By - Neal Cole

How is Coronavirus Changing Digital Marketing?

Coronavirus is forcing many people to work remotely

How has Coronavirus Changed Behaviour?

 

How will the Coronavirus crisis disrupt digital marketing and who will be the winners and losers? Coronavirus  has already resulted in major changes in consumer and organisational behaviour.  The UK and the USA are in lockdown and this is having a huge impact on how people use digital channels. Coronavirus is creating uncertainty and fear which can be a powerful driver for behavioural change.  We have already seen:

 

  • Lockdown in many countries including  Italy, Spain, USA and now the UK.
  • A huge increase in remote working as governments encourage or impose social distancing.
  • An uplift in online sales for groceries and non-food goods.
  • Cancellation of all conferences, sporting events and other mass gatherings.
  • A collapse in international passenger numbers and a closure of international borders.
  • Disruption of supply chains, initially from China, but now more widespread.
  • A sharp fall in advertising spending for travel and hospitality sectors.
  • Major investment decisions being put on hold.
  • Huge falls on financial markets as analysts expect company failures and a significant recession.

 

The lockdown together with social distancing and remote working create significant challenges at both a personal and business level. Together with the uncertainty about the impact of Coronavirus on one’s own health and that of our loved ones, we are in uncharted waters with the pandemic.

 

Social isolation for instance is known to be harmful for our mental and physical health. Rising unemployment is likely to make matters worse for those affected by the economic downturn.

 

For businesses a lack of face-to-face contact can be detrimental to creativity and team building. Whether it is joining the smokers outside the office or having lunch with a colleague,  these social activities are an important and beneficial part of the office experience. However, it also creates opportunities for businesses to become more resilient by enabling home-working and establishing systems and  processes for managing virtual offices.

 

So, what are the major implications and changes we expect to see in digital marketing as a result of the Coronavirus crisis and the lock down in many countries? Here are some of the key ones.

Entertainment:

Netflix subscriptions rise as social distancing is imposed

With schools closed and most people working from home TV channels have seen a surge in day time audience viewing. This is likely to see a shift in budgets away from some digital marketing towards TV for many large national and global brands. However, this could also push some smaller brands away from using day time TV ads towards digital channels.

 

Subscription services for films and TV programmes are also benefiting from cinemas closing and most sporting events being cancelled. Netflix, Disney and to a lesser extent Sky are likely to see an increase in customer subscriptions. Sky may suffer due to the cancellation of sports events.

With most cinemas closed there has been surge in drive-in movies being organised. Expect other forms of entertainment that comply with social distancing to become more popular.

 

We predict online gaming will see an uplift in demand from both children being out of school and from many more adults being at home during the day. With more time on their hands and restrictions on travelling many citizens will be looking for in-home entertainment and online gaming gives the additional benefit of being able to play with friends remotely.

 

Ecommerce Retail:

 

Supermarkets have already experienced a massive increase in online bookings of slots for home delivery. With people spending so much time at home and having to  self-isolate we expect to see a big rise in online sales in sectors such as home improvements, hobbies, crafts and books.  However, we may also see an increase in relatively small and local businesses, offering home delivery as they try to respond to the crisis.

 

We expect many brochureware websites to be updated to transactional sites to facilitate this process. Websites offer even small retailers a fast and efficient way to enable home delivery. This will provide opportunities for payment platforms like WooCommerce for WordPress and more generic platforms like Paperform.

 

Once the lock-down has been reduced we expect new or existing  aggregators such as JustEat to assist in this process. This is because they can offer economies of scale to many small retailers who don’t have the time or money to build and maintain their own transactional website.

 

Disruption in SEO

 

With more sales and services being purchased online there is likely to be continued demand for professional SEO services. With smaller and geographically restricted companies needing to develop transactional websites there will be more demand for local SEO marketing as home delivery becomes more important.

 

Cloud Meeting and Team Collaboration Solutions:

Remote working as a team
Source: Red-Fern Media on LinkedIn

Since the Coronavirus outbreak there has been a surge in interest from organisations about using cloud meeting platforms. Many multinational organisations already use platforms such as Zoom, LogMeIn, BlueJeans, and Google Hangouts Meet video conferencing capabilities.

 

However, the nature of the pandemic has been the tipping point for many more national and even local businesses to invest in this technology to facilitate remote working.  To facilitate adoption a number of theses enterprise providers have launched initiatives to help consumers, businesses and governments in dealing with the Coronavirus crisis.

 

Collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams which facilitate the sharing and storing of information have also benefited from the sudden need to work remotely. Many agile organisations are already familiar with these tools, but with many workers now forced to work from home they are now gaining a wider audience.

