COVID-19 Project

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COVID-19: B2B Trends

COVID-19 has drastically changed business operations and consumer behavior at a large scale with both public and private entities doing everything they can to delay the spread of the infections. A brief overview of some trends in the B2B market space due to COVID-19 related changes has been provided below:

Disruption of supply chains

Impact on sales and lead generation

  • With in-person events and meetings being a critical process for many B2B companies with regard to conversions, the cancellation of events and gatherings due to the outbreak of coronavirus will have a significant impact on sales and revenues.
  • According to a study by Demand Gen Report, 53% of in-person meetings at events and trade shows led to conversions, indicating that these are crucial for businesses to succeed.
  • Data from PredictHQ forecasts a loss of more than $500 million as a result of these event cancellations.
  • For all the stakeholders involved in these events from organizers to participants, and even sponsors, these cancellations imply losses and missed opportunities.

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COVID-19: Education Trends

COVID-19 is likely to affect the education sector. Some trends that can be expected in the U.S. education market as a result of COVID-19 are increased digital learning innovations and the growth of public-private educational partnerships in importance.

Increased Digital Learning Innovations

Public-Private Educational Partnerships Could Grow In Importance

Research Strategy

To find information about trends that can be expected in the U.S. education market as a result of COVID-19, the research team consulted expert opinions in reliable websites and media outlets. A factor was considered a trend if its implementation is expected to change the delivery, experience, operation, and effectiveness in the education industry in the wake of a threat/pandemic-instigated education crisis. Based on the criteria and from these resources, increased digital learning innovations and growth of public-private educational partnerships in importance were identified as the trends that can be expected in the U.S. education market as a result of COVID-19.

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COVID-19: Ecommerce Trends

As coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spreads, two trends that United States' ecommerce market will experience is a surge in online sales, as well as a demand for food and grocery deliveries. This is a result of people staying home and practicing social distancing.

E-Commerce Sales Surge

  • COVID-19 has caused an influx in online shopping.
  • Social distancing is providing opportunities for ecommerce businesses to thrive for the next few months.
  • As consumers turn to digital options, their "change in behavior may impact longer-term comportment. Consumer behavior is influenced by technological advancements, but also by environmental, economic and sociological factors, all three of which are evident with the current COVID-19."
  • Changes in shopping habits are seen during the holiday season, when sales for ecommerce businesses increase "by 2-3 percentage points as compared to non-holiday periods."
  • Consumers who depend on ecommerce during the holidays continue to rely on them in the future.
  • While ecommerce is supposed to represent 12 percent of total retail sales in 2020, that value may be higher since consumers are relying heavily on ecommerce due to COVID-19.

Ecommerce Food and Grocery Delivery Surge

  • Ecommerce food and grocery delivery apps will be "in demand more than ever during this health crisis."
  • Some food and grocery delivery services, like Uber Eats and Instacart, are also providing a no-contact delivery option, which will help boost sales.
  • Usually apps like Instacart and Walmart Grocery sees up to 20,000 downloads daily. However, on Sunday, March 15 alone, Instacart saw over 38,500 downloads while Walmart Grocery had almost 54,000 downloads.
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COVID-19: Digital Marketing Opportunities

Increased advertising budgets, undisrupted consumer interactions, and increased audience are opportunities for digital marketing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Increased Advertising Budgets

  • An increased advertising budget is a major digital marketing opportunity amid the outbreak of Covid-19. In this aspect, the marketing budgets that were earlier allocated to industry events by major companies are now being transferred to digital marketing.
  • Between 30-40% of marketing budgets are allocated for trade show sponsorships, expenses, and travel, among others by marketers. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 outbreak continues to disrupt trade show budgets, and therefore, forcing marketers to redistribute that budget to other avenues such as digital marketing.
  • Increased budgetary allocations are a major opportunity for digital marketing as companies fight to remain relevant and maintain a competitive edge over their competitors, who are yet to react amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • The cancellation of major events because of Covid-19 has proven to be an excellent opportunity for marketers to explore digital marketing. This has prompted big companies to transfer their marketing budgets to digital marketing.
  • IBM is a good example of a major company that has switched to digital marketing after the cancellation of the IBM’s Think in San Francisco event. The company is relying on interactive content, with the objective of maintaining its values and missions without the risk of traveling.
  • Although the effects of Covid-19 in the United States are still relatively low, it is expected that digital media consumption will significantly increase across social media and over-the-top video.

