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Digital transformation from bricks to clicks.

Accelerating the plan to help take a bricks and mortar retailer into the digital arena.

Everything was running smoothly for a well-known retailer. They had over 1,000 stores and a multi-million-pound annual turnover.

Online? Sure, they had a website, and they even had plans and aspirations for it to become an e-commerce powerhouse rather than just a digital window. But for now, like most businesses, they were content in their realm. And why not? Their storefronts were the physical manifestation of "If you build it, they will come."

In truth, the need to get to grips with their online offering was driven by two competitors who had quickly established market dominance in the online retail space and had zero high-street presence. But while they dominated the high street, they felt they could take their time with digital transformation which would enable them to challenge the online space at their own pace.

Little did they know...

Enter Covid: The plot twist nobody saw coming.

And then, out of nowhere, COVID waltzed in, stage left. Lockdowns, empty streets, tumbleweeds rolling through shopping centres — you get the picture. Meanwhile, the online-only rivals? They were throwing a digital party. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), online retail sales hit a whopping 36.2% of all retailing in February 2021, up from a mere 20% pre-pandemic.

The plan to reduce their reliance on bricks and mortar became the number one priority.

When bricks start to crumble.

So, what's a retailer to do? Hibernate and hope for the best? Nah. They escalated their digital plans. But like everything else, going from zero to hero is expensive. It takes a pretty bold and brave person to stick their head above the parapet and ask for six new heads to create what would still be a pretty thin online marketing team.

And you can't just slap an "online marketer" label on your offline team and call it a day. So, what Can you do?

The digital pivot: Accelerating your online transition.

The retailer realized they needed more than a sprinkle of digital magic, and quickly. With your business heavily reliant on two key trading periods of the year, you can't get your existing team side-tracked by this pressing need to bolster your digital presence and drive further demand to grow sales online.

You could try and do it all with your existing team, but sometimes that feels like you're trying to fix airplane wings without the ability or permission to ground the plane whilst you do it.

They wanted someone who could dive headfirst into paid search, A/B testing, and data analytics while moonlighting as a strategic advisor.

So, this business reached out to The Inspired Marketing Group for a digital lead who could come in and work as an extension of their team.

The goal: Understand the business, start some paid search initiatives, and constantly adapt and refine these while using any results and data gathered to build a business case for further investment in online activities and/or realigning the budget from bricks and mortar to online.

We placed a digital marketer who also specialised in paid media within the existing team. Due to the flexibility of our offering, they were contracted to work full-time on a Monday. This was for deep dives into KPIs and strategies following the trading meetings. The rest of the week they worked half days to maximize their budget, rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of online advertising, implementing the weekly plans and actions, and keeping the online engine ticking over.

Proving grounds: Sales, data, and more data

Over the next six months, our marketing lead proved the online model with more than just belief or opinions. This was backed up with sales data and tracking they had pieced together. They also proved they could start to take market share away from their two biggest online competitors, so the business started to make these roles permanent with a solid business case behind it.

The next challenge was to enter the paid social space and see if inroads could be made there. Our marketing lead tweaked and repeated the process to help drive customer behaviour towards being more digital-first compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The payoff: Did it work?

In 2023, the business reported that sales for its digital channel were up by 85.2% on pre-pandemic levels. While we are certainly not claiming that statistic, we're pleased with the work we put in at the start to help reactivate and reinvigorate their digital sales channels during the pandemic.

So, what's the takeaway here? In the ever-twisting, constantly shifting landscape of retail, being a brick-and-mortar purist or a digital die-hard won't cut it. Adaptability is your best friend. Whether it's pivoting your marketing strategy, reallocating budgets, or embracing new platforms, the key is to move with purpose and agility.

Don't get caught in yesterday's strategy. Keep your eyes on the prize, and if you need some help doing all this, then The Inspired Marketing Group would love to help.

We've even created the ultimate guide to hiring a freelancer if this is your first venture into outsourcing some of your marketing challenges.

We're ready to chat when you are. Just book some free time with either Dave or myself.


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