(Data-backed) Marketing Best Practices during COVID-19

COVID-19 marks a new normal for businesses. Since the lockdown, more people are working from home, spending less time outside and staying away from crowded places. What does this mean for marketers when the very nature of our job requires reaching out to people? 

We trawled the web and put together some data-backed tips for you. Because numbers don’t lie.  

  1. Kindness rules

There is so much fear, uncertainty and distrust at the moment. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that the world’s biggest economies will take years to recover after this wake with International Labour Organisation reporting loss of almost 25 million jobs worldwide.

But during this period of uncertainty, share positive and uplifting messages that resonate best with your target audience. Humans are aspirational creatures and a combination of “good wordsmithing, motivational psychology and a measure of self-selection” can ensure that your message gets through to people who may be distracted by daily infection cases and figuring out their own work-life balance. 

This is the time to bring out the human face to your brand by highlighting the workers and people on the front line who are still trying to keep going during tough times. 

Walmart shared a touching interaction between a reporter and a Walmart truck driver in a local branch recently. 

Lyft joined other ride-hailing providing medical supplies and meals to home-bound senior citizens and college students. They encouraged their riders to pen thank-you notes to their Lyft drivers who continue to provide rides for essential needs during this virus outbreak.

At the same time, we need to be honest about we can do by setting realistic expectations. For example, if you are in the hospitality industry how are you responding to travel and event cancellations? Your stakeholders will remember how you made them feel during this time of need so respond carefully and with sensitivity. 

And your stakeholders may not just be the customers. AirBnB responded to the coronavirus pandemic situation with a cancellation policy allowing customers to cancel their reservations without any charges. However, this was not well received by its hosts  because the cost would come out of the hosts’ pocket instead of the company itself. AirBnB responded with a policy change, giving hosts 25% of what they would receive. 

2. Listen and adapt 

We are seeing that more people are turning to their phones to pass the time. There has been a massive surge in app installations around health and fitness, food delivery, gaming and shopping. 

Online shopping has surged 108% year-on-year in February 2020 and e-retailers are seeing sales growth similar to holiday shopping periods. This e-commerce shakedown is affecting Tier 2 and Tier 3 retailers who may not have a robust supply chain network to support their online sales, if they’re online at all. 

Now is also a time to focus on your customer service. Are you defining new rules of engagement in this period of lockdowns and social distancing? Are your FAQs updated for COVID-specific situations? 

Chatbots are increasingly popular because they ensure some response even during times when staffing is lean. The global Chatbot market valued at USD 1.17 billion in 2018, is expected to witness a reach USD10.08 billion in 2026.

Walgreens provides free delivery for eligible prescriptions in addition to a drive-thru service and enables customers to connect 24/7 through the Walgreens Pharmacy Chat and its mobile app. Walgreens Find Care connects customers to local healthcare providers while telehealth options offers additional support. 

Make sure that your customers know that you care about them and make it easy for them to reach you.  

3. Go digital (already!)

People are spending more time indoors and are likely to have more time on their hands. Brands in Europe are seeing more interactions every day with a peak time of 8pm. If you do not have a digital strategy, this is the best time to build one. 

The pandemic can’t kill the spirit of community. Human beings are wired to connect. Being connected is not just about extracting money or resources. In fact, we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. 

Although most trade shows have been cancelled, consider moving your event online on a streaming platform. Consider streaming on IG live, Zoom and LinkedIn Live to replace your live events and making them available on-demand in your microsite or web site after. 

Research by Socialbaker also found that brands are spending less on paid content by putting organic content to win audiences during this period. Ad spend has gone down as Internet giants, Facebook and Google see more than $44 billion in ad revenue losses.

In our content work with clients, we found that content related to COVID-19 gets double the engagement rate than normal posts as people are on the lookout for resources to help them weather this period. Share your knowledge online like the Smithsonian has done – ensuring that they’re still top of mind even as foot traffic goes to zero.  

4. Lend a hand

Our final point – and we’ll put aside the data on this one. Ask how you can lend a hand during these times, whether it’s donating time, money or resources. 

The fashion industry has stepped up in offering COVID-19 relief. Dior has reopened its factories (or ateliers in fashion-speak) to mass produce new masks on a volunteer basis.

Bulgari has championed against the coronavirus by contributing the research department at the Istituto Lazzaro Spallanzani, in working to purchase state-of-the-art 3D microscope for better virus diagnosis. 

We can debate on whether it is opportunistic, or compassion done right. But at the end of the day, difficult times can bring out the best in humanity and we all have a part to play in this fight against the pandemic, whether it is calling an elderly neighbour if they need help with their groceries or sewing masks in your spare time. 

We’ll have to adapt fast to survive. Even if a cure or vaccine for the virus is found, we will all need to review our previous way of operating and adapt to the new normal. 

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