How COVID-19 has Affected Digital Marketing

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on daily life and businesses. All industries have felt the effects which include closed schools, social distancing, closed public spaces and closed borders.

When it comes to the online world, it has also changed how businesses approach digital marketing, and has affected the digital marketing strategies of countless brands.

IMRG found that UK online retail sales at the end of November could grow by 35-45% compared to last year. Due to the nature of Black Friday, the upcoming festive period and more people shopping online, this does not seem unexpected.

But will these changes continue indefinitely? Or with the hope of the vaccine and a return to normality on the horizon, will we simply shift back to our previous habits regarding digital marketing?

Shifted consumer behaviour

With more people inside with less to do in terms of social activities, this has lead to more time spent online.

Not only are there more people spending time online, but people will also be spending time online at times they would previously have not. Perhaps if they are furloughed, they will be looking online more often in the day. With little to do at the weekends, perhaps more people will spend a Sunday browsing online, or a Saturday night at 10pm after pubs and restaurants have closed. Usually, people do not shop during working hours, but now that more people work from home, they have a more flexible window in which they can go online. As people also wish to check the news regarding the latest statistics or breaking news articles, this will also draw them to get distracted by social media and other marketing activity.

In terms of advertising, bidding costs can be a lot cheaper in particular industries where brands have cut the spend. If your competition has cut spend, then that leaves you an opportunity to attract customers at a lower cost-per-acquisition or sale, if you are in a position to take advantage of this.

Brands which were already online had largely been okay during the lockdowns, and within certain industries, they have seen increased activity and sales.

Traditionally-offline businesses which have shifted online or changed their products or services to adapt to the new climate have also seen some success – whether out of necessity or simply accelerated innovation.

More brands are making use of digital marketing more than before, shifting budget from other forms of marketing or media. This reflects the altered lifestyle of those living under locksdowns.

Improve online visibility

With less people going into physical stores and browsing online, businesses everywhere have refocused on improving online visibility.

Most businesses know the power of SEO, but businesses focused on physical stores may have overlooked how much digital marketing matters. Restaurants, for instance, now rely on being found for nearby deliveries rather than passers-by. How do you differentiate your restaurant in a major city with every culinary delight available if everyone is doing delivery and major brands are partnered with Ubereats, Deliveroo or offer their own services? It becomes imperative that you can be found amongst the competition.

40% of shoppers surveyed by Econsultancy said they found the in-store experience less enjoyable during the pandemic, which suggests even though people can shop in-store, they may choose not to.

Budgets

For many businesses, marketing is one of the first budgets to get cut when times of trouble come around. This has been the case this year – however with the rise in online activity, digital marketing has been crucial for some businesses to survive.

Some brands increase spend on digital ads or marketing activity in order to make up for the sales or leads which they would ordinarily pick up via offline means, whether through traditional marketing or at events.

However, WARC found that UK digital ad spend fell by 5% in the first half of 2020, compared to 2019. This does give some businesses an opportunity to capitalise on fewer competitors in the same space.

The bigger picture

Will the pandemic come to an end? Will society ever return to a stage where shaking hands is no longer a faux pas? With the coming vaccine, we hope so. But how long will it take until we are back to normal? Who can say.

Industries such as travel, hospitality, events, offline entertainment and retail are struggling, and therefore may be shifted marketing efforts to account for this, and reducing spend.

However, those who have continued throughout the pandemic, or even prospered, will likely continue spending more on digital marketing and online advertising.

Industries which have largely done well include ecommerce stores, food delivery, streaming services, video games, video conferencing, and other hobby-related brands. In the long term, it would be expected to go back to normal. But potentially, we could still have more sheltered, isolated lives consisting of more people working from home and fewer people out in the streets while vaccines roll out. That is, if vaccinations are effective enough.

Marketing messaging

You will have seen all of the ads regarding “staying safe in this troubling time”. Marketing messages have had to shift in order to remain relevant and respond to consumer concerns. COVID-19 is still, unfortunately, the topic on everyones’ lips, and that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It’s important to remain sensitive to the current climate if you are a business which has seen success during these times, and not to appear as though you are taking advantage of a situation which has devastated countless lives.

Phrasee found that 64% of marketers said that COVID-19 has made the language used in marketing messaging more important than ever in order to connect with customers.

If your business is doing well during this period, then clearly you offer something which is necessary, or perhaps helping consumers/businesses out there in a tough time. This is great, and it’s important to reiterate how you are here to help.

Channels

The pandemic has changed many things. People now take virtual karate lessons, video call doctors, and chat with friends on Zoom rather than in each others’ homes. It hasn’t just changed how industries deliver products and services virtually instead of in-person, but it also changes how marketers interact with potential and existing customers.

Webinars have always been a popular medium for marketers to spread a message and help customers, though now without any offline-means of meeting, they prove to be a lifeline for those who rely on these forms of channels.

Outsourcing

During times such as these, businesses have had to quickly develop new strategies in how to adapt Not only that, but the Chartered Institute of Marketing confirmed 9% of marketers globally had been made redundant since the beginning of the outbreak.

Having digital marketing expertise at hand to help gives your business the best chance of surviving or succeeding during the pandemic and beyond. If you don’t currently have in-house marketing staff then outsourcing to a digital marketing agency is a cost-effective solution that doesn’t hog your internal resources which you desperately need.

If you need a helping hand or wish to invest in digital marketing for the future, read more about our outsourced digital marketing services or simply get in touch and a member of the team will be more than happy to help.