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9 COVID-19 Marketing Efforts for Your Brand

Contact Author Sheri L. Koetting, MSLK
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Despite living in a society on lockdown, brands can embrace these opportunities to bring consumers some much-needed happiness.

The coronavirus pandemic may make you feel like shutting down all marketing operations and ducking for cover until it passes. The truth is, every market change breeds opportunities for those brave and savvy enough to seize it. Are you wondering how to look for these opportunities and where to focus your energy during this trying time? Online is a great place to start.  

Consumers’ shopping behaviors have changed dramatically in recent weeks. All signs indicate that evaluating your digital presence and experience is a worthy investment for both the present and the “new normal” post-pandemic.

Not only are online sales up 91% over the same time period last year,a but there is a need for more transactions directly through brand sites. Amazon has temporarily decided to stop accepting new non-essential products into its warehouses, degrading customer experiences overall. Out-of-stock items, longer-than-usual shipping times and price gouging are running rampant across many big-name retailers.

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Consumers have had to dig deep to find the products they are looking for, giving indie brands with direct e-commerce the time to shine with their full stocks and quick shipments. Amazon is overwhelmed and will likely remain so for at least a few more months, which can be potentially advantageous for your brand.

With the situation changing daily, your brand’s approach must change with it. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of tactics available to deploy.

1. Paid Search and Paid Social

Paid search and paid social are currently the fastest way to capture what people are searching for and draw them back to your website.

While you may feel inclined to save money by stopping paid advertising, we highly recommend against it. Ad costs have been down, which presents the opportunity to use more general search terms. Now is a great time to reach larger audiences by using non-branded, product-specific search terms (such as “shampoo” or “natural deodorant”). Be sure to emphasize to those searching that your brand’s products are in stock and ready to ship. Another methodical option is geotargeting areas where your product is sold out at brick-and-mortar retail locations. It may be sold out in stores, but let users know that they can still get it online.

Once users click and are directed to your site, make sure the next steps are in place: products should be easy to find, the e-commerce experience is set up to convert sales and encourage visitors to join your mailing list. This gives your brand an opportunity to create repeat customers, especially in a time that is putting customer loyalty to the test.

2. Organic Social  

Although the immediate return on investment of organic social will likely not be as strong as paid social, this is still a great tool for brand building and product education.

Now more than ever, consumers are turning to social media to get tips and tricks to spice up their beauty routine.

Livestreaming is a great way to replicate the relationship consumers once had with your team at retail. Instagram and YouTube Live are long-time influencer favorites. The emerging platform Twitch has seen a significant increase in viewership over the past few weeks. Tik Tok, which has been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide, including more than 115 million times in March, supports livestreaming, though the option is not currently available to all accounts. 

Engage with fans by hosting a virtual event, such as a simple Q&A, an upbeat dance party, free consultations and/or product recommendations. Anything to connect with your community can be powerful. 

Social media challenges have also seen an uptick in response rates. MAC Cosmetics’ #MACkissofgratitude racked up more than 3,500 Instagram posts to share a virtual kiss of gratitude to those fighting the pandemic on the front lines. In addition, all proceeds from Viva Glam lipsticks will be donated to organizations aiding COVID-19. What a great way to engage fans and do good at the same time!  

3. Organic Search 

Organic search is a cost-effective solution for long-term results. At present, the most productive use of organic search is optimizing your existing site around trending keywords. Take advantage of terms that are rising in consumer demand during this time—anything with the search term “delivery” has had a huge hike, as well as “out of stock” (and conversely, “in stock”), “closed” and even “aloe” as people are getting creative with hand sanitizers.

By auditing your pages and backlinks, getting rid of underperforming terms and updating these terms with more applicable ones, you can see results in just a few weeks. Beauty and wellness consumers spend 80% of their time in the pre-search, or influence, phase of their purchase journey. Informative, educational content on a variety of platforms such as social media, websites and blogs can lead to brand awareness, and ultimately, sales.

4. Fulfill Amazon Orders on Your Own 

Even though Amazon is overwhelmed in its fulfillment centers, you can still take advantage of its platform by choosing the fulfill by merchant (FBM) option. Choosing FBM over FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) allows you to complete and ship orders on your own (also known as third-party shipping), which can help improve shipping times that are currently backed up on the site.

