We recently held the user group meeting for our benchmarking service (Beacon). In addition to our usual review of digital marketing benchmarks, we spent time looking at the impact of COVID-19 on investment management firms in 2020.

Beacon gathers data across website traffic, email, social profiles, search visibility, as well as site performance, and enables member firms to compare their marketing performance across those channels.

This helps firms to identify anomalies (good or bad!) across their channels and to share best practice around the group. So far in 2020 the focus has been on the impact of COVID-19 and the acceleration of digital transformation.

What has this meant for digital channels?

Firstly, for website traffic across a selection of investment manager websites we saw the natural impacts of:

  • Operational changes as staff and clients relocate to home across February and into March, and
  • The rebound as everyone realises that remote working is viable and digital channels can deliver.

Interestingly, when we break down the audience traffic to websites, we see different behaviours over the period:

  • Retail audiences reacted to the lockdown and whilst traffic levels returned, they have remained subdued with other priorities;
  • Advisers quickly returned to utilising websites and traffic has increased over pre-COVID levels; and
  • Institutional investors were slower to be impacted, but have again quickly returned to 'business as usual'.

What does this mean for digital teams?

The data reflects the anecdotal views: the majority of audiences have quite quickly migrated to working from home and maintaining or increasing their reliance on digital channels to research and consume information. For investment firms, now is the time to ensure your digital touchpoints are user focused and relevant.

Looking at email marketing: unsurprisingly, we have seen a large increase in email volumes as firms have felt the need to connect and communicate with clients.

But we have also seen the decline in engagement rates as investors are overwhelmed with messaging.

What does it mean for email marketing?

The same old rules still apply to content marketing: messaging has to add value, it should be personalised and relevant, and it needs to find a way to cut through the noise.

There has clearly been a need for investment firms to communicate views, updates and outlooks, but the challenge for marketers is how to make their message stick in the inboxes of clients.

And then, to social media where the impacts have been more muted.

Whilst we have seen a modest increase in social publishing, we haven't seen the swings apparent in other channels. In truth, COVID-19 hasn't been the only focus over the last few months and #blacklivesmatter has been a more direct topic for social media to gather people and firms around causes that matter.

What remains true, is that the use of social media levels the playing field; larger firms can achieve reach and audience, but all firms have the ability to drive engagement through value-adding activity.

Just two examples from social activity over the January – May period from a selection of firms where the topics and channel have driven high levels of engagement.

What does this mean for social marketing?

Investors engage through social around people and causes that matter. Causes can be topical to the investment community or can relate to broader engagement that the world is addressing. But using social as a delivery mechanism for updated content simply doesn't get people excited.

In the year of 2020 we have so many reasons to make our digital channels work; clients and prospects that need digital channels as they work remotely, a public that wants transparency around issues and causes and marketing teams that have the tools and skills to deliver great marketing.

But in many ways the 'old rules' still prevail; content that matters, transparency of thought, journeys that focus on the user, messaging that is relevant to the channel.

See you on Tiktok.