Many businesses that are experiencing a downturn in trade due to the COVID-19 virus will be asking whether a digital (online) marketing strategy can be ramped up to attract a new pool of customers. In many cases, the answer is yes, especially if the business sells physical products to consumers.
In Europe, Vodafone is reporting a 50% surge in consumer internet consumption as consumers shift to working at home and turn to services such as Netflix to amuse bored children that are stuck indoors. It’s a similar story in the US, which reports a 43% increase in news consumption online and a 42% increase in streaming services usage. The story is much the same in Australia, we are online more, creating congestion due to big bandwidth appetites, although our networks at this stage seem to cope well.
Across the globe, as this research from Statista shows, there has been a marked increase in Internet consumption as a direct consequence of COVID-19. While COVID-19 has had a terrible impact on many businesses, there will be those that never re-open their doors, for others, the outlook is not all gloomy.
What the data shows is that more than ever, consumers are online. Plus, since they’re stuck at home, they have more time to consider advertising messages that are delivered digitally, are more likely to answer the phone to outbound sales agents (and have time to talk) and are even more likely to open letters delivered through the mailbox.
Turning to eCommerce in situations like this delivers benefits to all parties. Social distancing is the default norm online. It’s also a time when many businesses have dramatically reduced their costs. For businesses that can quickly pivot to a skeleton staff to handle logistics (a function that can be easily outsourced completely to specialists like our client 3PL Melbourne), if you are selling physical products and your customer is a consumer, this can be an opportunity worth seizing.
3 Steps to Rapidly Reach New Customers.
Step 1: Set up digital infrastructure (if you haven’t already)
To reach consumers, businesses (if they haven’t already) will need to set up a digital presence that enables trading. This can be as simple as creating a Facebook page that includes eCommerce functionality; or setting up an eBay account; or adding eCommerce functionality to an existing website – or even building a new website using Shopify or similar eCommerce software. It’s fast to set up trading capability online, you can integrate Paypal to process transactions and you’re ready to go.
Step 2: Set up a test digital campaign
If you’ve never advertised online before, the fastest way to reach new customers quickly is via a paid digital marketing campaign. There are plenty of platforms to choose from. You might consider Facebook and Instagram for products that are visual, such as homewares, personal products or clothing. Or Google text ads for products that are price-competitive. Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube tend to be good platforms for targeting youth. Obviously, these are general observations and every business is different, but if you’re just starting out, you need (even if it’s done quickly) a digital strategy to guide direction and a willingness to test before you heavily invest in media.
Businesses first entering the paid campaign space have no learnings or history to draw from. Now, more than usual, is not the time to waste budget. Digital campaign testing is a process that lasts up to 4 weeks and involves testing different marketing messages, images and video, advertising formats, audience profiles, plus platforms, and running ads across all of them to identify which best converts. Once a business knows what works, it’s in a much stronger position to invest budgets with greater certainty, less wastage and maximise the conversion.
If you’re an existing digital advertiser, you may not need to test. You may already know which platforms, ad messages and formats, and audiences best convert. In this case, step 2 won’t apply to you.
Step 3: Move into campaign mode
You’ve narrowed down what works. Now you can move into digital campaign mode.
For a paid digital marketing campaign, you’ll need a landing page on your website that can receive people that click on your ad. You’ll need tracking code set up. You’ll need fantastic quality imagery if you are promoting a visual product. And you’ll need to upload multiple versions of your ad and then monitor performance each day and turn off ads that don’t work. Shift your budget to ads that work best. We call this process optimisation and while we’ve attempted to describe it simply in this post, proper optimisation is both a science and an art, which is best done by experienced digital marketers.
There are options other than paid platform campaigns you might consider.
It’s not just paid social and search platforms that you can use to execute a digital strategy, although since people are online, they are more likely to see your ad. If you have an existing database of customers, which includes their email addresses, consider sending them electronic eDMs. A tool such as Mailchimp allows you can send out beautiful, polished html emails to up to 2,000 recipients for free. Think about products you can bundle together (a lockdown survival kit, perhaps?). This allows you to package together excess old stock with new products to shift inventory. Consider upsell opportunities, as well. Australia is moving into winter, is there a new range that can be promoted by email that can connect into a change in climate?
Now’s a good time to also ask existing customers for referrals, or to share new product offers with friends and family. You can encourage sign-ups by offering a coupon or discount for the next time your existing customer shops.
Don’t forget to make the most of organic social although it should be noted that Facebook is now pay-to-play. Most organic Facebook followers are unlikely to see your organic posts in their feeds unless you sponsor them. This tends to be inexpensive and you can ask people to share the love with their friends and growth your organic community.
Unless your business does not plan on re-opening, we encourage you to invest in digital marketing. As Warren Buffet famously said “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”
All things considered, we think this is good and timely advice.
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Digital Koalas is a Melbourne-based Digital Marketing Consultancy.
We work with businesses, marketing teams and agencies to develop digital strategy, conduct independent digital audits, manage digital media buying and campaign optimisation, and provide assistance with digital team & talent recruitment.
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