How Businesses Are Being Affected by COVID-19

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The COVID-Reality for Marketing

The Coronavirus has put life in the US at a halt. No more going out to restaurants, leisurely shopping at retail stores, or drinking at bars with friends or coworkers. But what Americans are realizing is that all of these things can be done from the comfort of their own home, using only their fingertips and smart devices. 

Image Source: The New York Times

Despite fears of a recession or depression hitting the US market due to the virus, consumers are shopping online now more than ever. According to a consumer survey [] from Engine, the coronavirus has shifted buying patterns across industries. The survey found that “online spend is also on the rise, growing 10%-30% across grocery and non-grocery purchases.”

COVID-19 Is Speeding Up Online Shopping Trends

Food delivery services are at an all-time high. Online shopping was already becoming the trend, but the coronavirus has solidified the trend as our new reality. Going to the movies has been replaced with staying at home and watching Netflix. Even spending time with friends and coworkers have been updated to Zoom meetings and FaceTiming. 

Image Source: Zoom Blog

If there is a digital equivalent, it has replaced the traditional.

COVID-19 Consumer Insights for Business

As the fears rise, consumer behavior has adapted. The survey references key behaviors in consumers and how they have changed over time: 80% of people surveyed have cut back on eating in restaurants, 78% have cut back on socializing, 71% have avoided public transportation, and 81% have stopped shaking hands, as of March 20-22, 2020. 

Image Source: LEK Consulting, Civis consumer survey (2020)

The majority of Americans are adapting their lifestyles to this virus, so businesses must adapt to their consumers. Online-only services are now prevalent. Companies that created apps that weren’t popular before, are being downloaded in the millions. For example, because consumers are discouraged from eating indoors at restaurants, chains like Chipotle are requiring the download of their app in order to make purchases. Brands like Amazon are flourishing during the pandemic, especially their grocery shopping services that get food and supplies delivered right to consumers’ doorsteps.

If in the past, consumers were looking for convenience, now consumers are looking for low-risk of human interaction.

Short-term goals for businesses should be meeting consumers where they are (at home) and engage with them online. Whether it’s through online classes or social media, brands must find opportunities to maintain engagement. 

COVID-19 Is Changing How Consumers Purchase 

Businesses that are suffering due to the virus outbreak are mainly fitness gyms, dining out, furniture stores, and what are considered “non-essential” businesses. 

Adapting these businesses to online-only services takes a little creativity and foresight. For example, fitness gyms with mobile apps can offer recorded training sessions for users to follow. Furniture stores like IKEA already offered AR within their apps, so users can “see” how their furniture would look within their own homes before making the purchase and then have it delivered to their door. 

Image Source: Space10’s Medium

The benefits that businesses are seeing is that the virus is persuading consumers to discover new brands. According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults in mid-March, conducted by Valassis:

  • 48% are remaining loyal to their usual/familiar brands.
  • 21% are purchasing a mix of usual and new brands.
  • 13% are “taking the opportunity to discover new brands.
  • 19% are feeling less brand loyal, buying what’s available.

This data, partnered with the fact that social media usage has skyrocketed, gives plenty of opportunity for digital marketers in the pandemic-age to leverage social media ads for massive lead generation. 

Facebook itself said that in many of the countries hit hardest by the virus, total messaging has increased more than 50% over the last month. In Italy, specifically, 70% more time is being spent across Facebook’s apps since the crisis arrived in the country.

Image Source: Facebook

Aggressive marketing tactics for social media outlets is projected to be highly successful, considering the data above. Any way for businesses to make it easier for consumers to stay home, will be the winning formula. Creating the digital equivalent of your business is how to turn this global health concern into a positive sentiment for your marketing strategy.

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COVID-19 Consumer Insights for Business

Looking at trends for search engine behaviors with Alexis Sanders, senior SEO manager for Merkle, it is very clear who is being searched significantly more than they were in March 2019. 

Grocery retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesale Club have online factions that are reporting to be highly successful. Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Free Conference Call achieved their highest search results in the week of March 21, with annual growth ranging from 270% for Skype and 1057% for Zoom.

Image Source: Search Engine Land

This reveals the sharp change in priorities for consumers, and how businesses of all types can leverage this data to dramatically change their own advertising efforts. 

For small businesses or region-specific chains like Publix, creating a simple mobile application (like Publix’s Instacart) will continue to engage consumers while also keeping them safe at home. When everything is as simple as tapping on your phone, your business must also be just as simple. 

Accommodating consumers’ needs throughout the COVID-19 outbreak is simple: Think convenience.

Chances are, your small business has already developed consumer loyalty. The virus may have overshadowed this fact, but all your business must do is give a gentle reminder that your services are still open and available. Leverage social media to your advantage—everyone is already online! But because priorities have shifted considerably, it’s important to match your services with what your consumers’ priorities have become.

COVID-19 Has Changed Marketing for Online-Only Consumers

 “Even though consumers are spending considerably more online than before the outbreak, that spending has shifted,” according to Greg Sterling on MarketingLand, “The data suggest that the money being spent online is redistribution of aspects of traditional offline spending. Other purchases are being deferred or cancelled entirely.”

Image Source: LEK Consulting, Civis consumer survey (2020)

So What Now?

Much like how one tailors their resume to a specific job listing, businesses must tailor their services to the specific needs of their consumers. 

This means that property restoration companies should now be advertising their decontamination services. Retailers should be advertising their online shopping through social media marketing. And graphic designers should now be advertising their at-home ordering process to keep businesses afloat. 

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