The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the global market, and with its trajectory on the rise, businesses across the world are grappling with its devastating impact. In order to contain the spread of this virus, governments are adopting measures such as social distancing and quarantine that have, unfortunately, resulted in over 40-50% decline in economic activities such as production, transportation, and consumption. With a decrease in demand for products and services, most organizations are pushed to slow down their operations. This drop in demand, disruption in the supply chain, and changes in customer behaviour are affecting many B2B businesses.
The below graph gives an insight into the fall of global GDP due to COVID-19 pandemic against the GDP that was originally forecasted for the year 2020.
According to the Executive Trend Survey by Management Events, 83% of the top 500 companies believe that their businesses will see a revenue fall between 10% to 15%. Many fear that a drop in revenue will, in turn, cause the worst economic slowdown witnessed in recent times.
The COVID-19 Impact
While the pandemic is primarily a health and humanitarian crisis, its impact on businesses has started unfolding. In a survey by databox and Lola.com, the primary effects causing a negative impact on businesses include:
- Prospective clients cancelling contracts
- Cancelled events/meetings
- Government-mandated travel restrictions, and
- Reduced productivity due to employees working from home
The challenging time is testing the ‘systems resilience’ of global businesses and according to Accenture’s 2019 survey, out of 8,300 companies, only 10% exhibit firm resilience. This shows that most organizations aren’t equipped to mitigate their systems’ vulnerabilities during unprecedented situations. Industrialists are discarding their plan of action for the year 2020 as they are compelled to reset their goals and at least survive through the crisis. They are navigating through the situation by cutting the budget, recalculating their predictions, and revising their strategies.
Organizations are fast adapting to a digital transformation to successfully pull through these dire circumstances. Online training sessions, seminars, and virtual meetings have now become the new norm.
Following are a few business sectors that are witnessing an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the facts and figures by Statista, some businesses are suffering irrevocable losses such as –
- Travel and Tourism:
The travel and tourism sector had forecasted a global revenue of around 712 billion dollars in 2020. But due to the virus outbreak, it is now being estimated to be around 568.6 billion U.S. dollars, which is 17% less than that of 2019.
Take a look at the revenue loss that the travel and tourism industry is predicted to suffer in the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The aviation industry is also expecting a potential loss of approximately 90-124 billion U.S. dollars of the gross operating revenues of airlines in 2020.
Due to disrupted supply chain and suspended production, the global automotive light vehicle (LV) sales are likely to decline 22% in 2020 according to the IHS Markit research analysis.
The metal and metal products industry in the European Union might lose around 1.2 billion U.S. dollars while the United States is expected to lose around 298 million U.S. dollars.
Not every other industrial sector has been experiencing the COVID-19 blues. There are a few that have also seen a surge in demand such as –
- Cybersecurity and Web Conferencing Softwares
With the rise in online interactions and virtual meetings, cybersecurity across the world is experiencing a rise in demand. In response to COVID-19, antivirus software companies also witnessed an increase in impressions from companies setting up remote workstations. According to a survey by TrustRadius, businesses have also invested more in technology such as VPN and web conferencing software.
Telemedicine is another software category that has witnessed an exponential demand amidst this pandemic. In response to the social distancing appeals, this method, where the doctors offer remote health-related services to patients online over a secure connection, is being widely adopted to limit contact between humans.
With the lockdown in place, governments across the world are deploying e-commerce for door-to-door delivery of essentials. According to Digital Commerce 360, e-commerce order volume has seen an increase of about 47% in 2020 as compared to 2019.
Strategies for Generating Demand During the COVID-19 Crisi
In such hard times when everyone is fearing an economic slowdown, businessmen should cast away their fear and let their greed for success take over. Rebuild your business model, come up with innovative strategies, and adopt the newest technology in order to adjust to the changing digital landscape.
