Pandemic lessons from RetailMeNot’s 50,000 retail partnerships

How does the retail landscape look from an affiliate’s perspective? Thanks to our thousands of relationships with retailers around the world, RetailMeNot has a unique vantage point from which to monitor the retail ecosystem and consumer behavior.   We also have a role to play in helping our partners adapt to changing market conditions and trends, […]

Mag Darling
Vice President, Retail & Brand Solutions, RetailMeNot and guest blogger

How does the retail landscape look from an affiliate’s perspective? Thanks to our thousands of relationships with retailers around the world, RetailMeNot has a unique vantage point from which to monitor the retail ecosystem and consumer behavior.  

We also have a role to play in helping our partners adapt to changing market conditions and trends, so as you can imagine, in 2020 our partnerships required a new level of collaboration. 

As retailers adapted, so did partnerships

We paid close attention to the strategic choices our partners made in 2020 — how they handled inventory issues, demand fluctuations, safety concerns, and shifting consumer priorities and demographics. In response, we found ways to innovate and expand our role in the consumer journey and to provide more options for full-funnel engagement for our partners. We discovered which tactics resonated with consumers and helped retailers overcome new hurdles ranging from supply chain problems to diminishing customer loyalty.

In January, I was part of a webinar discussion with Impact’s Todd Crawford and Jonathan Yuska of Rastelli’s. We talked about lessons learned from 2020 and best practices for 2021. The webinar generated a lot of interest, so I’ve gathered up some additional data and insights to share.

What worked for retail in 2020 from an affiliate perspective

Different verticals and categories were affected by the pandemic in very different ways, so customizing our retail partnerships became more important than ever. 

Retaining customers, setting expectations, finding new ways to inspire purchases, and meeting the needs of new kinds of customers online all emerged as retail priorities, and we needed to offer strategic insights  and solutions. Here’s a closer look at some of the successful strategies we deployed with our retail partners in 2020. 

Get the message right

Many retailers struggled with inventory woes, whether keeping stock supplied or offloading excess merchandise. Keeping customers apprised of inventory issues yet engaged with the brand was a tightrope walk. Many non-essential businesses didn’t really want to be messaging promotionally, but they still needed to stay connected and relevant. 

To help strike a balance, we worked with retailers to expand communication touchpoints, including COVID tip cards, to help them tell a story around store openings, safety protocols, and inventory issues. Price remained important, but we also needed to help retailers communicate about things like fulfillment and curbside delivery or buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS).

Court the in-store shopper

Plummeting in-store shopping didn’t automatically translate into online sales for retailers, so we needed to actively inspire those shoppers. We integrated BOPIS/curbside into our store pages and offered promotions dedicated to that style of service. We helped retailers create custom offers with safe and contactless promotions and use branded content and online cashback to communicate options for those not ready to shop in-store. The result?

  • 10x growth in curbside offers YoY
  • 2x growth in BOPIS offers YoY

Keep all doors open with omnichannel offers

Retailers still tend to maintain separate budgets for in-store and online. But with COVID, they had to be more customer-focused as habits changed and consumers made delicate decisions about where to shop and when to return to stores. We knew it was important to give consumers the same experience, value, or deal regardless of where they chose to shop, and we were excited to see retailers buy-in and make the shift.

Cater to new audiences

Our data revealed a COVID uptick from February to March in two audiences new to online: 

  • +52% age 65+
  • +16% $100K+ HHI 

For older consumers now shopping online, the key was to keep offers straightforward (e.g., site-wide discounts), and free shipping for this demo was a must. RetailMeNot saw a 5% YoY increase in sitewide offers across all categories, and 68% of all offers had no minimum spend required for free shipping.

Our retailers saw strong YoY mobile conversion growth as well, with online omnichannel offers driving a large proportion of mobile conversions:

  • +51% increase in app conversion rate
  • +9% increase in mpbile web conversion rate
  • +2% increase in desktop conversion rate 

Inspire with branded content

With store clerks largely removed from the transaction experience, retailers needed new ways to inspire purchases, tell stories, and engage online shoppers. We helped our partners create a full-funnel experience by providing broader editorial options and content touchpoints, including shopping advice, product recommendations, and gift guides in our Real Deal blog.

Stay nimble for 2021

While the outlook for 2021 is brighter, we believe retailers still need to stay focused on the now and ready for anything. 

Based on our experience and data from 2020, we’ll be encouraging our partners to:

  • Stay focused on safety and convenience. Availability and utilization of BOPIS and curbside pickup will continue to grow, and stacked savings opportunities will be a differentiator for consumers.
  • Stay nimble and flexible. Don’t lock into a single strategy or focus too far into the future.  Continue to give consumers the choice to shop in their preferred channels, and be ready to adapt as external factors like unemployment benefits, stimulus packages, and vaccine rollouts influence spending.
  • Use the entire funnel. Stay present from awareness to conversion to inspire consumers and tell your story, even when inventory is low. 

Finally, continue to give back and put people first. According to Kelton Global, 48% of consumers consider it important for retailers to support employees during store closings, and 21% believe it’s important for retailers to donate to causes and charities. Even more important, doing good is never a bad business strategy.

About Magali Darling

Mag Darling is Vice President, Retail & Brand Solutions, at RetailMeNot, Inc., the world’s leading marketplace for coupons and deals and the home of, the most highly trafficked online coupon site. The company’s websites connect consumers seeking savings with discounts from more than 50,000 retailers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands. RetailMeNot welcomes more than 500 million visitors to shop its sites every year. 

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