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The Increased Importance of Digital Marketing in a COVID-19 World

Given the singularly unique circumstances that COVID-19 has created, small business owners will need to get savvy with digital marketing to keep their business afloat and make it to the other shore.

During recessions, cash-strapped marketing departments are under pressure to do more with less and demonstrate high returns on investment. Smart marketing teams will reallocate budget from high-cost, high-impression, but difficult-to-measure channels such as broadcast media and trade shows, towards digital and online channels that can target niche audiences more effectively, demonstrate more measurable results, and enable marketers to more efficiently allocate their scarce marketing dollars.

Learning from the Past

Looking back to the Great Recession of 2008, history shows us that despite a deepening recession, marketers quickly pivoted and spent 14% more on online ads over the first three quarters of 2008 than they did over the same time frame in the previous year. This reallocation of marketing dollars helped businesses not only survive the 2008 recession but thrive in the following years.

The ongoing situation with COVID-19 will be no different. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place, we are all spending more of our day-to-day lives online. According to GlobalWebIndex, consumers are spending more time on in-home media consumption. Smartphone usage is up significantly, with 70% globally saying they are spending more time on their smartphone, climbing above 80% for Gen Z. Given these statistics, it is no surprise that digital will likely to be the clear winner here, and companies – including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into a brave new world that rubs elbows with the likes of LinkedIn, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and HubSpot.

A recent Forbes article reinforces the rise of digital marketing in this COVID-19 new normal. An excerpt states, “We are in uncertain times, but with the increase of remote working and a collaborative approach, companies are turning to digital channels and embracing the transformation. We have seen a real spike during the last few weeks from companies wishing to create or update websites, launch new eCommerce channels and create social media campaigns focused on home-workers and a real focus on using influencers and SEO to reach new audiences.”

Reallocating Trade Show Spend

In addition, due to social distancing regulations arising from COVID-19, marketers today are being forced to re-examine two (2) specific channels in their marketing mix: trade shows and events. In February alone, PredictHQ found that COVID-19 concerns led to a 500% increase in tradeshow cancellations and postponements, which will only continue to increase in the subsequent months.

Rather than sitting on these unused marketing dollars, businesses should shift at least a portion of the budget to digital advertising channels, which can target the same audiences that would be in attendance at trade shows, but at a much lower opportunity cost to your marketing and sales team. Plus, keep in mind that since all results are trackable and digital channels can be throttled up or down, the downside risk is minimal when compared to the upside potential.

In the coming weeks, businesses both large and small have a decision to make with their marketing budgets. Hopefully, they understand the “new normal” we are living in and adjust accordingly to a more digital-heavy allotment of their marketing dollars. Those that don’t will face a long road ahead and will continue to lag behind more progressive competitors.