How Will Marketing Strategies Evolve in Times of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

by Vandita Grover, Martech Advisor Contributor

COVID-19 has impacted countries all around the world. With no cure in sight, social distancing is the only way to limit the spread of the virus. But during these times when people are staying home and  working remotely, buying patterns have been drastically altered. How will marketing strategies evolve in these uncertain times and going forward?

Coronavirus is, by far, one of the biggest challenges this generation has faced, and its impacts will last in the years to come. The clinical trials for candidate vaccines have begun. But, for now, social distancing and remote work are the only solutions that can help people stay safe. In short, COVID-19 has people staying home, which has altered consumer buying patterns. We now see more of:

  • Panic buying and stocking of essentials
  • More people opting for home-cooked meals or canned food over restaurants and delivery
  • Travel restrictions impacting travel and tourism and hospitality
  • Avoiding luxury shopping to safeguard finances with markets falling
  • Shopping online and through mobile devices

Moreover, each crisis leaves a long-term psychological impact on customers. While some might play it safe for a long time, others may want to indulge as a rebound.

Lynne Clement, client success specialist at ApexDrop, exclusively told MarTech Advisor,

Consumer attitudes and behaviors are changing. Marketers must start there. Life before COVID-19 revolved around going to work, grocery stores, malls, gyms, restaurants, movies, and schools. During COVID-19, we’ll adapt to working, shopping, exercising, entertainment, and learning at home. Digital experiences will replace in-person experiences. Some of the new habits will become the new normal – even after the crisis passes. Looking ahead, the best companies in the world will prepare now for how to meet the needs of consumers (where they’re at) when the recovery period begins. Don’t expect consumers will return to the same place.

As social distancing becomes the new normal and organizations implement remote work – what will the role of marketers look like? John Nash, chief marketing and strategy officer, Redpoint, exclusively told MarTech Advisor,

During a time of economic crisis, the role of the marketer may now seem obsolete. However, it is quite the opposite, as this is an opportunity to pick up on consumer behavior changes and virtually engage with consumers in new ways. These changing times make it crucial for marketers to see consumers as individuals and not group customers into segments. By relying on real-time data and providing brands with a Golden Record of all that is knowable about a customer (e.g. identities, transactions, behaviors), marketers can assist brands now more than ever in creating informed interactions. With these personalized insights, customers will benefit from relevant, positive engagement that is consistent regardless of distance, device, or journey path that is bound to vary for each individual consumer.

How should your marketing strategy evolve in such turbulent times?

How Should Marketing Strategies Evolve With Social Distancing and Remote Work Becoming the New Normal?

To survive the negative sentiment and economic slowdown: resilience, innovation, agility, and empathy should be marketers’ tools. As consumers’ lifestyles are adapting to staying at home,  marketers must proactively reach out to them where they are. We spoke to some marketing experts, and also got their insights on the evolution of marketing strategies.

Here is how you can adjust the sails of your marketing strategy:

1. Anticipate Consumer Needs

Social distancing can lead to stress, boredom, anxiety, and a sense of loneliness. This makes it crucial to identify individual consumer needs and address them before it becomes a problem area.

For example, with schools and offices closed, it becomes difficult for parents to work from home and engage their kids. So Audible, an audiobook service by Amazon, is now offering free streaming of stories to entertain, teach, and engage children while schools remain shut.

During this unprecedented time, as consumers’ buying behaviors and media consumption change, it’s so important for marketers to understand these emerging patterns – as well as to anticipate consumer needs. Real-time insights and technology that anticipate consumer interests and needs are essential for marketers and brands to create meaningful, supportive engagement with consumers. Brands have an opportunity to deliver real-time assurance, a feeling of connection.

Carrie Parker, VP marketing, Valassis, said exclusively to MarTech Advisor

2. Leverage Technology

It has become a challenge to meet customer needs, and you must think about how best to serve customers with limited resources and social distancing constraints. Organizations, especially e-commerce giants are over-burdened with rising online orders, stocks running out, prioritizing essentials, and ensuring the health of employees and customers.

Amazon has taken numerous measures to support customers, employees, and communities. From ramping up fulfillment and delivery hiring to ensuring fair pricing, adjusting shopping hours for senior customers, and adjusting delivery (like the option to choose No-Rush Shipping) and logistics for prioritizing essentials, Amazon is trying to cater to customer requirements. Customers can also select ‘Unattended Delivery’ options to avoid coming in contact with the delivery agents. Amazon has also pledged to donate 250,000 essential items to Seattle’s quarantine patients. Apart from this, Amazon Care, will pick-up and deliver COVID-19 tests in the Seattle area, as reported by CNBC.