This also opens opportunities to improve upon the all-important unboxing experience. It is estimated that consumers spend an average of 45 seconds unboxing an e-commerce order. That’s valuable, uninterrupted time with your customer. Now is the chance to include samples and other promotions in the box that will drive traffic to your own site for their next purchase.

However, before you make the switch to FBM on your Amazon account, it is important to check your operational capabilities. With the switch to FBM, many metrics that Amazon once handled for your brand are now your responsibility, such as shipping time, missing packages, etc. 

It also becomes your brand’s responsibility to keep your customers updated on the safety precautions you are taking for both them and your workers during COVID-19. Consumers are demanding more transparency and information on these topics. 

5. Institute Your Own Subscription Services       

Subscription services are a way to keep an influx of customers moving forward. By incorporating a service that ships a regular order every couple of weeks/months, your brand can have a steady stream of sales. 

Promote the service by letting customers know that subscribing reserves their order for the future; this may be important to them as things are quickly falling out of stock. Customers subscribed to such services will feel prioritized and will not have to worry about running out of something they need at an inopportune time. 

Items that are part of a critical regimen are especially important. After all, the last thing consumers want during a pandemic is to alter their routine or experience an irritable outbreak of their chronic condition. 

6. Incentivize Loyalty

Continue to push customer loyalty. Whether you create a simple loyalty program or give more incentives to the loyalists, put extra emphasis on your community so customers feel inclined to come back. Friends and family promotions have recently proven successful, as well as the previously mentioned subscription service.

7. Prepare Targeted Product Offers

Be cognizant of the times and create offerings that “read the room.” Your brand should consider promoting larger packages and bulk order discounts that encourage people to stock up. 

Additional offers may include self-care kits or care package bundles as thoughtful gifts for socially distanced loved ones. Despite living in a society on lockdown, major holidays and milestone events, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations, are still taking place. 

Your brand can embrace these as opportunities to spread some much-needed happiness in the lives of your customers.

Consumers are finding joy in sending and receiving thoughtful gifts while events are still getting canceled and postponed. Also, highly consider charitable efforts, such as a 1:1 program that gives one product/service for a person in need—or a healthcare worker on the front lines—for each purchase made. 

8. Tone and Branding

It is important to make sure you are approaching this situation carefully and thoughtfully. Everyone’s inboxes are saturated with corporate response emails that feel stale and manufactured. Allow your humanity to shine through. Sincere statements about safety and precautions will stand out, and customers will appreciate safe unpacking tips with a sticker or insert.

Your brand can take a more positive tone over something more somber. Consumers will gravitate toward whimsical and fun products that will bring them joy. 

However, there is a delicate balance with making sure you are not downplaying the situation and still taking everything seriously. Show that you are here to help during these uncertain times. This can even be highlighted by considering alignments with your valued causes: give back and support charity/fundraising campaigns. 

9. Let’s Talk About Financing

Are you wondering how to allocate resources to make these shifts? Consider reallocating or rebalancing funds for the time being. Implementing all these opportunities may not be entirely possible right now but choosing one, such as quickly updating your SEO keywords, can still make a big difference. 

Additionally, if your brand is already advertising with Facebook or Google, there are grants available to get additional ad money.b Because both platforms have experienced a great increase in small business advertising in the last few years, they are giving back through their respective small business management pages. 

New Day, New Opportunity

At this point, everyone is taking things day-by-day, which allows every day to be a new opportunity for your brand. Many of these marketing tactics may become a new normal practice. Taking the time for your brand to re-strategize and reorganize is worth it, both in the long- and short-term, to keep everything moving forward. 

Choosing a tactic that captures the opportunity today but also aligns with your long-term business goals is a slam dunk. This will set you up for success and make you and your customers feel great in the process. 

Footnotes: 

a) www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/tracking-the-unprecedented-impact-of-covid-19-on-u-s-cpg-shopping-behavior/

b) www.businessinsider.com/facebook-google-offer-ad-credits-grants-for-small-businesses-2020-3 

About the author:

Sheri L. Koetting is the founder and chief strategist of MSLK, a marketing and design agency based in New York. MSLK specializes in helping beauty brands find their voice in today’s crowded marketplace through 360° brand positioning—from overall brand strategy to brand identity, packaging, retail experience, websites and social media campaigns. Contact: sheri@mslk.com.

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