The economic impact of COVID-19 is worldwide. And online marketing must adapt to the changing market.
If you don’t believe me, consider the following statistics cited by Forbes:
- 36% of consumers shop online every week.
- 49% of consumers shop online more than they did before the pandemic.
- 62& of U.S. shoppers say they shop online more now than they did before COVID-19.
The world has become less dependent on brick and mortar businesses and more reliant on those with a digital presence. So having an online presence pays off more than it ever has.
Consumers are also becoming more tech-savvy. The trick is to adapt to new consumer trends as they develop. Tracing public interest is key.
With so many sectors of the economy hit hard by the pandemic, digital marketing is actually growing.
But that does not mean you can stick to old marketing strategies. COVID-19 demands a new approach. Here are the best online marketing moves to make right now:
1. Respond with Empathy
Everyone is going through a hard time right now. The first thing you can do as a business is show empathy for those less fortunate. Give back to your customers and the community as a whole. Not acknowledging the struggle of others paints you as oblivious at best and insensitive at worst. So try to help others out as much as you can. Offer a free webinar. Give away an ebook. There are many ways to lend a helping hand.
Of course, don’t undervalue your product or services. But help where you can. Besides, you often get more exposure and traffic as a side benefit. People notice a kind gesture and news travels. That online course you used to charge money for suddenly has many times its usual participants.
Or consider offering payment plans to help offset falling conversion rates. In these uncertain times, many are cautious about large cash payments. Mitigate the risk for customers by allowing them to pay for your product over time.
Whatever you do, don’t exploit the situation to make a quick buck. Not only is it unethical but it is not good for you in the long run. To make real progress in these trying times, we all need to work together.
2. Stay Positive
Along with showing empathy, you need to make sure your online marketing campaign stays positive. Now is the time to instill optimism and encourage smart spending.
Yes, COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, but that is no reason to despair on business ventures. You and your customers need to move forward confidently. Spread a message of hope and you will find your marketing conversions going up, not down.
3. Explore Experiential Marketing
Experiential marketing means allowing leads to experience or test your product before buying. AR, VR, and gamification are revolutionizing experiential marketing possibilities. Consider the following examples of each:
In 2017, Adidas partnered with tech marketing agency Somewhere Else to advertise their TERREX shoe line. The marketing experience allowed people to climb the Delicatessen mountain with two professional climbers in VR and a 360-degree view. The unique experience marketed the shoe in a way far superior than displaying a photo in a catalogue.
The IKEA Place app uses AR by allowing users to point their smartphone camera at spaces in their home and superimpose digital images of furniture to see how it looks and fits. Especially when it is difficult to shop in person, this can be an invaluable marketing tool. People can confidently shop from home and avoid going outside by having furniture delivered directly to their house.
M&M launched an Eye-Spy Pretzel game in 2010 to promote their new pretzel-flavored M&M. The simple game involved finding a tiny “pretzel guy” in a sea of candies. Published on M&M’s Facebook page, the game quickly went viral, amassing huge gains, which included 25,000 new Facebook page likes, 6,000 shares, and 10,000 comments. Here, marketing gamification helped M&M reach far more customers than they would have otherwise.
Now more than ever, customers are trying to stay indoors. With limited access to them, you must pivot your marketing approach, and implementing experiential marketing is a nice way to do it.
4. Improve AI-driven Personalization
Customers like personalized products. 88% of consumers say that personalized content makes them like a brand more. And 78% say they are more likely to make a purchase when the content experience is personalized.
Identifying customer preferences amid COVID-19 can be difficult. But with the help of AI, you can scale your personalization strategies. Instead of spending countless hours crunching user data, let machine learning determine user preferences for you. AI uses learning algorithms that detect user behavior in real-time to adapt your marketing strategy accordingly. This way, every customer gets an individualized experience.
Here are some ways you can use AI to personalize your marketing:
- Send personalized messages over email or push notifications. This way, you can segment your communications based on user needs. Instead of sending the same marketing email out to all of your clients, why not have AI personalize the message based on users’ activity? For example, AI can determine when a particular user usually purchases products from your website and send them a reminder at the appropriate time.
- Get consumer feedback. You don’t need to wait for AI to track consumer behavior. Simply have AI collect data from users directly via chatbots and surveys. Most consumers don’t mind giving away information if they know how it will be used.
- Give product recommendations. Product recommendations are a massive way to do AI marketing. Take Netflix as an example. They curate movie suggestions for their viewers via machine learning. Viewers have a constant feed of suggested movie titles at their fingertips. Through complex algorithms like collaborative filtering, AI can accurately predict user taste. And this is indispensable when it comes to personalized marketing.