“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”
– Warren Buffet
While some businesses are holding themselves from spending over marketing strategies, this is the time for you to explore the market, take advantage of the plausible market conditions, and make an effort to stay ahead of your competition. In lieu of offline marketing, you must redirect your budget to digital marketing, boost your online exposure to keep your customers engaged with your brand, and generate demand.
“This is the right time to capitalise on the current situation and make yourself visible and accessible to the right people. This is the best time for companies to get ahead of competition and gain market share.”
A few of the strategies that will prove to be helpful in generating demand during the COVID-19 outbreak include:
- Hosting virtual events
- Establishing web presence through social media marketing
- Reallocating more budget to Email Marketing
- Investing in programmatic advertising
- Considering content syndication
- Focusing on customer service and build reputation
Hosting Virtual Events
With the virus outbreak came government-mandated travel restrictions and measures banning large gatherings, causing many global conferences to reschedule or cancel. Numerous in-person industrial events like Mobile World Congress 2020, Google News Initiative Summit, Facebook Global Marketing Summit, Oracle OpenWorld 2020, Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, Black Hat Asia 2020 and many more have been called off or postponed. But, thinking outside the box, quite a few conference organizers and business owners have resorted to virtually conducting these events.
Following are some of the major events that were and will be hosted virtually for the world to attend.
- Apple WWDC event
- The Adobe Summit
- Google Cloud Next ‘20 conference
- Atlassian Summit 2020
- Dell World
- ESRI Developer Summit
- Microsoft Ignite
These and many more global summits have enabled people around the world to virtually attend these events. Taking a cue from such tech giants, many businesses can use technology to the optimum and bring people closer through webinars, online workshops, and online training. A quick online program that introduces your newest product or a virtual conference goes a long way to keep your customers engaged with your brand.
Below are some important things to consider while hosting an event on a virtual or live-streaming platform.
- Deciding upon conducting an online event or switching to a virtual event
Depending upon the size of your event, number of attendees, and interactivity between the speakers and audience, you will have to make an informed decision about using an online live-streaming platform or a virtual event platform.
- Meeting your audience’s expectations
Make your online event special and not just a virtual version of your in-person event. Your speakers should be able to deliver content of greater value in a short span of time. Also, make arrangements to deliver some content only when your audience demands for it. Deliver community experiences as customers would want to attend your events to meet talented exhibitors, prospective partners, and industry specialists whom they have been wishing to meet for quite a while.
- Keeping your audience captured throughout the event
To keep your audience engaged at all times during the event, you will not only have to deliver great content but also get the attendees involvement. Games, rewards, raffles, recognition ceremonies, promotional giveaways are best known to engage participants.
Establishing Web Presence
Staying at home to exercise social distancing, it is observed that people are spending more time on social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. By mid-March, it was reported that there was a surge of 22% in Instagram campaign impressions. There was an increase of 76% likes on Instagram and Facebook ad posts in the first two weeks of March. Using this as an advantage, companies can establish their web presence through social media marketing. Realizing that going digital is one of the most beneficial solutions amidst the COVID-19 crisis, these digital efforts will help companies acclimatize to the modern-day marketing style.
Following are some steps that you can adopt to boost your web presence.
- You must first identify the social media channels that will help you reach out to your relevant target audience.
- Traditional marketing and advertising budget should be reallocated to digital endeavours.
- Build up your marketing material and consider developing new types of content such as videos, podcasts, and livestreams to be introduced on your social media platforms.
- Set aside a comfortable budget for advertising on each platform.
- You can experiment with different functionalities provided by social media platforms like polls on twitter.
Reallocating More Budget to Email Marketing
With social distancing and quarantine in practice, most of the people are staying at home, proving offline marketing channels to be very ineffective in the current situation. B2B marketers should stop spending more on outdoor advertising billboards, print advertisements, and other offline marketing techniques while redirecting more budget for online strategies like email marketing. As rightly said by Anuvinder Singh, ‘the fastest way to reach any person is via phone – but due to the virus outbreak, since most of the world is working from home, currently, the fastest way to reach them is via email’. By following the best practices of email marketing, organizations can establish effective engagement. Businessmen should consider spending more on email marketing as their companies would only stand to profit from this.
