As the COVID Crisis continues, we continue to work from home, which fortunately is where MAC PR has a purpose built home office. Many of our clients have deferred marketing & PR plans, placed events ‘on hold’ and some businesses have cut marketing budgets altogether as they struggle to adapt to this changed environment.

With doors closed for many businesses, digital marketing has never been more important as footfall turns to online sources for everything from news & advice, to fitness videos, recipes for banana bread and inspiration to keep the kids occupied. Online sales have dramatically escalated with many companies advising up to three weeks delivery due to demand.

Now more than ever, digital communication is key to business survival – in the short term, as well long-term visibility in a post-COVID world….whatever that will look like.

COVID has disrupted normal buying patterns – with some shopping locally and taking advantage of delivery services, rather than go to ‘busy city centre’ stores. Others have become new TESCO, ASDA or Sainsbury customers as they secure those elusive home delivery slots. Personally, I now have small independent fruit, veg and meat suppliers delivering direct to my door. My favourite Vegan restaurant began a local delivery service twice weekly having closed its doors end of March. As a result I’ve more than doubled what I would normally have spent with those local suppliers monthly.

‘Digital sales’ can take a variety of forms. Some companies were already offering web sales, and they’ve been able to shift gear quickly, albeit they are struggling to cope with dramatically increased demand and delivery timelines.

Some retailers are comparing online sales at the end March comparable or ‘better than Christmas’.

Other retailers without online sales options are offering ‘shop via Facebook’ or Instagram and are increasingly utilising video content to push sales via PM/with PayPal payment. This week I see a new website launched for an established Newry business with online sales capacity and a 20% OFF offer to get things rolling.

COVID has pushed people online, often out of their comfort zone …and into ZOOM meetings. A colleague remarked they got more achieved in 40 min ZOOM meeting than they would have in two hour face to face. There’s a lot to be said for face to face meetings from a relationship point of view, but there’s nothing like a ticking clock on ZOOM to help you focus when an agenda needs to be covered efficiently.

People who have avoided Instagram stories before are now getting comfortable sharing content and ‘having the chats’ on stories. Let’s not forget to mention the explosion of TIKTOK. To be honest, I think it’s cool for teens & celebs who are fab at the often highly complex dance choreography (and obviously I love the Flemings) but I am more than a little disturbed to see politicians dancing in their sitting room.

From a digital marketing point of view, it’s important to continue to get messages out to your fans and followers even if your doors are closed, but it must be balanced with the concerns of your fans and followers.

If you are still providing a service, you need to get the sales message out on your digital channels. Obviously it will depend on the nature of each business , but recognising positive community relations, sharing local charities initiatives in your area, praising key workers in your area – and within your own business if relevant – as well as ‘at home’ inspiration for crafts/ kids/exercise/baking could all be part of the mix of social content.

Make sure you spend some time analysing your social media stats and insights to see if there is a shift in audience engagement on particular posts as well as looking at the most popular times your audience is online.

While your Fans are at home, their social media consumption will certainly have increased and you may need to look at the time they are online to evaluate the best time to post certain content.

Perhaps you are a business that is realising that some or all of your workforce ‘working from home’ is feasible. Commercially, businesses may shift the focus away from a large office to have a more flexible workforce with ‘at home’ pods in the spare room. Commercial property prices are predicted to fall with Dublin analysts suggesting many commercial property schemes could actually switch to residential.

The Construction Industry Federation has warned this week that applying new standards and COVID guidelines could extend new house builds by up to 10 weeks and add £10,000 – 20,000 onto the cost of a new house or apartment.

The positive impact on ‘stopping the world’ has been seen globally, with air pollution decreased and carbon emissions dramatically dropping. Many Governments & local councils are actively looking at ‘green’ recovery schemes including pedestrainising centres and enhancing cycle paths.

Every industry has been touched by COVID. It’s the world’s biggest disruptor, tragically in human terms, as well as commercially.

Consumer behaviour is completely altered. It’s a massive RESET button. In the coming months, I wonder …will we return to the same shopping habits? Or will we develop new ethics about where we shop, what we actually NEED and who we spend money with? There are opportunities for business in this time of change.

Businesses that have captured new customers will need work to keep them post COVID and digital marketing is a critical element of that.

Coronavirus has forced rapid changes in the way we live, work and connect with people. We’re told Divorce rates in China have spiked – with quarantine cited as the reason. People across the world are re-imagining dreams and focusing on what’s important to them as we emerge from lockdown.

Businesses and brands need to ‘read that’ and respond appropriately to altered behaviour and changing commercial sensibility as we slowly, carefully navigate a ‘new normal’.

Catherine McGinn, Director, MAC PR

Mac PR, Park Lane, Rostrevor, Co. Down BT34 3DH.

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