SM Commerce Strategic Insights – A Weekly Covid-19 Series

The below updates are part of a series of insights for us to refer back to and to help you too, through the challenges of covid-19, thanks to the insights we receive from Facebook as a Premium Agency Partner, our own research, our client and own account successes and those of our advertising community.

Compiled by the team at SM Commerce, a Premium Facebook Partner Agency. Edited and published by Depesh Mandalia. With additional thanks to Derek, Emma, our clients, partners, community and the Facebook Agency Partner team. All enquiries to

Update: 4th May 2020

3 Ways Brands Can Show up

Facebook conducted a large scale creative analysis of brands’ messaging to understand what drove the most connections with people and the value created for brands, based on content in their platform; our advice is to weave this into your messaging based on how this might impact the customer perception around your product and brand, to be empathic to their situation whilst showing your brand values.
1. SAY
  1. Provide safety tips; Physically and emotionally
  2. Compassion & Appreciation
  3. Entertainment
2. ACT
  1. Physical donations & drives
  2. Repurposing production
  3. Flexibility and financial relief.
  1. Contact-free commerce
  2. Bespoke deals and discounts
  3. Escapism &  DIY self care


Have you heard enough about covid-19 yet? It’s become so mainstream that a UFO spotting video shared by the US government was NOT the biggest revelation or focus of 2020. In any other year in human history we’d be up in arms, except right now, people are fighting for their lives and livelihoods around the world which is  taking most people’s attention.
Insights from Facebook’s European data:
  1. There is a clearer sense among people that COVID is going to be part of life moving forward. 63% in UK & 70% IN Germany.
  2. COVID is not seeing as much attention as it used to. The number of public posts on COVID has seen an average 60% drop from Peak that occurred around March 2020.
  3. Interest in news is starting to decline in both the UK & Germany.
  4. Even though  people still want to hear from brands. 70% agree that they want to hear from companies and brands on their offers and what they stand for, 20% are kind of in the middle and last 10% completely disagree that brands should be advertising. PEOPLE STILL WANT TO BUY FROM YOU!
  5. Brands that had stopped advertising are now starting to advertise again as they see that this is not going away anytime soon. Beware of a gradual rise again of CPMs.
  6. The importance right now is on research to analyse messaging your industry is carrying out and come up with the right messaging for your customers that maximizes existing and new connections.
  7. There is a real shift back to community first. 58% of people are feeling their friends and family bonds have really become tighter. How can you use this in your product advertising and angles?
  8. People are spending more time connecting to others, cooking & consumer visual media. Can you leverage this trend through content marketing and build new funnels of engaged users?
  9. Local on demand continues to soar. Grocery delivery, restaurant delivery, store pick up, click and collect are all continuing to grow. There’s still life to local advertising.
  10. There is a returning sense of internationalism away from the nationalism than has been in the past. People are accepting our global community far more than ever before.
  11. Influencers’ currency has increased yet ‘lifestyle’ influencers are seeing more of a challenge as people opt for ‘real’ values over the plastic culture of some influencers.
  12. An influencer posting 1 picture boosted the sales of that item by 400% as reported by Facebook


April Client Revenue Targets SMASHED!

Facebook continues to grow as a platform and an advertising channel, though it remains to be seen what the impact is on Q2, despite some large wins for many Ecommerce businesses, including a client of ours in the Ecommerce/apparel niche netting their 6th largest revenue month, ever, in 48 months of operation, including smashing their past April revenues and targets.

We focussed on angles and content marketing earlier in the year which has paid off massively, including an account rebuild to simplify and reduce the time required to operate the ad account.

The client has also mixed both covid-19 related content, supporting their customers and the things their customers care about, together with their business as usual trading to great success. We’re tremendously proud of them and their amazing growth through what could have been a very

If you’re interested in our account build, management and/or consultation reach out to us for a friendly, no obligation chat.

April Student Revenue Targets SMASHED!

If seeing a managed client’s win wasn’t enough, a BPM Method Elite student also smashed his revenue targets, scaling to nearly $400K, an increase of around 320% revenue primarily through applying his learnings from our Elite program.

But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a silver bullet – they don’t exist. Imran applied The BPM Method training alongside building up products and a brand with purpose.

The BPM Method Elite Accelerator program is our highest tier group coaching program designed for those that want to implement our exact Facebook ads media buying processes and systems, with our agency team’s support.

Led by me personally this includes weekly coaching calls, accountability ‘homework’ assignments and group support to accelerate both your understanding AND implementation of The BPM Method for Facebook ads training program.

