In this article Bogdan Marinescu, MD and Founder of Digital Trails, talks about the importance of online visibility during a period when most businesses are pivoting online and we are experiencing increased competition for brand and product share of voice
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many businesses around the globe have been forced to close their doors and move their presence online. As a result of lockdown measures, brands needed to find a way to make their business strive despite the difficult circumstances, and maintain communication with their customers.
Why online visibility is crucial
During recent times of crisis, people have been forced to change their day-to-day habits and this has had a direct impact on how they shop for goods and services. The fact that online has been increasing in importance as a marketing channel is not new, but this process was accelerated significantly by consumers having limited access to physical stores and further government-imposed restrictions.
To that end, online visibility became more important than ever for any brand wanting to maintain a connection with their existing and potential customers and to ensure they stay competitive in a crisis climate and beyond.
Choose the right marketing channels
Choosing the right marketing channels is essential not only for reaching your target audience and answering their questions but also for communicating in a personalised manner. Media and content consumption has increased during the past few months, and brands are responding to these trends in various ways – either by being more proactive on social media platforms, through organic content or sponsored ads.
However, given the breadth of choice when it comes to channels available for marketing, it’s important to have an integrated strategy in place. Staying constantly up-to-date with the channels your audience is most active on is the best approach, alongside sharing information that is of great value to them.
During challenging times, brands need to prioritise the information they are disseminating and be adaptable. For instance, promotional offers and seasonal campaigns will be put on hold or promoted less frequently during a crisis, in favour of information about the measures the company has taken to respond to a challenging situation and any useful resources that might help their customers and the wider public.
We’ve seen this in recent months and it’s certainly the case in times of crisis – there is a need for greater transparency from businesses and a higher level of honesty in communication material, as consumers are now more sensitive to superficial or opportunistic marketing messages.
Stand by your community
Consumers are becoming increasingly selective with the brands they purchase from, so the ways companies behave during a crisis has a great impact on their reputation, and will contribute to shaping their brand image as a result. Solidarity with their communities goes a long way, and genuine CSR initiatives will build trustworthiness and loyalty with their audience.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many brands have worked together with their local communities by getting involved in socially responsible initiatives. For example, well-known fashion and beauty brands have shifted the nature of their business by manufacturing face masks or hand sanitiser and donating them to patients and medical workers.
Such initiatives demonstrate an act of solidarity within the community, showing how businesses are responding to the crisis and using their resources effectively. By adapting their approach, brands not only contribute to society, but they get noticed, which in turn, will lead to increasing their online visibility.
Balance is key
Whilst increasing online presence is crucial, brands need to do so in a sensitive manner. Certainly, brands will continue to advertise to customers as they need to keep their business afloat, however, their marketing efforts will have to move away from aggressive selling or overly promotional tactics during times of crisis.
It’s important to maintain a balanced approach and adapt any promotional efforts to the realities of the wider public, offering customers valuable content rather than bombarding them with sales offerings during a time when priorities have shifted.
During times like the recent pandemic crisis, brands should adjust their tone of voice and online content to offer useful resources to the public. These can be how-to guides, up-to-date news and information that is of urgent importance, podcasts or webinars. Communication needs to be clear and transparent about the initiatives they’ve put in place to respond to a crisis, and these will come as a priority before promotional efforts.
Be swift to change strategy
In the context of a crisis, brands may be required to change their entire communication strategies and shift PR and digital efforts. Adaptability and flexibility are fundamental for businesses during difficult times, especially in an online environment, in order to stay ahead of competitors and maintain customers’ trust.
In a constantly-evolving online landscape, brands will have to constantly monitor the environment and the impact their marketing communications are having on customers, and be ready to adapt and improve their approach.
For example, strategies that may have worked when people were in complete lockdown may not work as well when restrictions begin to loosen. Being prepared and taking swift, thoughtful action can make the difference between a company’s success or failure.
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