Business agility has never been more important than it is now. With COVID-19, we’ve seen the introduction of several new ways of doing business emerge around the world: bookstores delivering books by bicycle, major fitness companies moving workouts online, and even restaurants offering to-go margaritas.
Consumer behavior is evolving worldwide as well–net consumer optimism has decreased, leading to a lack of spending on discretionary items, a switch to reduced-contact channels, a need for reassurance as well as emphasis on cleaning and sanitation procedures moving forward. Not only that, but life has moved online–e-commerce grew more in eight weeks than in the decade prior, jumping from 16% to 27% of retail in the US alone.
Amidst these seismic shifts, marketers must do what they do best: adapt. To both keep up with and stay ahead of changes, follow the COVID-19 ABCDs of marketing:
A: Actively audit
If you assume anything, assume that nothing is certain. The what, why and how your customers buy could be completely different than it was just a few months ago, making it more important than ever to root every decision in data.
Analyze what’s working as well as what’s not, and don’t be afraid to reach out to customers. Surveys are applicable as ever and can be used to evaluate pain points and ask questions such as: what new, unmet needs have emerged?
In tandem, connect your analytics to revenue generation. This may mean even diverting dollars to alternate analytics–DISH Network improved it’s conversion rate by 60% by simply prioritizing conversational analytics. Moral of the story: if you want to make an impact, don’t go for the lowest hanging fruit–go for the sweetest.
Finally, search out and identify new moments ZMOTs, or Zero Moments of Truth. There are so many micro-moments involved in the digital path to purchase today that you may be surprised by the ones who have emerged as dominant.
B: Be bold
Now is not the time to pump the brakes–in fact, you must instead put the pedal to the medal. If history provides any indication, acting aggressively and quickly will determine who succeeds and who falls behind.
During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, winning brands doubled down on marketing investments–revamping their marketing strategies, reallocating their spending to digital channels, and more aggressively targeting members of the up and coming generation, millennials. S&P 500 companies that maintained or increased their marketing spending in 2008 significantly outperformed others, growing sales by roughly 6.5 percentage points more than the peers who reduced their spend.
Remember that during a recession, consumers are looking for four things: reliability, durability, safety and performance. New products that address these concerns should be introduced, and advertising should stress superior price performance.
In the words of Bill Gates, “success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.”
C: Consistently communicate
Even prior to COVID-19, 84% of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services. So bring the experience to them–via webinars, social media and more. The mere exposure effect means that being in front of consumers, even those who aren’t buying, can help improve their perception of your brand and loyalty down the line.
Be sure to assess everything you have in-market, starting with the most-viewed assets. Evaluate your imagery and copy from a new point of view: one that is living in a world of economic uncertainty and general anxiety. Empathy will be key to upholding your brand’s reputation during what is foremost a humanitarian issue.
And when it comes to your already loyal fans, give them relevant information–whether it be practical news (if you believe shipping times will be delayed) or emotionally relevant (how you’re keeping your employees safe). Providing useful information without pushing a sale is something that customers will remember and return for.
D: Dive into digital
People are doing things online we would have never dreamed of last year, such as visiting museums, going to yoga, doing jigsaw puzzles together–all digitally. If people weren’t online before, they certainly are now–as evidenced by the 50% increase in messaging on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Both in business and in your community, look for opportunities to become even more digital. There are certainly trends that you cannot ignore, including using chatbots, personalizing your messaging, creating more video content and increasing your activity on social media platforms.
Make sure your digital presence is up to snuff–evaluate your homepage SEO and optimize your product pages. Do what you can to reduce page load times and your reward will be twofold: Not only will users be less likely to bounce, but Google’s ranking algorithm will look at your page more favorably. And if you’ve been thinking of investing in more digital ads, now’s your chance–the supply often outweighs the demand during recessions, increasing the ROI. Cheaper ads + weak competition = the perfect opportunity to increase your market share.
Even as restrictions are lifted around the world, most consumers still feel the pull towards the “homebody economy”. Changes brought about by COVID-19 are not disappearing anytime soon, so marketers must embrace the change and harbor a growth mindset if they want to come out ahead at the end.