Adapt Your Marketing & Communication to COVID-19
While the impact of the coronavirus continues to rapidly evolve, our unwavering commitment to partnering with your business remains the same. The excelerate team is nimble, and our experts have been helping clients daily to adjust their marketing strategies and fine-tune messaging to align with customers' needs while sheltering in place.
As cities and states across the country begin lifting stay-at-home restrictions, it's important to update your marketing and communicate with customers as the situation changes in your community. You can count on our full support to swiftly modify your digital marketing to effectively connect with your audience as we all navigate the pandemic together.
Amidst the ongoing uncertainty, here's what we know: Every action your brand makes can set the tone for how your company is perceived during this crisis and once it's over. This is where there's a glimmer of a silver lining. The right marketing decisions can be an opportunity to gain market share, increase brand loyalty and build trust. Going dark with your digital marketing will make it much harder to regain what you'd lose.
Please use the resources below to guide your marketing efforts in the face of COVID-19. This information will continue to be updated, so be sure to check back frequently.
The coronavirus has spurred record-breaking media consumption by a bigger-than-ever audience. That means it's more important than ever to fine-tune your communication efforts as the affects of the pandemic unfold.
Shifting your marketing strategy to reflect the changing needs and concerns of your audience will be best received when messaging comes from a place of empathy, rather than attempts to capitalize on the pandemic. Not only is it essential to communicate the right messages during this unusual time, using multiple channels is also key to ensuring effective reach.
Pivot Your Marketing Messages During COVID-19
- Evaluate your current and future marketing content to make sure it's relevant to your audience and the challenges they're facing during this unique time.
- Identify the specific challenges your business is facing and communicate how you're overcoming those hurdles to maintain quality service to your customers.
- As the situation evolves, so should your messaging. Keeping customers updated using multiple channels makes your brand memorable. However, there's a fine line between useful updates and over-communicating unnecessary details that have no relevance to your audience.
- Pay close attention to what customers say on social media and respond with empathy. Quick responses on social channels can speak volumes about how much a company values its customers.
- Sales, promotions and free shipping or delivery are great ways to display empathy about the economic uncertainty your customers are facing. While people aren't making frivolous purchases, they are patronizing businesses they want to see succeed, and special offers can go a long way to encourage patronage of your business.
- Showcase how your company is serving your community during this difficult time.
- Promote non-profit organizations needing assistance during the pandemic. For example: Encourage your social media followers to donate blood, give to food banks, adopt a pet from a shelter.
- Always be transparent, truthful, tactful and timely.
- Throughout all your messaging, be sure to remain true to your brand ethos.
To better understand the effects of COVID-19, the excelerate team took a deep dive into researching how consumer behavior has shifted and what new shopping habits we can expect to emerge as the pandemic evolves. This information can be useful to help your brand adapt.
- Consumers are starting to pay more attention to marketing messages, including email, SMS, social ads and more (35.65%). They're also browsing online more (32.05%) and buying online more (25.35%).
- If the disruption continues, nearly half (43.20%) of consumers plan to do more of their shopping online.
- Consumers are looking to spend less (56.75%) rather than spend more (23.65%) during this time, or they're aiming to maintain their typical spend (22.80%). Almost a third (31.7%) are shifting to buying online more than in physical stores.
- Among product categories, food (78.8%) is the main priority on shopping lists: specifically non-perishable foods like canned goods (46.05%). As consumers spend more time inside, they also plan to cook more often (50.95%).
- Health & wellness products are also top-of-mind (42.50%), with consumers reporting buying more personal sanitizers (40.15%), medical care items like thermometers (22.75%), and wellness items like vitamins, CBD and superfoods (21.60%).
- Consumers are also buying more household cleaning supplies (34.95%) and toilet paper (30.85%). Purchasing water, camping gear, frozen food, beer and liquor are also priorities.
The excelerate research team has uncovered a number of key findings within the medical industry, which indicate telehealth is not only here to stay, we can expect the industry to grow as a result of COVID-19. Here's what our team discovered:
- Medical providers and experts expect the healthcare landscape to permanently change post-COVID-19 with telehealth as a critical component. In fact, telehealth will likely become the most accepted and used method of diagnosis and prescription in the next few years.
- 53% of healthcare practitioners now use telemedicine because of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, but did not use telemedicine prior to the pandemic. In 2019, only 28% of doctors reported using telemedicine.
- As patients become more comfortable with telehealth now, they will continue using the technology once the coronavirus subsides, offering telehealth providers long-term growth opportunities.
