Moonpig on why Covid-19 has levelled the marketing playing field

Operating in “unprecedented times” means all marketers are starting from scratch, but those ready to harness the momentum and energy of lockdown will succeed, says CMO Kristof Fahy.

Moonpig card
From the range of ‘stay at home’ cards launched by Moonpig during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 crisis could be seen as a great leveller from a marketing perspective. Very few marketers have ever operated under lockdown before and in the current climate ‘business as usual’ experience can feel obsolete.

“I’ve worked in a few businesses, but no one has worked in these circumstances before, which gives everyone a level playing field to a certain extent,” says Moonpig CMO, Kristof Fahy.

“Whether you’ve worked in lots of businesses or you’ve worked in two, or you’ve not worked in ecommerce before, it doesn’t matter what your experience is.”

Fahy joined online card and gift company Moonpig in July following stints at Hostelworld, Ladbrokes Coral, The Telegraph, William Hill, Blackberry and Orange.

However, having served as a CMO for more than a decade could not have prepared him for the sudden swell of new customers using Moonpig once the UK lockdown was imposed on 23 March.

The marketing team was forced to react quickly, shifting the brand’s next day delivery promise back to between five and seven days in order to ensure the operations teams could work with social distancing. There was a delicate balance to tread between seizing the opportunity and understanding how to manage demand.

“On one side we had some potential limitations on what we could do and when we could do it, and on the other side we’ve got a huge surge in demand for our products from customers who are still wanting to send cards, gifts and flowers, and they are turning to Moonpig. We’ve got this really interesting balance to pull between the two,” Fahy acknowledges.

“These are unprecedented times. There wasn’t a path laid out and every business has had to find its way.”

No one has worked in these circumstances before, which gives everyone a level playing field.

Kristof Fahy, Moonpig

As app downloads tripled and “significant demand” was driven across all departments, new products were introduced from eCards to a ‘stay at home’ range, which currently makes up 10% of sales. At other points, Moonpig chose to simplify its product range to help ease pressure on the supply chain.

Fahy admits that getting all these moving parts to work at the same time was a challenge, but one the business relished.

“On the whole we’ve done a bloody good job of it so far, but it’s been hard. I’m not sitting here saying it’s been simple for us,” he admits.

“It has been hard, but actually the team across the business – and this isn’t just marketing – has pulled it out of the bag from our ops team to our commercial teams, trading and product.”

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Fahy believes the crisis has given the business “real energy” and these surges in momentum have encouraged the marketing team to accelerate ideas they were working on, such as the roll out of eCards. He explains that while normally Moonpig might have four or five key peaks across the year, the lockdown experience has been like operating at peak every day for over a month.

“It has given us a real energy in the business to try and find ways of getting things done, potentially a bit more simply and quickly than when you have the luxury of thinking time,” Fahy points out.

“You might take a couple of weeks to have a think about something. We were trying to react to things in days and it focuses the mind. It focuses the business.”

Lessons to learn

Fahy says the lockdown has offered many marketing lessons. He has been advising his team to soak up the experience, as they may never work at this pace, or with this level of momentum, again in their careers.

The speed of decision making has had to “massively increase” across the Moonpig business, with marketing working closely with teams across operations, product, trading and commercial, communicating via Google Hangouts and Slack.

Moonpig social distancing
From Moonpig’s new range encouraging social distancing.

Fahy’s team have, for example, been “turning marketing up and down”, as well as turning categories and products “on and off” to ensure demand does not flood the business.

“That is a constant cadence to our business and that’s not been a new thing. We may have had to work even quicker, but it’s that ability to move really quickly and to be super agile,” he states.

“I can’t sit here and say every decision has been right, but what we’ve got is a culture of ‘Let’s try it, let’s go down that path and if it doesn’t work, we can quickly walk back up again and try something else’.”

Fahy recognises that thanks to the lockdown Moonpig has a “unique opportunity” to talk to more customers than ever before. The trick will be turning them into loyalists.

The team typically find that customers who engage with the brand beyond their first year become “massive Moonpig advocates”. For this reason it is imperative that the marketing team ensures the initial customer experience is seamless in order to retain consumers’ attention once the lockdown finally lifts.

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Fahy believes there will be brands out there wishing they had invested more in customer service and CRM before the coronavirus crisis hit, whereas helping customers understand the “full Moonpig journey” is a fundamental part of his brand’s DNA.

The business has been expanding its customer service operation as quickly as possible under lockdown, adding new agents to work remotely with the intention of bringing more people on board over the coming weeks.

Going forward, Fahy also recognises it will be important to develop the range so there is always something fresh for customers, whether that means new card designs, gifts, promotions or incentives.

Furthermore, Moonpig’s continued investment in its app has paid off during the crisis amid tripling downloads. The focus now is on optimising the app to ensure it can deliver the best customer experience and help Moonpig retain the “huge number” of new shoppers it has attracted during the pandemic.

“All that optimisation work we’re doing across our products and range, our service, we need to keep delivering,” says Fahy. “To be blunt we need to get to a point where there’s no reason to go anywhere else.”

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