Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

BY: Level Agency
April 10, 2020

Everywhere, nimble businesses are quickly pivoting towards digital channels and virtual experiences as their primary source of new customers and clients. It’s a new world: social isolation and remote work are driving radically different patterns of online usage. Millions are out of work, and nearly 80% of the United States is at home – and living online.

For every business still open, marketers must closely examine their position and messaging to find the right opportunities amidst a rapidly shifting marketplace and align their products, services, and customer engagement strategies for an online-first world.

Some of the changes we’re seeing are not temporary. Some are, such as massively higher usage of Facebook and Instagram, and smart companies and marketers are striking while the iron is hot.

Our takeaway from the front line of 2020 digital marketing and commerce: adapt, take advantage of new opportunities, or be left behind.

WHAT IS HAPPENING

1. There is a MASSIVE increase in your customers’ daily online usage

Comscore is reporting dramatic increases in data usage in the second half of March vs. the same period a year ago. Average in-home data usage increased by 38% overall, and by more than 50% for mobile phones.

The Takeaway: Meet your audience where they are – online & at home. Do it strategically, with an understanding of how each digital channel is being affected.

2. Social sees big traffic gains – and lower ad costs

Facebook and Instagram are reporting 70% more time on their platforms. This translates to a big increase in available ad inventory. Facebook cost per click is down 19% compared to January, and cost per impression may be down by more than 50% vs. the prior high in November of 2019 as categories like film and travel cut their ad spends dramatically.

The Takeaway: Now is the time to leverage low social media ad costs to connect with large audiences of potential new customers. Level recommends increasing investment and launching new ad creative that is sensitive to the “new normal.” Be empathetic to the unique challenges your customers are facing, and tailor your social message to demonstrate how your products and services can meet their needs today.

3. Consumers are searching more but may be converting less

One popular volume index is showing 14% higher Google search volume year over year. Some industries are seeing this translate directly to more conversions.

But that’s not the case in every category. Wordstream is reporting lower overall conversion rates (-22%) on search platforms, and Google has signaled to agency partners that marketers should focus on lifetime ad value, rather than direct sales.

The Takeaway: Set your paid search budgets based on demand in your category. Focus on delivering relevance in ad copy and be even more vigilant than usual in negative keyword management to exclude irrelevant searches unlikely to convert.

4. Streaming consumption is way up

As you would expect, people are spending a lot more time on streaming services like Hulu, YouTube, and Twitch. According to a report from Braze, streaming usage rose 31% in March, growing to over 100 million daily sessions. This extra inventory leads to lower costs to advertisers.

The Takeaway: Move underperforming outdoor or traditional media budgets into streaming video, Display, and Social campaigns.

5. Consumers may be buying less

People and businesses everywhere are already feeling the economic pinch of a coming recession. This BCG consumer sentiment snapshot shows that 29% of consumers are anticipating saving more and spending less on discretionary items.

The Takeaway: If your brand falls into the “discretionary” category, focus on channels that deliver measurable ROAS / ROI, but remember that brands that invest in advertising during downturns consistently outperform competitors that don’t.

6. Big media platforms are stepping up to help advertisers

Google recently announced $810 MM and Facebook announced $100 MM in COVID-19 related relief grants, including ad credits to affected advertisers.

The Takeaway: Check out our summary of grant eligibility and how to apply.

WHAT MARKETERS NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW

This is digital’s moment: dramatic increases in available inventory, decreasing competition in many sectors, and market-wide pivots towards meaningful virtual engagement combine to provide a good opportunity for aggressive marketers to leapfrog competitors.

Here’s our playbook

  1. Aggressively invest in paid social advertising, especially Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The macroeconomics will drive better-than-normal advertising ROI.
  2. Actively manage search budgets based on quickly changing demand trends.
  3. Plan digital for the new normal: make sure ads are relevant, negative keyword lists are updated, and your team is being responsive and adaptive.
  4. Shift budgets away from underperforming traditional media and into social, display, streaming, and other more accountable digital ROI drivers.
  5. Learn about the grants Google and FB are offering, whether you are eligible, and how to apply.
  6. Stay tuned for industry specific POVs in the coming weeks with more specific and relevant action plans for EDU, B2B, and eCommerce.

Want to discuss how Level Agency can help your company successfully generate customers during this “new normal”? Contact us today

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