7 Ways to Keep Your Digital Marketing Relevant in These Pandemic Times

Your digital marketing must change in line with the pandemic, too. That’s why we at 800.com offer this advice for keeping up with the times.
Your digital marketing must change in line with the pandemic, too. That’s why we at 800.com offer this advice for keeping up with the times.

Remember when we didn’t hesitate to shake the hands of strangers? When shoulder-to-shoulder festive crowds were fun? When the news of someone in our orbit not feeling well didn’t make us feel a little sick ourselves? When we had no idea where to find a face mask or how to wear one?

No, we don’t remember those naive times, either. Or just barely. They seem as distant as the Jazz Age or the Great Depression. But pre-COVID times weren’t that long ago. It’s just that life has changed so thoroughly in such a short period that we almost forget how things used to be.

Your digital marketing must change in line with the pandemic, too. That’s why we at 800.com offer this advice for keeping up with the times.

Accept That the World, and Your Customer Base, Have Changed

We talked with a customer recently who told us, now that she’s wearing a mask in public, she can’t imagine ever taking it off. Her take on the situation was that the pandemic left her all too aware of how prevalent germs are, how easy they are to catch in public, and how dangerous exposure could be to her health.

That’s not the attitude of everyone. Many people couldn’t wait to leave lockdowns, masks, and social distancing far behind. But some of even that number has gone back to a more cautious approach with the news of newer and potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants still among us.

In January of 2021, many Americans were jubilant with the news that the crisis was virtually over. Vaccines had been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and were available to most Americans. President Joe Biden even delivered a sort of victory speech before the Fourth of July holiday, declaring that “Today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation, and it’s within our power to make sure it never does so again.”

It sure sounds like a victory, but then the virus rallied, and variants Delta and Omicron continue to threaten the nation and the world. By the end of 2021, the pandemic threat remained.

COVID-19 has made many of your clients or customers permanently cautious. Before the pandemic, we had mass infections such as SARS, MERS, and others that most of us didn’t worry much about. Those illnesses didn’t claim many American lives. But the next time such a relatively minor infection lands on our shores, many will react with ultimate caution, and that will once again impact the business world in various ways.

That’s why we recommend thinking of the changes that you and your customers have made and will continue to make in response to COVID-19 as being more permanent ways of life.

So what does all of that mean for your digital marketing efforts? It means that you can’t see any of this as a temporary measure before reverting to post-COVID marketing strategies that look identical to the way you used to do things. There are long-term changes in the way people think and act, and those changes will have a long-term or permanent impact on effective digital marketing.

In short, your audience has changed, and so must your approach to digital marketing if you’re to stay competitive in these lasting COVID times.

Note and Promote Your Pandemic Strengths, if Any.

If you’re a restaurant with curbside service and delivery service that will leave the food on doorsteps without human interaction, promote it. If you’re selling technology that simplifies or eases the cost of telecommunications, tell it loud ‘n proud! If you offer free or 24-hour delivery on every online purchase, don’t keep that under your hat.

One of the significant ways a significant segment of your audience has changed is that they likely don’t want to meet you face to face. Many don’t feel the need to stroll through your brick-and-mortar location if they can order from you online and get it delivered to their door nearly as quickly as they could pick it up.

There are also certain products, such as cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, and air filtration systems, proving to be more popular than ever in these times. If you can make a legitimate claim that your product or service line can make life easier, better or safer, do so. But do it carefully.

Only Promote Pandemic Advantage You Have

Expanding on that last point, customers hate brands that make painfully awkward claims that don’t hold up in the light of day - especially when those claims are about COVID.

Remember greenwashing? That’s the name given to the marketing strategy of claiming that certain products or production processes are more environmentally conscious than they might be. In some cases, false claims have been made regarding product recyclability, eco-friendly production methods or sustainable packaging, product content, or ingredients. Brands accused of greenwashing have taken major hits in the public eye.

We don’t know if you’d call similar claims against today’s threats “pandemic-washing,” but that might be one term for it. Federal regulatory agencies have threatened action against the owners of several products, including essential oils and teas that have made dubious claims about their ability to treat or prevent COVID-19.

These are just the most egregious examples. But let’s suppose you market for a car company promoting a new automotive purchase as COVID protection because the owner will no longer have to risk virus exposure on public transportation. That would look to most more like exploitation than a genuine or realistic selling point. So make sure your claims are legitimate, provable, and credible to your target market.

Keep an Eye on the News and Respond Accordingly

The point to remember here is that the pandemic situation is constantly evolving, whether for good or bad. Your customers’ focus on the situation will change as conditions change. There might be long periods in which the risk decreases and people stop thinking about the pandemic. And then a new and potentially serious variant makes a run, or a new season or holiday period increases or decreases the risk.

Your digital marketing efforts must change—and quickly—in response to new conditions and attitudes. You won’t want to increase fears by focusing too much on the pandemic when the threat level seems relatively low, but your digital marketing must keep up to confront the reality when the risk seems higher. So stay alert to change and prepare to respond as you must.

Sharpen Your Focus on E-commerce

The fact that e-commerce is a threat to brick-and-mortar America is hardly a new business trend. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, the digital economy was taking significant bites out of traditional retail.

With COVID, the gap widened. In 2020, U.S. e-commerce sales grew 32.4% versus a 3.2% brick and mortar retail sales decline. In 2021, e-commerce was projected to gain another 6.1% against a 1.6% bump in retail.

Hopefully, if you have a brick-and-mortar establishment, you’ve already made changes. Many retailers have moved into a hybrid “brick and click” model, conducting business in either world.

Even in a best-case scenario, where COVID is largely defeated, and customers are coming back to your store in droves soon, there could be another pandemic. And as we said earlier, even a less serious global virus could scare people out of public places like never before.

If you already have a strong online presence and digital marketing strategy by the time another pandemic becomes a reality, you’ll be better prepared than you perhaps were at the start of COVID-19 to continue serving your customer base.

Remember, and Work Around Your Supply Chain Challenges

In the old days, you might order a thousand raincoats just before a spring blowout sale at about the same time you bought advertising to promote the sale. What could go wrong?

Today, you might end up with an avid customer base looking to buy a thousand raincoats you don’t have. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

One of many COVID victims is the world’s distribution network. For reasons including worker shortages, crippled production, and pent-up and suddenly released demand, the order you expected yesterday might arrive next week, next month … or next year.

Your company’s empty shelves or stalled deliveries can cause customer problems that are hard to solve. For that reason, it’s a safer and smarter bet to hold off your digital advertising efforts until you have merchandise actually in hand.

Rely on the Ultimate in Contactless Marketing

An older marketing tool is your most revolutionary in these pandemic times. We’re referring to the phone line. Regardless of your business, you want to establish uninterrupted contact with your clients or your customer base. That’s imperative.

Whatever your overall digital marketing strategy, your phone line is a valuable contactless response mechanism. That’s why your business should consider making a vanity phone number an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Visit 800.com or call us at (800) 800-4321. We can help you establish what might turn out to be your strongest call to action tool in these pandemic times and beyond.