Digital Marketing during Crisis: How to Adapt for a Post-COVID-19 Online Landscape

No-one saw such a change coming – but the coronavirus crisis has changed the world. It has had a huge impact on the daily lives of everyone around the world, and has radically changed the behaviour of business and consumers globally.

But life goes on, and businesses must adapt in order to survive. How does a global crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak impact marketing efforts? How can businesses continue with digital marketing? Should it be paused until everything is back to normal?

In short, no. For the foreseeable future, even if the lockdown is lifted, there will be a new normal of more people working from home and prolonged social distancing. So stopping all digital marketing activity is simply not going to cut it. You don’t only need to weather the storm of an immobile workforce and stuck-at-home consumers, but you need to be prepared for a completely changed audience in a post-COVID world.

So what should businesses be doing to adapt during and after this crisis to continue to grow?

Ensure your customers know if you’re open

Are your current customers aware of your current operations? Do they know where and when you are open? Do potential customers know this when looking for you in search results, social media or elsewhere?

Your Bing Listing and Google My Business listing needs to be up-to-date with opening times. This is easily done, and you may even get emails directly asking for you to update your opening times.

It’s also beneficial to communite it on your website. If you are having disruptions, or still working as normal, mention this on your site. It may be worth including a banner with details alongside a dedicated page to address the current crisis.

Reassess your strategy

Take a step back and reassess your overall digital strategy.

It’s important to stay agile in these everchanging times, however don’t lose sight of your strategy in the long-run. Once things go back to some form of normality, your strategy will still be relevant.

Assess your current campaigns or specific channels. Which ones are performing well? Which ones could be performing better? Are you still getting a positive return on investment for these? It may be worth investing in different campaigns or channels depending on how they are performing.

The world isn’t going to change back to the way it was overnight, but at some point it will resemble something more familiar, and it’s important to not lose sight of this fact.

Check messaging

In all of your marketing messaging, be sure you aren’t selling based on fear. Now is not the time for that. Ensure your messaging is relevant, helpful and suits the needs of your audience.

Even if your digital marketing campaigns are performing well, it’s important to check your messages and offers. For instance, Google Ads could be performing better if you mention something relevant to the crisis – such as shipping on time, free delivery or otherwise.

However you communicate with customers, it’s important to stay connected. But at a time like this, you must resist bombarding your contacts with multiple messages. This looks desperate, but also people are being bombarded with the same messages from multiple companies everyday.

Be aware of the current issues your customers are facing, and consider how you can help and get this across. Are your customers overwhelmed? Worried? Struggling?

It’s also worth looking at your USP and seeing how it resonates in these times. Should you still focus on this, or should you pivot to a different core message during a crisis?

Make the most of what online offers

If you traditionally offer your products or services offline, have you considered how you can shift your efforts online?

As an example, if you have always done classroom training, you could do training via video chats. You could put up free videos which links through to your online courses.

Consider the following possibilities:

  • YouTube videos
  • Virtual tours
  • New forms of written content
  • Podcasts
  • Educational guides

Content marketing

As above, think how you can use content to help your audience in these times.

Does your current content meet their needs? What sort of content would be more relevant to your customer’s more pressing needs?

While usually, getting a return on your marketing efforts is the aim, in such trying times delivering value without expecting returns is preferable. It may help your business in the long-run, as people look for content but don’t have the stability or money to invest in what you have to offer. Once the crisis is over however, they will remember your brand and come back, knowing you offered great value in their time of need.

SEO

When it comes to content for SEO purposes, you may think this is less important. But it should not be ignored.

Your normal content output needn’t be ignored even in remarkable times. Once we return back to normal, any evergreen content you posted in the meantime will have had time to rank on Google and other search engines, which means that it will be more likely to have better rankings when they are more relevant once again. All content takes time to rank, so continuing to publish regular content that isn’t focused on what’s going on right now can be beneficial in the long-run.

Alternatively, for fear of being insensitive, prepare your evergreen content to go live while you have the time, and leave it unpublished for now. Take time to readdress your content strategy, and think about the type of content you can provide that your customers would normally find useful.

Ensure you communicate directly in light of the crisis and then afterwards, you have content which ranks highly.

More broadly, when working on your overall SEO, it’s important to remember that SEO intent will have changed significantly since the COVID-19 crisis started, and since lockdown began. For instance, the word “essentials” has come to mean something different. “Training” may be intended to be online, even if they don’t specify online.

SpecialAnnouncement structured data is also good to implement – this allows people to get the updates in the search results via Structured Data which search engines understand.

Offers

What offers can help you continue during the crisis, and what offers will help customers out? What would convince them to do business with you?

Many ecommerce stores have offered free delivery as they cannot offer collection or in-store experiences. This seems fair to the customer, and ensures they aren’t put off by delivery fees.

Email your customers with any offers you have to ensure they know. Let them know what you are doing in this time to help them. Include these messages on any normal email messaging you may do, such as newsletters.

Take advantage of cheap ads

Paid advertising may be something you consider to cut first – however, paid ads are much cheaper than normal because of the fact businesses are cutting it.

As they are all based on auctions, there are fewer people driving up the cost of clicks or otherwise. The cost-per-click is down, which means you can get potential customers onto your site for less money than normal. Less competition means they are more likely to find you, too.

More people are spending time online, so with online traffic on the rise and ads on the cheap, it provides a great opportunity for you to grow.

Overall, while this COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented and wildly unpredictable, there are a number of things you can be doing to ensure your business’ stability and growth in the meantime. Get in touch with the team at Xanthos if you have any questions, or want advice on how we can help you.

Alternatively, we are offering a free digital marketing or ecommerce consultation to help businesses out during this time.