Undisrupted Consumer Interaction

  • Many companies are limiting person-to-person interactions because of the Covid-19 outbreak, and this has turned out to be a remarkable opportunity for digital marketing.
  • The ever-changing digital landscape has enhanced the way in which companies communicate and engage with their audiences. This is particularly evident if the involved companies have proper content marketing strategies in place.
  • On the other hand, marketing experts indicate that increased digital spending also increases lead volume.
  • Digital marketing presents a significant opportunity to marketers, as it offers them the ability to deliver marketing content to their subscribers, and therefore, make them more engaged.
  • Digital marketing offers a holistic approach that relies on marketing strategies such as social media, SEO, email, and paid media. This is a great opportunity, as it enables marketers to continue engaging with their customers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Increased Audience

  • The spread of Covid-19 will likely boost digital media consumption, as people spend most of their time at home and communicate less in person.
  • An increased audience is one of the big opportunities for digital marketing, and this is because people would probably turn to social media and other social networks to connect with friends, family, and access news content during the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Marketing experts indicate that the spread of Covid-19 could result in increased ad spending in areas such as streaming services and mobile gaming due to consumers spending more time at home. Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the ad spend for out-of-home advertising could significantly decrease, and therefore, provide digital marketing with an excellent platform.
  • More importantly, if people continue to spend more time at home, they would be prompted to spend more time on social media, streaming services, and mobile games, there could be an increase in digital marketing investments.

Research Strategy

To identify the major opportunities for digital marketing during the Covid-19 outbreak, we searched for press releases, media publications, and news articles on related topics. We also consulted marketing experts through their respective websites and articles. Using these said approaches, we were able to identify three digital marketing opportunities, and we corroborated the information presented in the articles.
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Education Market: Reactions in Times of Crisis

In reaction to times of national emergencies or recession, the US education market tends to close schools and libraries, initiate online education, and offer free school meals. More information about the actions is detailed below.

Closing School

  • The Department of Education informed schools to prepare to take additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also advised schools to cancel extracurricular activities and large gathering events.
  • As of March 13, 2020, 12 states in the US, including Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington and Alabama, and large urban districts, such as Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, have shut off all K-12 schools. Many schools in smaller districts also have decided to close their institutions.
  • Additionally, the governor of Washington state ordered all public schools within the area to not reopen until April 24, 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Several universities in the US, such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Berea College, have instructed students to stay at home.
  • During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, CDC recommended communities that had confirmed cases within the area to close schools for seven days, then 14 days. According to a study, over 700 schools closed in 2009 to prevent the spread of H1N1.
  • Studies that analyzed 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza showed cities that closed schools earlier during an outbreak had lower death rates compared to the cities that kept the schools open.
  • The Department of Education advised opened schools to encourage their staff and students to practice everyday disease prevention strategies, including staying home when sick, avoid close contact with infected individuals and maintaining self-hygiene.

Closing Libraries

  • Many libraries in various US states announced that they were closing, including in Los Angeles (73 libraries), San Francisco (29 libraries), Seattle (27 libraries), Cincinnati (41 libraries), and New York City (92 libraries).
  • All libraries in Toledo, Ohio also closed until further notice, whereas 23 different locations of Colombus Metropolitan Library in Ohio closed until at least April 6. The officials of the Office of Commonwealth Libraries in Pennsylvania have ordered all libraries within the area to close until March 29.
  • In 2009, the health officials also strongly advised children not to visit public places, including libraries, to avoid the spread of H1N1. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak is deemed more dangerous, some US public officials chose to close libraries for the time being instead.