- Use AI-based image recognition. Image recognition gathers data from images to create predictive models. This can be immensely powerful in online marketing. Large quantities of data will allow you to sort data and find patterns that guide your marketing campaign. Facebook already uses the technology to autotag people in pictures and help visually impaired users. The market for AI-based image recognition is estimated to reach 38 billion USD by 2021.
While there is still a lot of progress to be made in AI-driven personalization, investing in AI will be a huge asset in the long run. Eventually, AI will outperform humans in personalizing customers’ experiences. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend, so now is the time to capitalize on the growing technology.
5. Shift Content to Remain Relevant
With all the travel restrictions and fear of infection, people aren’t looking to book hotel rooms, airplane tickets, or restaurant reservations as much. Appeal to the situation by adapting your content. For example, KFC changed their ads to include scenes of hand washing and social distancing.
Though travel companies have taken a hit, they have adapted to the situation by increasing their content output with travel blogs and photos to at least boost their brand awareness.
Highlight how your product solves a problem. If you run a restaurant, you might advertise your delivery service. This way, people will feel more comfortable ordering food while social distancing.
Overall, your content needs to cater to the times. If it does not, your business risks sinking into irrelevance.
6. Optimize Your Business for Organic Traffic
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is becoming more important than ever. With so many businesses forced to move online, competition to be seen online has increased. So make sure you learn SEO strategies. After all, there are over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithms.
In particular, make sure you diversify the regions you get traffic from. Unless your business is exclusively local, try to implement international SEO, so that you are not dependent on your country or region’s economy. For example, if your local economy has strict lockdown regulations, you could benefit from marketing your product to other regions around the globe.
Create a Google My Business account to appear as a business in Google Search and Maps. This way, your business will not only be visible in the search results as a URL but as an official business, too.
7. Invest in Paid Searches
COVID-19 has had a two-fold effect on advertising. On the one hand, it has boosted web traffic and hence advertisers’ exposure to consumers. Many people are forced to stay at home and shop online. On the other hand, there are fewer advertisers because many businesses hit hard by the virus have scaled back their marketing budget.
With fewer ads on leading marketing channels like Google Ads, Twitter Ads, and Facebook Ads, and more people browsing the web, your ROI for PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is far better than it was before COVID-19.
PPC is an online advertising model in which you only pay publishers when users click on your ad. Use PPC to drive traffic to your website and get the most bang for your buck.
8. Capitalize on Web Traffic with Affiliate Marketing
Even if sales from your product or service are down, you can still capitalize on the web traffic you generate via affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing allows you to earn commissions from other businesses by linking to their product. Every time your users follow an affiliate link to buy a third-party product, you get paid.
9. Sell Through Third-Party Retailers
E-commerce has exploded during COVID-19. People are buying everything from garden supplies to groceries online.
Expand your online sales with the help of third-party retailers. They allow you to spread your product to a wider audience. The top three third-party retailers are Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. For a commission, you can significantly grow your customer base.
Third-Party Retailers can be a game changer for your business if you let them.
10. Leverage Social Media
Again, people are on the internet more than ever before. And that includes social media apps. Leverage this trend by driving more traffic to your website from social media platforms.
SMO (social media optimization) will help you reach more consumers by enhancing your company’s presence on social media, e.g. on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
Driving social traffic is important because Google algorithms rank your content by how shareable it is. So if your content can be easily shared across multiple social media platforms, Google will rank it higher, which helps both SMO and SEO.
Pursue a viral marketing campaign with the sharing tools available on social media platforms. If users share your content to their friends and connections on their own initiative, you will attract even more organic traffic.
11. Invest in Video Marketing
Making brand videos does not have to be expensive. These days, you can create a high-quality video from your smartphone. Just be sure to keep it authentic, informative, and helpful. You can create tutorials, courses, or even just entertainment videos.
Videos will help your online presence grow. And if you upload them to YouTube, they will be twice as searchable since Google owns YouTube and its search engine is integrated across both platforms.
Finally, make sure your videos are mobile friendly because more people watch videos from their phones than any other device.
12. Offer Webinars or Webcasts
With most physical gatherings off limits, webinars and webcasts can be an effective way to attract new customers. You can use them to engage with your audience and generate new leads and sales.
Webinar is short for “web seminar.” It is a live online meeting in which participants can ask questions and get feedback.
A webcast is a broadcasted meeting in which presenters share information with a large audience. The communication is one-way, so participants only listen, but the meeting is often recorded for future reference.
To organize a webinar or webcast, make sure you always do a test-run, promote the event across social media, and plan the content and schedule well beforehand.
Webinars and webcasts are an inexpensive solution to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.
Take advantage of all the digital marketing channels available to you. We have discussed several above, but you can explore others like email marketing and influencer marketing as well.
With all of these different online marketing channels in mind, you are well on your way to braving the COVID-19 economy. Let the pandemic be a boost instead of a blow to your business.
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