BY LEWISE HILTZ | VICE PRESIDENT DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Businesses across the world are coming to terms with the revelation that daily procedures are quickly changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether your company has temporarily halted all business or has decided to implement a work from home routine, how you approach your digital marketing presence and whether you reduce your costs by cutting your digital marketing efforts, should be carefully adjusted in response to this current health crisis.
Message tones, current campaigns, and the effect that the pandemic has on your industry should all be carefully considered before posting or sharing digital content. While some businesses servicing “essential needs” are flourishing, most are seeing performance drops of -25% or worse from just two-three weeks ago. With a sudden and unexpected loss in revenue, many businesses are being forced into conversations on how they can trim budgets and maximize efficiency all while changing the way they are speaking to their customer. So, what does this mean for various digital marketing investments and messaging?
Here are a few tips on navigating your digital marketing costs and presence during COVID-19:
1. Inform customers of COVID-19’s effects on your industry
The continuation of business during this unprecedented ordeal varies across industries. Companies that conduct a good amount of business online have been able to shift to teleworking, while some small restaurants have resorted to shutting down temporarily. However, this pandemic is affecting your business or industry overall, be sure to share announcements with your customers. This could mean pinning a banner to your website, sending out an email blast, or posting on social media platforms. Notifying customers of your business’ current tweak of processes will relieve any panic they may have, and alert them of limitations in services before they decide to pick up the phone and inquire. Even if your business hasn’t seen much change as a result of the pandemic, it’s still a good idea to recognize this crisis and show your support for those who are ill. A simple email or social media post will remind customers that you have their backs — and that your company values much more than just its bottom line.
2. Recognize campaigns that should be paused
Perhaps you have scheduled an email marketing campaign to alert customers of a new product or service your company is currently offering. In trying times like these, it’s crucial to recognize that it’s OK to hit the pause button on advertising non-urgent matters. Consider shifting your focus to ways that your service can help out current customers amid this health crisis. Despite a cutback in businesses that can stay open right now, it is encouraging to see many big companies advertise their products while recognizing the impact that COVID-19 is causing on our daily lives. For example, Uber Eats decided to not post about St. Patrick’s Day deals or delivery specials. Instead, they highlighted a different campaign — their current effort to keep small businesses afloat. Through this campaign, any Uber Eats customer who orders from a local restaurant in Canada or the U.S can expect zero delivery fees.
3. Beware, your analytics data is most likely skewed
Before we jump into individual channel recommendations, let’s discuss your means to measure them. Remember when we use to be able to scrub out the internal analytics so as not to skew our data, well with so many employees working remote this is no longer an option and employee data is most likely influencing your data. Keep in mind that if they are using a VPN or any other remote network connector you may not have this issue. Experts recommend placing an annotation in your analytics account as it’s very unlikely a solution exists to true up your analytics account. It’s also very important to keep this in consideration when measuring and reporting out on your digital marketing efforts. As retail marketers continue to brainstorm their way through this unprecedented crisis, it’s important to remember that the analytics for your current customers are very different than they were a few weeks ago. It’s a good time to evaluate what consumers are thinking—what they’re buying now, how they’re buying it, what they’re not buying, and how long they think the crisis will last.
Because Purchasing trends are changing
Fifty-four percent of consumers are no longer considering the purchase of big-ticket items (homes, cars, trips, luxury goods) over the next three months. Instead, consumers are focusing on two tiers of consumable products, the “Survival” tier and the “Sanity” tier:
Where consumers are buying their products has also changed. Over the last two weeks, consumers are beginning to fear crowding and lack of inventory, and said they are shopping less at wholesale and big box retailers (at a decrease rate of 33 percent and 35 percent, respectively). All of this needs to be considered when analyzing your data during the COVID-19 crises.
4. Reduce paid search and social media? Or get ready for daily management?
In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, search demand is down. If your company’s product or service isn’t deemed an “essential need” than you may want to consider pulling back on your paid spend. Failure to reduce spend can make even the most profitable campaigns turn negative for return on ad spend (ROAS). Proceed with caution if you know your product/service isn’t a top priority for your consumers right now. On the flip side, bids in many industries are lower than they’ve ever been. This is likely due to advertisers making fewer bids and cutting their budgets. But if your company is selling product/services that still have demand at this time, you should be looking to maximize your ad spend. Just make sure you keep a close eye on your ROAS. Tips: As conversion rates, CPMs and CPCs are in flux, you will likely need to be more hands-on than usual. On the search side, if you are using Smart Bidding, consider switching to manual bidding, or at the very least re-evaluate your Max CPC setting to account for changes in the landscape. On social, with more eyeballs at home, you may find you can significantly increase reach within your top-performing audiences. Be ready to shift budget, change bids, and tweak your campaigns daily.
But, Be Mindful of Your Tone
The beauty of social media during this pandemic is its ability to build camaraderie through digital platforms. A change in routine, different work settings, and social distancing have been tough for many. But there is a level of hopefulness in knowing that we can and will continue to communicate with each other with the help of the internet. The tone conveyed by businesses and individuals has varied, but it is important to remain optimistic while not making light of the situation when navigating your digital marketing presence during this time. While all businesses are not expected to provide their two cents on the virus, there is nothing wrong with posting or sharing messages on the pandemic’s secondary effects that you do have some expertise on. To show solidarity.
5. Maximize email
Email is cheap AND effective. Considering you can’t impact search demand—leading you to potentially decrease paid search/media—you may be able to claw back some scale with email campaigns. For some industries, it’s as simple as reminding customers that despite brick and motor stores being closed, they can still get all their needs met online. Remember to be mindful of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure your clients/customers that you are here to help. This isn’t the time to hard sell or promote special COVID-19 “deals.” It’s very important now more than ever to communicate with empathy. While you may want to give customers free shipping, making your discount code ‘COVID-19’ or ‘coronavirus’ is not how you want to represent your brand when it comes to conveying sensitive subject matter. Email likely won’t make up for all the recent performance losses but brands that show value and instill trust from their clients/customers will pay dividends when times are more certain.
6. Continue the path of SEO and content marketing
Like paid search, teams everywhere are seeing performance losses in the organic channel due to a drop in overall search demand. Unlike paid search/social, I recommend continuing your execution on SEO and content marketing efforts. In reviewing over a dozen websites whose organic performance has dropped, most have flat keyword rankings. Google Search Console also shows a considerable drop in search impressions despite rankings staying the same. This further validates that this is not an SEO/ranking issue but rather a drop-in search demand due to COVID-19. If you choose to reduce spend in your SEO and content marketing efforts, you significantly risk your organic rankings. Once search demand returns (and it will) you will still drive considerably less organic traffic than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Right now, it’s vital to maintain – if not grow – your SEO campaign.
Summing it up
Regardless of the industry you work in, several businesses are getting hit equally as hard — if not harder — as yours during this pandemic. Companies across the globe are utilizing social media to inform others of their current pain points due to the government’s mandatory shutdowns. In a time of uncertainty, businesses need to prioritize consumers and employees’ safety. Be kind and aware of the situation. The brands that do this best will undoubtedly rebound most quickly once the COVID-19 pandemic retreats. Until then, be critical of your digital marketing efforts, consider your tone, and double down on lean effectiveness.
If you have any questions or comments, I am available 24/7. Email me at Lewise.Hiltz@KPIDigital.com
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