Initiating Online Education

  • At least 200 higher education institutions across the US had decided to move online to continue their lessons due to the coronavirus outbreak, including University of Washington, Columbia University, Berkeley University, Stanford University, Monmouth College, and The Ohio State University.
  • The U.S. Department of Education had launched guidelines to prevent discrimination and ensure internet accessibility for disabled students.
  • The Los Angeles Community College District, which enrolls approximately 230,000 students, suspended all classes and in-person services and moved online to protect the safety of the students and staff.
  • Some educational institutions in the US reportedly have planned to hold online classes for a limited amount of time or the entire semester.
  • According to Lynn Pasquerella, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) President, the universities must consider the consequences of moving online since there may be students who lack access to necessary resources. Additionally, lecturers may also have difficulty in conducting online classes.

Offering Free School Meal

  • Over two-thirds of the 31 million unfortunate school children in the US rely on school leaders and benefit from federal assistance programs to stay from being hungry. As the schools are closing down in the US, those children are also losing the opportunity to receive a free meal.
  • On March 7, the USDA accepted the requests of Washington state and California to provide meal service at a designated place during school closures.
  • The school officials within the Sacramento area will provide takeaway meals from Monday to Friday to all children aged 18 years or younger, regardless of "free or reduced eligibility or school of attendance." The drive-thru meal service will be in the parking lot or bus lane at each school in the area. The participating schools include Arcohe Union Elementary School, Center High School, Wilson C. Riles Middle School, and Dudley Elementary.
  • The schools in Philadelphia also distribute free meals to students. The participating school organizations include the School District of Philadelphia, Mastery Schools, ASPIRA Charter Schools, and String Theory Schools.
  • Michigan public officials allow schools within the Michigan area to serve meals for children who are in need. However, it is still unclear whether the meal will be delivered or picked up by the students themselves.
  • During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the USDA also allowed schools to continue providing meals for children due to school closures related to the H1N1.

Research Strategy

We determined the "most common actions" based on the actions taken during a crisis that involved American national and regional authorities and education-related experts, therefore these actions taken were universally and widely applied throughout the US regions. Our research team also attempted to collect information about the actions taken by the US education market during similar national emergencies or recession, such as the H1N1 pandemic. To determine the most common things the US education market does in reaction to times of national emergencies and recession, we first consulted to USAfacts, hoping that we could get any relevant information. However, we did not acquire any related information from the education department, as the website only provided statistical information about the average public teacher salary, high school dropout rate, and others. Then we looked through news articles from reputable sources, such as CNBC and USA Today, studies, and reports to find information surrounding the actions that the US education market took during a national crisis.
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COVID-19: Email Volume

There is no hard data on how much email volume from companies to consumers has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, experts state that businesses in the United States have increased their email volumes as companies try to dispel fear and/or profit from the crisis.
  • According to an article by Social Media Today, a leading social media analytics publication, U.S. companies are "tripping over each other to broadcast their corona virus email messages to customers." The article reports that email volume has exploded in the past week as brands seem to transition their messaging from "COVID-19 denial to COVID-19 FOMO in a matter of days."
  • In one day, the columnist claims to have received over two dozen emails from companies about the virus. However, most messages are focusing more on "brand virtue signaling" than on taking a "consumer-centric approach." Notably, most bands seem to be signaling their desperation for business through their emails in these tough times.
  • According to an expert analysis published on Marketing Land, a leading U.S. digital marketing publication, inboxes started blowing up with "corona virus-related missives and even promotions tied to the pandemic" in March 2020. The analyst reported to have received emails from a wide scope of companies ranging from the hospitality industry such as Sandals Resort to the retail industry such as Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond, among others.
  • Adweek reports that companies' email messaging before the closure of most businesses were focused on downplaying the crisis. In the past fortnight, however, companies are 'flooding' inboxes with messages regarding their efforts to mitigate the outbreak in the U.S.
  • Adweek analyzed emails from 18 brands including Starbucks, Mountain/Vail Resorts, Hertz, and Marriott, among others, and found that most messages focused on cleaning, community, travel, and work, among other themes.

