COVID-19 and Customer Connections: Which Marketing Channels Are Right for You?
The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to keep us marketers on our toes.
Even as stay-at-home orders are gradually being lifted and commute patterns and schedules begin to shift, consumers are still in a much different place than before the crisis hit.
The questions are, where are your customers and where will they be when things return to our “new” normal? It’s very likely that the tried-and-true methods that worked in the past to reach them are not as effective now. And while it can seem daunting to evaluate all of the different mediums, formats and channels available to get your messaging out, it’s more important to focus on the right channels, not every channel, to connect with your audience during – and after – these trying times.
Web Chat Audio: Customer Connections
SHIFTING TO DIGITAL IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE
While many factors come into play when it comes to choosing the most effective marketing channels – not the least of which are your industry sector, budget and target audience – many companies are pivoting to digital marketing mediums for speed and flexibility. The following marketing channels are readily accessible to businesses of any size and will allow you to update your messaging to meet the demands of the changing market.
In the United States, 87 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 to 64 are consuming more content
across media channels because of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to recent research from GlobalWebIndex. This media is primarily video-based, with broadcast TV, online videos and online TV streaming taking the top spots overall. Companies that don’t have the big budgets for TV advertising should still consider creating video content to engage with their audiences, whether it is pre-recorded or livestreamed. GlobalWebIndex cites that a whopping 76 percent of online video watchers in the United States plan to consume just as much of this content when the outbreak is over. According to a recent Gartner report, livestreaming has become the top online sales and engagement channel in China during the outbreak and is expected to become a permanent priority sales channel in the country beyond this crisis. These days, engagement level matters more than production quality. Use the tools you have – from your laptop to your mobile phone to a Zoom meeting recording – to create videos and podcasts that resonate with your audience. Take your cues from the late-night hosts and television anchors who are doing their shows from home, and don’t worry about perfection. It’s okay to film from your imperfectly lit, slightly messy living room – it makes your content more relatable.
According to a recent Nielsen survey,
60 percent of American adults are relying on the radio for timely information about the COVID-19 outbreak. Listeners trust their on-air personalities and depend on them for accurate, relevant local reports, including where to shop and how to connect with other members of their community. While quarantines are still in place in many areas and out-of-home activities remain restricted, radio advertising is an opportunity to get your products and services in front of a very captive audience, and no imagery is required.
Organic Social Media
Social media offers a key community-building opportunity
for businesses seeking to reach consumers who are sheltering in place, and usage has grown exponentially as people across the world are relying on digital channels to stay connected. In March, Facebook reported that total messaging across its owned platforms, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, was up by more than 50 percent in many of the countries hit hardest by the virus. Twitter is also seeing a lot more usage, but is reporting less demand for advertising. While it’s understandable that businesses may be hesitant to spend more on advertising in these uncertain times, social media is one of the best places to put your money and time. It’s where consumers are right now. If you want to try TikTok or Instagram Stories, now is the time to go for it. (See “Video” above.) Even if you’re not looking to expand your social media channel usage, but you want to experiment with different kinds of content or more frequent posts using your current social media channels, try it out.
Organic traffic is excellent for building your online communities,
but if you’ve got the budget, paid advertising works better for driving conversions because consumers who click on ads are typically ready to make a purchase. To maximize relevancy, adjust your PPC campaigns for new search terms and volume by reviewing your search term and keyword reports regularly, and follow trending COVID-19 searches. The Google Trends Coronavirus Hub was recently launched to help marketers uncover what people are searching for related to the pandemic.
Email and SMS Marketing
Email and SMS marketing can be more reliable and effective now than ever
as 43 percent of shoppers say it’s reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust. Because users have opted in to hear from you, they’re more willing to open the messages you send. To continue to strengthen the relationships you are developing with your customers through email and SMS marketing, it’s important to audit your messaging to ensure it’s relevant and helpful to recipients. And don’t forget to adjust the frequency of your messages to suit your audience’s needs. Your goal is to connect with your customers and bring value to them, not prompt them to unsubscribe because they’re being bombarded by information that isn’t meaningful.
If your brick-and-mortar location was shuttered during the pandemic,
your website may have been your sole source of brand representation. Consumers understood why physical stores and offices were closed but may have experienced frustration if they couldn’t easily find your information and products online. This frustration could translate to lost sales even after COVID-19 ends. Make sure your website includes current information on your available products and services, hours of operation, contact info and expected response times. Ideally, all of your digital marketing efforts should point to your site as a call-to-action, so it should clearly and effectively represent your business, brand and product offerings.
With many people sheltering at home and eliminating their daily commutes,
the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates that ad spend on traditional out-of-home advertising will be down 51 percent for March and April and 41 percent for May and June. But advertising on out-of-home mediums such as billboards can still be very effective for targeted messaging. Take a look at Times Square in New York City on April 5, shown in the photo above. Advertisers used their space for relevant and timely messages promoting social distancing and thanking essential workers. This was made easier by using digital boards that could be changed quickly.
AGILITY FORMS NEW STRATEGIES
Finding the right marketing channel is just one part of your strategy. You also must be willing to be nimble and continually adjust your messaging to suit the changing environment. In doing so, you’re forming lasting connections with your customers, gleaning valuable insights and ideas, and setting the stage for your post-COVID-19 strategy.
We’d like to hear your questions on this topic and have multiple ways for you to ask them:
- You can submit questions to be answered on our livestream discussion at 10 a.m. on May 21. Click HERE submit them now
- Post a comment in the box below.
- Use the chat feature on our new website.
- Call us at 336-245-2436 or email your account manager directly.
How to assess the effectiveness of your COVID-19 messaging, as well as brands who’ve hit the mark. In the meantime, Vela’s digital marketing strategists are available to help you choose the messaging channels that work best for you. Contact us today to learn more.