All marketing efforts must now be reframed through the lens of COVID-19 and its broader business impact…many products can still play a role in this new reality. Focus on increased personalized connectivity and ways to keep services running. You may not be able to visit your favorite retail store or restaurant, but the virtual community created online mixed with creative new delivery and commerce services may be a realistic alternative. Technology should then serve as the backbone to deliver these ideas quickly.

Paula Hansen, chief revenue officer, SAP Customer Experience, said exclusively to MarTech Advisor

3. Be Present in the Digital World

As people stay at home, time spent on their mobile devices, and online platforms is already on the rise. They are spending more time on OTT streaming platforms for entertainment, social media for connecting with the outside world, e-commerce portals for shopping, and so on. Although COVID-19 has disrupted marketing and advertising initiatives, we can expect marketers to keep their plans fluid and tweak their ad-spends to reach customers where they are.

McDonald’s has started diverting media spend to safer options like McDelivery and Drive Through, Eugene Lee, Marketing Director, Asia Region, disclosed to The company is adjusting marketing budgets as consumers consume more digital media and practice social distancing. McDonald’s is also stressing on quality, safety, cleanliness, and promoting its McDelivery and Drive-Thru services through advertising campaigns to focus on consumer safety.

Robert Rothschild, VP, global head of marketing,, when talking exclusively to MarTech Advisor about adjusting advertising budgets said,

We’re in the beginning of a major behavioral shift, and as a result, some merchants may see e-commerce sales similar to the rates of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That said, brands must reallocate budgets to ad campaigns accordingly, and reach consumers where they are most active – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. According to November research from, 52 percent of retail marketers said they will spend more on social advertising than they did in 2019, and 50 percent were planning to spend at least half of their annual marketing budget on social media advertising this year. We anticipate this number will only increase as people stay indoors and social media advertising becomes a primary focus for retail brands.

4. Focus on Customer Experience More Than Ever

In worrying time likes these, brands must focus on instilling confidence in customers, by providing them with the means to cope with the situation, furnishing the right information, and going beyond to help customers. Being empathetic and prioritizing customer experience will help your brand stand out and help you build a loyal customer base.

Technology giants, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube, have joined hands to support and work together to help governments arrest the novel coronavirus with their technological and financial might, and also assist scientists in research to develop a cure. They also issued a joint statement to help combat fraud and misinformation.

Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert wrote in his LinkedIn post, “Many businesses are going to suffer financially because of this. Rather than deteriorate in front of your customers, show how you’re there for them through thick and thin. They shouldn’t notice an interruption in the way they’ve always done business with you. That may mean you can’t cut in all the places you want to cut. You may even need to intensify your efforts to ensure you deliver the best experience.”

5. Transform into a Purpose-Led Brand

Quarantine and lockdown measures can help keep people safe and healthy. But don’t forget the impact on mental health on different age groups. While kids cannot go to schools or play, the earning group is worried about finances, and seniors who are seemingly the most susceptible to the virus are stressed. It is, therefore, important to engage and entertain people. In these times, if marketers can find innovative ways to ensure their services reach customers, it will go a long way in building lasting relationships.

We are now seeing influencers partnering with fitness apps to help people stay fit at home, education apps to enable learning, gaming apps to engage people. For example, to support its community, Vogue has offered three months free access to all its digital titles, including a free issue of Vanity Fair dedicated to Milan.

“The immediate marketing challenge for companies is building a relationship beyond what they sell and focusing on helping, not selling. The focus changes from the product to how you can support users in getting through this. Cause-related options can be used to build visibility. Acknowledging changing consumer behavior and offering help is relevant. Empathy is an important tone,” says Lynne Clement.

Learn More: Your 2020 Crisis Marketing Strategy: Marketing Communication and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Survival of The Fittest

The world is going to look different on the other side of COVID-19 as teams strengthen their muscles for creating engaging, targeted digital experiences for their buyers. CMOs that spend this time building end-to-end, personalized digital strategies are going to come out the other side with a huge competitive advantage over the ones that are simply adapting their live events strategies to virtual ones. Additionally, now more than ever, we’re seeing marketing teams adapt rapidly to customer retention and expansion strategies. While customer acquisition programs might be thrown for a loop, marketers are recognizing that focusing on keeping their current customers happy and successful will help them weather this period.

Justin Keller, VP of marketing, Terminus, said exclusively to MarTech Advisor

No one can predict what’s next in the global pandemic and when it will end. But, to survive and rise, we must stay sharp. And for that, you need to:

  1. Understand, anticipate, and go above and beyond to fulfill customer needs.
  2. Leverage the right technology to stay ahead of the challenge.
  3. Be agile with your marketing and advertising spend.
  4. Activate purpose-led marketing messages and focus on helping customers.

On that note, we leave you with the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “We are in this together – and we will get through this, together.”

Article originally appeared on MarTech Advisor.

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