Additional Information

  • Campaign Monitor reported in 2018 that the monthly email count for U.S. businesses is about 1.47 million, against a global average of 1.38 million. However, there was no recent data on the subject.
  • U.S. businesses spent about $350 million on email marketing in 2019. There is no data on how much has been spent in the first three months of 2020.
  • Globally, there were about 293.6 billion emails sent or received per day in 2020. This number is estimated at 306.4 billion in 2020.


In trying to find insights into the increase in email volume from companies to consumers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the research team searched for any data from marketing research resources, media resources, and marketing analytics resources. Our research produced articles/reports from industry experts published on marketing publications highlighting the increase in COVID-19-related emails from U.S. companies. The experts based their opinions on their personal experiences, which would indicate that they do not have any hard data, at least not yet. The research team also tried to find any changes in email volumes in the past few weeks. We did this by searching for the number of business emails sent in 2019 and trying to find any statistics in 2020. However, we could only find data on the number of emails sent in 2019 and estimates for 2020. There was no data or insights into the monthly email volumes, which would enable us to make viable assumptions.
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According to the economy experts, the shock in the country's supply and demand, the falling of the business and consumer activity, the dependency on the services industry, and the measures taken to control COVID-19 in the US will more likely cause a major economic recession.

Recession in the US

  • To determine the probability of a recession in the US as a result of COVID-19, the World Economic Forum and Chicago's IGM Forum interviewed many economy experts; the majority believe the virus will cause a recession.
  • From the US experts surveyed, 19% strongly agreed that a major recession will happen, 44% agreed on a less certain level, 8% of them disagreed, and the other 31% weren't certain that it would happen.
  • Anil Kashyap, an economy expert from Chicago who voted in uncertain 31%, said that "a sharp slowdown is likely, whether it will be persistent enough to rise to the level of a recession is not clear yet."
  • Most of the experts agreed there will be a recession, like Elena Carletti of Bocconi, of Bocconi, who believes that the main economic driver of the recession will be the measures taken to control it and not its death toll. She said, "the contagion rate worries more than the mortality rate itself as it shuts down the whole economy to contain effects on the health system."
  • Alessandro Rebucci, a macroeconomics expert from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, believes that a recession in the US will be inevitable after the virus.
  • From the 8% of the experts who disagreed, Kenneth Judd from Stanford University said that "If it is like ordinary flu, then economy should quickly recover. COVID-19 only threatens old and feeble economic expansions."
  • The Federal Reserve of the US has already announced that the country's GDP growth has been decreasing in the last two quarters as a result of COVID-19.

Fall in Business and Consumer Activity

  • David Autor from MIT believes that the fall in business activity and regular consumer activities will likely cause a recession in the country.
  • Retail and food stores, like Starbucks, have been affected by the closure of their locations in and out of the country.
  • According to David Kostin, chief US equity strategist of Goldman Sachs’, believes that due to COVID-19, US companies will generate no earnings growth this year, reason why they are preparing by updating their earnings model.

Supply-Demand Shock

  • According to 50% of US experts, the reduced spending that has been happening in the country will impact the economy disrupting supply chains, and workforces will be affected by the high number of reductions related to health issues.
  • Patrick Honohan of Trinity College Dublin agreed that "Even if death rate is low, it will be because containment has been effective and that will adversely affect aggregate supply and demand."
  • 44% of US experts believe that the measures taken are reducing spending and in return will cause a bigger economic shock than the disruption to the supply chain.
  • According to the experts, the side effects of the shock in demand will be more significant in the country than the ones in supply, although they will impact differently each industry. For example, Pol Antras from Harvard University said that the services sector will be more affected by the demand, while manufacturing will be more affected by supply disruptions.
  • David Autor from MIT said that "Supply chains are mostly about goods production, but manufacturing is under 20% of GDP. Services are a larger share of GDP and may be more exposed."
  • Manufacturing companies like Nike, Apple, and any other that rely on China's supply are already being affected by the closure of China's factories, delaying the supply chain, causing falls in the stock market, and influencing investment negatively.
  • Chicago expert, Austan Goolsbee, believes that this will be especially noticeable in richer countries since their economy is dominated by services, meaning that social distancing will affect their economy even more.
  • Robert Shimer, another expert from Chicago, believes that although the economy will recover faster from supply chain disruptions, the effects on hourly workers who are losing income and in the businesses related to entertainment, travel, and other services will be more severe.
  • Airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and other companies in the travel industry are being affected by travel warnings, airport and country bans, consumers' fear of contagion, etc.
  • The shock in supply and demand will also see financial consequences like loan defaults, credit crunch, effects on insurers, loss of jobs, failure to get severance pay, etc.
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Unemployment and Internet Search


