How to Respond to COVID-19: Your Digital Advertising To-Do List

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is swiftly changing the advertising world: changing consumer habits, changing media consumption and changing how digital advertisers are supporting and guarding their brands. Do you know how to navigate this unchartered terrain? How to take the right next steps during this unprecedented time? We can guide you. Read on to find out what we expect to see in the coming days and get your digital advertising to-do list – all our expert recommendations you should follow and to-do’s you should tackle to lessen your brand risk and improve your brand opportunities ­as you respond to COVID-19. Changing Consumer Behavior Due to widespread coronavirus concern and growing restrictions, normal everyday life has been put on pause for now. Consumers, no longer out and about, are avoiding all but the most essential store runs in an effort to stay healthy. Instead, they’re turning to e-commerce to get what they need shipped right to their door. They’re also turning to digital devices, both mobile and desktop, to connect with others despite the required self-isolation and social-distancing policies. Be it to stay entertained or to get educated on the latest developments, they are logging in to social networks, smart TVs, video game consoles, and their phones more than ever before. Changing Digital Advertising Strategies With variances in consumer behavior comes shifts in media consumption, and digital advertisers are adapting quickly. For example, some advertisers have already taken precautionary measures when it comes to their media including implementing blacklists and increasing negative keyword lists. Digital advertisers are also scaling up spend in channels that align with consumer behavior shifts and cutting costs in channels that don’t. Since sporting events have been postponed or cancelled and once bustling cities have grown quiet for now, smart advertisers are looking for ways to move traditional TV, print and outdoor spend to advanced TV or connected TV. Ad messaging is also shifting during this difficult time. Some advertisers are replacing their usual come visit/shop/purchase/dine/join messaging with health-focused or PSA-style ads, while others are pausing promotional campaigns to refocus on their evergreen branding. Changing Advertising Ecosystem What does the future hold? Advertisers will lean more and more on digital alternatives to offset in-person event cancellations (think video conferencing and virtual events), which will magnify the need for 5G wireless technology. They will also start focusing on high-traffic channels, such as Amazon, paid search and social to follow consumer news and shopping trends. And as advertisers become more cautious about where their ads are running and shy away from keywords that may have a negative brand impact, contextual targeting strategies will likely become more popular. The way ad campaigns are measured may even change too. To adapt to the current market, advertisers may choose to look at longer lifetime value or profitability metrics rather than cost per action (CPA) or return on ad spending (ROAS). How to Respond to COVID-19: Your Digital Advertising To-Do List Consumer behavior, digital advertising strategies and the entire advertising ecosystem are changing fast. But you can deal well with this change and respond to whatever COVID-19 brings by tackling this digital advertising to-do list. 1. Check your vitals. Evaluate all angles of your business health including revenue trends, website traffic, social engagement and so on to understand how COVID-19 is impacting your business. 2. Maintain your brand. What marketing strategies should you activate now? During the COVID-19 pandemic, can your brand serve customers and prospects well? For example, Peloton’s workout-from-home business model fits perfectly into the rising need for social distancing. Or can your brand step in and fill a crucial public service gap? If so, before launching any service-oriented digital ad campaigns like these, make sure your messaging is mindful and socially responsible. Test the campaigns first before rolling them out widely to be sure they don’t negatively affect your brand image or sales. 3. Build strong connections. Make emotional connections with your customers while they’re in COVID-19 crisis mode. Consumers will always remember how a brand makes them feel. And a consumer’s emotional connection to a brand will power brand loyalty and longer customer lifetime value. If you’re not doing this already, pivot to meet customers’ and prospects’ current and ever-changing needs. For example, if you’re a grocery chain, promote delivery services. If you’re a gym, move to virtual trainings. Or if you’re a restaurant, focus on takeout and contactless pickup or delivery options. Keep looking for ways to stay in the game. Providing products and services at a social distance is the new table stakes for business. Set yourself apart in this new climate by offering discounts, package deals or other elevated levels of service, even if just for a short time, to drive interest and more customers. Explore opportunities to build brand connection within paid and organic channels. 4. Evaluate your messaging. Look at messaging receiving positive traction within your website, organic and paid media, and especially social channels. Now is the time to focus on the voice of the customer: Read customer comments, emails or chat. If you’re not getting enough customer interaction through marketing channels, tap into your call center, sales or customer service teams. Monitor calls. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by just listening for trends. Are you seeing shifts in purchasing behavior across your revenue channels? Shift to align with where you’re seeing positive results. For example, if you’re seeing a shift from retail to online purchase, revise your strategy to increase messaging that focuses on online calls to action. Or start creating positive results. On the other hand, be sure to play good defense with any challenges or problems that crop up. For instance, if you’re an e-commerce retailer and shipping is delayed, be proactive and tell your customers, maybe with a huge banner on your site. Create the right organic or paid messaging strategy to communicate well with your audience while staying true to your brand’s core values. 5. Shift your media channel mix. Maximize changes in consumption trends. It’s no surprise media consumption is changing as more people switch up their daily routines, like spending more time with social media or advanced TV. Shift your media channel mix to align with opportunities in-market and improve performance within your campaigns. 6. Keep an eye on marketing shifts. Each market is operating in a different reality right now. Make sure you’re evaluating market-level performance and optimizing your advertising strategy within each. Analyze where and how your audience is now spending their time. Once you understand where these shifts are happening, you can uncover opportunities to continue to engage your target consumers well. Also, decide whether to focus on acquisition or retention. Is it still profitable to acquire new customers? How are you going about retaining current customers? Developing specific messaging to attain new customers and retain your current client base is equally important. 7. Watch your competitors. Keep an eye on your vertical’s consumer spending trends and your competitors’ messaging and media presence. SimilarWeb or Comscore can give you insights into your customers and the entire consumer journey and how to powerfully improve your targeting and mitigate shifts in brand loyalty to stay ahead of the competition. 8. Know your cutoff. Determine the lines of profitability within your paid media. If you’re netting a loss, consider changing your messaging strategy unless your focus is on maintaining brand equity rather than driving revenue. Now it’s time. Go tackle this digital advertising to-do list (or let’s do it together.) When you do, you’ll be well prepared to respond to COVID-19, able to navigate whatever terrain lies ahead, and rebound – stronger than before.