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COVID-19 has affected many industries around the world - including the digital marketing industry. This guestpost from Acodez sheds light on its impact.
COVID-19 has brought economic activity around the world, and unfortunately, it is still spreading. Currently, around 15,000 new cases are reported daily from around the world and the total number of positive cases have reached nearly 3 million. We don’t know when it will all end, but one thing we do know is that all kinds of businesses are reeling under its impact. The digital marketing industry is not exempted.
For some businesses in the industry, COVID-19 has brought some sort of Pyrrhic victory where business is booming, but no one can really celebrate because of the underlying circumstances. For others, it has been a nightmare that many will not recover from, even with the slew of promised government palliatives on offer around the world. This article takes a closer look at what is happening in the digital marketing industry in these trying times, where the conventional ecommerce marketing strategies aren’t going to work out.
More “Essential” App Downloads
Digital marketers working with brands that are providing services that fall under the essentials category are not working too hard to attract the target audience. Services like Zoom and House Party have seen a massive increase in their user base as more people look for ways to stay in touch with family and friends—as well as hold business meetings.
Ecommerce businesses have also seen a surge in app downloads as more people are resorting to online shopping out of necessity. Instacart, Walmart and Shipt have all seen surges of 218%, 160%, and 124% respectively since February.
Since people are working remotely and staying indoors from voluntary and enforced lockdowns, the length of time they spend online is increasing. Digital marketers working with brands that are providing services that are essential in these times are creating more content to cater to the growing audience base.
Greater Demand for Digital-Content
Since people are spending more time online while indoors, digital marketers are under more pressure than ever to create quality content. Businesses need a lot of high-quality content to stay relevant during this period. People are bored at home (just take a look at the numerous “challenges” going on all over social media!), so any quality content will most likely draw attention.
Unfortunately, digital marketers also can’t afford to publish sparingly at this time. You need a high volume of quality content to stay competitive in these times. Don’t get pushed way down in the visibility scales. For example, across all generations, everyone is checking social media a lot more. Any business that doesn’t publish content that will appear on many social feeds at least twice a day is missing a unique opportunity.
More COVID-19 related Content
According to recent reports, 40% of people are checking the news more frequently for any updates regarding the virus. This means digital marketers are focusing on creating content around the coronavirus as people want to read and stay updated.
As a digital marketer, you don’t need to go out of your way to create COVID-19 content if it isn’t relevant to your client’s brand. Just focus on content that educates the audience, or at least communicates how much you value your audience in these times. Publishing poor-quality or click-bait content should be frowned up heavily in these times.
Business is slowing in Various Sectors
If you run a digital marketing agency or work in one, you’ll notice a significant drop in projects or collaborations from certain sectors or niches. This is as a result of the effects of the virus on the global economy.
Many businesses have closed, and more will follow soon. In the US, for example, estimates suggest that the economy lost 100,000 jobs in March. The story isn’t too different in China and elsewhere around the world. As more businesses are closing shop or “hibernating”, it is only natural that digital marketers will feel the pinch as well.
The situation may persist for a while as it could take up to a year for the global economy to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Reduction in Organic Traffic and Conversions
Although more people are spending time online, businesses in many niches are reporting lower organic traffic. People are only visiting websites that really matter to them at this point. The worst-hit brands are businesses in the travel niche while those in the news and financial services sectors are reporting higher traffic numbers. Ecommerce is largely neutral as the traffic going to sites that sell groceries balances out the lost traffic reported on electronics or luxury goods eCommerce stores.
The traffic situation has also made conversions more difficult except for the aforementioned types of eCommerce companies and those in the news niche.
For digital marketers, the situation is challenging. Unless you are operating in circles that are super relevant in these times, your traffic and conversion figures will most likely remain low until the world starts to recover again
So What Should You Do As a Digital Marketer Adversely Affected by COVID-19?
Some of the things you can do as a digital marketer in these times include the following:
Realign your Digital Marketing Strategy
If your brand is one of those affected by lower traffic or lower conversions, it is not the time to quit your digital marketing strategies completely. If they were working before now, they will most likely continue to work when normalcy returns. But, during these testing times, it’s really important to optimize your budget and to get the maximum out of it. Below are some key points:
Assign budget to campaigns that are working and reduce on others
Search demand has gone down drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is mainly because people are only looking for products or services related to ‘essential needs’, even though they are staying back at home. And it’s better to reduce your search ad budgets for the time being, if your business doesn’t pertain to this category. If you still have campaigns that you deem relevant, consider extending it to social media, as there are more people using the various platforms now, than ever. Take out social media ads and push as much content as possible across the various platforms. Increasing the volume of your social media posts by 30% is a great way to adjust to the higher social media consumption we are seeing today.
Pause Campaigns that are not necessary and save some budget
Your customers are not in the best frame of mind to read your newsletter about a new product or service unless it is super essential today. People are saving whatever they can to navigate through this period.
