OpenX’s focus has always been to partner with open web publishers to deliver superior advertising outcomes to marketers. The novel COVID-19 pandemic has changed how marketers plan to tackle 2020, and in an effort to arm our publisher partners with relevant perspectives we are excited to announce our new blog series, Insights from the Buy-Side.
This blog series will ask senior digital media executives to comment on:
To kick off the blog series, Vivian Chang from Clorox stopped by TheXchange blog to provide her perspective.
As VP of Growth for the DTC group within The Clorox Company, Vivian’s role is to help the various portfolio brands develop a closer relationship to consumers through acquisition and retention marketing with media spanning awareness to conversion. The DTC team’s role is split between owning the P&L for wellness brands, such as objectivewellness.com, and collaborating with peers across Brita, Burt’s Bees, etc., to strengthen direct-to-consumer e-commerce capabilities.
OpenX: How has your day-to-day business changed as a result of the pandemic?
Vivian Chang: In our ways of working, we were fortunate that the DTC group was already a distributed office across Bethesda, NYC, SF and Durham plus some team members fully remote, so our norm was already video conference for every meeting and Slack as the primary communication channel. I continue to be impressed with co-workers who manage to balance kids learning at home with WFH, but there was really very minimal disruption to how we operated day to day.
OpenX: How has COVID impacted your overall business? Are you surprised by any of the impacts, good or bad?
Vivian Chang: For our brands, we definitely got caught up in the COVID panic and quickly sold out of all our immunity-related vitamins and supplements in early March and scrambled to get new orders filled with our distributors. I don’t even need to describe what demand was like for the core Clorox brand as I think every household in America was looking for Clorox wipes. What I found surprising was that despite going on backorder, immunity products continued to be purchased at almost the same conversion rate as when in stock as consumers were willing to buy now and receive the product later as part of the scramble to stock up for their families. There was a recognition that 2-day shipping wasn’t realistic at a time when even Amazon experienced delays.
The key was to stay flexible as a company to adapt to the macro environment while keeping in close communication across functions – particularly between marketing, customer care, and fulfillment. At least weekly for an 8-week period we would share data from Google, Amazon and Facebook as well as campaign engagement trends for any leading indicators of consumer behavior changes. The teams quickly reworked campaign calendars and creative to be sensitive and relevant as the new work from home reality set in – for example educating on how better sleep affects immunity and stress, to positive response. Social media became an even more central channel to our brands as consumers spent more time on these platforms through quarantine.
Like most other retail and CPG brands, there’s been increased interest in strengthening e-commerce capabilities. It’s honestly a fun time to be part of DTC within a CPG company and to have the opportunity to bring our collective expertise together to reimagine the future.
OpenX: What do you predict to be the new normal for brands and when will you get there?
Vivian Chang: Certainly for brands that have stayed heavily reliant on retail the last few years, there’s now immediate pressure to have e-commerce capabilities. But I believe the new normal for retail e-commerce will be a combination of delivering goods not only by shipping a package through UPS/USPS, but also more partnerships with delivery services like a Postmates, and shrinking the footprints of retail stores leveraged as distribution centers with permanent curbside pick-up options. Free shipping becomes table stakes in order to compete with Amazon. This of course creates complexity for closed-loop tracking that has been a strong advantage for DTC in measuring the impact of media, but as retail spend shifts more to e-commerce, I’m confident innovation will follow to help build stronger measurement capabilities for online to offline.
With COVID, health and wellness suddenly became top priority for everyone, and as an industry, I foresee it staying an important part of people’s lives as we develop new habits to protect ourselves in venturing back into the world out of quarantine over the next 12-24 months without a vaccine. I also hope the recognition and appreciation of healthcare workers continues now that it’s been made obvious the sacrifice these men and women make daily.
For many companies, I suspect COVID has demonstrated productivity doesn’t drop when you give employees freedom and flexibility to work from home. For agencies and consulting firms, COVID has demonstrated that it’s possible to do business without traveling to a client site. While I don’t think most companies will stay 100% remote (I certainly miss in-person face time with my team!), I can’t imagine this workforce going back to how it was 4 months ago and predict there will be more tolerance for WFH and less required travel, thus allowing people to find a new work-life balance that may have been unavailable pre-COVID. The added bonus of less travel will be the positive impact for our planet!
OpenX: Has COVID made you rethink what you look for in technology and media partners?
Vivian Chang: I don’t think COVID changes how we evaluate technology or media partners that we want to work with. I’ve always been a proponent of finding partners that act as an extension of the team, and that includes alignment on ways of working – moves fast, tests often, transparent, willing to collaborate to build a solution together rather than spending time in a silo then presenting the solution, nimble and adaptable. Flexibility in the business partnership absolutely is critical as we’re not through with COVID or its economic impacts yet, so I’m prioritizing relationships that can help add value in times of both higher and lower consumer demand.
OpenX: What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown is over?
Vivian Chang: I love traveling and I miss seeing friends in person rather than through a Zoom conference, so I’m looking forward to filling my calendar again with trips around the world. One of these days it’d be nice to see my NYC apartment again too.
Thanks for joining this edition of Insights from the Buy-Side. We will interview brands and agencies bi-weekly on the TheXchange blog. Be sure to subscribe to our blog below and stay tuned for our next edition!