The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives drastically. The entire world was forced to quarantine and isolate. Due to this Australians moved online, brands shifted to selling through e-commerce and marketing and advertising adapted to digital strategies. Before COVID-19 our nation accepted digital however, now we rely on it. Although we are all on digital media it is important to learn how to execute digital marketing and advertising in a clever way.

Due to the pandemic and everyone being at home Nielsen predicts as much as a +60% increase in the amount of video content we watch daily. As the pandemic continues time spent per viewer – watching the news and entertainment is increasing, as everyone is trying to stay informed.

The use of social media has also increased. People around the world are all trying to stay connected and informed. Nielsen tracked the mention of Coronavirus or COVID-19 through Twitter.

This spike clearly shows the rise of online social media usage. With mentions growing by +90,000 in under five days. Twitter wasn’t the only social media platform that noticed an increase. Facebook noticed a huge 80% increase and Instagram and YouTube noticed almost 40% increase in Covid-19 messaging.

Engagement has increased

With heightened levels of engagement, it is important that your marketing and advertising is relevant to the topics your audience is interested in. We have noticed a global shift in interest, as the pandemic worsened the population became more interested in information versus entertainment. Along with the shift in interest came the shift in viewing times. As workers no longer have to commute home from work the amount of people engaging with your ads increases right after work hours end. It is important to adjust the advertising schedule to accommodate for these behavioural changes.

Looking back at past shifts is important to help anticipate future changes. As we move towards this ‘new normal’ interests will change again. As sport returns to our screens Aussies will tune in with more expectation than ever before. This makes it more important than ever to have a strong and agile media plan. With audiences more engaged than ever before advertisements must be interesting and relevant so that they stick in the minds of customers.

Word of mouth is influencing purchasing decisions

As Australian consumers are engaging more online, word-of-mouth and real life conversations have a stronger influence on consumers’ minds and, therefore, their purchasing decisions. It is important that during this shift to digital to ensure that your brand is focusing on quality and transparency. Australians are talking with each other about what can help their current and future needs. With the inability to measure the quality of what is being advertised word of mouth has become the deciding factor on whether something is worth purchasing. A study by Neilsen shows how important ‘word of mouth’ is for digital marketing and advertising (especially in social media, it’s so easy to share).

Neilsen also found that 56% of Australians say they talk about products, services or stores at least once a week. 

Next Level’s Advice

While we are more engaged online than ever before, the quality of products and services are more important than ever. Understanding the relationship with digital and real life will have a direct impact on the efficiency of marketing campaigns for your brand. 

One positive of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the availability of the internet and everything digital. Thanks to the progressiveness of the digital age Coronavirus has not been able to completely take over our lives. Although greatly affecting the world as we know it, we have still been able to hold on to a sense of normal life through digital. We have turned to e-commerce to buy our groceries and the internet for our meetings. We are still able to keep in contact with our loved ones through video chat services like zoom and facetime. Even those apprehensive about the digital era have learned to appreciate the convenience it has provided during this pandemic. 

There has been a lot of talk about how long it will take for things to go back to normal. However, what most of us fail to realise is that things will never completely return to normal. Instead we are stepping into a ‘new normal’. We have been forced to adapt to a remote form of living, working and being. Due to this we have embraced the convenience of technology and the internet. Now that we have witnessed this new form of living our version of normal will change for the better. The Internet and technology will be more important than ever.

How do you position your brand during COVID-19?

1. How can I build brand loyalty advertising and a steady stream of customers? 

  • Advertising your brand and assisting the community during this pandemic will greatly affect your customer relationship for the better. Another way to stay relevant is by offering your customers tips on how your products will make this time easier for them. It is important to establish your brand as a trusted information source.

2. How can my brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing COVID-19? 

  • Ensure your advertisements reflect the current climate. Instead of promoting togetherness with examples of large gatherings, promote togetherness from a distance using social media. Host google live events, or public webinars via zoom. Facebook suggests providing an alternative customer experience (online vs. offline, home delivery vs. dine-in, in-store pickup)

As marketers it is important to analyse how the population spends their time online during this pandemic. Understanding how our customers use social media and navigate the online sphere is crucial to creating relevant advertising. A study by Nielsen on how consumers use online sources to find information and recommendations offers some interesting statistics.

35% of consumers are reading, watching, commenting, or posting about products daily and 59% at least once a week. 

