Pandemic-Proof Marketing Strategy For COVID-19 Outbreak

I’ve been under lockdown since Wednesday last week. It’s soon one week since the world seemingly stopped. Well, at least, it feels like it. No people on the streets, malls, restaurants, cafes, cinemas — everything is closed. 

It has made me think about businesses a lot. They are going to suffer tremendously, the outbreak will have a detrimental impact on the world economy. It’s scary!

I work with several brands that are affected by the outbreak. Everyone is, but some are more fortunate than the others. 

In all honesty, a lot of things are in our own hands now. We should stop relying on OOH advertising, ads on radios, cinemas, and supermarkets. We should forget ads in magazines, events, and conferences for some time now. Many huge events are postponed or cancelled. Did you hear that Tokyo is very seriously considering postponing the Olympics this year? Last time, the Olympic Games were cancelled during the World Wars.

This speaks volumes of how serious the situation is. And the impacts on businesses and therefore the global economy are enormous. 

This is why businesses and brands are left on their own. The marketing teams are the ones that have to come up with innovative ways to still generate revenue through sales. The world cannot stop. 

But how?

Here are my suggestions on what brands should do now to minimize the impact on business. 

Start selling online (if you haven’t)

If you aren’t selling online yet, it’s the best time to start doing so. I won’t be talking about the general advantages of selling online, but the current situation makes e-commerce the most viable business. 

People are stranded at home. They are bored and have nothing to do. Apart from binge-watching Netflix, playing mobile games, working and eating, there isn’t much to do.

(Please, try exercising at least a little!)

According to Ipsos MORI, 50% of Chinese and 31% of Italian consumers say they’re shopping online ‘more frequently’ to purchase items they’d usually buy in brick-and-mortar stores. Other countries such as Vietnam, India, and Russia have also seen their populations using e-commerce more often to shop — with an increase of use at 57%, 55%, and 27% respectively.

If there are things that people want to purchase, they will turn to e-commerce. Groceries, clothes, hygiene products, food, snacks, gadgets — everything will be bought online more than usual. 

That’s why if you run a cookie store in a mall, chances are high that your customers cannot come and buy your delicious baked goods. However, if you start selling these online, you’ll be able to reach to your existing as well as new customers. 

Developing an e-commerce store requires some investment, but in the long run, it will pay off. Nobody knows how long we will be under lockdown, thus the earlier you start, the better chances you’ll have to sustain your business. 

Invest more in online advertising

Your potential and existing customers won’t find your business if you don’t advertise online. All the money that you wanted to allocate for alternative advertising, such as OOH, radio, magazines, etc., should now be repurposed for online advertising. 

Google, social media, in-game ads are the places where your customers will spend a lot of time. Therefore, it is important to step up your advertising game and be discoverable. 

With more people staying on their phones, social media is expected to boom. Many people will use it to ease the burden of social isolation, to reconnect with family and friends or to read the latest updates about the outbreak. 

It is expected that social media spending will increase by more than 22% as more customer-oriented brands are looking for ways to engage with their audiences.

Take time to review your existing plan

Working from home in many aspects may slow down the normal workflow. Even though all businesses say that they operate in BAU (business as usual) mood, in fact, it’s not entirely true. Things are slower. It takes longer to get the answers, and it takes longer to engage with new partners. 

That’s why, take this time (14 days at least) to analyse and review your current marketing plan. You now have more time to look at the figures, analyse the performance and see if any changes are required. 

You also now have time to review your previous activities and see if they delivered the results that you expected. If no, you can forget them for this year. If yes, try answering if they’d still deliver great results in current circumstances. 

The analysis will help you come up with a better approach to the issue that your brand has started facing or might face in the future should the outbreak of coronavirus continue. 

Communicate extra well

Everyone is confused. Your consumers are confused. Your staff are confused. It’s a new situation and everyone is trying to adapt. 

In circumstances like this, communication is a crucial component to ensure that your customers know any updates that your business has. Same goes to your staff — any plan or new information has to be disseminated very carefully and enough time is given for people to absorb it. 

Your customers definitely want to know if the current WFH (work from home) circumstances affect their orders or their business with you. If so, how will you minimize that effect? 

Be also very careful with your marketing messages, especially on social media. Take consideration of the words you use and ensure they aren’t misinterpreted. Many people can be very sensitive and particular in how brands behave in current circumstances. 

Don’t panic. Even though you and your business should take measures to adapt to succeed in these troubling times, panicking and stress won’t bring any help. Shifting your gear and moving predominantly to the digital space will benefit your business in the long term.