- 74% of people who used a virtual healthcare service were satisfied with their experience.
- Nearly 50% of patients prefer immediate, virtual appointments over in-person visits.
- Loosening of some government restrictions - if kept in place - may have longer term impacts on telemedicine adoption.
- Medicare expanded coverage for telemedicine nationwide to help seniors with health problems stay home to avoid the coronavirus. If this expanded coverage becomes permanent, telemedicine will become more widely available to seniors.
- "Now that patients and healthcare providers alike are experiencing telehealth, there will be no turning back," said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) in an interview with ABC News.*
Sources: eMarketer, ApNews.com, Global Market Insights, Imaginovation.net.
There's no argument, law firms and other legal service providers have certainly been impacted by the coronavirus. After delving into legal industry trends amid the outbreak, the excelerate research team has revealed evidence that the legal industry is in the midst of a transformation. These insights can be useful to firms looking to expand their services or evolve beyond their traditional way of conducting business.
- With consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with remote working and distance learning, they are also becoming accustomed to seeking counsel virtually during COVID-19. This is expected to reshape the legal industry landscape and fuel its digital transformation.
- There has been a significant increase of people rushing to prepare their wills and other estate planning documents since the coronavirus was named a pandemic. This is expected to speed up states' adoption of the Electronic Wills Act, deeming electronic wills legal, as well as e-signing for wills and notary-signed documents via video.
- Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSP's) have been gaining popularity in recent years. They offer lower cost legal with more flexibility and greater speed than traditional law firms. Their growth is likely to be propelled as corporations and law firms seek to improve efficiencies and their bottom lines during and after the pandemic.
- While the pandemic will slow things down for litigators, a downturn in the economy historically results in an uptick in legal disputes. Increased demand is predicted in bankruptcy, corporate law,cybersecurity, labor/employment law, contract law and general practice.
- Divorces are likely to be on an uptick, as families with pre-existing tensions are further stressed with being confined together 24/7 and homeschooling children.
- For those financially impacted,the inability or failure to pay child or spousal support could result in legal action.
- Domestic violence is seeing rises as aggressors and victims are more isolated and may be under financial strain.
Sources: Forbes, Thomson Reuters, ABA Journal, CNBC, Lawyers of Distinction, Justia, Time, MarketWatch
While most home service providers have remained open and are considered "essential businesses" during this time, they've had to adapt to the "new normal" by practicing social distancing and offering contactless services. The research team at excelerate dug into consumer and industry trends to help home service providers mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus on their businesses. Here's what they uncovered:
- Many home service companies have adopted touchless and cashless invoices and payments to ensure the safety of technicians and customers.
- 21% of U.S. adults say home improvement is one of their main personal priorities over the next month (findings from April, 2020). Of these U.S. adults, it skews slightly towards males and those with higher-incomes.
- Paint and stain purchases could potentially exceed typical Q2 trends. The brands and retailers that will most benefit from this silver-lining opportunity are the ones that differentiate in delivering an exceptional customer experience.
- Consumers are resisting the urge to jump into major home renovation projects.
- Due to customers being confined to their homes, call volume has significantly increased for home service emergencies, while shifting downward for general maintenance appointments.
- Calls and appointments have nearly tripled in the last month for landscapers and experts suggest the industry will continue to boom.
Sources: Global Web Index, National Governors Association, BusinessWire, HouseCall Pro, Field Technologies Online, Lawn and Landscape, Roofing Contractor, Acquisio, Freedonia Group, KPTV.
The coronavirus has certainly disrupted the automotive sector. Here are some highlights of what's been happening and what we can expect as the pandemic loosens its grip.
- Demand for certain types of vehicles is changing, and some segments will suffer. For example, high-end luxury and performance vehicles are discretionary purchases, which do best when the stock market is high and bonuses are paid at big corporations. Full-size pickups and large SUVs are regaining appeal due to a dramatic dip in gas prices.
- One-vehicle households will become more common as some businesses will make teleworking permanent. Couples might sell their second vehicle for cash (perhaps to lower debt).
- Trade-ins will accelerate as dealers will likely offer best-ever incentives for trade-ins and consumers will be looking to replace their vehicle for one that's cheaper to insure or maintain.
- Many auto dealers are offering 0% financing and deferred payments as incentives to help boost sales.
- Several carmakers are offering special incentives to military, first responder and healthcare workers.
- Some dealers are now operating a fully online process utilizing interactive virtual tours, video chat and no-contact vehicle delivery/pick up for test drives and home delivery once the deal has been finalized.