People are consuming more social media than ever and the breakdown is:

The majority of people spend their time online and fall into the categories below:

43% of consumers are looking for an interesting read

35% are searching for information/recommendations

33% are just staying connected

It is important to target customers with relevant content and advertising that will reflect their needs. With more customers than ever actively engaging online the relevance of advertising is more important than ever.

So, how should brands and marketers prepare for the ‘new normal’?

To get an idea how practices will change post Coronavirus one must first understand how current practices began. Australia noticed a 45% growth in total weekly e-commerce sales. Retailers were forced to upgrade their customer service and ensure the quality of their products. As we all welcomed the safety and convenience technology provided during the lockdown restrictions we adapted our lifestyles. Now as the situation begins to change for the better it is critical for brands to assist the change back to run as smoothly as possible. Instead of directing all traffic to stores brands should continue to advertise the convenience of online shopping especially for those at risk. A recent Neilsen survey discovered that four in 10 global online consumers said they were already using online shopping subscriptions, and a further 36% said they were willing to do so in the next two years.

It is clear that Australia has adapted to the convenience of the internet and they are going to continue these new practices beyond Coronavirus. It is therefore imperative that digital marketing and advertising accommodates this. Technology is the reason we have been able to maintain relatively normal lives during this pandemic and it is clear it will continue to be instrumental in our day to day lives. 

Next Level Advice:

  • Stay transparent! Which will intern, build trust and increase your customer relationship.
  • Produce creative and relevant advertising.
  • Analyse the cultural climate. See how people are adapting their lifestyles.
  • Do not disregard online advertising and marketing post COVID-19.
  • Embrace the new normal!

Advertising has always been context orientated, to produce good ads you must understand how your audience is using that media. When it comes to audio advertising, context is more important than ever. Your listeners will only pay attention if the information is relevant and intriguing. More often than not, when we hear a radio ad we tend to tune out. This is why it is important to focus on how to get people to tune back in. During the Coronavirus pandemic advertisers are offered a special opportunity. We are all listening more intently to all information sources for news, so if an advertisement is well structured and offers helpful information people are more likely to tune in and listen to it.

More people are listening to streaming services like Spotify to stay informed or to pass the time at home. Spotify is the most popular global audio streaming subscription service with 248 million monthly active users. 141 million of those users are ad supported listeners, meaning that they don’t pay for Spotify premium. With 141 million users receiving advertisements Spotify offers a large audience with customisable demographic targeting options to choose from. This offers brands the opportunity to reach a higher level of engaged audiences. Following best practice, the advertisements must be tailored to the audience and respect the present situation. Spotify knows that delivering the right message at the right moment is more important than ever.

As more people are streaming from home the advertisements should feel relevant to the listeners current situation. It is important for brands to understand where, what and why people are streaming right now.

Top categories people are tuning into right now:

·       COVID-19

·       Health and Fitness

·       Lifestyle and Health

·       Family and Kids

With the right message delivered to the right audience your ad will perform. As more people are listening, now is a great time to seize the opportunity, do it well and optimise your messaging to suit.

A common theme behind listeners’ decision to tune in has been to “relax” and to “set a certain mood. Another common theme Spotify found was family listening. This has been due to parents adopting home schooling practices and many have turned to Spotify’s streaming services to assist them. Connected listening offers a new way to feed their kids curiosity and allows them to learn new things.

The best ads reflect the current situation, as we are all adapting to social distancing the ads should feel relevant to the activity at hand. Brands are taking cues from their listeners and shift to a more relaxed version of advertising, matching the tone of the moment without disrupting the experience.

So how do I adapt my audio messaging and advertising?

The listening context has changed, and it is more important than ever to understand and respect the mood. It’s recommended that brands ask themselves the following before creating and publishing their advertisements;

How can we show up in useful, non-disruptive ways right now?

It is important to be hyper aware right now as everything is continuously changing. There is a stark difference between the messaging you would offer you customers during a normal situation vs now in Q2 2020.

Brands also need to check and double check their phrasing;

·   Carefully consider explicit references to COVID-19, and whether your brand is in a position to make them.

·   Steer clear of words or phrases that could have double meanings, like “heating up,” “sick beats,” and “going viral.”

·   Broad brand themes such as “togetherness, escapism and adventure” are best reserved for different times.

With more people tuning in, brands are offered the opportunity to speak to their audience in a novel way. Customers are looking to stay informed, grounded and entertained. If brands focus on the context behind what and why their audience is listening, and cater to that tone they will be more engaged.

So how can I use audio ads to assist my audience and meet my goals?

