Blog, Marketing Strategy

Digital Marketing Strategy During COVID-19: Reshape to Remain 

May 05, 2020 | 7 minutes to read
Summary: Coronavirus has shaken up many ways of doing business including digital marketing efforts. Organisational change experts say the deepening effect of the crisis has already altered consumers' behaviour — regardless of the length. No matter how long the pandemic will continue, businesses have entered to a non-reversible era

Coronavirus has shaken up many ways of doing business including digital marketing efforts. Organisational change experts say the deepening effect of the crisis has already altered consumers’ behaviour — regardless of the length. No matter how long the pandemic will continue, businesses have entered to a non-reversible era, in which digital marketing strategies are also redefined.

Digital marketing strategy has become the most important channel of keeping communication open with the customers and prospects during the lockdown. People and businesses are under huge amounts of stress, as they are obligated to stay in touch with customers in order to survive. Despite businesses’ initial reaction to put marketing expenditures on hold, they instead need to not just be aware of the risks, but also recognise the opportunity — as Kennedy explains the Chinese word ‘crisis’.

Source: Marketing Week and Econsultancy Survey based on 887 Responses from UK Brand Marketers, 2020

We would like to highlight two common mistakes during the pandemic and recommend 4 digital marketing tactics that businesses can focus on; building customised content, holding adaptive marketing agenda, widening communication channels and investing in SEO and customer journey, which will make them beat the negativity of the crisis.

The Two Mistakes that Businesses Make in Coronavirus

It is important for businesses to understand how much communication is enough, as too much can overwhelm and annoy the audience. Decisions around announcements, what information is shared, how to communicate and authentic displays of empathy need to be carefully balanced out.

All current dilemmas can be framed as one overarching question: what is the optimum digital marketing strategy for Coronavirus?

Mistake Number 1: Denial Marketing by Keep Pushing Sales  

Pretending nothing has happened is not a good strategy. While many habits have changed with the pandemic, the effect of keeping the marketing agenda as it is, may actually reverse the intention of the marketing, in turn damaging the brands’ identity by being perceived as irresponsible. Continuing the sales push, especially for non-essential goods, may result in adverse outcomes. Based on the research of Kantar on 35.000 consumers globally, only 19% of customers would like to set up calls with the brands. Customers are reluctant to receive any direct sales pitches with many uncertainties and concerns going on in their lives.

Mistake Number 2: Exploiting the Situation with Over-Sensitivity

Another mistake businesses make is to overreact with a high number of posts. People are bombarded with both the negativity of the current news and the overdoing of brands. Empathy shown with no additional value may cause businesses to lose leads in their emailing lists and gain low ROI. Businesses have to make sure that all marketing materials are aligned with the proper personas and brand benefits. The principal “actions speak louder than words” applies to building a better, stronger and more trustworthy brand identity.

Taking these two mistakes into account, how can businesses can build compelling content? Understandably, businesses struggle to find the right strategy, given the uncertainty and confusion. While the future remains unclear; a sound digital marketing strategy would give an edge to the companies who want to sustain the relationship with the customers in a beneficial way.

Tactics to Beat the Negativity of the Crisis

How to Build Content in Pandemic?  Make Content Specific to Your Business

Updates About Operations & Policy Changes

With the start of lockdown/partial lockdown, businesses began to share their precautions as their initial responses. 75% of customers value the updates and believe brands should inform stakeholders what changes are in place (Kantar, 2020). While it is necessary to keep customers in the loop about the enhanced hygiene measurements, the effect of such content has started to be perceived negatively by customers given the same type of content by all brands at the same time.

To make such content more effective, businesses may give emphasis on why they end up taking this action both for the business and consumers. With the updates, companies can show how the policy and operational changes add practicality to the customers. Being relevant to the core business and the people by explaining why these actions have been implemented will prevent the content being generic and will help to differentiate amongst others.

Tips for Content Strategy 

As discussed, creating content that directly seeks sales is not effective in the pandemic environment. So how do you create content that would engage the customers to eventually result in sales to keep the business rolling?

