|April 2, 2020|
We’ve been saying it for years, but it bears repeating: the world moves fast.
The first confirmed case of novel coronavirus was recorded in December 2019 on the other side of the world. Now, just four months later, the virus has swept the globe, upended life as we know it and left around 1-2 billion people largely confined to their homes. The coronavirus stats are changing all the time and being updated daily. Here in South Africa, we’re in the midst of a lockdown that has businesses scrambling and consumers panicking.
What are we to make of it all, and how can business go on as usual?
The first thing to face up to, is that there might not be any going back to “business as usual”. Smarter people than us tend to agree that, while the drastic response we’re seeing from government now will soften in the short- to mid-term, we could be waiting months or even years before we see a return to what was considered ‘normal’ just a few months ago.
Even if things proceed according to optimistic projections, there’s no guarantee that our current lockdown will stay within its projected 21-day period. Even if it does, it may be followed by restrictions and regulations intended to curb the virus’ spread.
We don’t say this to scare anyone. No matter how things play out, the world will carry on turning.
Businesses will likewise have to figure out how best to adjust, not only to the current state of emergency, but to the world that will come after it.
In the short- to medium-term, you need to go to where your audience is – and right now, most of them are inside and online.
Building brand awareness is key. You may not be able to engage in standard operations while on lockdown, but, whether you’re B2B or B2C, your market needs to know that you are there and that you will still be there when the crisis has passed.
Not every tool works for every business, but consider the following to engage your audience during lockdown:
Use emailers to reach out to your audience. Consider the following:
Emailers are great ways to let your clients and customers know that you have a handle on things, and that their needs have not been forgotten, even during these uncertain times.
A crisis, especially a prolonged one, is not always the best time for silence. Nor is it necessarily the best time for the hard sell. We are all going through the lockdown together, brands and consumers alike. So, show that you are still with them.
Usage has gone up on social media across the board; Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram. People are bored at home and some are nervous, looking for distractions – be there. Remember – it doesn’t have to be always be product or service-related either, think outside the box – it will be more memorable.
When the lockdown is over, people are going to want… things. They are going to want the things that they could not get while they were confined to their homes. They’re going to want the things you offer. Prime your audience with digital campaigns pushing online ordering and ensure that they know you’ll be on top of delivering on their expectations as soon as the lockdown is lifted.
According to the financial times, China experienced a tremendous 40% increase in app downloads in the first two weeks of February, as compared to the average for 2019. If you have an app, now is the time to push for downloads/sales.
Though you should not shut down more communications platforms than you absolutely have to, be mindful of your tone. Globally, most consumers do not want brands to go silent – but they do expect brands’ advertising and communications to be sensitive to the times.
According to research by Kantar, the companies that best survived the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and that best recovered in its wake, were those with the strongest brands.
Communication is central to maintaining the strength of your brand.
While it is easy to get caught up in putting out fires during a crisis, thought must be given to the medium- and long-term. Just like top talent needs to be held onto during a crisis, consideration has to be given to open communication with your audience.
For example, how does your brand plan to:
Ultimately, you may be more prepared than you think you are. After all, as we’ve said…
To some extent, the ways that businesses conduct themselves over the coming months might be a snapshot of a future that we all thought was a bit further away, but still one that was inevitable.
Look through almost any handful of resources about business and work in the future, and you’ll find that again and again and again, from long before anyone even knew what a coronavirus was, the future of business was seen as one of mobility, agility, remote working, and prolific digital presences. The COVID-19 pandemic, and our response to it, may just have pushed up the timeline on that future.
That means that, on the bright side, many businesses already have the mechanisms in place to, at the very least:
As Alibaba CEO Yong Zhang noted when discussing the coronavirus’ impact on the economy of China:
“Seventeen years ago, the e-commerce business experienced tremendous growth after SARS. We believe that adversity will be followed by change in behaviour among consumers and enterprises and bring ensuing opportunities. We have observed more and more consumers getting comfortable with taking care of their daily living needs and working requirements through digital means. We are confident in the ongoing digitisation of China’s economy and society and are ready to see the opportunity to build the foundation for the long-term growth of Alibaba’s digital economy.”
This pandemic should not be looked at from a short-term perspective. While the lockdown may only last 21 days, some restrictions and regulations may remain in place as government, communities and businesses continue to fight the impact of the coronavirus – a fight that experts don’t think will be a quick one. While the coronavirus may be a shock to the world’s economy, some of what it might speed up was always inevitable; automation, digitisation, and, of course, the proliferation and heightened importance of effective online communication.
While the world is as unpredictable as it has ever been, one thing can be counted on for certain: a strong digital presence will become even more important in the coming months.
At Wetpaint, we switched to a remote-working model shortly before South Africa’s lockdown. With a tight-knit team and strong communication infrastructure in place, we continue to deliver brand-building campaigns and projects for our clients, on brief, on time, and up-to-spec.
Contact us for results-driven online campaigns – the future is brighter than it looks right now.