 

Personal Networking Platforms:

 

One of the most obvious consequences of social distancing and self-isolation is the desire to find other ways to keep in touch with family and friends. Social media and messaging apps such as SnapChat and WhatsApp are likely to be the main beneficiaries of this. We expect more Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups to be set up as people strive to connect online with existing  offline social groups.

 

E-Learning:

 

With many countries now banning or discouraging mass gatherings organisations have largely lost the ability to run face-to-face seminars and training courses, at least for the time being. In addition, employees are saving time by no longer having a daily commute. This means organisations and citizens will have to rely more heavily on online courses and webinars to learn new skills or improve their knowledge in topics of interest to them or their organisation.

Github offers e-learning courses

This will give organisations that already have an established online e-learning platform an advantage over those who rely on an offline presence. Expect companies like LinkedIn and GitHub to benefit from the race to online learning.

 

Conferences and Events:

Email for Webinar for REO Digital
Source: Email from REO Digital

Conferences and events are an important source of lead generation for organisations. They also offer delegates the opportunity to network and establish both business and personal relationships. The sudden evaporation of such opportunities will force companies to seek alternative online solutions to fulfil training and compliance  needs.

 

This is likely to force many event management companies online in order to survive in the short-term at least. The Coronavirus crisis may result in a long-term shift away from mass gatherings and so we may see an increase in online conferences and webinars. This is likely to boost email marketing and PPC campaigns in these sectors.

 

For companies which generate leads from conferences and events there will be pressure to shift budget to digital marketing. This is likely to see an increase in such organisations using PPC marketing campaigns and a rise in cost per click (CPC) in these sectors.

 

There is also likely to be an increase in citizens seeking to learn online as a result of having more time during self-isolation and social distancing measures. As unemployment increases due to the predicted economic downturn there will also be pressure on individuals to learn new skills.

 

Online Gambling:

Image of models on WilliamHill.com Live Casino homepage
Image Source: Williamhill.com

Isolation and being home-bound is a major trigger for online gambling. When home-workers get bored they often have easy access to online gambling sites and the games can be very addictive. Online casinos are likely to be a major beneficiary of the huge rise in home working. Sports betting on the other hand is already contracting due to the cancellation of most sporting events. This is likely to lead to a shift towards more virtual sports betting.

 

There is also a risk we will see a rise in problem gambling as so many citizens are forced to work remotely for the first time and may not have the routine or discipline to avoid temptation. Organisations need to be aware of this danger and put policies in place to warn employees about the dangers of becoming addicted to such websites. This could also put pressure on governments to tighten up regulations and controls on online gambling.

 

Coronavirus Scams:

 

Fraudsters always try to capitalise on uncertainty and fear. There is evidence that scammers are already using websites, fake emails, robo-calls, texts and social media to trick people into giving them personal details or take money for fake products. Scammers may appear to be promoting tips for avoiding contracting Coronavirus, home testing kits or even vaccinations. It’s important that citizens remain cautious about any approach they receive unless it is from an official source because scammers may also send files or links with malicious software.

Scam email for personal protection equipment

Increase in the birth rate:

 

With consenting adults spending more time at home and having more spare time it is likely we will see a rise in the birth rate in many countries. This may be a good thing in some countries where the population is aging but it may also create more problems for an already over-stretched health service. This may lead to more home-births and an increase in demand for help with home schooling if the period of social distancing lasts more than a few months.

Summary:

 

Fear and uncertainty are powerful forces in motivating changes in behaviour. The Coronavirus crisis has already changed our daily lives beyond many of our expectations. It is likely to change many aspects of digital marketing as people and organisations are forced to respond to the many challenges and opportunities it provides.  It raises many questions for organisations and citizens to consider.

How will marketing budgets change in response to the surge in day-time TV viewing figures?

Will online gaming with friends help replace some of the social activities that have to be put on hold due to the crisis?

As small retailers likely to make their websites transactional to facilitate a shift toward home delivery or will new aggregators appear to assist this process?

Are more companies going to be looking for local SEO marketing to adjust to the new business environment?

Cloud meeting and collaboration platforms are benefiting from remote working. However, will more citizens also adopt such solutions to re-engage with existing social networks or will they rely on Facebook groups and WhatsApp?

Organisations have already moved a lot of training and compliance regulatory tests online. Will greater remote working and the banning of mass gatherings result in more citizens taking up e-learning opportunities to gain new skills and enhance their CVs?

Will offline conferences and events move online to enable event management companies to survive?

Could online casinos be one of the biggest beneficiaries of social distancing and remote working?

Have you noticed scammers trying to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus crisis?

Finally, will the expected spike in the birth rate have benefits for digital marketing and what will they be?

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides web analytics and CRO consultancy services and has worked in many sectors including financial services, online gaming and retail. He has helped brands such Hastings Direct, Manchester Airport Group Online and Assurant Ltd to improve their digital marketing measurement and performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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