- Some automotive service shops are sending technicians to customers' homes to remotely perform simple services, like oil changes, battery replacements and tire rotations. While performing more extensive maintenance and repairs is more difficult in a customer's driveway, customers consider the convenience and reduced contact with others highly appealing.
- Both dealers and service centers are promoting interior vehicle cleaning and disinfecting as an added benefit for customers.
Sources: CNBC, Kelley Blue Book, CNET Roadshow, TrueCar, Automotive News, Detroit News, U.S. News, JustAuto, COX Automotive.
Being forced to pivot to 100% remote teaching and learning almost overnight, it's clear the coronavirus pandemic has extensively impacted higher education. While the following industry insights may appear ominous, making smart decisions during times of adversity opens the door for new opportunities and drives transformative change.
College and university leaders face a growing sense of urgency to transform current teaching models, making them more innovative, scalable and engaging, while also making them less costly.
- 92% of campus leaders' top short-term concern is the mental health of students. The mental health of faculty was followed next, at 88%. However, less than two out of 10 leaders said their institution has invested in more mental resources in response to COVID-19.
- 76% of higher education leaders are concerned about students' ability to access the online learning tools and platforms necessary to continue their education remotely.
- 75% of college and university presidents are worried about their faculties' preparedness to deliver virtual education. Fewer presidents (56%) expressed concern with their institutions' technological readiness to deliver remote learning.
- Creating a compelling online learning experience will be more important than ever to keep students engaged and prevent them from transferring to another school or dropping out completely.
- Sustaining enrollment numbers will certainly be a challenge, as the allure of the on-campus college experience will disappear if the pandemic reoccurs or escalates. This will likely cause many students to transfer to a less-costly school and/or one that's closer to home.
- Experts expect an increasing number of first-year college students to take a gap year.
- If the virus reoccurs, schools can expect to experience heightened reductions in international-student enrollment, cancellation of study-abroad programs and increased attrition. Schools with limited online-delivery capabilities will be impacted the greatest.
- Family financial challenges are cited as a top reason that many institutions are cancelling planned tuition increases.
Sources: Inside Higher Ed, McKinsey & Company, Huron Consulting Group.
For most, it's no surprise that cannabis and CBD businesses have seen stock-up buying behaviors since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. This surge in sales presents many opportunities for dispensaries to grow and distinguish themselves from their competitors. The excelerate research team has compiled the following market trends to help guide cannabis and CBD companies as they seek to capitalize on the growth in their industry.
- Marijuana dispensaries have seen a spike in business and are expected to continue seeing increased activity throughout the COVID-19 quarantine periods.
- Increased cannabis spending for females was more than double the increase for males. Males, however, make up roughly two thirds of cannabis spending on any given day. Therefore, it could be speculated that females were less likely to have cannabis products on hand and more likely to feel a sense of urgency to stock up.
- Cannabis edibles have seen the highest increase in daily sales across US legal markets. Flower sales have also increased.
- Sales of single pre-rolls, larger than a half gram, decreased once consumers began to worry about transmission of the COVID-19 virus. However, sales of pre-rolls sized for personal consumption were not as impacted.
- Cannabis customers have not returned to their normal buying patterns (as of 4/27/20). Instead of the typical pattern of rising sales throughout the week with a crest on Fridays, shoppers continue shifting their purchases to weekdays, with each week demonstrating a unique pattern that's more closely associated with news patterns about stay-at-home orders.
- Similar to the cannabis industry, consumers are stockpiling CBD. A recent survey of consumers who have used CBD in the past 12 months shows nearly 50% have stocked up or plan to stock up on CBD products.
- Consumers are turning to CBD in the age of COVID-19 for three main reasons: self-care (27%), anxiety/stress (20%) and relaxation (12%).
- 33% of CBD consumers plan to switch to making online purchases, while 31% say they do not plan to switch at all.
- CBD products for pets has seen a sustained upswing in online sales throughout the pandemic.
Sources: Headset.io, Cannabis Business Times, Brightfield Group, PetFoodIndustry.com.
Unprecedented times call for unique solutions. While your business may be facing tough challenges, your excelerate team is here to support you and offer creative opportunities to adapt your business and remain top-of-mind with your audience.
While every business is unique, here are several ideas that may help your business generate revenue and cultivate meaningful connections with your customers during this crisis.
- If your business has been affected by COVID-19, update your Google My Business profile to provide your customers with accurate information when they search for your business. Be sure to use the new COVID-19 update option to share timely details about reduced hours, closures, reopenings, safety compliance practices, restrictions or availability of gift cards to support your business. It's important to keep this information up to date.
