The COVID-19 pandemic has led many brands to reduce or suspend their marketing efforts in order to save money, and for fear of hurting people or being accused of taking advantage of the crisis. This is an understandable and logical reaction, it shows that entrepreneurs understand the complexity of the situation. But, as surveys and studies show, it will not help to survive the crisis and it is not what consumers want.
- A study of 4,700 public companies, conducted by the Harvard Business Review, showed that brands that cut their advertising costs more than their competitors during the crisis will have the lowest post-crisis profitability.
- Edelman’s Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic survey of 12,000 consumers in 12 countries showed that they expect from businesses more than ever to be involved and supportive during the pandemic. And the way a brand is acting now will affect its future support by consumers.
Next, we will explain how digital marketing has changed during the pandemic and we will show you with examples what consumers exactly expect from businesses during the COVID-19 crisis and how to translate those expectations into your marketing strategy.
Multi Vendor Marketplaces
What has already changed? According to Adobe Analytics, Logistiek.nl, Bazaarvoice, and Digital Commerce, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to 50-100% growth in online sales in the United States. The biggest winners have been Amazon, Etsy, eBay and other market leaders. In particular, sales on Amazon during the crisis have grown by 26% — the fastest rate in the last four years. At the end of the pandemic, experts expect a partial drop in sales in all businesses due to the inevitable business economic crisis.
Other important changes can be noted:
- There are new rules on the provision of information. For example, eBay blocks or ads and listings that contain false COVID-19 information, and introduces new pricing rules concerning selling medical masks and disinfectants at unfair prices.
- Decrease or cancellation of fees and/or commissions for small and medium businesses. For example, Google Shopping has made its listings free.
- Striving of marketplaces to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19. For example, Amazon has spent more than $800 million on protective measures and improvement of business process safety.
Where to trade. The best place for retail business in crisis is still Amazon. It has the largest coverage, has their own warehouses and delivery service, which has recently been pumped up with 175,000 new employees. Also, do not forget about Amazon Prime, thanks to which the customers are guaranteed to receive the goods in the shortest possible time (for 50% of the consumers, the speed and reliability of delivery are the main factors in choosing a marketplace during the crisis.)
What we recommend. How to start a business on Amazon is thoroughly explained in our article “A Step-by-Step Guide on Building an Amazon Business“.
Search Engine Optimization
What has already changed? People have been surfing the Internet more often and for longer periods of time now. Streaming services (movies, TV series, YouTube), news sites, shops, and social networks (people are mainly looking for information about the coronavirus and entertainment these days) have benefited most from this. For SEO marketing, this translates into the following:
You need to add a page about COVID-19 on your website: what has changed for the consumer (delivery conditions, business hours, safety and handling rules), how your business will operate during the crisis (employee support, charity), new answers in the FAQ section, etc.
- You need to update the product metadata to tell your customers how the product and/or service is provided (explain employees who will come into physical contact with it, how it is delivered, etc.)
- It is necessary to create relevant content to the current moment (the pandemic): provision of information, education, care, participation, and assistance etc.
It is important! During the pandemic, people are much more likely to search for information on businesses geographically located “nearby.” You should have this covered in your SEO strategy.
Successful examples. Among major players, perhaps we should highlight Nike. They adpated very quickly to the current situation, they were the fasted to upgarde their site, and SEO-marketing to the new realities. In particular, the company posted information about COVID-19 almost immediately (business crisis management plan, new sections in the FAQ, and information about closure of the physical stores), and attached an icon at the top of the screen with a link to this information.
In addition, Nike has launched several new promotions (discounts, free shipping), donated $25 million to help healthcare professionals in the U.S. and Europe (donated special shoes for healthcare professionals), and other initiatives. A new advertising campaign has also been launched with the stay at home message delivered by famous athletes. All this has generated a huge amount of news content and links.
What we recommend. How to choose the right partner to adapt SEO for your business in crisis is described in the “SEO is the Most Advantageous Tool for Attracting Clients” article.
Among other brands, we can highlight the following original marketing business ideas in crisis times that are designed to increase mentions of a company’s name (with reference to the site) in the media and social networks:
Arts in the trend from Looma for the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine with a general hashtag #ArtOfQuarantine.
A promotion where LARQ offers the opportunity to give $20 from a purchase to healthcare professionals (or those who need it now) through Direct Relief.
SeriousEats have created a Coronavirus section with a guide for cooking during the crisis.
Test Aankoop has created the “How to detect fake news” test.
A piece of advice. SaaS providers can grant free access to their services for all or individual groups of their users, and it will be a good media opportunity. That’s what Apple TV Plus, Pornhub, Metro Museum have done.
Social Media Marketing
What has already changed? Due to COVID-19 the usage of Facebook and Instagram has increased by 40% (30% for all social networks), and the number of Instagram Live and Facebook Live views doubled in one week. At the same time, 35% of influencers report an increase in people’s involvement and at the same time a decrease in budgets and the number of sponsorship integrations. Users’ demands have also changed:
- People have begun to trust the opinion of specialists (medical practitioners, economists, political scientists) rather than that of celebrities or experts (“talking heads”).
- People have begun to read more and repost news.
- The quantity and quality of communication between brands and their consumers have increased dramatically.
- The number of queries about goods and services has increased.
Successful examples. The new user requests, as we have written above, have been perfectly handled by Nike’s marketing specialists who have launched an emotional campaign under the general hashtag #PlayForTheWorld.
A good example was also shown by Kristin Cavallari, who in her Stories explained why she will continue to promote her Uncommon James brand.
Many companies have started talking about preventative care, such as how to wash hands and so on.
Other brands have added some positive content.
A piece of advice. Maintaining a page on social networks is better entrusted to a reputable marketing agency. It’s more efficient, easier, and even cheaper than doing it yourself.
What has already changed? Forbes notes two natural trends in the market these days:
- In the sectors of e-commerce, video games, online entertainment, online education, news portals, Internet streaming (movies, serials, games), medicine, and psychology, there is a noticeable strong increase in rates. In the restaurant sector, the rates have also increased due to increased competition in online food delivery (more restaurants have started working with takeout.)
- In the sectors of tourism, arts (museums, exhibitions, transportation), beauty/fitness (salons, spas, gyms), and outdoor entertainment (nightclubs, bars, movie theaters, water parks), the rates are falling due to lower demand.
If we talk about the industry as a whole, the income of specialized agencies has fallen by 20-50%, due to which they reduce their rates/commissions. This creates excellent conditions for promotion, but you have to be very careful with the message.
What we recommend. What is CPA marketing and how to choose a partner that will not alienate clients with irrelevant or unethical advertising is described in the “Why Don’t You Use Performance Marketing” article.
Let’s Sum Everything Up
The right marketing strategy to promote business in crisis times involves either helping and participating, or spreading a thoughtful positive image. It’s better to give up campaigns designed just for the sake of sales only or to explain to people why you can’t give such campaigns up (like Kristin Cavallari did.) Other than that, the situation has not changed that much: invest in marketing, and you’ll have your increase in sales.
Good luck with your entrepreneurial activities and stay well!