Updated: May 26, 2020
When fear and uncertainty have enveloped the , how do you even begin to think: MARKETING.
Nobody really is in a mood to shop at will. In fact, people are learning how delayed gratification works, something that the age of consumerism has practically made extinct for the middle and upper classes. With logistics taking a hit and companies unable to deliver their wares, people are not showing much interest in online shopping anymore. Who knew essentials such as toilet paper and eggs would become luxuries one day. But such is the condition these days. We are living during times when video chat startup, Zoom, reaches a $42 Bn market cap, which is more than the market cap of three of USA's biggest airlines combined.
Unpredictable times, call for unpredictable measures. Although markets might be heading towards recession, but that does not mean you stop marketing your products and services altogether. Absolutely not. This gives us, marketers, all the more reason to get our fighting gear on and come up with solutions that will help our companies/clients stay afloat and most importantly, get them through these trying times.
So, what are you going to do to keep your brand alive and in business?
First of all, identify and acknowledge the challenges.
1. People are not buying. Retail and eCommerce have both taken a big hit.
2. Consumers are confused right now with all the uncertainty around them.
3. Resources and revenues are limited.
Whatever you do next, as a marketer, your end goal should be addressing these challenges as skillfully and tactfully, as you can. Skills here pertain to a lot of empathy and high emotional quotient is a must. If you are not empathetic right now, you could end up making major mistakes.
Here's what you can do.
Have a plan in place
You need to show your customers, you know what you are doing during these uncertain times and that you have a plan in place. Communicate to them any such plans that affect them and also tell them what choices they have to avail your services, in this particular situation.
For example, Gurgaon-based food delivery service, Milkbasket, has been doing a great job at keeping its customers updated, even though customers have been facing service lapses due to the present lockdown. Milkbasket has ensured its customers receive timely notifications and tries to solve their problems at the earliest by being prompt with their communication. They wonderfully handled what they could and whatever was in their control. Communication followed by service to the best of their abilities.
Build your brand
This is the best time to focus your marketing team's collective efforts on brand building. People are not and might not be buying for some time now. They are more focused on securing their groceries and essentials. But that does not mean that your marketing efforts should come to a grinding halt. This is the time to take your brand awareness to the next level.
During the lockdown, internet service providers have reported a whopping 50% increase in data usage. Of course, it does have a lot to do with the entire employed population working from home, but people are also spending more time on social media. Platforms such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok are seeing a marked increase in user activity, as well.
There you have it, your audience is on their phone, looking for good content to consume while they pass their time in lockdown. You will never find such a time with their (close to) undivided attention, to gain their loyalty by providing them with valuable information.
Create a stronger online presence
With retail stores shut down for a while now, in-store experience and overall sales have slumped. So, marketers, what we need to do now is shift focus to eCommerce presence. We need to bring the store to the people. Stores that have app-presence, as well, can do so already. For brands that have always solely sold online, and aren't able to sell their wares given the lack of logistics, this is the time to engage with your audience in a more wholesome manner than just looking to sell.
Educate your target audience about your wares, show them why they are special to you and why they should consider them special, as well. Experiment with ideas to keep them looking forward to your content. Create as much real, live content and videos, as you can. Understand the fact that their lives have come to a standstill, their only window to the outside world and what might be happening in others' lives can be accessed through social media, so give that to them.
Ecommerce apparel giant, Myntra, has suspended sales for the time being. But they are getting creative with their marketing ideas. Myntra has introduced fun games and masterclasses to have their customers come back and use the app, over and over again.
Out of sight, hence out of mind is one of the worst things that can happen to a brand that has been working so hard to create a strong market presence. So any effort counts. The effort must be genuine and empathetic.
Be sensitive when you are creating content
Timelines are currently flooded with news of coronavirus. Frightening details and statistics are donning social media spaces.
First of all, there is already a lot of pandemic-related information that is being shared on the internet.
Second of all, not all such information has to be sad and depressing.
When creating relevant content, try educating your audience with tips and hacks on how they can handle this situation, efficiently. Curate resources, read up, speak to a specialist, get expert advice and if possible (only if possible) link it to your brand. The content must be free of bias and should be purely informational/educational. The thought behind creating such content should be that whoever sees it might find it helpful and uplifting.
Spend some good time listening to your audience
With more people spending time online, social engagement is showing a sharp increase, too. Now is the time to notch up on social listening and find out what people are saying about this pandemic and their thoughts on the current crisis. This will give you a good understanding of what they might be more open to listening and what kind of content is making them engage more.
Engage with your audience more. Reply to and thank them for their messages, address their concerns, such as delayed shipments and refunds, as swiftly as possible. Make sure they don't feel more isolated than they already are.
The key to marketing well in the time of pandemic is to be plain empathetic. You need to market with your brand in mind, yes. But most importantly, you need to earnestly think about your end consumer while creating this content and strategy. Only when you do that will you see engagement occur and a steady brand recall effectively making way into their lives.