COVID-19 Marketing Impact: Before you panic, think.

Everywhere you look you’re hit with articles, posts and videos detailing the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic on our health, lifestyle and jobs. As the masses turn to remote working, shops, restaurants and bars temporarily close their doors, and the nation now firmly ordered to stay home, businesses are closely monitoring the impact.

These are unprecedented times yet there will be industries that inadvertently see huge spikes as demand for their products and services surge. But for the rest? You could be witnessing dwindling traffic numbers and experiencing a substantial drop in revenue as the public’s attention is diverted.

Marketers will undoubtedly be lightning fast to react, but what should you even do during such uncertainty? Through difficult times, supporting your customers, demonstrating empathy and building brand resonance is vital. The key to effective marketing, even in times of crisis, remains the same: relevance to your audience and holding them at the core of all you do and say. One thing is for certain, if your marketing message becomes irrelevant or your brand goes stale, consumers will inevitably start to forget about you, making this even harder to recover from.

Overnight behavioural changes

Your audience has just experienced a huge disruption to their everyday life, and with that comes significant change to behaviour too. Everyone’s day to day routine has changed. What time they wake up, when they first pick up their phone, what they search for, what they’re exposed to, and what they need – it all just changed, pretty much overnight.

The opportunities made possible by technology advancements are regularly a talking point. But right now, technology has quickly cemented its role as an enabler, keeping colleagues and families connected, businesses functioning, and customers serviced.

We live in a digital world where data is king and AI is the driving force behind many campaigns. In this current situation and with such sudden changes in behaviour, no amount of historical data or machine learning can guide you alone. Your campaigns need a human touch.

How to make sense of these behavioural changes?

Consider, how have your habits changed? Imagine you are your audience. Think what matters to you right now, how your own purchase habits are changing and where you turn for information you can trust. As the nation is confined to their homes, children embark on distance learning and, as a result, parents juggle home working with family life, we need new ways to keep sane and entertained while facing weeks of solitude and social distancing.

It has become all the more important to focus on emotions before conversions. Creating and sharing meaningful content that resonates with your audience. To do this, you must truly understand what your customers want. Empathetic marketing forces your brand to appeal directly to your audience by walking in their shoes – relevant today, considering we’re all in the same boat. Doing so helps consumers relate to your brand and when this connection is made, it has the power to influence their buying decisions.

Consumers may not be flocking to buy the latest must-haves, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped browsing for the products and services we love. After all, we’re going to need to fill our time with more than Netflix and Pinot Grigio. You might even be dreaming of that next holiday, ready to book when you finally feel it’s safe to, planning how you’ll spend your days once we’re able to venture back into the outside world, or even planning how to redecorate the four walls you’ve been confined to for weeks on end. Whatever distraction you’re seeking, consumer buying behaviour has shifted.

Digital just got even more important

You don’t have to be a marketing expert to work out that, for the majority, what was working before may not work so effectively now. With more people working from home than ever before, and less people out and about, the best channels to support your marketing goals just had a shake-up.

Both B2B and B2C industries centre around industry events, conferences and networking opportunities. For the time being, you cannot rely on these to support your business with regular bursts of enquiries. And it’s not just cancelled events disrupting your meticulously planned marketing calendar, your out of home advertising audience just got a whole lot smaller too.

Navigating this change is overwhelming and it’s easy to make hasty decisions. Right now, you’re probably reconsidering many of your tactics. You’re possibly even thinking about cutting costs and stopping some types of marketing altogether. But Henry Ford said it best, “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time”.

Marketing fundamentals remain the same. However, reallocation of your budgets and the introduction of alternative marketing tactics may be needed to add focus to different points in your conversion funnel.

More consumers than ever before have just been pushed online. To shop, to work, and for entertainment, making digital your most powerful toolkit. With limited resources available to them, it’s important to make the most of your brand’s airtime:

Social

The time we have now is more important than ever to stay connected with your audience. In the wake of a crisis where people are being forced to stay home, many more are likely to be on their phones, searching for engaging content to keep them busy. Social media will become even more integral in a daily routine with people using it to maintain a sense of community and keep updated on the global crisis. There has already been a significant increase in influencer marketing engagement with a 76 percent boost in daily likes on Instagram Ad posts over the last two weeks.

