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Follow Ongoing Advice for Retail Marketing During the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mike Farrell

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a fluid situation that calls for constant adaptation. Challenges are emerging while retail marketers are simultaneously finding work-arounds and solutions.

We’re maintaining an active list of advice we’re discovering and seeing retail marketers take to work through the current volatility and prepare for the post COVID-19 environment. We’re also sharing some of these tips with industry media, so we’re logging those articles here too to consolidate our advice.

Every retailer is experiencing different challenges and opportunities. So while not all of these ideas will apply to your business, consider the ones that may be helpful for your goals amid the coronavirus. Refresh this page for new advice and tips.

Ad Spend Allocation

We’ve seen retailers face a mixture of both challenges and opportunities. This environment calls for adaptability in a few key ways. In addition to the tips below, watch Sidecar’s Q&A broadcast on how to adapt marketing efforts amid the coronavirus.

  1. Realize that while some revenue opportunities may be ebbing, others may be emerging. Find the opportunities to meet emerging customer demands while investing budget efficiently.
  2. Don’t automatically stop marketing and advertising. The coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the industry is fluid. Try not to veer too far off course as long as that approach makes sense for your business, yet remain flexible to address consumer needs today.
  3. Determine how to allocate budget across channels by understanding how demand is shifting within your product catalog. Examine factors including any shifts in CPCs and your competitive set.
  4. Consider adjusting your return on ad spend target to allow budget to flow more dynamically across your channels.
  5. Monitor how your target audience might be shifting. For instance, a large beauty retailer we partner with offers products for both consumers and businesses. We’ve seen a spike recently in consumers purchasing its B2B products. As a result, we’ve shifted budget to prioritize those items on Google and better address customer demand.
  6. Google is offering advertising credits to small businesses with active accounts over the past year. If you have these credits, consider when and how to use them, because they are available through the end of 2020. They may be more beneficial to help you communicate during this period, or to help you engage after the virus ends.

Conserving Costs

Consider these ways to re-allocate budget and conserve costs, while continuing to keep your business goals in mind.

  1. Reduce focus on products that have lower inventory, while instead increasing focus on higher margin products if you have the stock.
  2. Examine hourly traffic trends to identify any temporary dayparting adjustments. As consumers quarantine at home, the times of day they shop online may be changing.
  3. The virus’s impact in different locations may be influencing demand for certain products in your catalog. Adjust your geographic modifiers as needed.
  4. Examine whether you’re seeing demand change by household income. While lower household income segments may tend to reduce or avoid shopping, higher household income segments may be unchanged in their spending habits.
  5. Now may be an opportunity to relax your shipping policy to conserve money. Many consumers have lowered their expectations around free two-day delivery in this environment.

Sensitivity to the Situation

Many retailers are wrestling with whether it’s appropriate to run sales or continue with marketing and advertising efforts during this time of uncertainty. There are a few factors to consider here.

  1. Avoid automatically going dark. Visibility is key during a time of uncertainty—and that visibility includes continuing to meet your audience’s needs, whatever they may be during this time.
  2. Balance business goals while being sensitive to the situation. Although the primary concern is for public health and safety, other challenges are affecting the population. Online shopping can be an important way the public at large can help prop up the economy, creating a role for marketing and promotion.
  3. Adjust your messaging and language as you see fit.
  4. Try not to put too much stock into negative reaction that may arise from you continuing to market and promote.
  5. Understand the bigger picture benefit of continued marketing and promotion. That takes us to the next advice …

Short-Term Adaptation vs. Long-Term Improvement

Approach the coronavirus impact with both a short- and long-term view.

  1. Realize that shopping habits that take hold now may persist long after the virus runs its course.
  2. This environment may lead consumers to grow more comfortable shopping online—and perhaps shopping for more types of products online. Think about how your e-commerce operations may and/or should become an even more important part of how you run your businesses long after the coronavirus volatility ends.
  3. Marketing adjustments you implement today may make sense for you to bake more permanently in your plans. Think about whether the shifts you make today may benefit you long term.
  4. You may discover a new shopping audience you hadn’t thought of before. Going back to the beauty retailer example, it might prove successful to promote some traditionally B2B products to a consumer audience longer term. Also, more shoppers in general may be continuing to go online—that could be a whole new, important audience for you to target with new messaging and promotions.
  5. You might discover ways to diversify your channel mix that you want to implement longer term. For instance, one of the biggest concerns related to Amazon ads is the new FBA restrictions. If this applies to you, one option is to consider temporarily shifting ad budget into other channels where your product fulfillment isn’t as limited. Monitor such a shift for long-term benefit.

Preparing for Post COVID-19

There are some steps to take now to position your business well for the post COVID-19 environment.

  1. Maintain brand recognition with a minimal amount of spend, so that you have leverage as you shift into re-adapting to the post COVID-19 environment.
  2. If your catalog isn’t converting right now, encourage shoppers to create a wish list on your site that you can use for future retargeting.
  3. Track all account changes carefully so you can easily revert back as needed.
  4. Try not to let customer experience slip, even though it may be challenging. For instance, set proper expectations with proactive messaging on your homepage and product pages around inventory levels or shipping delays.
  5. Don’t be afraid to think offensively about how to acquire new customers and collect data. If other retailers in your space reduce their presence, you might be able to fill those gaps in competition now and maintain the advantage post COVID-19, if you have the inventory available to take advantage of the additional exposure.

Related Media Coverage With More Advice