How Retailers Can Shift Digital Marketing in Response to the Coronavirus
Retailers of all sizes are feeling the impact of the coronavirus. With the situation changing daily, there's understandably a lot of uncertainty. However, digital marketers need to create a response plan for navigating the current landscape. By creating immediate, short- and long-term response plans, capturing loyalty, and updating ads across channels, retailers can achieve success in digital advertising.
Creating Response Plans
With consumers spending more time in their homes and decreasing trips to brick-and-mortar stores, online shopping is becoming the new norm. Fifty-eight percent of people say they're likely to avoid public areas, such as shopping centers, if the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen in the U.S. As a result, it's important to shift your digital advertising strategies, creating immediate, short- and long-term response plans. Since news changes daily, it's also recommended you revisit your response plan frequently and make adjustments to pivot based on updates.
An immediate response should focus on business continuity. Begin by establishing an emergency response and then adapt communication as circumstances change. For example, ensure the health and safety of your employees, understand any current impact on your supply chain or distribution, and share with customers any changes in your business, products or availability.
In the short-term, retailers should modify their marketing strategies, ensuring the proper investments across channels, and keeping communication up-to-date. It's best not to pause all ads, but rather update campaigns to adjust to the new situation. Additionally, a strong content strategy on owned and paid channels can provide help, distraction or entertainment for your customers and keep them engaged even if your direct response campaigns or sales tactics aren't performing due to the circumstances.
Mid- to Long-Term Response
Estimate market recovery as best as you can to ensure sufficient marketing investment and inventory distribution. Thoughtful planning includes evaluating your supply chain impact and inventory availability long term, reforecasting your annual budget, shifting product road maps, and adjusting marketing calendars, including content and events. Additionally, take steps to develop contingency plans for potential future crises.
Brand loyalty tends to decrease during times of economic uncertainty. According to a study by Catalina, only four out of 10 brands held onto at least half of their highly loyal customers during the 2008 recession. As a result, managing expectations regarding in-stock products is essential. Consumers are likely to shop with multiple retailers if they find an item they desire is out of stock.
Overall, people are looking to brands they trust to instill feelings of safety and stability. Brands must ensure they're being transparent and trustworthy with their customers, as well as acting ethically during times of crisis.
Updating Ads Across Channels
As retailers develop their response plans, they'll want to take a different strategy for each paid channel. Remember, campaigns with any COVID-related messaging won't be approved to run. Channel recommendations include:
Paid Search and Google Shopping
- Monitor traffic for changes in demand for specific products, updating inventory accordingly.
- Shift budgets to affected products, evaluating mobile performance as you do.
- Create negative keywords for low and out-of-stock items.
Paid Social and Display Advertising
- Leverage videos across social channels as consumers begin to consume more video.
- Host livestream events to stay in touch with shoppers.
- Test new upper funnel efforts to meet consumers where they're spending time, such as on Pinterest and YouTube.
- Consider shifting Amazon.com search budgets to other channels if you're experiencing inventory challenges.
- Be prepared for shipping delays; one-day and Prime shipping is delayed at the moment.
- Adjust campaigns based on nonessential item restrictions.
Continue to Act Empathetically
Addressing the coronavirus crisis from a place of empathy and understanding is vital, now more than ever. As you take steps to create response plans, communicate with customers, and update your digital campaigns, know that you can find success by easing customer transitions and continuing to provide value.
Laura Russell is the director of strategy at Adlucent, a performance advertising and analytics agency for large brands and retailers, where she works closely with clients to tackle their business and marketing challenges, advising on how to best leverage data, audiences, and media tactics to drive measurable results.
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Laura Russell is the Director of Strategy at Adlucent, a performance advertising and analytics agency for large brands and retailers, where she works closely with clients to tackle their business and marketing challenges, advising on how to best leverage data, audiences, and media tactics to drive measurable results. She has over a decade of experience in ad tech, advertising solution development and digital marketing strategy across various industries. She is passionate about creative problem-solving and excels at proactive planning, guiding Adlucent through innovative new solutions and inspiring her team to be “better every day.”