However, as content creators, we need to be conscious and responsible of the content we are publishing at this time. Consumers may find safe haven from the brands they love, and social media is an effective medium to deliver this.

Social media can positively impact your business in a number of ways from increasing brand awareness to building a loyal following and creating an online community. Maintaining this communication between your brand and your audience during a time of uncertainty is critical. Audiences will turn to their favoured brands to answer questions around existing orders and to deliver content that shows consideration for their consumers. Positive content centred around wellbeing and maintaining health will naturally be of interest to help people navigate through this unsettling time.

Social media activity can have a huge impact on a consumer’s research phase. During the current time, your audience may not be ready to buy this second, but they’re available to be entertained and are looking for interaction. As a result, there will be a lot of people in the search phase of their buying journey for you to position your brand too. Visual platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram in particular work well for this. Did you know, 60 percent of Pinners use Pinterest before search engines, social media platforms or recommendations when starting their buying journey? With personalised recommendations, relevant content and inspiring images offered by these social platforms, users are targeted in an open-minded discovery phase and are more likely to engage with your brand, even if they don’t convert right away.

With a range of options available, it can be tough figuring out which channels you should focus your budget on. The answer is based on your brand and audience:

  • B2B businesses: LinkedIn is mainly where businesses should be active. With nearly 660 million users worldwide, this is an effective networking and advertising platform. Facebook is also becoming a more prominent social media platform for businesses to advertise on. The channel holds 2.41 billion monthly active users with impressive targeting and profiling capabilities, making it an important asset for your business.
     
  • B2C businesses: To reach your customers where they are browsing, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are often the best choices for B2C brands. The recent addition of Pinterest’s new shopping features is putting the platform more in line with Instagram, creating a frictionless shopping experience for users. We would advise using Twitter from a customer service angle, particularly at a time when customers are seeking clarification and communication from businesses. Brands who operate in travel or events sectors in particular will no doubt be inundated with customer questions regarding cancelling or postponing trips or events. It’s crucial to respond to these enquiries with communication that is considerate and understanding to maintain an appropriate tone of voice.

Audio

Audio has progressed hugely since the days of just radio. From music streaming services to weekly podcast episodes, audio is a popular form of entertainment made easily accessible by the variety of platforms it can be consumed through.

People can listen to audio whenever and wherever they like, including at home. While more of us are working from home, many are likely to enjoy the radio or a music streaming service with podcast publishers already reporting a ‘mini-boom’ since the pandemic has taken hold. Whether it’s advertising through playlists, audio books, radio or podcasts, audio is now offering marketers the opportunity to connect with targeted audiences and amplify their brand’s voice.

In line with the growing use of audio, advertising through this outlet is also experiencing an increase in popularity. Programmatic has already made waves across video, mobile, display, and now, audio. By predicting web users’ next movements, programmatic can connect your brand with consumers at the right moment in their purchase journey creating a whole host of benefits:

  • Combine traditional out-of-home advertising methods with the reportability of digital
  • Enjoy higher engagement through popular music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer
  • Capitalise on the authority of trusted platforms during an uncertain time
  • Convey emotion and empathy to your listeners through a human voice

Sky AdSmart

One thing we can be sure to see increase during this time is the consumption of TV. Back when there was a little more normality in the world, watching TV already counted for 37 percent of the average consumer’s daily media consumption and this is set to soar over the coming weeks. However, many brands see advertising through this medium as out of reach due to high costs and the mass appeal. Sky AdSmart is a revolutionary service in this realm, offering businesses the chance to target specific audiences during live TV breaks at a fraction of the cost.