- Brick-and-mortar businesses can deploy marketing that shifts the focus to their online presence. Even if you've been forced to close your doors, you can still update your website with useful information explaining the closure and how your company is serving customers in alternate ways.
- Offering online ordering, delivery and curb-side pickup is working well for many retailers and restaurants. If you typically don't offer these services, be sure to include this information in your email marketing communication and digital campaigns. And, be sure to post regular updates regarding delivery and/or order processing times on your website and social channels.
- Leverage virtual events. Livestream virtual tours, educational events, live performances, exercise classes, music lessons or cooking classes using Facebook Live, Zoom or another event app. If you record your live events, you can give customers access to the recording(s) and reach a wider audience.
- Allow customers to support your business by purchasing a gift card to use later. This gives your company income when you need it most and allows your loyal customers to help sustain your brand. Promote the webpage where your gift cards can be purchased on all your social & digital channels.
- Hospital staff and first responders are working around the clock to care for our communities. If you're a restaurant, consider asking customers to purchase an extra meal (or a pizza) that your company will deliver to the local hospital break room or fire station during the lunch or dinner hour. This not only brings additional revenue to your business, it provides your customers with an opportunity to give to those serving their community.
- Retailers might consider asking their customers to purchase an extra item to be donated to support relief efforts. Examples of items include bottled water, first-aid supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, non-perishable food items and cleaning supplies. This helps generate income to support your business and allows customers to contribute to relief efforts in the community.
- Service-based businesses offering no-contact service to their customers should promote that they're still open and how they've modified their operations to keep customers and employees safe and healthy.
- Adjust your content marketing to meet your audience where they are: at home. While it's appropriate for blog articles and marketing content to address the impact of the coronavirus, it's also important to vary your editorial calendar and marketing content. Don't be afraid to have some fun with your content to help lighten people's moods. Just be sure your messaging is tailored to your audience's current priorities.
- Create how-to videos related to your industry to help your customers accomplish simple maintenance projects and tasks. Empowering your customers to perform simple tasks builds trust and keeps your company top-of-mind when they need more extensive service.
While the coronavirus created immense challenges most of us never saw coming, the pandemic won't last forever. Once you've adjusted your current marketing strategy and revised your campaign messaging, it's time to be proactive and develop a strategic marketing plan for the post-coronavirus economy.
Once the smoke clears and Americans begin emerging from self-quarantine, it's essential that the tone and timing of your campaigns is tactful and respectful. The virus has not only caused substantial illness and loss of life, it will change the world we live in forever. Premature celebration and messages of victory should be avoided. Instead, empathetic and reflective messaging will be far more effective.
While it's impossible to predict all the ways our daily lives will change post-corona, experts agree that online shopping and online content consumption will remain at an all-time high. So, before you get a jump start on planning your future marketing, think about the changes you'll need to make to your online presence. If you currently don't allow online ordering or appointment setting, it's probably best to begin implementing those options, so you're prepared to meet your customers' needs and expectations.
Practicing social distancing has created an increased desire to connect with others and local businesses. Keep your customers in the loop about what measures you're taking, what specials you're running, and how your business and staff are coping as your industry continues to shift. Don't hesitate to have fun or show the inner workings of your business. People are actively looking for unique outlets.
Consumers will feel the economic impact of COVID-19 for quite some time, so sales and promotions can help entice people to spend their hard-earned money. Special offers and discounts will become increasingly important to reestablish consumer buying habits and create new buying behaviors post-corona. To ease customers into making purchases, consider offering tiered pricing, with larger discounts immediately after stay-at-home orders have been lifted. Then, gradually increase prices to what they were pre-coronavirus.
Offering financing options with low monthly payments could be one option to overcoming consumers' hesitance to make bigger purchases. If you're not set up to offer financing, this is a great time to research what retail consumer financing companies have to offer. Offering deferred payment options, liberal credit requirements and easy cancellation policies will go a long way to make customers more comfortable making purchases.
Leverage the power of customer reviews to build trust. Posting a steady stream of new, authentic reviews on your website and via social media will be increasingly important to shoppers. Create a sense of community by
encouraging customers to send photos of how they're using your product(s) when they write reviews. Showcase the photos and reviews in a dedicated widget or gallery on your site.
As always, the digital marketing experts at excelerate are available to help you strategize and tailor your campaigns and messaging in the midst of the coronavirus and beyond.
Explore the following articles for additional information about how to navigate your marketing and communication strategies throughout COVID-19.
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