Every so often though something comes out of the blue, dominates the conversation and means that companies have to be reactive and look at changing their strategy.
The global Covid-19 pandemic is one such instance, and its effects have made the digital marketing industry sit up and take notice like never before. Some businesses will have thrived in the face of this challenge, I’m thinking specifically of Amazon, supermarkets and even those that offer specialist products like language courses or online education for children. Others, most notably the travel sector, have been decimated. So what can we do and where do we turn when trying to navigate this strange new landscape, especially over the busiest trading period of the year?
A recently published document by Google looks at the world of online advertising, and offers itself as a playbook to make sure your brand is performing well under these new pressures. We’ll now look at the key points of the document and highlight some of the steps you should and could be taking, as well as looking at the latest guidelines for businesses wanting to ensure a lucrative holiday period.
According to Google: “COVID-19 has changed life as we know it – and as we do everything we can to keep each other safe, our routines have fundamentally shifted. The necessary measures taken to manage the pandemic have disrupted the global economy and altered consumers’ expectations, habits, and purchasing behavior. This has resulted in new challenges to supply chains, fulfillment, physical stores, and for employees and customers.
“We’ve seen businesses around the globe – including our own – adapt to these new realities. While these are unprecedented times, we’ve seen businesses start to think about the path to economic recovery in three stages – respond, rebuild, and reframe – each with distinct priorities. Businesses, industry verticals, and markets are affected differently by each stage – with some moving faster than others – but we’ve observed that the vast majority remain focused on responding.
“The nature of this crisis requires us to go beyond business as usual. For marketers, it can be a chance to try new strategies, think outside of the box, and reinvent the way we connect with audiences. And when we get through this, the innovative and compassionate approaches we put in place have the potential to bring us closer with our customers and communities.”
The three key points that the playbook makes is that you should:
Base your approach on consumer insights
With over four billion people staying home worldwide, consumers’ behavior and media consumption habits are changing rapidly. As a result google has identified three search patterns since the onset of COVID-19: shock, step-change, and speed up.
As you evolve your short and long-term digital marketing strategies, it’s important to understand nuances in consumer patterns so you’re in the best position to respond to this dynamic environment. Handy consumer insights to consider when setting up an ads campaign include:
- consumers across the globe are spending 20% more time in apps than they did a year ago
- staying home has led to a 60% increase in the amount of content watched
- search interest in “online grocery shopping” and “grocery delivery” grew 23% year over year in the US
- consumers are watching videos related to recipes and cooking at a rate 31% higher than they did in March 2019
- 50% of US consumers said they used video to communicate with family and friends
- more people are turning to online video for help in coping with anxiety and stress
So how do stay on top of all of these trends? Well Google listed the following five points to help users:
Filter across properties
You can now explore trends across Google Search, Image Search, News Search, Google Shopping, and YouTube Search.
Compare your search terms and topics
You can add topics for simultaneous comparison across languages, locations, and time periods.
Explore by category
Words often have multiple meanings, so make sure to find what you’re looking for on Trends. For instance, if you search for “mask,” you can add a category to indicate whether you mean protective health equipment or a type of beauty product.
Use Trends search tips
Refine trends with punctuation, group search terms, and filters.
Understand the data
Understand exactly what data is in your results and how Trends data is pulled, including how it should be interpreted.
Understand the impact to your business
Each company has unique goals, so the Respond stage will be different for everyone. But overall, we’ve seen businesses’ marketing impacted in four distinct ways by COVID-19 — and they don’t always progress directly from one to another.
Identify which of these four situations relates most to your business, then consider the corresponding digital marketing strategies. These recommendations should help you sustain your business in the short term while laying a foundation for recovery.
Develop a strategy and take action quickly
Google make suggestions in the playbook and says the following:
“The response to COVID-19 has changed the way people interact with businesses, presenting supply-and-demand disruptions, as well as logistical disruptions that have made operations unpredictable.
“If your company is facing these challenges, you might be looking to invest in digital marketing only if it has a positive impact on your business in the next 30 days. You might also be contemplating pausing your advertising campaigns if you’re experiencing severe supply-and-demand volatility.
“Amid these challenges, you can still be there for your customers by adapting your approach and marketing objectives. Below are some recommendations to help you rethink your advertising strategies as you navigate this time of uncertainty.”
Getting Holiday Ready
In their latest update Google suggests a number of best practices for the busy holiday season, especially with relation to the restrictions around the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here’s their advice for showing your most up-to-date product information to your customers.
Google suggests that you first increase feed uploads, and implement schema.org (structured data) annotations for availability and enable Automatic Item Updates. They say that: “Issues such as latency between updates on your website and updates to your data submissions can result in inaccurate or stale product data.”
Automatic item updates allow Google to update your product listings for both ads and listings using the structured data markup they find on your website and advanced data extractors. Automatic item updates are currently offered for the price and availability attributes.
These updates lead to an improved user experience, more traffic to your Shopping ads or free listings, and to higher conversion rates because users already see the correct price in your Shopping ads and are not sent to out-of-stock items. Since they’re updating your product data with information found directly on your landing pages, this feature also minimises the number of mismatches between your Shopping ads or listings and your website.
If your Merchant Center account is configured as a multi-client account, by default each sub-account will use the settings of the parent account. Sub-accounts can also select the option to specify their own settings.
Google also gives these tips:
- Use feed rules or supplemental feeds to make quick updates, such as product availability in your primary feed or store closures in your local inventory feeds.
- If your business is impacted by COVID-19, clearly message on your website that order availability, shipments, and payments may be impacted. Display a prominent message in the form of a banner on landing pages.
- Use the “excluded_destination” attribute to prevent the products from participating in relevant programs, if your business has been impacted and you cannot keep your data updated.
- Mark online products as “out of stock”, local products as “limited stock” or “out of stock”; or set a purchase_quantity_limit for Shopping Actions to limit the number of items available to sell per order, if you’re unsure of real-time inventory or restocking times
- Shopping Actions Only: update item availability and cancel the order immediately using the appropriate reason code of “product unavailable” or “no Inventory” via the Shopping Content API, if you receive an order on Shopping Actions for an item that is oversold.
- Review shipping settings and estimated delivery time to ensure your shipping and handling times accurately reflect your current capabilities.