Marketing and Communication During COVID-19 Crisis
- Vivid Candi, a digital marketing agency in Los Angeles, recommends that businesses emphasize cleanliness onsite and in advertising messages, encourage remote meetings and remote relationships, educate customers on your sick policies, and encourage keeping it local.
- In China, some brands were able to play a role in easing people's concerns and sense of isolation by generating messages of solidarity and hope.
Digital Marketing Adjustments
- Anicca, a UK-based digital marketing agency, developed a list of specific digital marketing adjustments for businesses to follow. The recommendations include creating a Facebook or Linked group that people can join for ongoing updates and discussion, setting an automatic reply if your Facebook Messenger account is receiving an abnormal number of inquiries, increasing vigilance on budgets, ad copy and scheduling, and more.
Means for Reaching Customers
- In China, businesses learned that social networking continued to be people's favorite online activity as time online increased by around 20%, but there were also significant surges in mobile gaming, watching short videos, and reading news and other information.
- A Gartner research report about how brands adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak in China recommends that businesses shift marketing efforts online. A successful example of this strategy was Louis Vuitton's decision to launch an online pop-up store within the WeChat app, with a live chat option.
- Similarly, the cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores during the outbreak in China and so it deployed over a hundred of its in-store beauty advisors on social media platforms to engage customers virtually, resulting in a 200% growth compared to the previous year in the Wuhan region.
- The US Chamber of Commerce has a number of recommendations for small businesses to mitigate the loss of customers, including to consider business interruption insurance and shift sales strategy online.
- PwC's Strategy and Business magazine recommends that businesses mitigate loss by closely evaluating vulnerabilities in their supply chains and identifying critical points of failure.
Best ways that businesses can adjust their messaging in order to continue their marketing efforts include sick policies messages, personalized messages, and sending e-mail messages with COVID-19 facts.
1) Sick Policies Messages
- According to Vivid Candi, a Los Angeles digital marketing agency, one best way to adjust marketing messaging is by including messages that inform customers that the business is following CDC guidelines.
- These guidelines include separating sick employees, educating employees on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and environmental cleaning.
2) E-mail Messages with COVID-19 Facts
- According to Michael Wentz, Garden City director of digital marketing at Adelphi University, emails with facts about coronavirus send to customers demonstrates the social responsibility of a company.
- The messages give customers an understanding of the company because of its effort to educate its clients despite the fact that it is not obligated to.
- The emails need to stick to one message and businesses need to avoid sending staff updates in the same email with a coupon code.
3) Personalized Messages.
- According to The Drum, businesses should send out "personalized, contextualized, targeted messages to existing customers who want to hear the business' news".
- Businesses should keep in touch with their customers at every "touchpoint in their digital journey through social channels, through exploring the web".
- According to The Drum, keeping in touch with customers will ensure that the business retains its customers, reduce costs and more ROI.
1) Working on Retaining Existing Customers
- According to The Drum, marketing automation is "the lowest cost, easiest, and most effective" way of keeping in touch with customers. This should be done by sending personalized and contextualized messages to customers.
- It is also effective to share a company's innovations and what differentiates it from its competitors. These can be awards that the company has won and also the client it has.
- Businesses should also engage with customers through social channels such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. A company can create a low-cost plan to reach customers at every "point in the social media funnel" by listening to them and learning more about the market.
2) Brand Visibility
- It is important for businesses to identify low-cost techniques to keep their brands "visible in front of potential clients on a steady basis" during this period.
- Best times for brands to be found by potential customers is to be found while searching for what they are selling. Customers need to find the brand at "every stage of the purchasing lifecycle, from exploring new suppliers to evaluating specific offerings".
- According to The Drum, leveraging the authority of respected experts is a low-cost way for a brand to be visible to a large pool of potential customers.
3) Focus on Driving Conversions
- Conversion rate optimization is a low and high impact marketing technique that businesses should focus on.
- Businesses can review positive stories, recommendations and case studies then weave the content through their websites and actively share them on social media.
- Businesses should also ensure that their websites are giving customers a fast and a personalized experience. According to The Drum, "small changes on the website have an outweighed impact on the final results".
- It is also important to leverage current developments in artificial intelligence. AI will help in driving the costs down by ensuring the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time.
We started by searching through articles, blogs, and publications relating to messaging marketing efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. Our primary focus was on best ways for brands and marketing communication. In compiling this information, we examined case studies and opinions of experts.
After finding a large list of articles and blogs with information on the topic, we sorted out these articles and blogs in terms of relevance and consistency. We then listed out the most mentioned ways.
Reaching Customers Remotely
Ways that businesses can reach customers remotely include using celebrity ambassadors, using short video app, using virtual pop-up stores, using employees on social media, and focusing on omnichannel customer experience.
1) Use Celebrity Ambassadors
- In China, brands such as Estée Lauder used celebrity ambassadors to reach customers remotely.
