Friday, 8 May 2020

The case of Digital Marketing during COVID-19

‘It feels like the end of the world!’
‘What should we do now?’

No doubt these questions crept into our minds at one point in time since the beginning of this year. The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and the entire economy is floating (or sinking) into uncharted territories as lock-downs are being extended and social distancing has slowly become the strict rule for safety and rightly so. Daily reports of infected cases and deaths fluctuate and information is inconsistent and irregular but one common thread is that the momentum of rise in the number of infected cases has not slowed.

As of 5th May, China has recorded the maximum deaths of 4643 , followed closely by India at 1568 , Indonesia, Philippines and Japan among the other APAC countries according to a survey done by Statista.  And this means that the lock-down could very well continue, affecting people and businesses. No doubt, businesses have had to rethink how they can continue to engage with their customers and employees considering that their operations have been severely affected by the pandemic.

The case for digital marketing
Since the lock-down there has been a spur in the internet usage across the world owing to video streaming, popular downloads, and e-commerce shopping. More people have also started using internet for on-line learning, video conferences too . In the long term, the number of mobile users worldwide is expected to grow beyond 500 million by 2023. 

Both short term and long term trends show that the reach of digital marketing cannot be ignored by businesses, irrespective of their size or nature of operations. We can see existing and new internet companies advertising through various social media platforms and utilizing SEO. The key aspect is that, the more consumers are engaged with their content like streaming videos or playing mobile games, consumers are more likely to view and recall ads that they have seen. During this time, marketers are more likely to grab the attention as the demographics and base of users expand, especially since online content is conveniently on-demand.

Technological developments such as deep learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have made it possible for marketers to re-target specific ads and content to customers who repeatedly search, read reviews about and shop online for similar products and services. Yes, that part of the internet where you get that creepy feeling when you see ads for shoes when you searched for a pair of the trendiest platforms very recently!

But what can businesses convey when they cannot hold sale promotions and deliver through traditional retail outlets or through online delivery?

Conversion rates are bound to be poor as most businesses have had to shut down physical retail outlets and e-commerce platforms have had to halt their customer delivery services. But rather than being dissuaded, this is the time that companies can explore online marketing if they are new to the medium or have not utilized it fully. Online ad rates in recent times have fallen as some companies have cut their advertising budgets and smaller and/or new companies can test SEO optimization and social media platforms.

Using online ads, companies can direct to content on their sites, sharing stories. Stories of how companies are adapting their operations and strategy during the lock-down. Stories of solidarity with their consumers and suppliers during these times of hardship and isolation. Stories of how they are taking preventive measures to improve and safeguard the lives of their employees or people who are still working to provide essential services. Through such stories supported by robust content marketing, companies show more of their humane side and build brand recall, resonating with customers and their situations. Results of a survey of 1000 consumers led by a team at Conductor revealed that consumers are more 131% more likely to buy from the brand and 48% more likely to buy after a week. The more consumers interact with content, the affinity towards the brand increases over time.

If such digital marketing initiatives are implemented during Covid-19, companies will be able to capitalize on their efforts after the lock-down is eased and operations are resumed. Companies not only gain experience from exploring digital marketing now, they can also sharpen market-segmenting and targeting by demographics and consumer behavior. One thing for certain is that the Covid-19 lock down has led to an immutable paradigm shift in the way people seek entertainment and the way marketing engages with consumers, from traditional to online. To quote John D. Rockefeller, I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.