Also, with the drop in organic traffic results, many digital marketing campaigns will not yield the expected ROI right now. This is why you should re-evaluate your campaigns and hold those that are not super necessary for the current climate. Save the investments for the future.
Continue campaigns which can’t be stopped
Even though the search demand is low, there are some areas where you can’t reduce the spend, like SEO and Content Marketing. These are the areas where you shouldn’t change anything, as they can impact your organic rankings significantly. A classic example for this is the content marketing efforts by some brands in the hospitality industry. Great content will continue to attract traffic today and long after the world has put COVID-19 behind it, so it’s worth the investment.
Seek new opportunities in the essential industries
If you run a freelance digital marketing agency, and you are dealing with low patronage, consider reaching out to the various brands that are seeing a spike in their user base at this moment. Such businesses may be overwhelmed with the rising demand and may be open to working with more digital marketers to optimize the current situation.
For example, more eCommerce stores and social distancing-related apps may need more social and onsite content to keep their new customers educated, entertained, etc. They may also need help with running email marketing campaigns to drive more conversions.
Look for new partnerships with brands that have lost their digital marketing staff
Some businesses may have lost contact with their former digital marketing partners or are looking for a brand that will accept a new agreement. There are obvious reasons for companies to switch from top tier agencies to mid-sized agencies, due to their sudden budget crunch. Get in touch with as many of them as possible. Discuss further with those that are a good fit, and you may find your clientele growing again.
However, it is important to insulate yourself properly in all-new arrangements. It’s a fact that the world has changed and we have to accept the ‘new normal’. But you also need to ensure that you are not getting into any unrealistic contracts with clients just because of the ‘fear of missing out’ on the opportunities. Be realistic with your negotiations and ensure you are not going into a losing partnership. Below are some of the points you should consider:
Ask: Will your prospective client be able to honor your new contract?
The worst thing that can happen to you in this situation is to have a client that doesn’t pay the bills promptly. The best and easiest way to ensure this is by persuading the client to honor the full payment in advance. In case you are not able to convince the client for a 100% advance payment and have to stick with a milestone based payments, it’s better to do some background checks (from peers and other customers) about their payment history as well as their business health after the COVID-19 pandemic, before you sign a contract. In any case, it’s not ideal to go for a contract with milestone payments after certain months.
Ask: Do you have what it takes to deliver on the client’s needs?
Again, due to the ‘fear of regret’ in missing a business opportunity in these tough times, you may be compelled to sign projects with unrealistic targets that are hard to achieve from an execution point. First and foremost, if you don’t have the skill set to execute a particular project, it’s better to not take up that than losing the client forever. Also, when you are proposing the ROI calculations, always set the expectations right with reasonable numbers. You have to bear in mind that even though both Google Ads and Facebook Ads show a decrease in the CPC currently, this shouldn’t be the underlying factor while calculating the ROI projections. Always set targets that are achievable. Remember, to under commit and to over deliver is always the best way for a long-run business relationship.
Consider Taking on New Investments
Actually now is a good time to double down on your digital investments, if you have a budget. Are you considering buying an advertised digital product? Do you have the resources to take over a company that is willing to sell? Purchasing that website or app could yield great returns in the future. The downturn due to COVID-19 will also result in the downfall of many big and small businesses, which would in turn become an ideal opportunity for companies poised to make new investments. This can also be considered as an ideal time for IT companies who wish to switch to a product line of business from a service based business model.
Don’t fall prey to those who are engaged in predatory pricing
There are many individuals and companies who are engaged in predatory pricing where they buy up essential supplies like hand sanitizers, protective gear, food, and medicines, from local stores or larger retail chains—and reselling them with insane mark-ups online. They are very unethical and will approach digital marketers to capitalize on the opportunity. Staying away from those is also a social responsibility of digital marketers in these tough times.. Regardless of how the pandemic has hurt your bottom line, do ensure that you don’t fall prey to those who engage in practices that are purely evil.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t spared the digital marketing industry. Every stakeholder in the industry has to find new ways to adjust to the situation while hoping and praying for normalcy to return soon. Seeking help where necessary to cope with rising user demands, finding new partnerships, and investing in new digital businesses are some sure ways to stay afloat in this period and beyond.
Also, as you adapt to the pandemic with a modified digital strategy, pay attention to what your audience likes. It is possible that new tastes or habits acquired during this period will become the norm in the future.
Most importantly, contribute your quota towards limiting the spread of the virus by taking all the necessary precautions, listening to expert advice, and educating your immediate circle to ensure they are doing the same. However, you can reduce your budget on some non-essential elements, like search ads, and continue your process.
Rithesh Raghavan is the Director at Acodez, a multiple award winning Digital Agency based in India. Having a rich experience of 15+ years in the IT industry, Rithesh loves to write up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and Digital Marketing.