As internet traffic skyrockets globally, we’re going to explore how businesses should be approaching digital marketing and advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether we can really continue with ‘business as usual.’
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on businesses across the world.
It seems that every industry has been impacted. Some have seen a dramatic plummet in revenue, in the case of the travel and hospitality industries, and others have experienced an unexpected boom, as we’ve seen with streaming services, home fitness, and e-commerce. Indeed, this boom within digitally-based industries goes hand-in-hand with reports that internet traffic has spiked by 20% across the US and Europe.
But regardless of which industry you’re operating within, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised some important questions for all of us, particularly for marketers and advertisers. What do audiences value right now? Is it right to push the ‘business as usual’ agenda when so many are suffering thanks to the pandemic? Should we even be advertising during these unprecedented times?
It isn’t an inherently bad thing that businesses are forced to become more in tune with their audiences. However, being overly cautious could mean losing out on crucial opportunities. The truth is that there’s a delicate balance to strike: You want to be highly sensitive to what’s going on in the world, as well as give your business the best possible chance to survive, and thrive, during these volatile and uncertain times – Particularly as there are now more opportunities online than ever before.
Digital Marketing: to do or not to do?
All businesses are trying to survive. For this reason, difficult decisions will have to be made and the marketing and advertising budget is often one of the first to be cut. But is this a wise move?
For businesses that are physically unable to operate during the pandemic, investing in marketing right now probably makes little sense. However, for those businesses that need to drive engagement and, crucially, sales, then it’s a no-brainer.
So, why exactly should you be maintaining, or even seeking to increase, your marketing and advertising budget right now?
According to Michael Bush, commercial director of digital marketing agency Climb Online, there are a few reasons:
1. Marketing is the bread and butter of your business’ stability
You don’t want to wait until you’ve slashed your budget to realize that your marketing activity was the glue holding the business together. Without new leads and, crucially, sales, will you be able to survive?
“Sales and marketing don’t just drive business growth, they drive business stability,” says Bush. “No marketing spend means no resulting sales, forcing your business to inevitably grind to a halt.”
2. Your competitors are holding off
Another crucial point to make is that, by maintaining your digital marketing activity, you’re likely to stay one step ahead in a tough marketplace.
“So many of your industry competitors will be withdrawing their marketing spend due to fear, providing you with the opportunity to scale and maximize market share as we come out the other side, whether in three, six, or 12 months’ time,” he says.
“Now is the opportunity to continue to push as when the economy recovers, you’re far more likely to come out on top.”
3. More people are online
As we already mentioned, internet traffic has surged. This means that more people are trawling social media, more people are likely to view your content and more people are engaging with it.
“This means that if there has ever been a good time to have a strong digital presence, it’s now,” says Bush.
Internet traffic: How to make the most of it
So, you've been convinced. You're ready to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. But how do you go about it?
It goes without saying that good marketing is born from good strategy. But you’re going to need to immediately revaluate your current strategy to take into account the unpredictable nature of today’s business landscape.
Rethink the channels that you’ve been using. Are you seeing the results you want? Is it time to pivot or try something different?
Also, now’s the time to make your budget work harder. Are you seeing strong ROI from your paid advertising, for example? If not, take initiative and change where you invest in digital ads. Platforms such as premium newspapers and websites are still pulling in high online traffic “which opens up great opportunities for brands,” according to Integral Ad Science managing director, Paul Nasse.
What’s more, if you’re a company that operates globally, you could also be wasting money on digital advertising that’s untargeted, irrelevant and simply doesn’t resonate with your target market. Now’s the time to make the most of every word of your content, and every penny of your budget. For maximum impact, it’s essential to ensure that your multilingual marketing is fully localized and optimized for SEO.
Striking the right note
Here's another important point to consider. Should you choose to continue or increase digital marketing efforts during the pandemic, it’s crucial that you strike the right note.
More than ever, marketers are worried about brand image.
According to Daisy Atkinson, content strategist at Croud, “while people expect to see brands advertise themselves, there are a few things to remember about the modern consumer… They don’t like companies (Pepsi being a prime example) that cynically capitalize on issues affecting the global community, by hijacking the conversation.”
So, what’s her advice? “If the cost-benefit ratio adds up, brands can market themselves successfully in the eyes of the consumer, even in crisis, as long as:
- It’s considered
- The product or message is beneficial at this time.
- You play fair.”
So there you go. The internet traffic surge can bring plenty of much-needed opportunities for businesses during this pandemic, as long as you're smart and sensitive about how you go about it.