The cost of linear advertising can vary massively depending on the channel and time of day, if someone skips your ad after a second, you will still be charged. But with AdSmart, you’re only charged if your ad is viewed for at least 75 percent of its duration, so you can enjoy affordable fame with the people that matter most to your business. During the outbreak, Sky customers are even receiving free extras including new channels and increased Sky Go Extra logins to watch on more devices. Not only does this show how the brand is considering their customers in a time of need but it also increases reach for brands advertising through the platform.

Combining the power and reputation of traditional TV advertising with digital, Sky AdSmart allows businesses to target audiences on a granular level taking into account their hobbies and interests, regions and even job types. Here are some of the top benefits this service can provide during, and after, the current climate:

  • Use a trusted technique to target a specific audience at a granular level
  • Established forms of measurement through customer response tracking
  • Affordable alternative to getting your brand seen on TV

Display and Video

Advancements in digital such as Google’s display and video capabilities excel in unstable environments helping you create campaigns that are both relevant to your business and adaptable to the audience.

The one assumption we can make in this situation is that things will continue to change. Marketing dynamics are shifting rapidly, what we decided on last week may not be as appropriate today so continuously reassessing is vital. With display, you can take fresh insights and quickly adjust budgets, ad formats, creatives and bidding strategies in response to changing marketing objectives and business pressures. Using real-time data, these ad campaigns adjust through learnt behaviour to maximise performance and create a higher ROI.

  • Display Ads: Through visuals and animations, brands can place online display advertisements in front of potential customers browsing a publisher’s site. Targeting consumers based on demographics including age, salary, interests and preferences, you can display ads that are relevant to the site they are browsing making this an impactful and effective method. 

For the foreseeable, your audience is going to be found online. Whether it’s scrolling through Facebook, browsing videos on YouTube or watching TV. Combining sophisticated targeting, budget control and the opportunity to get to know your audience even better, digital actually presents a pretty killer combo right now.

Reviewing your marketing strategy

Purchase journeys have been monumentally disrupted and encouraging consumers through the funnel just got a whole lot trickier. But instead of pausing your activity and overhauling your marketing strategy due to panic on an equivalent scale of being down to the last loo roll, be bold! Avoid resorting to short-term revenue driving efforts. Instead, look ahead and invest in long term brand building.

Uncertain times will undoubtedly affect marketing performance for many brands. Maybe it did just get a whole lot more competitive and harder to stand out in the market. Maybe there is less immediate need for your product or services, but there’s still an opportunity to support your customers and they have an undeniable desire for normality.

But how can you be sure in times of uncertainty where to invest? Before you throw out your 2020 marketing plan altogether, take a step back and re-evaluate. Take a moment, consider your audience and review what action – if any – you need to take.

There’s always opportunity

Your audience is still out there, what matters to them and their priorities however have changed. We want to know how to protect our health and our loved ones, we want to understand the impact on our jobs and social lives, and we’re naturally concerned about the financial impact.

Many consumers remain worried about holidays in the not too distant future and other significant life plans, seeking reliable advice on how to protect their investment. In the travel industry for example, there’s an opportunity for providers to shine in a crisis, offering the level of genuine and reputable support and advice to customers that will see their brand shine through.

As a result of COVID-19, there are also numerous markets enjoying (albeit sensitively) an unexpected boost as people take up new hobbies such as gardening and DIY. Some eCommerce businesses are even seeing traffic and conversions go through the roof. Could it be that people are turning to online shopping as they are looking to spend on other purchases rather than big investments such as holidays, cars and houses? In many instances, they’re experiencing growth at a level they are unable to satisfy or sustain long term. But delicately maximising the opportunity is in itself a challenge.

Times like these see people rally together, supporting one another in moments of need. But don’t feel under pressure, your campaigns and conversations don’t have to make a huge statement. Instead, your efforts need to reflect your business values, ethos and objectives while identifying with and supporting your customers. Often, genuinely caring is the most underrated strategy. If you’re in need of advice or support with your marketing, call upon our experts. We’re still here, fully operational, ready to share market insights and review your marketing strategy. We want to help support your business through the challenges and uncertainty we all face.  

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