How to double down on e-commerce sales during a recession

July 19, 2022

During a recession, as customers start spending less, most businesses are forced to cut costs, and lower prices. Instinctively we resort to adjusting, improving, and enhancing our strategies. But isn't this what we should be doing at all times - recession or not? So how will "the same", but "better" help us in a contracting situation?

What if you can push your marketing strategies beyond the status quo.

In this article we will explore the opportunities  for brands that can adjust their marketing and sales strategies based on changing customer needs.


The most common challenge amongst e-commerce businesses today, is that sales are linear in relation to their performance and ad based marketing strategies. This creates a suboptimal dependance, as you cannot simply cut advertising spend if you want to keep sales at the same level.

In addition, there is already constant pressure and shrinking margins due to all-year round discount campaigns.

However, learning from past events is a good starting point to understand how to manage the current change in shopper behavior.

Here is an excerpt from an article in Harvard Business Review during the 2008 recession:

"Companies that put customer needs under the microscope, take a scalpel rather than a cleaver to the marketing budget, and nimbly adjust strategies, tactics, and product offerings in response to shifting demand are more likely than others to flourish both during and after a recession."

In other words, to navigate a recession successfully, e-commerce businesses have to get closer to their customers, double down on sales and reduce marketing expenditure based on the changed needs of consumers.

Getting closer to your customers

COVID pushed everyone online, and the share of e-commerce sales grew tremendously. Hence, most brands spend most of their efforts on mastering performance based marketing, social media posting and influencer campaigning.

While these are all reasonable ways of getting more sales, they come with one common challenge: you, the brand, do not have direct access to the consumer.

Advertising and social networks, or influencers, control when and how you can reach your customers. And all three of them have a clear linear return on investment. You want more - you pay more.

The better scenario would be a platform where you own the customer relationship and can engage with customers in real-time, in an emerging way, without solely relying on push techniques to get your customers attention.

"During recessions it’s more important than ever to remember that loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of cash flow and organic growth"

Sure, you have CRM and emails, but these methods do not bring you closer to your customers.

So what you really want is a solution that delivers customer intimacy at scale, so you can engage them in conversation, enable them to communicate with you directly and create loyalty.

Some brands are already doing this today on live streaming platforms such as Amazon Live, Instagram, TikTok, or specialized marketplaces where influencers, or key opinion leaders entertain the audience and sell products.

However, to be successful in this space, brands must own the experience and deploy a multichannel video commerce solution, as otherwise the underlying issue of losing direct access to your customer will not change.

Double down on your sales

In a mostly performance based e-commerce world doubling down on sales means to increase your conversion rates or, more likely, increasing advertising spend.

But there are alternative ways to improve the current situation by adjusting marketing visibility, engagement, authenticity and advocacy.

And guess what, we can achieve all of them by getting closer to our customers.

Let's take a look at social-first fashion brand Cider.

Using micro influencers, an online community called #cidergang, a discord channel, and almost daily live shows Cider has created a perfectly orchestrated system to get closer to their customers.

Cider achieves higher visibility by using micro influencers, and their active online community of customers posting their styles. Not only does this result in organic viral marketing, but more importantly, provides additional insights into consumer behavior and current trends.

It fuels engagement, especially amongst the younger generation, who we know demand uniqueness and want to be part of a bigger cause.

By making customers part of the process, the brand creates authenticity which ultimately helps when onboarding new customers.

And what better way is there to create advocacy than making customers feel unique and providing them a platform to shine?

Brands that move away from push, and instead pulling customers closer to their brand will be able to discover new ways to increase sales.

Reduce your marketing expenditure

As already hinted, reducing marketing costs means you have to either improve performance or get organic visibility.

Marketing performance is improved by delivering the products your customers want with the best presentation at the right time.

The challenge here is that your marketing is lagging behind current trends.

Your product catalog is updated in monthly or quarterly intervals, analytics are a reflection of the past, and your insights evolve around basic demographics that don't really help making more insightful decisions.

Being closer to your customer fixes this.

Your customers know what they want, but are also over-stimulated with things they could have - especially on social media.

By being relevant, at the pulse of time and delivering your products accordingly you can focus on what matters to your customers.

This will ultimately improve your marketing performance and reduce advertising costs. It will enable you to react faster to shopper behavior, trends and create meaningful insights for your business.

Building a social shopping community is not utterly difficult, but it requires a shift in how we approach marketing for our e-commerce businesses.

The best thing is that the results are measurable and hence you are able to validate your efforts.

If you want to learn more about how this can be done and see if it would work for your business feel free to get in touch.

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