The global spread of the Coronavirus has drastically changed the world as we know it, with every aspect of daily life affected. As restrictions on movement and social contact are tightened, consumers are being forced to change their buying habits and interact with brands in new and sometimes unconventional ways.
For enterprises everywhere, Covid-19 presents a very complex set of challenges. With nothing like this having taken place in living memory, the fallout will be long-lasting and will inevitably reshape how business is done in the future.
The behavioural shifts we have seen in consumers will endure well beyond the pandemic, which is why it is so important for brands to adapt now if they are to survive and thrive during and after the current crisis.
Yet it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom for businesses. For some brands there will be silver linings in an otherwise bleak situation, if they are able and willing to adapt to this ‘new normal’.
You don’t need to jump on the bandwagon
Firms across all sectors have tried to repackage their goods and services in order to catch customers’ attention and latch onto their virus-related fears, sometimes playing into the survival instinct, sometimes presenting themselves as doing a ‘social good’. While every company must formulate a response of some kind, there are right and wrong ways to go about it.
Repositioning is a tactic which can easily backfire if done in a heavy-handed way, or when it adds little to no value to a company. As inboxes fill up with offers, updates and not-so-subtle product plugs, consumers quickly lose interest and send such emails straight to the trash folder. That means that valuable marketing messages can be lost in the deluge. For companies to engage with their customers in a meaningful way, they have to become smarter, think creatively and adapt to the situation.
Avoid generic messages, and be authentic with your customer base
Firstly, companies need to think long and hard about how they position their brand in these unprecedented times. Depending on their sector and niche, picking up the topic of Covid-19 will naturally fit with the marketing strategies of some businesses. For others, latching on to the pandemic will seem out of place or even opportunistic, and today’s savvy consumers are quick to see through such behaviour.
If a brand attempts a less than genuine response to the outbreak, they risk alienating their customer base and potentially losing any longer-term goodwill. For marketers and advertisers to cut through the generic messages, they need to demonstrate their social value on both a personal and community level.
Consumers respond to transparency and authenticity. If they can see a brand means well and understand how their products or services can help in the current climate, then they are more likely to engage and remain loyal throughout the crisis. Some High Street food chains, for instance, have been giving away free drinks to NHS staff, while some gyms have been offering free video workouts to customers stuck at home. These small acts of generosity, done for no monetary gain, help generate goodwill and change a consumer’s view of a brand for the better.
Be agile and ready to adapt
Businesses also need to think about how they deliver their goods and services, responding to customer needs quickly and efficiently. Whether that means developing a new product or rethinking the way their goods are delivered, all companies need to review what they’re offering and adapt to meet the changed demands of the current situation. This cannot be a short-term fix, as consumer behaviour will be altered forever by Covid-19. For change to be meaningful and sustainable, brands need to involve their customers more, listen to them more attentively and respond to their feedback and demands.
Brands need to study how they engage with their customers. With people working from home and getting their social interaction online, companies need to adapt to this new way of life. When it comes to opening new channels of communication, brands need to be quick-thinking, agile and willing to experiment. Done well, there is still room for the humble email campaign, but with more people flocking to social media for their news and to keep up with the outside world, no company can overlook the importance of such channels.
With so much content generated on these platforms, brands need to be savvy if they don’t want their output to be lost in the media morass. Live videos, video chats and virtual pop-up shops can all play a part, providing ad-weary consumers with a new and more immersive way to interact with brands they already like or have just discovered.
Utilise direct marketing
For starters, it’s worth remembering that direct marketing is far from dead. With people now confined to their homes, you might find you have a captive audience in every sense. Direct mail is having something of a renaissance in these uncertain times, so never underestimate the value of a letter, brochure or catalogue through the door.
Be creative with your virtual events
It’s also worth remembering that events can still be used to drum up interest, especially if you can get more creative. While live events are clearly a no-go for the foreseeable future, we’re living in a digital age where all things are possible. If they can’t come to you, you need to go to them. Live streaming workshops or uploading video tutorials can be a great way to connect with your audience, taking your brand straight to the screens in their living room.
Looking for new ways to engage can mean turning to old technology. With more people stuck at home, television and radio have taken on renewed importance to smart marketers. While you may have thought they’d seen their heyday, TV and radio are fast becoming a point of contact with the outside world, even among younger generations more used to living their lives online. Investing now in radio adverts or television marketing could be a wise move, creating a direct line straight into consumers’ homes.
Reach out to the WeWhoDo freelance community
Finally, now might be the ideal point to think about using the services of freelancers. Many small- and medium-sized companies will struggle with reduced human resources in these difficult times, but employing freelancers on short-term contracts gives you access to a pool of experts who can tailor their services to meet your needs. Without having to rely on agencies, utilising freelance workers can reduce costs and keep things ticking over during this prolonged rough patch.
Overall, brands needn’t see the Coronavirus as a death knell to their business. If you’re able to adapt, adjust to this ‘new normal’ and keep one eye on the future, then there are always positives to be found and ways to grow amid the bleakness of the situation.
This article was written by Thomas Greiderer, a member of the WeWhoDo community.