20 Pieces of Advice for Marketing During the Coronavirus
Digital and e-commerce marketers are rethinking their plans as the coronavirus continues to impact the retail industry. Here are 20 positive steps we’re seeing retail marketers take to work through the current volatility and prepare for the post-COVID-19 environment. These tactics come into play for marketing overall, as well as for paid campaigns on search, social media and marketplace channels in particular. While not all of these ideas will apply to your business, consider the ones that may be helpful for your goals.
1. Don’t automatically stop marketing and advertising. The impact of the coronavirus is fluid. Try not to veer too far off-course; instead, remain flexible to address consumer needs today.
2. Understand how demand is changing within your product catalog. Examine any shifts in costs per click and your competitive set.
3. Consider adjusting your return on ad spend target to allow budget to flow more dynamically across your channels.
4. Monitor how your target audience might be shifting. For instance, a large beauty retailer we partner with offers products for both consumers and businesses. We’ve seen a spike recently in shoppers purchasing B-to-B products, leading us to shift budget to prioritize those items on Google and better address demand.
5. Pull back on products that have lower inventory, and focus on higher-margin products if you have the stock.
6. As consumers quarantine at home, examine hourly traffic trends to identify temporary dayparting adjustments.
7. The virus’s impact in different locations may be influencing demand for certain products in your catalog. Adjust geographic modifiers as needed.
8. While lower household income segments may tend to reduce or avoid shopping, higher household income segments may be unchanged in their spending habits and still make sense to engage.
Sensitivity to the Situation
9. Balance business goals while being sensitive to the situation. Although the primary concern is for public health and safety, other challenges abound. Online shopping can be an important way the public at large can help prop up the economy, creating a role for marketing and promotion.
10. Avoid automatically going dark. Visibility is often key during a time of uncertainty.
11. Adjust messaging and language as you see fit.
12. Understand the bigger picture benefit of continued marketing and promotion. That takes us to the next section.
Temporary vs. Long-Term Adaptation
13. Marketing adjustments you make today may lead to “a ha!” moments that make sense to implement long term.
14. This environment may lead consumers to grow more comfortable shopping online. Think about how your e-commerce operations should become an even more important part of how you run your businesses long after the coronavirus epidemic ends.
15. You may discover a new shopping audience you had not thought of before. (Think back to the beauty retailer mentioned earlier.)
16. Similarly, you may discover ways to diversify your channel mix that make sense to bake into your usual plans.
Preparation for Post-COVID-19
17. Maintain brand recognition with a minimal amount of spend to create leverage as you shift into the post-COVID-19 environment.
18. If your catalog isn’t converting right now, encourage shoppers to create a wish list on your site that you can use for future re-engagement.
19. Track all account changes carefully so you can easily revert back as needed.
20. If other retailers in your space reduce their presence, you might be able to fill those gaps in competition now and maintain the advantage post-COVID-19. For instance, we’re seeing exposure open up for many retailers on Google since Amazon.com has nearly stopped advertising on the platform.
There's no silver bullet to address all challenges in this unprecedented time. It's a nuanced situation. In fact, that was a theme of a broadcast we led for retailers to ask about how to respond to COVID-19. Ultimately, it’s critical to remain agile and creative to work through this volatility and be able to emerge on the other side ready to meet consumer needs.
Mike Farrell is senior director of integrated digital strategy for Sidecar, a performance marketing technology company.
As a retail marketing strategist, fluent in paid search, shopping ads, affiliates, email, display, and comparison shopping engines, he stays close to the shifting retail landscape and how it’s impacting marketing strategy.