During times of high unemployment, people are more likely to search for both jobs and information about unemployment benefits online, as well as to seek social support, and explore information about the economy and financial situations. They are also more likely to spend time online as a whole, to make up for overall lack of activity. Because we found in our research that high unemployment impacted many facets of internet search behaviors, below we begin by diving into how increased unemployment impacts overall online behavior, expand to how internet search behaviors are impacted, and then provide details of how the most specific online search related to unemployment, online job searches, are impacted.

Overall Online Behaviors

  • It is noted that higher levels of unemployment tends to be linked with higher online activity levels at the beginning of a workweek.
  • People who are unemployed tend to use the internet to fill the void of psychological and social loss associated with no longer having a job.
  • The use of social media tends to increase, as the unemployed attempt to maintain relationships and social contact.
  • Online activity is also used to replace actual activity, as unemployment often leads to a weakened time structure and lack of purpose.

Internet Search Behaviors

  • E-commerce related searches are more common, and related searches such as shopping comparison, product reviews, and online classified websites.

Job Search Behaviors

  • While one would anticipate that job search increases for the unemployed, it tends to increase by more significant levels only when those who have unemployment benefits have fewer weeks of benefit eligibility remaining.
  • This suggests that the unemployed are actively using the internet to search for job opportunities right away, but rather after being unemployed for awhile.
  • In fact, there is 66% more search activity around jobs for people with less than 10 weeks of unemployment benefit eligibility than those with 10-20 weeks eligibility.
  • Male and skilled white-collar job seekers were most likely to engage in an online job search, and most active at approximately 4 months into being unemployed.

Research Strategy

In order to provide information on how periods of high unemployment have impacted internet search behaviors, we searched academic journals, industry reports, and relevant business media sources. In our research, we determined that high levels of unemployment impacted overall online behavior, search behavior, as well as job search methods, and thus provided relevant data on each.

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B2B Advertising Budgets

While exact information was not available about how much a B2B company should shift their advertising budget to digital, there are several issues companies should consider for their marketing strategy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Shifting Budgets

  • Cancellations of events like conferences and gatherings have risen 500% since the outbreak. Companies who attend B2B events spend around 40% of their budgets on them, meaning a large chunk of money can now be shifted online.
  • Previously, digital marketing budgets averaged around 8% for B2B, meaning there will be a huge growth in online marketing in the coming months.
  • In the wake of growing uncertainty, some bigger businesses are cutting their overall marketing budgets, some by up to 50%. However, SEO and inbound marketing are a "long game", so shifting investment now can be important for quicker recovery in the future.
  • Chinese brands have seen success in shifting their focus more to influencers. During this time of uncertainty, community building becomes more important than promotions.
  • For example, Chinese marketplace Yanxuan replaced their outdoor billboards with this message, "Don't look at this ad anymore. This was originally our promotional advertisement from 2.23-2.29, but it has been temporarily replaced. Although everything is on the right track, we still recommend that you don’t gather in public places and don’t stop for too long in front of this ad. Stay home, take care and wait for spring."

Industry Forecasts

  • New forecasts put digital advertising at 7% growth for 2020. This is actually less than initially expected, representing a general decrease in ad spend.
  • While China did show a marketed increase in digital ad spend in the early months, an overall reduction in ad spend due to market uncertainty means the final figures aren't necessarily reflective of this.
  • For example, eMarketer reduced their forecast for China's digital ad spend from 15.2% growth to only 13%.