It’s a version of our agency GAP (Growth Accelerator Program) service designed for businesses scaling to 7 and 8-figures wanting our personal support in scaling, that have their own media buying teams. GAP and Elite Accelerator are a fast-track way to succeeding with Facebook ads.

Reach out to us for a friendly, no obligation chat to see if this is the right fit for your business.

And finally, Facebook Q1 wrap up stats

  1. Ad revenues: $17.44 billion, up 17% year over year
  2. Facebook monthly active users*: 2.60 billion, up 10% year over year
  3. Facebook monthly active people**: 2.99 billion, up 11% year over year

Opportunity is still around us for those that are following and adapting to consumer trends – and following systems and processes built to adapt and react to opportunity.




Update: 27th April 2020

Spending power redirected – be ready for it

Headline: whilst spending is still occurring online, what’s being bought continues to shift. People want to buy their way to happiness to deal with what’s happening around the world.

  • 25% of all spending is either impossible or severely discouraged for example going to a restaurant or the supermarket
  • 4+ Million people in the UK & Germany are spending more on treats for themselves online.
  • Social posts with the words Little moments of joy or little luxuries are experiencing a surge.
  • Brands are picking up on the need for small indulgences

Purchase behaviour is shifting – adapt with it

How you target people, on which devices and when may need to shift. Allowing Facebook’s algorithm to decide on what gets served where is proving beneficial.

  • 70%-78% of people are spending more time on connected devices.
  • Consistent high level of internet usage across the week and not only on weekends, as usual, is being seen.
  • 69% of Brands Expect They Will Decrease Ad Spend in 2020
  • 74% of Brands Surveyed Are Posting Less on Their Company Social Accounts at Present
  • At Least 28 Percent of Respondents Believe Sales Are Going Up
  • Ad Spend on E-Commerce Doubled in the US in Period Between Mid-February And Early-March
  • As we move into the 3rd week of lockdown 1⁄4 of customers say they are waiting to see how things develop before stocking up
  • Amongst customers that are buying more, 6 in 10 are consistently making one or more larger shops however, stockpiling for commodity products is decreasing particularly for non-perishable food products.

The new normal is taking form – are you adapting for it?

We shifted a few ad messages for Ecom brands this week to mention ‘local’ made/shipped which had an immediate impact. Think about what consumers are thinking and feeling right now.

  • Big growth in terms of habits is being seen in the following; on-demand video, news content, preparing food at home & movies
  • Facebook poll asking people which habits they will stick to after COVID & the top one was family-related habits followed by habits around hobbies, cooking & reading books. People responded that they won’t stick to habits related to media consumption, for example, watching TV
  • However, longer lockdown could result in lasting change in habits based on the fact that it takes 66 days for a new habit to be formed but context matters
  • the importance of local businesses is starting to be felt. FB run a poll in Germany and they found that 30% of people have ordered from a local business during this period. 10% donated to a local business & 11% bought vouchers for a local business.
  • Instagram has changed its business and is offering people the chance to offer gift cards to local businesses on the platform.
  • The focus is shifting from global to local, people are staying at home introducing business opportunities for local businesses as digital excellence becomes critical
  • Over the last 4 weeks the proportion of customers trying to spend less has doubled (to 46%)
  • 49% of customers feel price per item is more expensive
  • 1⁄4 of customers seeking to spend less have switched retailers and/or moved to online shopping

– Facebook Partners ‘COVID Live Webcast’
– Weekly media and consumer insights for FB Partner agencies

Client and community highlights

  • A client sold his business which grew heavily in the last 6 months in particular, raising a 7-figure exit. We couldn’t be prouder to see his rise and wish him amazing success in his future ventures! A true BPM Method & SMC success story combined with a great brand
  • We this week launched BROAD on a new account for the first time and the performance right out of the gate has been great. Rising to over 700% ROAS initially the campaign has averaged a ROAS of 300% the entire week on an account that hovers at an acceptable 150% ROAS. Identifying the best angles and optimising the funnel makes a huge difference to broad audience success
  • A small shift in retargeting ads and product page to include “Shipped from the US” made a noticeable improvement on conversion rates. It was the reassurance of reliable delivery and being ‘locally sent’ which helped
  • Someone posted a “CBO is no longer rolling out” update in a group. We actually shared this end of February. Facebook is delaying the mandatory rollout until 2021 at the earliest. This doesn’t impact our methodologies as we run exclusively with CBO campaigns due to the stability and results it brings.
  • The new BPM Method is planned to launch in May. We’re excited by the feedback from our Elite program on it.

Stay safe and keep an eye out for opportunity as it comes up. We’re here for everything else.


