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As the new Coronavirus takes hold within the UK, we find ourselves in the midst of what is arguably the worst peacetime crisis in modern history. Our schools have closed, businesses have redeployed their staff to work from home, and the construction, retail and leisure industries, amongst many others, are announcing mass layoffs.

It is inevitable that this kind of unprecedented disruption should have an impact on consumer behavior, but this behavior was already changing before the advent of COVID-19. What the outbreak has done is to act as a catalyst; it has forced us all to change our habits in ways that may prove permanent and outlast this current crisis.

At Organic, we believe that just because business as usual is on hold, that doesn’t mean it has to stop altogether. As the coronavirus crisis deepens, digital-first organisations have an opportunity to flourish, and we are committed to keeping the economy moving by sharing our expertise and helping businesses adjust to ‘the new abnormal’.

An online-only world 

One key challenge for everyone right now is staying connected in an online-only world. For businesses, a fast response is crucial. Brands are already responding and finding new ways to get through to their customers.

Part one: Reaching your customer

Offline to online – redeploy campaigns to digital channels you aren’t using 

Digital channels are witnessing surges in demand and customer engagement, with specific product areas and search types seeing increases of 10-100 times their normal levels. For example searches for Home offices, home gyms, and chest fridge freezers have been 10 to 40 times higher than usual. The digital infrastructure for businesses such as Ocado have struggled to cope with demand.  Businesses who transition their spend from offline channels to search, social and display will find their customers have moved online as well.

Smart brands will make immediate budget shifts and rethink their campaign messaging to address consumer needs during the current crisis. Media expertise and a strategic approach towards your creative planning and production will be crucial. 

Establish new digital channels

Digital touchpoints have, for some time, been a key way for brands to engage customers. But now, for many, digital has become the only way to reach customers.

Without a digital route to market, brands and organisations simply cannot hope to gain this reach. It shouldn’t be a cause for concern though, with the right approach and partner, it’s possible to respond quickly. Our client Episerver, a digital experience platform provider, worked with Norway’s authorities to launch the Norwegian Institute of Public Health crisis platform in just 30 hours, helping them to respond to unprecedented demand and keep the population informed.

Virtual events and conferences

As businesses cancel events and gatherings worldwide, many are pivoting to an online model and delivering digital events to keep up engagement with customers and new audiences. The Drum’s digital conference is one example. Faced with the cancellation of multiple events, this brand has launched an online festival to explore the opportunities and challenges presented by digital transformation.

Migrating your offline events into a webinar program is quick and easy to do. And more than just maintaining a connection with your consumers whilst the traditional channels are turned off, you’ll also be able to skill-up in new ways to engage your audience.

Accelerate the adoption of a direct-to-consumer model

The direct-to-consumer model has been a growing retail trend, as brands seek new ways to sell their products in response to the decline of traditional retail and the growth of huge discounting platforms. Take Heinz, who recently launched its £10 delivery boxes (Heinz to Home), allowing tins of beans, spaghetti hoops, and soup to be ordered directly to the doors of consumers. Also, having withdrawn its brand from many partners and focused on a handful of channels which it can wholly own and control, Nike has pursued its Consumer Direct Offense strategy with great success.

This is a model that offers many benefits, including the ability to create a better brand experience, retention of greater margins in sales, and the acquisition of consumer data to facilitate continued engagement.

We can expect many businesses to bolster their direct to consumer offering, a process that’s already underway for a number of well-known brands who are starting to see traditional distribution channels falter.

Specialise – know your customer and their needs

For your business to adapt to the current climate, you need to be able to focus your offering on what your customer needs right now. Customer intelligence and data are vital ingredients to achieve this. At Organic, we monitor search volumes for retail clients such as Argos, who are able to then use this intelligence to increase the visibility of the right products.

Online retailer Amazon is preventing sellers from sending all non-essential items to their warehouses in the UK and US until 5 April, freeing up room for crucial products needed by its customers at this time. Meanwhile, Morrisons is expected to reduce its range by a third to make shelf space for high demand products.

Right now, digital-first brands are all exploring ways to reach customers in a uniquely challenging time. At Organic, we’ve created a simple way to address the current online-only challenge head-on, delivering a rapid and focused tactical intervention delivered via one of our specialist practices. This includes:

Reach and visibility (customer acquisition)

Search marketing paid media and conversion rate optimization. Reach the people you need and give them what they need. Drive new business to replace the channels that are failing you.

Brand and user experience (customer retention)

Work to understand and serve your customers more effectively. Consider their changing needs in light of current realities, and deliver a set of digital experiences that are centered around them.

As the future is unknown, there’s no choice but to adapt to the circumstances. This is a chance for companies to develop their digital offerings and connect with customers on a multitude of levels. The companies which are seen to be doing their bit for society will be those that consumers choose to remember and be loyal to.

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