

On one end of the brand continuum is the hard sell — you are 100 percent focused on telling customers about new products and doing everything in your power to convince them to buy. On the other end is a focus on showing the lifestyle that the product enables, creating content that educates about the pursuit of that lifestyle.

Brand loyalty lies somewhere in the middle. The trick is to find a balance that blends lifestyle education with featured products to find the sweet spot to give real value to your customers.

Through storytelling that goes beyond product, price and promotion, catalogs, for example, have evolved to provide a more meaningful brand experience and create demand. The experience that your favorite brands create is probably what’s most memorable. That’s what you’re shooting for.

3. Accelerate the convergence of offline and online shoppers.

The events of 2020 triggered major changes in nearly every industry.

While confined to homes, consumer purchasing behaviors and the shopping experience shifted dramatically. New York University Marketing Professor Scott Galloway has noted that we saw 10 years’ worth of acceleration from offline to online shopping over eight weeks as COVID-19 spread.

Smart marketers that used offline assets, like direct mail and catalog, to deliver online traffic have efficiently created interest and encouraged purchase. QR codes and other technology connect offline with online ecosystems.

Where catalogs have found a win is in the experience. It’s not just about buying. That has only contributed to consumers’ screen fatigue.

Shopping is a tactile, sensory experience with elements of discoverability, surprise and delight. With catalogs consumers can get inspired and shop at their leisure—an escape from everything they do online.

4. Create companions and extensions of offline publications

Creating a digital version – mobile, social, video, desktop – of a catalog or magazine should be automatic. You’ve already created the content, why not integrate it into your website, offer a downloadable PDF, or use a digital flipbook platform to host and give people the full experience online? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make it shareable. Digital versions enable marketers to increase their brand visibility and awareness across multiple mobile, social and digital platforms by leveraging consumer network connections.
  • Make it shoppable. Include links to go directly to a cart or purchase. As an added benefit, track the analytics to create immediate behavior insights.
  • Include multimedia. Digital publications can be multimedia experiences to engage, educate and inspire using augmented reality, video, widgets, or any other online tool.
  • Consider placement. For decades companies have sent catalogs to people’s homes. But digital catalogs do not have the same distribution model, so thoughtfully placing and presenting an online version to shoppers at the right time and place is essential. Bring the catalog to them as opposed to burying it at the bottom of your website.

Simply having a digital edition is not sufficient. As with your print versions, you need to make sure you have distribution. The stories and spreads need to be accessible to shoppers wherever they are spending their time online.

Finally, utilize virtual testing to continue to tweak. It’s possible to quickly A/B test a cover, a few different offers, or images. Once you see some definitive results, make changes and monitor performance across the board.

5. Monitor the data and adjust

Marketers can turn interest into action through an integrated experience that seamlessly connects offline and online behavior. Digital extensions and experiences are opportunities for stronger connections with a brand and provide data for further communication.

Use data insights that come back from customers right away and make adjustments to improve conversions. It is not enough to collect data and measure response. You must have actionable insights that allow you to continually drive incremental improvements. Ask questions like:

  • From the moment your customer receives an offline piece, when was the first engagement with a CTA?
  • How long did they watch a video/stay on a webpage/experiment with 3D objects?
  • Did they go anywhere or do anything else?
  • When was the first conversion to a sale?
  • Are there any obvious barriers you can remove?

Offline vehicles create effective physical platforms to experiment with digital technologies like augmented reality and dynamic QR codes. However, success is contingent upon monitoring the campaign’s performance over time and making adjustments as needed.