As expected for an epidemic of this size, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting the global economy and taking a strain on businesses. The health and safety of everyone are at stake and businesses were asked to react quickly. For example, at Bloom, we moved forward with a remote-first action plan, cancel all non-essential travels and all our meetings have moved to video-conferencing. We were lucky enough to have a flexible work from home policy already in place. Our employees are used to working from home, therefore the transition to full-remote was friction-less.
That being said, consumer behaviours are still drastically changing, the stock market is incredibly volatile, and most traditional marketing initiatives are now ineffective. In less than a week, our digital marketing agency witnessed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis across all industries. We talked to marketers and CEOs that were very open to discuss their current challenges and exchange ideas on how to adapt to the current crisis. Following their lead, we thought it might be beneficial to share our thoughts and observations on how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting the digital landscape.
A Shift In Marketing Budget
In a few days only, the businesses and entrepreneurs we work with had to reconsider their whole marketing plan. We’ve been asked countless times by clients if they should stop advertising online during the COVID-19 crisis. To be completely transparent, yes, some businesses will have to pause all marketing campaigns in order to stay coherent with Health Canada’s recommendations. Some industries, such as travel, sports, tourism, and more, postponed their campaigns given the current climate.
Other businesses preferred shifting their advertising budget from one digital tactic to the other. For example, drive-to-store campaigns have, understandably, been paused as retailers have been closing down their locations. This budget was reallocated to other tactics like prospecting or remarketing.
B2B businesses have been shifting most of their traditional marketing budget to online initiatives. The majority of B2B businesses rely on trade shows, events, and conferences to generate new contacts and prospects. In light of the recent events, all gatherings are being canceled, and, therefore, the marketing budget geared towards these shows is left unutilized. We saw some B2B businesses quickly launch new advertising campaigns on LinkedIn or invest in inbound marketing and content creation with webinars, whitepapers, etc.
Media consumption is increasing rapidly
As more people are practicing social distancing and staying home, time spent online is rapidly increasing. Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok or community-based live streaming platforms like Twitch experience an increase in engagement. Search trends like cooking at home, education, home fitness, gaming, entertainment have seen an impressive increase in search volume on YouTube.
We think it might be a good time for brands to double down on video advertising on social media platforms with this increase in reach and audience engagement.
Less competitive advertising space
A lot of businesses have decided to reduce their advertising budget to face these tough economic times, which is totally understandable. That being said, the businesses that are maintaining their marketing efforts might be benefiting from less crowded advertising space and more audience attention. Their marketing dollars may actually stretch a little farther than normal right now.
Concerns About Brand Messaging
Our paid media specialists have been working closely with our clients to make sure that their current advertising messages are in-line with the situation. We want to make sure that visuals or ad copy do not seem opportunistic or predatory. Luckily, digital ads give us the opportunity to adapt the messages quickly, unlike TV ads or billboards.
In partnership with our clients, we tweaked their messaging in order to answer common concerns or shift the spotlight on other parts of our clients’ business. For example, we’ve seen restaurants change their ad copy to focus on home delivery vs eating out.
To answer our clients’ concerns, we also created a master negative keywords list around COVID-19. This will reduce the risk of our clients’ ads being shown on COVID-19-related websites or news, which, in some case could be seen as being tone-deaf and insensitive to the situation.
Ups and Downs in E-commerce
E-commerce stores have been affected by the crisis on various levels. Omni-channel retailers are faced with difficult decisions. As of March 19, most of our brick-and-mortars clients decided to close their locations until further notice to help reduce the spread of the virus. Most of these clients now rely on their online stores to keep their businesses afloat.
New Challenges Arise
Depending on the product they are selling, some e-commerce retailers recently experienced a boost in website traffic as others saw a drastic decrease in website visitors. Meal subscription services, home entertainment, health products, and online groceries have seen positive results. For these businesses, their challenges now revolve around dealing with this increase in consumer demand and offering a positive user experience. For example, some brands have been investing in chatbots as an effective way to communicate directly with consumers and improve the user experience online.
Reach A Whole New Audience
Online shopping will increase in popularity as more people avoid public places like malls. Customers who aren’t used to buying online might also turn to this purchasing channel for the first time. Therefore, e-commerce stores have the opportunity to create a relationship with these non-frequent online shoppers. Investing in new prospecting campaigns to reach this new target market might be beneficial for some retailers. Furthermore, they’ll get to increase their remarketing audience for post-COVID-19 campaigns.
Flexible Return Policies and Free Shipping
We’ve seen many e-commerce companies implement flexible return and shipping policies. Some stores extended their return policies as people are staying home under strict government rules. And, as brick-and-mortar stores are closing across the country, retailers are asking their customers to shop online. Offering free shipping seems to be a popular tactic to convert online shoppers.
We’re All In This Together
This never-seen-before situation is scary for SMBs, startups and even international enterprises. Our role as a digital marketing agency is to help our clients navigate this complex situation. We listen to our clients’ concerns and we help them find solutions to adapt to this new reality. If you have any questions about your digital marketing strategy during these uncertain times, feel free to email us at [email protected]
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marie-Joelle works at Bloom, a digital marketing agency, as a Marketing Coordinator. She's passionate about digital marketing tactics (from social media to web design) for B2B businesses looking to grow online.