Spotify offers options to assist those who want to advertise on their platform. Depending on the level of investment Spotify’s streaming intelligence can identify when someone is viewing the screen or if they are listening. The ads are programmatic, which means they are appropriate for that moment. It is important to focus on the different types of ads. When creating an audio ads, make it exciting and to use storytelling to take your customers on a journey.

Due to the increase in people using audio to keep them up to date with COVID-19 a well placed audio advertisement could offer listeners a welcome change in the intensity of the conversation. It can transport them on a journey and give them a break for a few moments.

It is important to look at your brand and see what you can offer your audience during this tough time. Think about how your brand can alleviate stress, offer a moment of pause or promote wellness.

Our advice:

Discover what people are listening to, find out what they want to gain from listening (productivity, information, relaxation), cater your advertising to the situation and offer a balanced and helpful break to your listeners streams. Make your ads to blend in with the lives of your audience, be there to offer advice or continue the calm mood. Now more than ever the context of your ads are important and when executed correctly you will notice the difference.

Coronavirus changed the world as we know it, we went from being able to buy what we want whenever we wanted, to making one trip a week to the shops and hoarding as much as we could. However, where there is change there is opportunity and brands in the FMCG industry now have opportunities to help their customers, now and beyond COVID-19.

So what can brands do right now?

The unique situation of Coronavirus has put us all in an awkward position, as customers we are in constant need to know what is going on with our food and groceries. Restrictions on shopping and shipping have greatly affected our lives, however, this offers brands the unique opportunity to build their relationship with their customers and gain trust. Brands can build trust by being transparent about their current situation and practicing messaging based on their customer behaviour.

Source: Google Agency Insights Forum #1 – YouTube COVID-19 Support Seminar

From our regular catch ups with Google, we have a diagram that helps explain customer behaviour, this diagram  ranks businesses by their necessity or opportunity to bring value during this pandemic.  Also providing some guidance on how each brand should act depending on where they rank on the scale.

Determining your position on this scale will impact your customer messaging. Being in the FMCG category you sit in a very interesting position according to Neilson Australia, grocery sales have increased by +45% in a few weeks.  Some basic foodstuffs recorded significant rises in sales in four weeks finishing on February 22 2020, these include; 

  • pasta (+76%)
  • eggs (+72%)
  • canned meals (+71%)
  • tea (+62%)
  • rice (+58%)
  • flour (+55%) 
  • shelf-stable milk (+50%)
 

FMCG brands are in luck right now with high demands on the majority of products but how can we predict how long this will last?

What can brands do to better prepare for the future?

Source: Nielsen ‘COVID-19: TRACKING THE IMPACT ON FMCG, RETAIL AND MEDIA’

Right now, Australia is still in threshold #5 restricted living. Although it may seem like this pandemic will never end, it will and it is important to be prepared for when the change comes. 

You can do this by predicting customer behaviour; China, Italy and Spain are slowly moving into threshold #6 living a new normal, so what does it mean for customer behaviour? During this global quarantine people have heavily relied on e-commerce, in Italy e-commerce levels were up by +158% compared to a year ago in the week ending April 5th. It is predicted that these levels will stay up. A Nielsen survey showed that 60% of people say they are eating more at home than prior to the pandemic. Due to this it is expected that consumers’ food and drink purchase items will be focused around healthy and long term pantry essentials.

So what does this all mean?

It is important to stay educated about the current global climate and analyse changes in other countries’ consumer behaviour as the situation evolves. Embrace your opportunities, customers are looking to brands for information on how they are operating during this crisis, this is your chance to build their trust. 

Google has provided us with some great statistics about current opportunities for those in the FMCG industry.

  • With 81% of Aussies shopping online, having a clear website that’s easy to navigate will gain you more customers.
  • 30% of Australians are spending more time shopping online since the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to have good online advertising to drive leads to your site.

32% of Aussies will increase their online shopping in the future. It is important to keep your customers interested and coming back to you with good remarketing campaigns.

Source: Google Agency Insights Forum #3 – COVID-19 AUNZ

Our Advice

There is a new normal, consumers are expecting more from their brands not just in terms of products. We recommend being transparent with your customers, constantly update your websites and social media channels and be clear about your efforts to assist them during this crisis. This will help build your relationship with your consumers and establish trust. It is also imperative to keep up to date with the current climate and to look at the data around how other countries are reacting to the current pandemic. Looking at countries one step ahead of us and their buying habits can help us predict the next stage of normal here in Australia. 

Stay educated, stay relevant, stay transparent and you will earn a new level of trust in the eyes of your consumers.