Update: 20th April 2020

An Ecommerce boom or false dawn?

Is it possible that Ecommerce could be about to see higher traffic levels in May 2020 than during Black Friday 2019? You bet!

The Shopify CTO shared the above which shows, for Shopify at least, global traffic volumes.

Notice how in April they’re seeing almost as much combined traffic as what they saw during Black Friday in November, which was already huge.

This means two things:

  1. Consumers are STILL looking to buy online
  2. Many online businesses continue to thrive (new and old)

As mentioned previously, the pivot is ultra important right now, in product positioning, offers and funnels. People’s needs have changed.

It’s by no means to put a blind eye on the economy. But as Facebook noted in their research, if a recession in the economy hits, there is a lag before consumers hold back spend.

Our community have also noted high conversion rates and traffic continuing to rise in April which is a positive for many right now.

Retargeting and Lookalike audience shifts

  • Your retargeting audiences may right now have very different behaviours and needs to your ‘normal’ retargeting audiences. Adapt copy and tone to match their current needs and be mindful of the changing shift back to normality when it hits (and what that looks like)
  • Make a note of these dates in your diary – your future lookalike audiences could be negatively impacted by creating source files based on ‘unusual’ customer behaviours ahead of the return to normality.

Facebook’s view

  • Engagement rates have reached a 2020 high across Facebook in the last few weeks thanks to decreased posting frequency.
  • Both media spend and conversion rates were up last week compared to the average for the previous 30 days of data.

Data Sources:

Client and community updates:

  • We redesigned and launched a new lander for a newer client which saw their product page and sales conversion rates increase, taking their ROAS past 300% for the first time – highlighting the importance of website testing and optimisation.
  • Wednesday saw cheques land in the US which we observed having a positive impact on most US based client businesses with much higher conversion rates that day
  • This past week in general was a positive impact for most clients, from digital services through to apparel, beauty and FMCG.
  • Our single remaining ‘local’ business client (food delivery) continues to see much better returns but noted that despite the advertising success, a deeper problem has surfaced in terms of local staffing and availability of ingredients.
  • We’ve expanded our team and therefore have more openings for new clients, if you’re aware of businesses that could benefit from our services, please do let them know.

As always, we’re here for you.


Update: 13th April 2020

As we continue to stay home and isolate ourselves, our connection and communication are more important than ever.

There’s been a shift as this new reality is setting in, and people are becoming used to their new (temporary) way of life.

What we’ve seen this week and learned from Facebook:

  • With everyone staying home for the past 3-4 weeks (many having finished the last episode of Tiger King) something has set in. People are restless and bored.
  • There has been a 652% increase in bread-making machine sales from Amazon, as people are desperate for new hobbies and ways to pass the time in meaningful ways.
  • People are looking to be inspired, and are looking to get more enjoyment out of the ordinary. Online challenges are booming on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok with trending hashtags. We recommend online challenges, posting lives, and to focus on your community engagement.
  • Only 14% of UK marketing campaigns are continuing ‘as planned’ as businesses reassess and edit campaigns and angles to react to the changing consumer mindset.
  • Facebook’s CPC in North America has been halved to 32 cents on average in mid-March from 64 cents in December.
  • In Western Europe, CPC’s dropped over 50% to 20 cents from 43 cents over the same time frame. 24% of people started using a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way they have responded to the virus outbreak.
  • Facebook previously stated a delay between the start of a recession and impact on the economy which for the most part we’re seeing – consumers are still buying but their reasons are changing from investing in nice to have items, to more of the essential AND feel good items.Data


Client and community observations:

  • Our Business Manager qualified for a Facebook rewards program which from May allows us to use credits on your ad campaigns for specific Facebook product tests. We’ll reach out in May once Facebook has confirmed which ad accounts are eligible and what options we have available.
  • We created a lead gen campaign for an Ecom client to take advantage of low CPMs (costs) and a shift in behaviour, with very low cost per registrations (below $1). We observed a very low cost per add to cart from these leads however we’re planning nurture sequences to bring them into the brand and increase the email list size to monetise further down the line.
  • Good Friday had a positive impact overall across Ecom brands with ROAS and CPA at strong levels due to an increase in conversion rate.
  • CPMs remain low with large advertisers out of the market
  • We’re seeing our community have mixed results with ad set budgets (ABO) vs campaign budgets (CBO). Our own campaigns are CBO exclusive and as are the majority of clients. The core goal we still see CBO delivering against is account stability and reducing time required to tweak – it does take time to learn how but with ABO remaining for now, don’t stress on which to use, focus on results.
  • Related to that, a reminder from one of our media buyers on the need for patience with CBO – first few days of a new campaign were showing very high CPM, high CPC and poor ROAS. He waited it out and now the campaign’s flying, with low CPC and high AOV in particular (following a product page tweak we made). Sometimes it’s easy to forget the systemised processes we’ve created and how powerful (and simple) they really are.
  • We’ve rolled out section 2 (of 6) of the new BPM Method online training program – a much more simplified and streamlined process but with the same powerful impact. We plan to make this fully available by the end of April

As always, we’re here for you if you need help replanning, bouncing ideas or exploring new opportunities.


