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The COVID-19 Effect

The COVID-19 Effect: Is There A Silver Lining Here?

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

Consider this…when the market crash of 2006 hit, it triggered a panic across the board. The high majority of stockholders sold their shares at considerably low rates, businesses were unable to secure loans and folded, banks were hit with a flood of foreclosures. It was a terrible time and very bleak for so many hard-working people.

However, the fiscal hawks seized the opportunity to build their brand and businesses during this time. When everyone was selling, they were buying and building. They bought up the small competitors, offered private loans to others and invested heavily in real estate. Just a few years later, the ones who recognized the silver lining were now sitting pretty.

Please note, I am in no way trying to make light of the situation. I’m just challenging you to look at it from a marketing perspective and see if you can find a silver lining to build your brand, tap into new markets and build up your online traffic.

TRIGGERED

When the news of the pandemic began to sink into the collective mind, the first and immediate response was panic buying. As human beings, when we are faced with an uncertain and/or life-threatening situation of which we have no control, we tend to try whatever we can to grab back some type of control over our personal situation.  This explains the panic buying and hoarding that quickly ensued.

“Panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychological needs.” – Paul Marsden, London University of the Arts

The three fundamental needs Marsden is referring to are:

  • Autonomy – the need to feel in control of your actions
  • Relatedness – the need to feel that we are doing something to benefit our families
  • Competence – the need to feel like smart shoppers making the right choices.

These three “needs” play an integral role in what’s referred to as “retail therapy”. The spread of COVID-19 has been fraught with uncertainty and at times, misinformation. When people hear contradictory information about a potential threat, they tend to overreact.

Let’s not forget the “crowd” mentality at play here. When we see other people stocking up and emptying shelves, the fear of scarcity kicks in and validates our decision to follow suit. No one wants to be left empty-handed.

How we run our business may never be the same again. Around the world, our lifestyles are changing but not by choice. Rather, the impact of COVID-19 on the world has forced us to rethink how business can be run using the technology we have available today. 

THE SHIFT

In an effort to prevent the spread of this disease, many businesses have closed their offices. This forced a lot of people to adopt a new regimen. Rather than commuting to the office, they’re learning how to work remotely. Instead of working on the kitchen table, they are setting up a dedicated home office space.

Quora reports that ‘working from home’ search topics are up 458% for March 2020. Folks are looking for inspiration and tips on creating a functional home office. Views for ‘home office’ are up 80% and ‘desk chairs’ up 26% as of April 1, 2020. 

The COVID-19 Effect: The Winners And Losers - Search by Category

WINNERS

In relation to adopting new technology, the biggest winner is “video conferencing” which grew 844%. More and more people are now using video conferencing for business and family. For the first time ever, we held a virtual family get-together online on Easter Sunday. My cousins, siblings, and elderly mother, aunts, and uncles were all in one room.  It was awesome to see everyone and catch up. 

As such, it stands to reason that virtual meeting spaces are not just relegated to business meetings but now will become more of a common event among friends and family.  Popular video conferencing apps such as WebEx (+105%), Skype (+270%), GoToMeeting (+164%) and Zoom (+1057%) are each experiencing impressive year-over-year growth rates. 

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SUPPLY & DEMAND

“Most people miss Opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas A. Edison

With more people online for longer periods of time, think how this could mean more online traffic to your site. Interestingly, searches for ‘virtual private networks’ (VPN) are up 17% in a growing effort to secure our networks and protect our privacy. Password manager, Lastpass, also saw a 74% jump in search results. Why not promote VPN products through affiliate marketing?

Since most of us are still under the “shelter in place” order, people are looking for ways to cope with cabin fever. Searches for ‘e-learning’ (+56%) and ‘online classes’ (+26%) are trending up. Ramp up your online courses and ebooks now!

Grocery eCommerce saw a huge jump in orders the second week of March after shoppers could no longer find what they needed at their local grocery store. The graph below from Rakuten Intelligence shows a huge spike in full assortment grocery on March 12th. Do you have an e-commerce site? Why not add and promote these products that are in such high demand?

Baking also seems to be growing as a popular pass time. Searches for ‘sourdough’ are up 18%. Trends data shows an annual high for 446% for the word “groceries” for the week ending March 21st. The same goes for “online groceries” and “grocery delivery”.

The COVID-19 Effect: The Winners And Losers - Year over year change in daily e-commerce spending

According to a report from Common Thread Collective, the biggest online sellers are mainly Medical, Baby Products, Cleaning, and Food. These are all items you can promote now that everyone is looking for them. Offer free shipping and expedited delivery.

