As Europe begins to shut down once more to a resurgent COVID-19,  you might be feeling a sense of deja vu, almost like... it’s something that’s already happened this year. Whilst terrible for those plans that you thought you could make, let’s face it, it was something everyone saw coming in some form or another. A silver lining: we can actually now use hindsight to power our plans and forecasts, leading to some rare opportunities for those willing to take them. In this era of unprecedented-ness, we finally have a precedent.

In this article, we summarise our top lessons from the first lockdown for the digital marketing community.

Read the market

Given this article is about the lessons from the first lockdown, we have to start with a big disclaimer that this lockdown is different from the last, so be wary of simply mimicking your strategy. A far greater proportion of people are still in motion, still going to work and still going to the (open) shops than they were in the depths of April. Searches for public transport are, whilst dipping, higher than they were previously. The rules and behaviours are trending differently in most markets.

search trends uk

Remember the age-old warning that it’s different for each industry, and even within each industry. We took a look here at how different branches of ecommerce were being impacted, for example.

With this in mind, it’s important that you cast an eye back to March but that you always look at what the data says in real-time. You don’t want to be pre-emptively cutting your budgets only to find in three months that people were still very much in-market this Christmas. Scale back alongside demand, if it’s dropping, but also don’t be afraid to go after the opportunities that present themselves.

Look international, if you can

With so many people moving part or all of their business online in the last six months, it’s important to ask yourself the question - is there a reason why I can’t sell abroad? One capacity of digital is that it’s scaleable, whilst not infinitely, to a much greater extent than bricks and mortar.

As long as languages, regulations, or the need for physical proximity isn’t an issue for you, maybe now is the perfect time to launch your brand in the United States, Canada and Australia, UK and Ireland or other English-speaking countries (tip: UK Marketers always forget the Netherlands has roughly 17 million extra English speakers right on the UK’s doorstep, but equally the Caribbean for those based in the US). 

If you’re already international, think about the markets you have opportunities in if your core markets are locking down. For example, take a look at your search engines. Few people realise that Bing forms around 25% of the search market in the USA; have you given a thought about your presence here, or on Yandex or Baidu? We investigated how you could optimise your international presence in luxury fashion, for example, with a lot of the learnings applying to all industries.

worldwide search engines
Internet Live Stats: Google Search Statistics, 25.06.2020

If language is an issue, is now the perfect time to translate your site? There are no doubt plenty of multilingual speakers sitting in their home with nothing to do, who could very much do with a quick buck. Much like a restaurant and countless DIYers taking advantage of lockdown to renovate, give your site a digital makeover, and set yourself up to hit a post-COVID world stronger and broader than ever. 

Check that your messaging fits

Ads that were written in October no longer make sense in November - highlight something that resonates with people here and now. It still shocks me, for example, that perfume brands don’t seem to have got the message, abundantly clear over the last eight months, that their ads this year probably shouldn’t be about getting outside and draping yourself over people. 

From a digital perspective, make sure your messaging on Google My Business reflects your new opening times or status. We saw great returns early in the first lockdown from pivoting all our PPC copy to stand out to people newly-at-home.

changing your messaging
A bottomless pizza restaurant pivoting their services and messaging

A really quick win on all counts could just be placing a snappy phrase in your Page Title & Meta Description, saying “Operating as normal” or “Delivery Available”. We covered some of our top SEO strategies during COVID-19 here. We also have a guide to writing content during COVID here.

Pivot or delay your approach

Maybe you can’t sell as much of your product right now, but are you still selling some? Is there a product that you can alter to make it more viable for purchase?

If your product is definitely unavailable/limited  for the foreseeable future, for example if you’re in the travel sector, or rely on large crowds, can you switch your focus to driving awareness or starting people on the long, winding path to conversion? Does your industry have a way into people’s lives right now?

People might not be searching for hotels right now, but can you hook the large numbers of people searching for holiday inspiration to keep them going through a dark winter? Might they be looking for post-covid family breaks that can be booked now? They could just be looking for inspiration and some beautiful scenery to scroll through; Google maps tours saw a significant rise during the initial lockdown, for example.

virtual tour

Also bear in mind the change in user trends; with more people at home and their laptops already set up for work, the proportion of desktop visitors to most sites rose significantly during the first lockdown (we saw some by an average of around 140%!). Given desktop converts best for most products, it’s a market to ignore at your peril even in this mobile-first world, and there’s going to be more of it around in a second lockdown.

Take advantage of cheap CPCs

Another silver lining is the opportunity to capitalise on cheap traffic to gain visibility for your brand.

The first lockdown saw enormous numbers of people with a huge amount of additional time on their hands and nowhere to spend it but online. In the economies of the digital world, more eyeballs means cheaper traffic. We saw cost-per-clicks on YouTube and display drop to a fraction of their usual price early on in the first lockdown. 

If you wanted to run an awareness campaign on YouTube, now would be the time to do it. Of course, this time, we’re in the Christmas period, and demand is rising alongside supply. But, as long as you watch out for the Black Friday peak where every man and his dog is setting ads live, you can reach a whole lot of people cheaply with your message on channels like Display, YouTube and VOD. Target your niche, and hit millions with your product at a fraction of the price you normally would. 

Finally, check out many more of our recommendations in our guide to keeping your digital strategy safe from the effects of COVID  and elsewhere in our blog.

If you feel you want help understanding the impact of COVID-19 on your business, Ayima has teams of specialists who can help you. If you have any questions or would like to chat with us about how we could help, please do get in touch.

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