Adapting to New Customer Behavior

  • One expert recommends shifting budgets to appropriate PPC keywords where businesses know they can meet demand.
  • Ensure that scheduling and location-relevant data is updated to reflect when and where people are now working. For example, do not run campaigns during non-business hours when there will be no one to answer the phone.
  • Also, it's important for companies to make sure their contact information and other relevant pages, such as shipping or lead times are accurately updated to manage customer's expectations.
  • If a B2B brand is one selling a popular commodity right now, for example paper goods, it's really important to keep transparent stock level information for customers.

Adapting Messaging

  • Marketing Week recommends smartly investing this smaller budget into longer-term brand building.
  • This means keeping a business in the customer's mind, so that when things do pick back up again, they still seem relevant. This could mean something like shifting messaging from the 2020 customer to further ahead like 2021.
  • One expert cautions companies against artificial virtue signaling. This means do not send out generic messages about keeping employees safe or operations are continuing uninterrupted. Save messaging for important news.
  • It's also important not to look desperate.

Research Strategy

At the moment, it is still early for a robust body of expert advice to have come out regarding how much of a company's advertising budget should be shifted to digital advertising during the COVID-19 outbreak. Very little quantitative data is available, but some relevant trade press have published thought pieces on how businesses can adapt their marketing and advertising during this time. However, the effects and uncertainty are predicted to lead to smaller overall spending, even on digital.
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B2B Digital Channels

There are many digital communication channels which B2B companies can use to facilitate sales when face-to-face interaction is not possible. Some of the best digital channels to utilize are email, social media platforms and AI powered chatbots.


  • Email is the sending of messages electronically and still remains the most effectively used B2B digital communication channel. Email distribution has repeatedly proven successful for all business related communication. 86 percent of B2B marketers prefer using email when it comes to business purposes and 59 percent say they consider email as their most effective tool.
  • There are many ways e-mails can be used to increase sales. For one, emails can be customized to specifically target certain individuals and/or groups of people. The subject line and title of an email can also be personalized, which can increase the rates at which the e-mails are opened. Customized e-mails are also less likely be directed to trash or spam folders. They can also be automated, which makes it much easier to connect with all current and prospective clients at the appropriate times. Email correspondence is also highly measurable allowing B2B companies to track progress.
  • Some of the best reported email hosting providers for B2B companies and all of their business specific needs include, but are not limited to, Office 365, G Suite, Zoho Workplace and Rackspace.

Social Media Platforms

  • Social media platforms enable interactive ways of creating and sharing various types of information using computer-based technology.
  • Social media is increasingly becoming a part of daily life, and this includes how B2B companies communicate. Delivering content and engaging over these channels is a great way for companies to facilitate the drive of sales. Similar to other digital channels, content delivered over social media can be creatively customized in many ways. It also gives companies an opportunity to see others' reactions, as well as, a chance to directly reply and respond to current and prospective clients—all in real time. Since there are no major internet/website use restrictions in the U.S., B2B companies face limited restrictions using social media platforms.
  • Creating an online presence creates and builds awareness for the company and makes company information more easily obtainable to others. Some of the top providers of social media communication channels are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all of which are measurable.

AI Powered Chatbots

  • A chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence to mimic human tasks, such as online chatting, where human intelligence would normally be vital.
  • AI powered chatbots are becoming more popular with the steady rise of advancements in technology. Around two-thirds (0.58-1.05 mark in the video) of U.S. citizens favor utilizing a chatbot, while 75 percent of consumers have purchased a product online. Chatbots facilitate sales by increasing efficiency, improving lead generation, identify trends predict potential clients/customers, prompt relative suggestions and personalize online campaigns.
  • Some of the top conversational AI platform providers for B2B companies are IntelliTicks, Intercom, Verloop, Engati and Zoho SalesIQ.


From Part 01
From Part 05