While the world comes back online both digitally and physically, many businesses and advertisers are wondering, "What's next?"
As the CEO of an omnichannel digital marketing agency, I have been observing the shifts in advertising and business trends over the past several weeks. From my perspective, there's a lot we can learn about advertising now and in the future once the coronavirus outbreak has subsided.
What shifts are advertisers seeing today?
To explore these shifts, let's first look at Facebook: Although Facebook reported a significant reduction in demand for advertising and a slight decline in ad pricing at the end of Q1, the beginning of Q2 showed promise. The first three weeks of April trends saw “signs of stability,” according to a press release from Facebook, which was enough to drive the company’s stock up 10 percent in after-hours trading. (Full disclosure: My company is a Facebook marketing partner.)
With this news, the small and medium-size businesses that were waiting in digital silence began emerging. As a ripple effect, data is showing a positive upward trend in consumer ad demand and confidence. Kantar, a data insights and consulting company, surveyed more than 25,000 consumers globally and found that only 8 percent thought brands should stop advertising. The survey also showcased some interesting consumer trends when it comes to marketing:
• Nearly 80 percent of respondents said brands should explain how they are being helpful during today's challenging times.
• Seventy-five percent believe brands should inform audiences about their efforts to face the coronavirus.
• Seventy-five percent also think companies should not exploit the coronavirus in order to promote themselves.
In regards to advertisers following these trends, a survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (download required) found that 73 percent of advertisers developed new creative assets during this time. Nearly 60 percent are either currently connecting their brand positively to the coronavirus, or they plan to.
The bottom line, from my perspective, is this: Consumers are looking for transparency and helpful, relevant content, and savvy advertisers should respond to this call. Below are my recommendations.
Revamp advertising campaigns on social media.
It should come as no surprise that social media usage has skyrocketed during this time. The same Kantar study found that there has been a 61 percent increase in social media engagement. Messaging and group calling in areas hardest hit by the virus have increased significantly across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Twitter has also seen a 23 percent increase in daily active users.
As a result, some brands are connecting and supporting their customers on social. Cottonelle's #ShareASquare campaign, for example, was perfectly positioned and timed with a market in significant demand. In partnership with the charity United Way, Cottonelle encouraged consumers to be generous with their supplies while incentivizing consumers to post their sharing on social media. In return, Cottonelle gave $1 to United Way for each hashtagged post.
The timing was right for this type of campaign, and I believe the timing is perfect once again for advertisers to consider testing new markets. With engagement and online traffic high, there are still some advertisers not using this time to make more cost-effective ads. However, now is the time to revamp your advertising campaigns and test, test, test.
With these tests, look for markable trends, and continue to build new audiences for your business. For example, you might try a new Facebook ad solution. Testing new initiatives now will allow you time to discover what works best for your core audience and how you can leverage and scale your strategy to build a broader one after the downturn.
Stay on top of search trends.
Search trends can also provide us with significant insight for how to advertise now and in the future. WordStream, a pay-per-click management platform, reported improved performance across many verticals on both Google and Bing in March, April and May. According to Wordstream, "starting the second week of April, paid search conversions rebounded to about 89% of their pre-COVID levels."
As advertisers, we can learn from these search trends. Look at key motivators and what drives search and click action. Then, guide messaging, positioning and targeting accordingly.
Search Engine Watch recently revealed that the top three marketing trends to come out of the “COVID-19 Era” are featured snippets, mobile optimization and shoppable social. This signals a shift in the way people are searching for and buying their products. Consumers are craving accessibility and convenience from e-commerce offerings and direct-consumer marketing.
As these top three marketing trends suggest, the best thing any brand can do in the current climate (and beyond) is to make itself as “digital friendly” as possible so its ideal customers can first find it and then connect with it on a one-to-one level. This includes everything from building a strong and credible brand message and style to having hassle-free, attractive buying options across the digital landscape.
So we have good news here with this digital surge: A door is opening to leverage advertising success while we all emerge from this extremely difficult period and beyond, and the opportunity is perfect to leverage an impactful social and paid search campaign and boost revenue for your business.