Beth Thompson

Combatting short-termism during a time of crisis

Digital Operations Manager at Visualsoft, Lindsey Roberts, took to the keyboard to share why stepping away from short-termism is key to not simply surviving the retail effects of COVID, but prospering; improving relationships with your customers and increasing your ROI.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, and subsequently the lockdown in the UK (and beyond), many brands’ key focus was quick wins, favouring a quick conversion over long-term results. In research carried out by IPA, 755 of marketers and 73% of agencies said that ‘short-termism’ and the short term needs took precedence over longer term objectives.

When lockdown was enforced, we saw many market leaders panic, and short-termism really took hold. The two main reactions noted from many big brands were protecting profits by withdrawing budgets, or launching discounts to drive a spike in sales. Both reactions driven by short-termism, and both potentially damaging.

In the immediate short-term, cutting budgets may seem like a good idea to protect profits, but brands who implement this strategy are likely to come out of this weaker and less profitably. Potentially the most damaging, however, is they will lose a share of voice in the market, making it easier for competitors to gain an edge, especially if those competitors are now investing more. History tells us that the brands who invested more money on advertising during things like recessions, not only survived them, but came out of them significantly stronger.

Brands who didn’t cut throughout periods of recession tend to emerge significantly stronger than those who did (according toPhrasee). Phrasee also reported that B2C brands who increased advertising in a recession led to greater profits during the recession… and even greater ones once the recovery hit.

Many brands who have been deploying this tactic have been shouting about discounts via email and social media, and of course, if your brand isn’t known for discounting, it goes without saying that you’ll see a spike in sales. However, these tactics lead to fatigue amongst customers. Messages get lost in the void, seem irrelevant; even though you’re doing more, you may lose share of voice in the market - just as you would if you reduced advertising budgets.

According to Google, share of voice determines share of the market, so getting your brand out there is more important than ever if you want to thrive and not just survive the pandemic. Instead of cutting back on budgets, now is the time to invest to plan for when the lockdown is over. Instead of discounts and mass messages pushing the sale, it’s critical to review your messaging - what you say matters, and it matters now more than ever.

If you’re looking to increase your brand awareness, it’s now or never. If your competitors are reducing spend on marketing, this is the perfect opportunity to establish your voice in the market, with relative ease. Nurturing customer relationships throughout this period is vital for longevity and will serve your brand far more than purely increasing the volume of interactions.

During lockdown:

  1. If you haven’t already, review your live & scheduled campaigns and the messages on them - are they still suitable? For example, your automated email campaigns may need tweaks to content or pausing all together. You might have already reviewed and edited key messages on your site including delivery information - keep this regularly updated as the situation changes.
  2. Now’s a great time to see if your messaging is consistent and in line with your longer-term objectives, rather than focusing on quick wins.
  3. Try and get feedback from your audience - Kate Spade is a perfect example - pushing regular Instagram polls and surveys to see what content their followers are actually wanting to see from them. Other brands have also taken a more content-led approach focusing on engagement, which is key.
  4. Yes, review your budgets, but instead of jumping to cut them back, see where you can invest more. This is crucial for long-term success.
  5. Set out a longer-term strategy now, if you don’t already have one. Any short-term decisions or ‘quick wins’ should fit into these - if they don’t, are they worth doing?


  1. Again, review your live & scheduled campaigns and the messages on them as they may now have changed again if your shops are open, you are able to offer more services etc. Give people the information they need including delivery updates and other service messages.
  2. Review those objectives you set during lockdown. Think about your current plan to message your customers and how this fits in. Think about long term KPIs you want to achieve, don’t get back into old habits of focusing on short term wins.
  3. Build on the relationships you’ve fostered - make sure the messages across your brand create positive interactions for them, and really consider your message instead of just getting something out there for the sake of it. Once lockdown is over, we’ll see brands fighting for digital space including in the email inbox, how can you stand out and achieve growth? Content will be key for this.
  4. Review budgets again and see where you have seen success, where you need to continue to invest, and what you can learn from how your company performed during the pandemic.
  5. Look at the strategy you set and see how you’re doing against the goals you set. Do you need to change anything, or introduce any new tactics to get you moving towards Q4?

After lockdown, don’t be tempted to fall back into old habits of trying to get quick wins. It’s a false economy - it’s important to remain focused on your long term strategy, which should be centred around customer engagement and growth. Right now, we don’t know what the state of play will be for Q4, our biggest shopping period, where COVID is concerned, but only by building up your share of voice and creating meaningful connections with your customers now, will you be setting yourself up to succeed then.

Carefully considering your message and stepping away from short-termism will be the key to not simply getting through COVID, but prospering; improving relationships with your customers and increasing your ROI.

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