Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The outside-in approach: a lifeline for brands as we head into the new normal

Harmony Murphy is GM Advertising UK at eBay and NDA’s monthly columnist

I could state the obvious, but we all know that the last 12 months have been a rollercoaster journey for brands. But it’s not over and with brands still fighting to survive, it’s sink or swim.

For brands looking to engage consumers in an increasingly competitive online arena, historical tried and tested tactics are no longer enough. With people’s attention spans now shorter than ever, consumers’ eyes glaze over when confronted by the same old marketing and advertising efforts day in day out. So how can brands make sure they get the cut through they need in today’s digital world? They need to find new ways to shake consumers out of their stupor.

Challengers leading the way

Enter the experts in the world of disruption: challenger brands. Although they may not have the history or prestige of established market leaders, these newer players – such as Simba Mattresses and Harry’s razors, just to name a couple – excel at engaging with consumers; bringing them along for the ride and making them feel like they’re part of a movement.

And while incumbent brands are having to work harder than ever to preserve customer loyalty and trust amid increasing competition and scrutiny, these challenger brands are demonstrating their ability to create positive customer experiences that resonate with shoppers and push people to take notice. And it’s about time incumbent brands do the same.

Indeed, to truly keep pace with (and even outrun) the competition, established brands need take a page out of the challenger rulebook — adopting an “outside-in” approach.

The outside-in approach

Today’s consumers expect brands to know them personally when they’re shopping online, as if they’re in a small store — whether that’s by greeting them with their name or highlighting recommended products which truly appeal to them. This is something that challenger brands do better than anyone. But what’s their secret? They take an ‘outside-in’ approach: tuning into what’s going on in the outside world and actively conversing with their customers, rather than broadcasting at them. That is, they listen to their customers and encourage their thinking to influence and inform how they interact and serve them.

How can established brands follow in these footsteps and take the “outside-in” approach? It all comes down to data. These leading challenger brands are smart with how they collect, analyse and act on data insights. They observe behaviours in real-time to understand what their customers want and adapt accordingly — using insights to inform everything from brand personality to pricing and product design.

Using fresh data to maximise impact

The good news is that this is certainly something that traditional brands can do and, more to the point, excel at. While they may not be digital natives, established brands do have access to an immense amount of data that could – and should – inform the way they interact and engage with consumers, and make them relevant to the here and now.

At eBay Ads, we may be digital natives, but having been around for over 25 years, we know we need to keep on innovating to remain relevant to changing consumer wants and needs. To make sure that we, and the brands we work with, are able to make meaningful connections with shoppers, we harness our unique ecommerce data and leading technologies which allow us to glean powerful real-time insights into shopping behaviour. Not only does this help brands to understand what their audiences are thinking and feeling at any given moment, but it means they can also target shoppers in the moment they’re interested or inspired by something, with relevant ads — and get the cut-through they need to succeed.

The world is witnessing the next shopping revolution: an immense shift to internet shopping. While this marks the end of an era, it also signifies new opportunities for brands to understand their customers and show they’re putting their needs and experience first by delivering relevant, timely and tailored marketing and advertising. As we look ahead to the “next normal”, this outside-in approach — empowered by real-time data insights — will act as a lifeline to brands, helping them pull ahead in the battle for consumer attention and spend.