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How to Advertise in the Age of COVID

An illustration of a man considering how to effectively advertise digitally

Posted on 05/08/2020 at 04:00 PM

Adapting and Evolving Ads

Many businesses believe that the new ways of doing business in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic are not temporary changes, rather the next evolution in customer interaction. A recent report by Nielsen indicates that there may be some truth to this notion and suggests companies may have to return to mediums that have all but been abandoned. Because the future is unknown, it has become more critical than ever to pay close attention to consumer preferences and behaviors.

As many parts of the United States begin to re-open for business, others are hesitant and unwilling to take risks that they feel might further expand the economic impact of the virus. Changing lifestyles, stay at home orders and a rise in people working from home has led shifts in how people consume media including an increase in global television consumption with some countries seeing increases of around 17%.

The report also highlights a rise in audio and radio consumption. Those surveyed claim to find comfort and connection in the voices of their favorite “on-air” personalities whom they trust. In fact, the same article notes that “42% of consumers say that radio has helped them deal with the outbreak.”

“28% of adults surveyed said they’re listening to more radio, while 55% claimed to be listening to about the same amount as before the outbreak.” – nielsen.com

Another notable rise reported by Nielsen is an increase in podcast listeners of 14%, suggesting that podcasting represents a new platform that organizations may want to consider as a means to expand their audience. Options for connecting via podcasts include starting one or even paying to advertise on a popular podcast to hit a target demographic or audience.

The Rise of E-Commerce

As mentioned in a previous Global Reach Article, Nielsen confirms a rise in e-commerce as consumers have shifted their spending habits.

“Compared to the previous year, e-commerce stores offering Grocery & Gourmet food has seen an increase of 124%, Home & Kitchen has risen 284%, and Baby Products has risen 164% according to the Nielsen Total US E-commerce measurement powered by Rakuten Intelligence, Week Ending 3/14/2020.”

Many brick and mortar grocery stores have taken dramatic efforts to protect shoppers by sanitizing carts and conveyor belts between uses and placing reminder stickers six feet apart on the floor. They have also begun requiring employees to wear masks and installing temporary plexiglass barriers to slow the spread of germs. This may not be enough to win back lost revenue.

One of the biggest issues that grocers have faced has been dealing with supply-chain logistics to meet supply and demand. Slow responses to sudden influxes in demand for specific products meant even giants like Wal-Mart found many of their shelves empty. This lack of supply forced many shoppers online and saw brand loyalty drop to less than 10%.

A New Shopping Reality?

Consumers are creatures of habit. Even with many states easing restrictions, many shoppers may have found that they like the comfort and ease of ordering online and having supplies, food, and even luxury items delivered to their doorstep. Just because they can shop in a store doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

Advertising Options

Need recognition is the foundation that kicks off the consumer buying cycle. Next comes information seeking. People start by considering what is most familiar to them. Marketing and advertising seek to monopolize this critical time by placing a product or service at the forefront of a consumer’s mind.

Historically, Marketing 101 states that to grab a consumer’s attention companies must go where the audience is and speak their language. This becomes increasingly difficult when how their target audience consumes is in a constant state of change.

Sometimes saying nothing is the best thing to say. If you are an advertiser, this is not one of them.

“Nielsen’s database of long-term effect models suggests that cutting advertising for the rest of 2020 could lead to an 11% revenue decrease in 2021.” – neilsen.com

Trust the Known, Discover the Unknown

Consumers have been diving head-first into new technologies and discovering existing ones. Humans crave connection and what Nielsen calls “Tangible Touchpoints”. We’ve always been curious about new technology, but the introduction of social distancing has forced us to adopt new forms of distance learning, shopping, and experiencing connections with people and the items we buy.

Consumers prefer to do a pre-purchase evaluation - touch and see what they’re buying - before they purchase. This is nearly impossible when they’re stuck inside.

Enter Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Enhanced Video Experiences

By utilizing easily adaptable accessories like the DJI Osmo companies can provide virtual tours with little more than their smartphone and video editing software. This technology could be implemented by anyone from property management companies whose clients typically like to tour an apartment before renting it to large construction and agricultural equipment firms who want to show both the interior and exterior of a machine.

Reaching the Audience

Consumers are seeking connections to products and genuine human interactions as well as peace of mind. This means staying connected with the audience to build trust and brand loyalty. Habits mean patterns and forming new habits means businesses must seek to mitigate risk by recognizing the new patterns and adapting their marketing strategy. A new marketing mix may include radio ads, podcasts, video production, utilizing social media posting and ads, and figuring out how to have “contactless interactions” with their customers.

COVID-19 cases will eventually subside, but they may rise again. If they do, consumers will be ready. To ensure survival, your business should be too.

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