Following are some of the many benefits of email marketing that will contribute to your business’ growth.
- You get to deliver an effective pitch of your goals through a well-structured email.
- You can reach a wider target audience through a single email, and at the same time you can deliver a customized message depending on the buyer persona.
- The effectiveness of your email marketing campaign can be easily tracked using softwares.
- According to the Data and Marketing Association’s email tracker report, you can possibly receive 51$ in return against every 1$ spent on email marketing.
Investing in Programmatic Advertising
Another one of the most beneficial digital marketing developments during the COVID-19 crisis can be programmatic marketing. The strategy, although not known to a few, has been benefiting many organizations to a large extent.
- This digital marketing strategy involves an automated, real-time bidding process that lets you purchase an ad inventory using which you can advertise to specific users, resulting in profitable ads.
- In programmatic marketing, you are targeting only the relevant impressions and reaching out to people who are most likely to convert. This, in turn, guarantees a better return on investment (ROI) for your business.
As most of the people are currently sitting at home and constantly working on a laptop, there is a brighter chance of them watching your ads, leading to a higher conversion rate. According to MediaPost Programmatic Trading study, the ad spend is predicted to hit $147 billion by 2021. In order to boost programmatic advertising during the virus outbreak, Google also announced in March that the publisher inventory will transition to first price auction for Google Ad Manager which makes up for 50-60% of all programmatic inventory.
Considering Content Syndication
The power of quality content is by now known to many. But, it is also necessary to make this content fall in the hands of your target audience. Thanks to content syndication this has been possible for quite a few years.
- Content syndication is a method of sharing your content with new audiences through third-party platforms.
- Besides growing your reach, you can also improve your SEO ranking and drive more traffic to your website through content syndication.
A 2017 survey by Salesbox states that 65% organizations have content syndication as a core part of their lead generation strategy. With the right content syndication model, you can amplify your reach to millions of B2B contacts. You can ensure higher ROI with technology and role-based targeting to reduce cost by larger conversion.
Focusing on Customer Service and Building Reputation
Adopting a different approach is the key for generating demand during the COVID-19 crising. During these uncertain times, you will first have to identify your customers demands and then develop the need for it. It is imperative to focus on customer service in order to enhance your clients experience.
Below are a few ways in which you can present the best customer service.
- Use your corporate blog to provide an update about how your business is coping with the crisis and how your brand is helping its customers.
- If you have something relevant to convey or offer to your customers, you can get in touch with them through email or their social accounts. This includes informing your customers about your online events, available products and services, and new developments.
- You can start a newsletter or a podcast that shares your optimistic solutions, success stories, and product details.
Offering the right customer service would be different for different sectors. While for the retail industry it would be about communicating the availability of stocks, for the hardware and software sector it would be about assuring technical support to the customers. You can also keep your customers updated about new developments in your business and let them know about your contribution to others during the difficult time. This will help you stay in the public eye and also assist you in building a good reputation.
The novel coronavirus is certainly going to affect businesses to a large extent. While some effects might seem irrevocable and disastrous, businessmen should use the outbreak as an opportunity to step away from their traditional approach and embrace modern strategies.
Summing it up, in order to adapt to COVID-19 and generate demand, the businessmen across the world should –
- Shift their focus to the digital world and establish their presence amongst people virtually.
Reach out to more contacts through email marketing, programmatic advertising, and content syndication.
- Issue more budget to be spent on these modern-day marketing strategies as traditional plans take a set back.
- Maintain a healthy online presence, opt for the right tools, and devise the best plan of action.
- Focus on customer service in order to be on top of their customers’ minds and help them know that their business is surviving and possibly thriving through the crisis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, do not fall prey to the famous saying – ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. Instead, as your competitors crawl through these uncertain times, make the most of the favorable strategies and emerge stronger than ever once the situation returns back to normal.
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