The spread of coronavirus has become a source of worry for both individuals and businesses. While public health remains the foremost concern, with safety measures currently being taken to delay the spread of the virus, businesses of all sizes are anticipating a loss in revenue and an increased strain on their finances. In this period of uncertainty, we’re looking at the ways businesses can cope with changing consumer habits as coronavirus necessitates self-isolation and social distancing.
It isn’t business as usual for many people and their companies. Last week, the Scottish government set up an advice helpline for businesses anxious about the impact of COVID-19, with a notable drop in typical daily footfall already being reported: due to coronavirus, there has been an average decrease of 9% in London’s foot traffic. Numerous FTSE 350 listed companies, including WHSmiths and Intu, are beginning to warn investors of an anticipated loss in profit, as airports, train stations and the high-street are deserted.
The issue of decreased footfall will be felt even more severely by SMEs, who rely on much smaller margins to make ends meet. British SMEs are feeling pessimistic about the future: over half are concerned that their business income will decrease over the next quarter. As the situation unfolds and changes, it’s vital that companies, whether large or local, respond as effectively as possible to this disruption and continue to communicate with their customers.
Short term strategy changes will help businesses mitigate the impact of coronavirus. It’s reassuring to remember that your audience hasn’t vanished – just unable to visit. Digital marketing and online communication allow businesses to keep in touch. In China, only 7% of surveyed businesses reported that they had stopped advertising completely, with 14% saying that they had shifted spend from offline to online media. Increased focus on online advertising and e-commerce can help businesses weather the next quarter, or until the spread of the virus begins to recede.
Now is the time to get creative with your online content. With lots of people stuck at home, we’re likely to see an increase in screen-time, as people take to scrolling social media to pass the time. Compelling, engaging content from your business is a great way to remind your usual customers of your business and keep brand awareness high, even when they can’t get in-store. Many consumers are aware of the difficulties their local businesses are facing and will be interested in supporting local enterprises where they can.
As people stay indoors, there’s likely to be an increased interest in e-commerce…
Google Ads and search campaigns also provide a way to reach consumers while they’re stuck at home. As people stay indoors, there’s likely to be an increased interest in e-commerce, whether for entertainment to pass the time, food deliveries or impulse buying brought about by spending more time online. With this increased search volume, investing in Google Ads enables businesses to present consumers with their offering without needing them to leave the house.
As many websites are likely to see a steep increase in traffic, display advertising is another option for businesses to invest in. Using display advertising, businesses can target their adverts on websites that are likely to be popular, directing consumers to their company. Online advertising strategies such as these both increase brand awareness and make conversions more likely, with e-commerce providing a way for businesses to earn revenue while typical shopping habits are disrupted.
This is undoubtedly a difficult time for companies, and particularly SMEs. We hope that with increased investment in online media and advertising, businesses are better prepared to tackle a challenging quarter and continue reaching customers until things get back to normal.