By Faith Martin, Account Supervisor, Marketing, and Dory Butcher, Assistant Account Executive, Marketing – RPG Boston

The RPG team recently did a deep dive into the changing consumer landscape due to the COVID-19 crisis with our partner, Decibel Media. We found that with the current COVID-19 crisis and associated restrictions, people are finding ways to stay entertained, informed and productive while also staying safe. They have been forced to make necessary changes to their daily lives, which has ultimately changed their needs, behaviors and habits.

As people adapt their behaviors, brands need to adapt to this new landscape in order to continue to connect with and serve their customers in meaningful ways. Companies have to rethink their marketing strategies and ensure content is not deemed insensitive to the current situation. But they need to strategize beyond messaging and take action across their communications.

There are many shifting factors that are top of mind for companies right now, so it is important to stay abreast of all considerations and changes. This will in turn allow companies to strategize to meet the challenges of a new landscape and resonate in both the short and long term.

Global Media Impacts

Global spending across specific media types will continue to shift as companies navigate the new landscape. The media types most negatively impacted are the ones that rely on day-to-day commutes, travel, in-person entertainment and other social activities. Out of home and event advertising, for example, have been significantly impacted as people are staying in their homes and events are canceled or made virtual.

As expected, media consumption behaviors are also shifting as people adapt to the new norm. The channels seeing increases at this time are digital, as people are looking to social, broadcast TV and news websites to stay up to date on the current climate. News websites are seeing jumps in traffic as people try to stay informed on updates related to COVID-19, leading to a 39% increase in people reading online news. Social networks are also seeing a major boost, as people turn to these platforms to connect with others, seek entertainment and get real-time updates and news all in one place. This has led to a 29% increase in social media use.

Digital video and TV are also seeing lift in usage. In fact, according to Nielsen, Americans stand to watch as much as 60% more television now that increasingly strict lockdowns and shutdowns are in place in cities around the country. Streaming giants such as Amazon and Netflix have had continued success as people move inside and watch more long-form content. However, consumers are also turning to other digital video channels for entertainment, with YouTube seeing a 50% increase in views.

As many “non-essential” businesses are forced to close and consumers remain inside, they are also turning to digital when it comes to their purchases. As they are shopping online as opposed to visiting brick-and-mortar stores, many companies are working to increase their online presence. Because of this, search engine marketing spend will likely see increases as companies try to keep their offerings top of mind.

With these shifts to digital channels, there is an opportunity for brands to provide consumers with meaningful content while still driving towards business goals.

The New Normal: Consumer Behavior in the Midst of the Covid-19 Crisis

Navigating the Changing Marketing Landscape

With all these changes, companies need to adapt in order to drive success now and in the future. The following are potential initiatives that companies can consider when looking to connect with customers.

  • Fill the funnel. Less in-person time means more time in front of devices, need for digital thought leadership, and people to reach with early touchpoints; this provides an opportunity to reach users with upper-funnel activities. People may be delaying purchases in this time of uncertainty, but there is still opportunity to connect with them through thought leadership and helpful content to build a relationship with them until they are ready to purchase. Approach these opportunities with the mindset of fueling discovery from users, offering something intriguing or valuable so consumers are enticed to learn more.
  • Promote digital offerings. Showcase what the brand has to offer digitally at this time of virtual learning, engagement and shopping. Consumers are looking for new ways to keep themselves busy or entertained while at home. Make the brand a new outlet for them to do so, and connect more deeply with users to learn what resources may interest them.
  • Consider direct mail. Send information to customers directly where they are – at home. Leverage direct mail as a way to distribute deeper content and brand materials. Offer discounts, helpful information or other resources; a card or letter with information they may be looking for or don’t even know they need will resonate with customers. When approaching this strategy, get creative and think beyond the postcard – what can your brand offer to your loyal customers to raise their spirits or give them some relief in this difficult time?
  • Create community. With people seeking engagement and conversation, promote opportunities for sharing and networking on social media and other channels. User-generated content, contests or other promotions that get people involved can foster a meaningful relationship with the brand and the community.
  • Activate brand purpose. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands to deliver on their mission and values with empathy and rapid action; they are also favorable toward brands offering free resources or flexible payments, while brands who are carrying on with business as usual are considered polarizing to consumers. Show consumers the exact steps being taken to deliver on your mission and values in a time of crisis, whether it is volunteering, discounts, donations or other tangible actions. Make it applicable to what the brand values and what its customers value.

As communications are developed, messaging should be simple, factual and empathetic, and brands should avoid content that may appear to prioritize profits. They should take action and share clear communications with consumers about how to approach the brand in the current crisis, and what it can do to help them. It will be important to prioritize digital offerings that are relevant at this time, while also remaining mindful of long-term circumstances and residual impacts on longer user journeys and higher-consideration purchases. Most consumers are reporting that they intend to continue their new digital habits well after the crisis is over, so taking a digital-and customer-focused approach now will help companies continue to thrive in the future.

About the Authors

Faith Martin

Faith is an Account Supervisor in RPG’s Boston office, working with clients across a range of industries including technology, insurance, and professional associations. She has a passion for developing insight-driven, high quality work to support brand and digital marketing campaigns.

Dory Butcher

Dory is an Assistant Account Executive in RPG’s Boston office, working on the digital marketing team. She has hands on experience working with clients across B2B brands to deliver digital experiences.