If someone had told us at the beginning of the year that we would all work from home starting March 2020, that heaps of events and festivals would be canceled and KLM would reduce flights with 90%, we probably would not have believed it. The situation concerning the Covid-19 virus may feel a bit like an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror series. However, measures are quickly being taken by governments and are followed up by their people and companies, which shows resilience and flexibility. Something we can be proud of.
And all this for the benefit of our health and safety. Because let’s be real, this should be first, second and third priority. In the meantime, businesses are trying to maintain a business as usual attitude. But, how can we best do this? How should businesses react? Fact is, we are not sure how long the situation will stay as it is right now, meaning that there might be fewer workload, paused campaigns or even positions that will disappear. Still, there is a lot that we can and must do.
Consumers’ needs are changing rapidly and abruptly. Moreover, the way in which consumers want to be approached and are susceptible for your company’s message has already changed. Meaning that you should start thinking about changes in your content strategy and business strategy as a whole.
The changing needs of the consumer
Consumers are mainly anxious. In Asia, research shows that people are more concerned about their financial future than being infected with the COVID-19 virus. The virus makes them think more proactively about their work and finances. In addition, many (67% in the UK) think that food will run out in supermarkets due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We all know the images on social network sites of customers fighting over toilet paper. Therefore, it is very important to extend the image of a trusted brand or company. Try and build a community, which is something people are craving in times like this. Consumers expect a brand to deal responsibly with the situation, deliver real value and do the best for themselves and their employees.
Since the outbreak of the virus, we’ve been online more than usual. We are mainly at home and therefore often glued to our screens on the hunt for news and entertainment. This changes the way consumers interact with companies. For example, the number of users on Facebook has increased by 38% in Italy since the outbreak of the virus. Online supermarkets notice a weekly growth of 81% and online groceries are ordered three times more often than groceries in the store.
The graph above shows the interest in search terms related to “COVID-19” on Google Search in the Netherlands in the past 30 days. A score of 100 indicates a maximum interest in the search term. It is therefore good to keep an eye on whether people are also looking for your brand in combination with “COVID-19” or “corona”. Perhaps there are questions that are not answered on your website, such as “will the event take place?” Or “what is the impact of corona on …?”.
How to react?
First things first! In the short term, it is mainly important to create stability by responding quickly and adequately to the consumer. Create safety where possible and make it clear that you understand the concerns of the consumer.
It is wise to adapt the way of communication to that of the consumer. Be proactive, realistic and authentic. With the latter, think of your own core values. What do you stand for as a company and is the way you respond in line with these values? Adjust your message to the questions you may get. For example, inform about delivery times and be transparent about why it may take longer for a package to be delivered. If needed, you could remarket a message to consumers who have previously bought one of your products. You may also want to make changes to your service or the way you offer your product; think in terms of solutions. Is it possible to pre-order a product if it is not in stock or to pay at a later point in time? Whatever you do, do not make rash decisions. You want to think ahead if you take measures in terms of the way you offer your product and adapt your terms and conditions accordingly.
In addition to adjusting your way of communicating, it is also good to think about how you can respond to dropping sales, the increasing need for information and the need for brand trust. (Online) sales are declining and may even be impossible because of supply chain difficulties; your performance drops. Now is the time to ensure that you stay top-of-mind with the consumer by focusing more on branding in the awareness phase.
Furthermore, there is a strong growing need for information provision. Make sure that you communicate important information clearly and that it is easy to find on the website. Anticipate consumers who are looking for specific information. See which search terms are being searched for in your Google Search and Google Search Console accounts, so that you can respond to them with both search ads and your organic presence (SEO). Your performance may decline, but at least make sure that you continue to be present online for high-intention consumers.
Don’t stop your online marketing, but adjust it where necessary. The focus refutes and therefore it is time to think of the bigger picture. Are the objectives clear and do they need to be adjusted now? Are there channels that should be used more or differently now? Maybe now is the time to do a SEO scan or get your online tracking in order. By thinking about these things now you reap the benefits after the virus.
What’s a given is the face that there will be an end to COVID-19. It is therefore pleasant and important to think about recovery. It is expected (from McKinsey) that consumer products and the electronics industry will recover first. Followed by the automotive, aviation and hospitality industry.
In the medium to long term, the demand for your product or service will recover again. Therefore, take the time to plan this recovery carefully. Make sure that the changes you implement are structural improvements. Make an expected recovery forecast and adjust your KPIs and strategy accordingly.
At both online marketing and personal level it is important to remain calm and positive. We help each other where possible. If you have questions about the developments and impact of the COVID-19 virus on your online marketing we are happy to assist you.