Why the Covid-19 pandemic means you should be re-focusing advertising strategies

Joshua Barr

Joshua Barr

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Photo Credit: Evening Standard

It’s no secret that the outbreak of Covid-19 is going to affect almost every aspect of lives and the timescales of the disruption are currently incomprehensible. The way we interact with each other and our buying behaviours have already shifted massively and having to make more considered choices about where we go and whether it is necessary to do so, is only going to increase.

The effects Covid-19 is having on our personal lives, means that businesses are going to have to adapt to quick changes in operational strategies and it’s important that marketing strategies align with this too. Before we delve into how refocusing offline strategies could support businesses during this difficult time, it’s important that we acknowledge that for some businesses in niche non-essential sectors, there might simply be no quick fix for the drop-in demand. For this reason, we’re focusing on public sector, B2Cs and B2Bs whose products or services are essential or who can operate undisrupted throughout an aggressive social distancing strategy.

Browsing habits and peak times of the day have changed.

We’re now at the point where most people who can do so are working from or staying at home, which brings challenges to businesses from an employee perspective but opportunity also lies here from a digital and prospect perspective.

It’s expected that domestic Internet services are going to have up to 10x the usual daily demand – that’s a lot of browsing and a lot more daily opportunities to display online adverts.

Most of the increase of domestic Internet service demand is predominantly people working from home and as the distancing strategy goes on, more procrastination browsing will ensue. It’s likely that workloads will deplete for home workers, as non-essential operations are suspended, so a mix of commercial and personal based browsing habits for longer periods of the day, are likely to be incurred.

Cancelling outdoor media advertising is the only logical thing to do!  

We know this sounds drastic but we’re seeing clients of all shapes and sizes pulling outdoor advertising space and it really is the only logical thing to do. London and other cities have been compared to Ghost Towns over the last couple of weeks and those Piccadilly Circus digital screen adverts aren’t cheap. As the social distancing strategy tightens, the audience for outdoor adverts will continue to deplete what is already a very small number of people, on a daily basis. 

Replace your outdoor advertising strategy with a virtual one.

As we’ve covered, there’s next to no audience for outdoor advertising space at the moment but an increased demand for domestic Internet services. There’s only one solution to this shift – display advertising! If you’re not familiar with this type of advertising, it’s essentially those little image adverts as you are browsing the web. Some of these adverts will be shown because you have previously been on their website (for increased engagement), others will show because they’ve targeted you as a demographic, whether by age, gender, locations or many other various targeting methods, to spark your interest.

One of our clients who advertises on buses, bus stops, bill boards and other outdoor advertising space, has this week pulled all these adverts, to focus on digital. The great thing is, the cost implications are that realistically it’s probably going to be cheaper, more engaging and seen and read far more times in a given day.

Better yet, here at Browndog we’ve been able to repurpose those outdoor adverts for the online space, rather than going back to the drawing board entirely.

Outdoor advertising is a ‘spray and pray’ tactic, i.e. you show to 1000s of people and hope that some of them are interested. With display advertising however, you only show to the people that count the most and you only pay for that advert when someone clicks on it (excluding campaign build & design fees, of course). As you can imagine, with a 10x increase in domestic browsing, this highly targeted tactic is going to deliver the exposure you need, throughout this difficult time and drought in offline audiences.

If you are adapting your operation to alleviate the strain on the Covid-19 developments, make sure your customers and suppliers know about it!

We’ve all seen some really great action and initiatives from the likes of Morrisons, Waitrose, Greggs, McDonald’s and Tesco in light of the pandemic and they’ve all been great at shouting from the virtual rooftops about it! Companies like Greggs have set-up delivery services for self-isolators and other companies have streamlined services to stop the spread, whilst still operating at full capacity. Morrisons have even announced that they are paying invoices early for their small business suppliers, to alleviate cash flow issues!

We know it’s not just the Blue Chip companies who are making massive changes to support the community, or simply stay operational, but you need to let customers and prospects know what measures you are taking, so they can make an enquiry or purchase from you, with the confidence that you can deliver.

Our tip for this would be to put a boosted social media strategy in place, to communicate daily to prospects and customers that you are fully operational, can deliver as they would expect and that you’re going the extra mile to ensure strict safety standards. This type of strategy can be supported by a display advertising strategy as above, ensuring consistent messaging across the web at every touch-point. In addition to this, we’d also recommend that if you are already using Paid Search as a strategy, then ad messaging should include info that you are still running as normal, giving the consumer some confidence to click!

If your focus is usually offline, then make sure you can be found online!

If you are not already using paid search or display advertising as a strategy, then now could be the time to think about it. Consumers who may normally opt for a bricks and mortar experience are now likely to be forced to browse, purchase and take home delivery of products and services, so make sure you are there too. It’s also worth noting that super-market demand for household essentials is unprecedented, so searches and demand for even the most mundane products are going through the roof online! On average, there are 25,000 combined online searches per/month within the UK for “toilet roll” and “nappies”, compared with this January and February, both of which gained 50,000 searches each for the same phrases – that’s a 50% increase in online demand for these products.

Even some non-essential e-commerce sales are soaring!

Even some of our clients in non-essential markets are seeing increased online sales, despite the pandemic. One of these clients is FWDirect, a niche supplier of soundproofing products to both domestic and commercial markets. Whilst their enquiries for commercial projects have depleted, their domestic orders have increased massively. It shows that whilst non-essential, if people are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future, then those little things they often put off become more of a bug-bear and priority – especially in this instance, when the next-door neighbour might be blasting out their ‘Coronavirus Self Isolation Bangers’ playlist on Spotify!

Make sure you are seen and found where your customers expect you to be.  

Ultimately what this pandemic means for small and large businesses alike, is a massive shift in how, when and where people purchase goods and services. This is likely to last and grow even more over the coming months, so now is the time to prepare and make sure you can be found, are communicating regularly and offer a robust service online.

The coming months are going to be one of the biggest challenges businesses have faced since WWII, the only difference is, we now have the facility to carry on with our daily lives from home to a huge extent. Offline channels are going to continue to deplete over the coming months, so it’s never been more critical to re-allocate offline spend into a comprehensive and holistic digital strategy, where the most opportunity for stability and potential growth will lie for the most part of this year.

If you have any questions or would like to arrange a call to discuss how Browndog Agency can support you throughout these difficult economic times, then please arrange a free no-obligation consultation today!

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