  • The tone of the marketing materials needs to be human-centric, supportive, and realistic to convey empathy. What is essential in these uncertain times is rationality and a bit of optimism from the businesses in their responses to the ups and downs of the consumers’ needs and emotions.
  • Explaining how distribution channels became affected via the home page, emails and social posts will keep customers informed about what the business is facing. Businesses can set expectations for delivery times and the quality of their products with precautions they have taken for safety. The example of this is publishing a message from the CEO or top management to establish trust.
  • Stakeholder mapping will broaden the outreach of the business. Businesses can build their content with a focus of stakeholders rather than just current customers. This will help businesses to identify opportunities lying on the shared values by widening their outreach.
  • New video and testimonial based content can be generated to inform the customers about how services worked for others and how they were satisfied during the crisis period.
  • Highlighting the teamwork in the content will reassure the connection with the audience by creating a sense of belonging. Let customers know it is teamwork and everyone working together — not alone — that helps the businesses to help them.
  • The pandemic sped up the volume of content published and decreased visibility. When designing the content, either for a post or website, keeping the most important idea at the forefront that business wants to pass on is essential.

    Create Adaptive Planning 

Businesses may struggle to allocate enough resources to marketing, as the pandemic made it difficult to run daily operations with the same capacity. Nevertheless, digital marketing remains vital as the only source that fuels online traffic, due to the lack of any offline experience such as stores. Based on the paper “Successful Competitive Strategies for Recession and Recovery” of Hillier, the companies who kept investing in marketing spending in downturns gained market share.

Although the paper was a decade ago, the principle idea still applies. It is essential to think about the trade-off not spending on marketing, when competitors continue in investing and increasing their share in the market. This would put the businesses in a worse position due to plummeting revenues and market share.

Simulation of Brand Awareness for a Beer Brand based on Different Levels of Decreasing AdSpend

Source: Kantar, Covid-19 Barometer, 2020

Revising marketing priorities would be useful for businesses to see what the future may hold and what is not urgent during the crisis. It is expected that the marketing calendar will look quite different than the pre-crisis environment. Given the ever-changing atmosphere with daily updates, the customer behaviours are also moving, hence the marketing agenda.

Being flexible and agile are two main characteristics that businesses should severely hold on to. Marketing analytics will help companies to see which channels give the highest ROI to shape the best marketing mix and to answer the current needs, which will allow for much faster decision making. Focusing on new surging channels that customers have recently adopted would drive short-term sales.

Widen the Communication Channels 

Passing on the idea that the businesses are keeping communication open to customers remains vital. Customers want to see if they can reach the business in case of an inquiry or product-related problem. Due to the pandemic, customers have become less patient. Many businesses have long waiting times and queues that lead customers to search for alternative service providers right away. An immense opportunity lies for businesses to target first-time users and switch to regular users. If they experience a stress-free journey with open communication, they may retain their loyalty in the post-pandemic market.

The importance of customer service having real-time responses was highlighted when they experienced a peak of social media usage during the crisis. Social media channels have become significant sources to leverage customer service and move one step ahead in the competition.

Source: Kantar, Covid-19 Barometer, 2020

Unprecedented demand on online services during and after the pandemic will increase the necessity of marketing automation. Through Marketing Automation, ongoing traffic can be managed smoothly by ensuring customers are informed instantly — ensuring transparency and satisfaction at the same time. Marketing Automation also allows internal task allocation for the sales team, which would also take the hassle out of manual management.

Source: Kantar, Covid-19 Barometer, 2020

Invest in the Long Run:  SEO and Building Better Customer Journey

All businesses and marketers will experience a clear shift to online sales and delivery-based ecosystems. The dominance of e-commerce will be the ground-breaking outcome that will persist after the pandemic crisis. Businesses with less infrastructure for e-commerce may take the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in their SEO and to design a better customer journey. SEO aims to boost the businesses’ organic reach by matching the customer’s search habits. Updating website page titles, headers, and keywords in the content will increase the visibility and the outreach of the business. Generating new content and updating the previous ones by adding relevant links will also power the website, making the webpage ready for the ongoing online searches.


The pandemic has created moments of truth for businesses where every action counts for both good and bad in the eyes of stakeholders. How the businesses behaved in the pandemic times will be remembered and will reach consequences for branding when it comes to an end. With the power of digital marketing, the business will end up either with a broader customer base, or a loss, depending on the strategy they adopt now. Businesses need to reform the content strategy, make the marketing calendar flexible, and keep communication open with every stakeholder. Investing in the long run with SEO would be the right channel to strengthen the visibility of the business not only for the pandemic, but for afterwards, too.

If you want to find out how WSI can help your business during the Covid-19 to build a tailored Digital Marketing Strategy, get in touch with us.

We’re happy to have a no-obligation chat with you.

About the Author

Hande is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, Principal of WSI London, founder of Quattro Business Consulting, co-founder of Think Neuro and Buddy Performance. She is independent Board Member in verous companies and institutions. She has studied Industrial Engineering, has worked with 200 clients from different parts of the world and she has 20 years of consulting experience.

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