Big-box stores such as Sam’s Club, BJ Wholesale Club, and Costco are seeing a big search engine surge. For instance, Costco’s search results are up 82%. 

According to eMarketer, online ad spend is dropping since the onset of the quarantine. For instance, Amazon’s ad spend has been cut back rather significantly because “it’s already running close to capacity.”

Now’s the time to ramp up your own online marketing. Consider using alternative platforms for your marketing campaigns. There are many alternatives that are pennies on the dollar when compared to the big boys like Google. These include:

  • Reddit
  • Bing
  • Chatbots
  • Yahoo!
  • Instagram
  • Podcasting
  • LinkedIn

Some more interesting ideas include using a chatbot as part of your customer service, and lead generation. Visitors to your site may be looking for instant answers, so why not offer a way to connect with them directly. Some chat tools will also collect names and email addresses too.

Livestreaming with LinkedIn Live reaches both sides of the aisle, B2C and B2B. Livestreaming continues to grow in popularity and quickly builds brand trust.

THE LOSERS

The “stay at home” edict that places strict limits on social gatherings is hitting the hospitality, theme park and restaurant chain industry pretty hard. Conferences have transitioned to virtual meeting rooms and travel plans canceled.

Online ‘Hotels’ searches dropped in of 37% and keywords such as “Disneyworld” (21%), Six Flags”(68%) and “Universal Studio” (73%) have also seen big drops.

Dine-in restaurants are also dropping down in search results. Denny is seeing a drop of 13%, IHOP 18% and TGI Friday’s fell by 38%. However, eateries offering pick-up and delivery are holding on.

RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.” William Arthur Ward

So, how do you build your business during this time? More than ever, people are spending hours and hours online and many of them are wondering if now is the time to start a home-based business. Having a home-based online business has big advantages.

Successful people don’t ever rely on just one source of income and neither, should you! But building a solid online presence will take time, there is a learning curve involved. I started where you are now.

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If you run a site, similar to mine, that caters to this industry then now is probably the best time to really boost your online marketing campaigns. The fact that big box stores are pulling back translates to less competition and more exposure for your eCommerce site.

If you’re site focuses on health, babies, and/or family, take advantage of the high demand. Really push your marketing and gain more exposure to your content and affiliate links.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

People the world over are now coming to terms with the reality of our interconnected world. An indication of that is found in the way our shopping behaviors and preferences have dramatically shifted.  

COVID-19 has forced many non-essential businesses to dramatically pear down which leads the disruption to search and digital online ad budgets since early March. In just a week, markets began to rapidly shift with many more online advertisers placing their ad campaigns on hold. Brad Geddes of AdAlysis said that he has seen 20-30% of B2B clients cut or pause their ad campaigns.

Search behavior is a really good indicator as to how our priorities are shifting. People are now more focused on the essentials as opposed to leisure and social activities. Brands that adapt to this shift will weather the storm.

According to Jay Shambaugh, Senior Director of The Hamilton Project, “The core problem the economy faces is not a lack of liquidity, but a temporary halt of activity due to health restrictions and a fundamental question of solvency for many firms and individuals.”

CONCLUSION

Millions of Americans who may still have jobs to go back to are currently feeling the effects of lost wages, tips, commissions and hours. Far too many people have less than a month’s worth in their savings account. 

There’s still much discussion as to how many of these changes will remain permanent once the quarantine has been lifted and our economy kicks in again. 

We are in uncharted waters with COVID-19 and its consequential impact on our lives, economy, and businesses. Some industries may never be the same if people decide they no longer need the services or products offered.

Small businesses are the hardest hit since they don’t have access to capital that the major firms do.  It all depends on just how quickly we can recover once the quarantine has been lifted. 

YOUR TWO CENTS

Don’t be shy. Let me know what you think of this content and what other topics you’d like to see me cover. Your input and feedback are always well received.

4 Replies to “The COVID-19 Effect: Is There A Silver Lining Here?”

  1. This is so interesting and I have definitely found it to be true as well! One of my websites has doubled in traffic and sales since this has begun. The time is definitely now to start this kind of business if one has not already!

    Great post!

  2. There is always a silver lining behind the dark clouds. We should be able to recognize it 🙂 This post really helps in recognizing the path after covid-19. Thank you for this wonderful article 🙂

  3. Great website , I found the statistics about online shopping interesting, especially the part about groceries and the search term explosion, If I were to start a home based business online how would I go about it ? I dont have a lot of money to invest, will that stop me ?

    1. Do what I did. Take this course, it’s totally free, follow it along and start building up your site. If you decide you like the course and want to proceed further you can opt-in for membership. It was a game changer for me and I knew little to nothing about Word Press or affiliate marketing, etc.

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