Guest Contribution by Tom Buckland
The COVID-19 pandemic has had huge, wide-ranging impacts across just about every sector. From health systems under incredible pressure to factories and theaters being forced to close to comply with social distancing guidelines, businesses and organizations have seen dramatic changes virtually overnight.
Consumer patterns have changed dramatically too, with lifestyles and spending capacity for many being turned upside down.
But what does all of this mean for marketing? Let’s take a look.
The Need to Change Up Approaches
Marketers have always needed to be highly adaptive, and this is even more true than ever in the face of COVID-19. Certain forms of marketing are less effective in the current climate, or may not work at all. For example, billboards and flyers reach much fewer people as the population largely stays at home, and radio ads are getting less traction as people no longer commute to work.
Additionally, many economists are predicting a significant economic downturn associated with the pandemic. Indeed, this is already starting to happen with 22 million people filing for unemployment in the US alone since the crisis began. Even for consumers who have not yet been hit financially, they may be cautious to spend at this time.
The best approach is to be vigilant to current trends and watch consumer behavior. Marketers can stay on top of the game by watching how people are spending and acting, keeping on top of the latest data, and finding the best approaches to match consumer behavior as it evolves.
New Marketing Tactics will Emerge
Adapting to the current situation means changing up the way you do things, and it may even mean adopting marketing tactics you have never used before. In some cases, this may just mean fine-tuning your approach. For example, if you run TV ads for your business, you should reconsider the times you place your ads.
With people at home virtually all the time, previous peak times have changed, and now the TV is likely to be on most of the day. Print and billboard ads may not be a good idea at all, whereas online advertising is much more likely to be effective as people are spending most of their time online.
If COVID-19 is changing the way you are doing business, think about the marketing opportunities this creates. For example, if you are now delivering your products to people’s homes rather than having them shop in-store, the delivery packaging is a great way to promote your brand. Include your logo on delivery bags or packaging: a very simple and cost-effective way to do this is by using a StickerIt sticker of your logo and brand name.
Opportunities to Promote Online Content
As mentioned, one of the major shifts during this pandemic is that people are spending much more time online. A large percentage of the population across most of the world is being ordered or encouraged to stay at home. This means that people are working remotely, shopping for products and services online, accessing news online, and just generally relying on the internet more.
Although this is bad news for certain types of marketing, it undoubtedly creates a range of opportunities for online content. Online advertising is one way to promote your business online. However, organic content can be even more effective, if it is the right kind of content.
The flipside of the coin is that more and more businesses are producing content in the current crisis, from blog posts to e-books and webinars. Therefore, in order for your content to stack up well against the rest, it must be useful, engaging, and targeted to your audience.
Web Traffic Patterns are Changing
Along with people simply spending more time online, the patterns of web traffic are changing in the context of this global pandemic. One study found the four out of 10 people are checking the news more often, because they want to keep up to date with the evolving situation.
Although web traffic is down in some areas as consumers are unable to access certain services and are reluctant to spend on other products, COVID-19 related web traffic is soaring. One implication this has for marketing is that content should be topical: audiences want to hear about the coronavirus, so this is what you should be writing about.
Compassion is Needed
Besides the impacts on lifestyle habits and spending patterns, something much deeper is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The population in general is feeling the strain for this situation mentally and emotionally, from the challenges of isolation to anxiety for the safety of their loved ones and the future in general.
More and more people are being touched by the virus, as people they know are hospitalized or pass away.
Marketers and businesses should take this into account in how they address their audience. It is important to take a compassionate approach and to acknowledge the strain your customers are dealing with at the moment. Speak to them in an empathetic, sensitive way not only because this will build long-term trust and loyalty, but because it is the right thing to do.