- Celebrity ambassadors used songs and video messages to encouraged individuals to stay positive.
- Estée Lauder's video messages with Weibo's hashtag “We Can Win This Fight” was viewed "more than 61 million times and has generated 328,000 discussions".
2) Use Short Video App
- Due to the current isolation of people at home, most people are hungry for information and entertainment.
- Brands can use online videos to drive engagement.
- In China, activewear brands are using Douyin, a short video app to "promote in-home exercise content".
- Nike has been posting workouts to the short video platform and it currently has 346,000 followers with over 2 million likes.
3) Use Virtual Pop-up Stores
- A virtual pop-up store gives "customers a real, physical store feel that’s completely virtual and features entire collections, all made shoppable online" and interact with current and potential clients.
- Pop-up stores were initially meant for businesses without physical retail stores who wanted to test the experience before making investments in physical stores.
- After the closure of their physical stores before Valentine’s Day, Louis Vuitton opened an online pop-up store within the WeChat app. There were live chats for" pre-sale consultations and promotions shared via store associates online".
- Louis Vuitton online sales were two times that of 2019 Valentine's Day.
4) Use Employees on Social Media
- Companies can use employees on social media as online influencers.
- These employees can be sourced from those who were initially working in stores that are closed due to COVID-19.
- A Chinese cosmetic company Lin Qingxuan was forced to shut down 40% of its stores. The company used its beauty advisors from the stores as online influencers.
- The company achieved a 200% growth as compared with last year.
5) Virtual Showroom
- Businesses can leverage the current developments of augmented reality to be able to reach customers remotely.
- Virtual showrooms help businesses to showcase their portfolio and give clients the ability to explore the entire product range of a company in a virtual space of the company's choosing.
- Customers can browse the company's offering, "as well as explore and compare the variations, configurations and technical details available for each item".
- Italian manufacturer of luxury shoes, Les Petits Joueurs launched a virtual showroom for clients to try on products.
- The company has recorded more online sales after launching a virtual showroom.
6) Focus on Omnichannel Customer Experience
- Omnichannel experience is a "multi-channel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated customer experience".
- This is done by providing customers with a seamless experience when shopping on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
- It is important to align the company's goals, messaging, design, and objectives across each device and channel. This enhances the marketing and service efforts of a company.
- A noodle and beverage producer, Master Kong, moved its focus to ominichannel and eCommerce. The company tracked its retail reopening and was able to adapt its supply chain.
- The company's "supply chain had recovered by more than 50% just a few weeks after the outbreak and Master Kong was able to supply 60% of the stores that reopened during this period—three times as many as some competitors".
Ways to prevent or minimize loss of business from customers that are hit hard by the outbreak and may be cutting their budgets include crowdsourcing ideas with employees, having crisis and continuity plans, using scenario analysis, and being agile and developing new products.
1) Crowdsourcing Ideas with Employees
- According to Harvard Business Review, it is important for companies to encourage their staff to share their thoughts on mitigating loss.
- Through convincing, the employees, companies are able to get a better buy-in of programs that they will ultimately pursue.
- To begin the process, company leaders can provide structure by articulating how they plan to choose projects. The criteria may include projects with lower resource costs, lower risk thresholds, established positive effects on cash flow, and a better probability of preserving employment.
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) focused on a crowd-sourcing approach to cost-cutting during the 2008 financial collapse, much of the responses were positive; indeed, staff welcomed the transparency so much that they opposed the actions of angry peers who tried to disrupt the process.
2) Crisis and Continuity Plans
- It is important for a business to have a contingency strategy in case of a crisis.
- Standard strategies need to be modified and customized to address the unique demands of the epidemic.
- These strategies should be able to determine continuity plans to mitigate loss.
- In China, businesses that "are experiencing a massive drop in footfall" such as restaurants, cinemas, and hotels have shared their employees with Hema, a digital grocery supermarket.
3) Use Scenario Analysis
- Companies can use scenario analysis to minimize/prevent loss of business from customers that are hit hard by the outbreak and cutting their budgets.
- Companies can determine long term impacts such as working capital and rents. Companies can ask the "finance team to highlight critical sensitivities".
- Scenario analysis has the potential of optimizing crisis response and making the best decision in the future.
- Shell used scenario analysis to anticipate the energy crisis in 1973 and the oil collapse in 1986. It took "preemptive action to mitigate their impacts".
4) Being Agile and Develop New Products
- Businesses need to be agile in order to prevent/minimize loss of business.
- According to Gartner, during a crisis, businesses should follow the lead of the consumer and adjust accordingly.
- In China, Beauty influencer's dog started to trend on Weibo after featuring in a live stream, Perfect Diary used this instant popularity to introduce a new product "Animal Eyeshadow".
- About 16,000 pieces were sold out in 10 seconds.