Nick Fletcher is SVP Northern Europe at Rakuten Advertising, a global provider of marketing and advertising services and technology. We caught up with Nick to find out how his day-to-day and the wider business have been impacted by the pandemic.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I’m responsible for revenue across Northern Europe for Rakuten Advertising combining industry-leading expertise in managing Affiliate, Display, Paid Social and Paid Search with unique data and inventory from Rakuten’s global ecosystem of over 1 billion consumers.

In terms of day-to-day, it’s an interesting mix of short-term decisions around commercials and resourcing, as well as longer-term strategy and planning. I consider myself really fortunate to work at a company as diverse as Rakuten, where there’s always new opportunities to consider – and lots of interesting work to do as a result!

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

The biggest impact has been my 14-month-old son! My wife and I both work full-time, so juggling work and childcare has been tricky – although we’re both fortunate to work in roles and companies that allow a good amount of flexibility. In terms of impact on my actual role, I typically spend a fair chunk of most days in meetings, both internal and external, which have naturally shifted to video conferencing.

Outside of that, I honestly can’t say that too much has changed – as crazy as that sounds! Some of our clients have seen a positive impact on their business during this period, whereas others have taken a hit, so we’ve had to be very flexible on a client-level, but overall our business focus remains the same as it was prior to the outbreak.

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

The childcare situation has meant that my wife and I have to be extremely coordinated when it comes to managing our various work appointments. We spend time each day cross-checking our diaries and figuring out who is “on-duty” when over the next few days.

Other than that, the main challenge for me hasn’t been getting the work done, but rather how to keep myself positive and motivated outside of when I’m working (which obviously has a knock-on impact on my ability to stay motivated when it comes to work). I miss the social interaction of being in the office, and seeing friends outside of work, so I’m having more regular “check-ins” with my colleagues, and also regular video calls with friends.

The other thing that’s been helpful to me in terms of overall mental well-being has been to try and draw some sort of silver-lining from all of this, and that has been to spend more time keeping fit. Having previously ignored them, I’m now signing up to every single “challenge” I can find on Strava. It’s addictive!

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

All the work brands have been doing in support of the NHS is hugely impressive! For example, purely from our client base there are some wonderful examples such as: Kurt Geiger offering 50% off to NHS workers, Clarins has providing kits to NHS staff in the UK, and Molton Brown offering 10% off for NHS workers. Additionally, Burberry is producing non-surgical masks and gowns for patients in the UK.

Outside of our wonderful clients, I’m a big F1 fan, and I loved the story about the Mercedes F1 team developing a breathing aid to help Coronavirus patients.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

At Rakuten Advertising, we launched a dedicated COVID-19 resource centre. We are also opening our doors to discuss options for customising elements of campaign agreements to ensure clients can remain successful. Meanwhile, our Accelerate business model is enabling brands to succeed by harnessing the power of machine learning in affiliate programmes.

Additionally, we’re sending care packages to clients that include essentials they may need including hand sanitiser, moisturiser, chocolate and even purple loo roll!

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen shifts in consumer buying patterns and media consumption. Video content, for instance, is clearly resonating with consumers. Rakuten Viber has seen 75% growth in shared videos in France, while in the US, Rakuten Advertising is seeing Facebook and Instagram Live views double.

Activity continues to ebb and flow for advertisers. In the Apparel, Beauty, Home Improvement and Sporting Goods vertical we’ve seen performance increase recently. It’s also interesting to note that online wine sales in the UK have exceeded sales made over the 2019 holiday period.

Overall, clicks have been increasing in the UK since mid-March, and orders are up in April. We’ve also seen deal sites have grown their share of traffic by 72% YOY in late-March, while mobile devices have taken a greater percentage of total orders during COVID-19 in the UK. In fact, orders on mobile peaked in April to account for 56% of all orders.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Our data shows that consumers are still engaging with advertising – as shown by the fact that conversion rates across our UK network were 20% higher in April than they were in February – and we would encourage them to continue to invest. Be cautious, but also be aware that now is a great opportunity to cut through the reduced noise, and get your brand noticed by new audiences.

With on-site retargeting share of sales increasing 79%, marketers should focus on data-led strategies such as retargeting that provide personalised and authentic experience.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

Our primary focus is ensuring the health and safety of our staff, and of course, we’re invested in continuing to provide support and guidance to our clients. We are constantly reviewing our strategy to ensure we’re in the best position to do this.

We’ve recently rebranded from Rakuten Marketing to Rakuten Advertising, and our focus continues to be delivering against that strategy – to leverage our unique combination of human expertise and proprietary technology, data and inventory.