Update: 6th April 2020

A message for our client partners.

I wanted to share our notes on what we’re seeing and things we are working on across clients, students and our community. We’ll aim to send these to you on a more regular basis to keep you informed as much as we can in these challenging times.

With the world around us changing, with opportunities being created and various states of ‘normal’ being challenged we wanted to increase our communication with you to share what we’re seeing and learning each week both within the agency and through our networks.

Firstly, we hope everything internally within your business is okay, and with yourselves and team members during this lockdown period.

At SMC, we have a remotely distributed team and are all on enforced lockdowns from our governments, with daily SMC check-ins and communication plus of course regular MEMEs and humorous conversations to keep our team motivated and engaged through these difficult times.

Some may say isolation doesn’t impact those that are used to working from home – but I can tell you my life has been turned a little upside down with our 5 kids now at home with us 24/7 without the regular support of a nanny and others, and with myself and my wife acting as tutors whilst they homeschool through their online portals whilst schools are closed.

We’re fortunately on top of things and I prefer to look on the positives of whatever my situation is; there are far more in a more difficult situation than us with businesses closed down and unemployment numbers increasing.

Which leads me on to the key things we’ve observed and learned this week:

  • Digital ad spend is down 38% and spend on traditional channels is down 43% in March and April. The majority is enforced, with travel and tourism taking a huge hit, together with local based advertising.
  • Web browsing has increased by 70% and social media engagement by 61% compared to previous levels. With more people online and large advertisers reducing or zeroing ad spend this has created much lower CPM costs.
  • Desktop browsing has increased massively leading many to see their Facebook visits and conversion data also shifting – important to ensure you’re considering desktop campaigns if you previously only targeted mobile as some advertisers do, top of funnel.
  • Only 8% of the 25,000 consumers surveyed said that brands should stop advertising. We’re seeing some consumers in verticals responding more to discounts rather than not buying, which is of note but as you’ll see later, this survey showed discounting was not people’s primary objection to buying. There are other concerns on their mind
  • People on the ad platforms were asked what they needed from brands during the crisis and this is what came out;
    • They wanted brands to help people – brands with purpose are shining through as seen in the recent update from Lululemon – they were forced to close down stores but pledged to continue paying staff whilst opening up a fund for hard-hit gyms and fitness groups which created even more brand affinity with their audience.
    • They wanted brands to inform them what they are doing to help people. Communicate the good that you do!
    • They wanted brands not to exploit this situation. There’s a fine line between profiting because of the situation and profiting as a result of delivering products and services that help people through the situation they’re in.
  • Only around 8% was that they wanted brands to offer discounts and offers. This would usually rank as number 1 but wasn’t the most important thing on people’s minds.
  • One of our clients has seen the best performance they’ve ever experienced from Facebook ads (beauty niche), completing maxing out their warehouse capabilities in Europe and pausing ad spend to allow them to catch up with demand. These unprecedented times are bringing about challenges with massive opportunities too.
  • Another client launched an appeal to fund, with their help, masks for their local areas which went down well. When done from a genuine perspective, to help and serve, customers and prospects will see this and want to be a part of it (and your brand) too.
  • Another client launched a low barrier of entry digital product, extending their pay plan to 24 months bringing the cost of their product down to tens of dollars from hundreds, creating a groundswell of opportunity for those that really need it and bringing in many that want the opportunity to create a new ‘work from home’ opportunity which will continue to rise in 2020
  • We unfortunately lost one client in the Events space as they had to zero ad spend whilst waiting on when the various lockdowns around the world would be lifted.


Opportunity is still around us. For some its easier to roll with the times, for others we’re working with you on adapting and angling your business through these times.

In these unprecedented times, we’re here to support. Always reach out with questions you may have, and we’ll do our best to guide you.

We’re on the front-foot looking for opportunities and new ideas – but we need you to keep comms open with us on what’s happening within your business so we can provide our expertise as required.

Reach out if we can help in any way beyond the usual support.

Enjoy your weekend.


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