Team Script shares how the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19) impacts your marketing and what you can do.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic on Wednesday, 11 March, as the number of reported cases has continued to rise across the globe. At the beginning of March, Italy relented and announced a nationwide lockdown. Meanwhile, the US has begun to lay out plans to curb the transmission, following its first reported deaths.
In the Eastern hemisphere, the situation has slowly been buckled under control as China and South Korea—the two Asian countries that have been struck hard by the virus—have managed to suppress the rates of infection. Nonetheless, the recent spike of cases in Singapore—amounting to 153 new cases in the past week as reported by the New York Times—indicates a lingering risk.
The Coronavirus outbreak also impacts the global economy—costing a total of $2.7 trillion in lost output. Such an economic fallout is felt in Singapore as well with tourism bracing for the hardest impact. Local businesses face disruption in their daily operations as the authorities have cautioned against high-volume mass gatherings and social functions. With such heightened restrictions of movement, most industries face sluggish market demand.
The Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak
With the concern of the Coronavirus spread being at an all-time high, the global demand for certain industries has diminished. We can monitor such change through the rate of online organic traffic for these industries. According to the following global SERP analysis, the Tourism industry has been impacted the most by the pandemic, with Construction and Advertising trailing behind.
On Tourism Industry
In Singapore, the number of tourist arrivals and spending was projected to drop up to 30%, as the city-state has imposed stricter travel restrictions to include more than 69% of the country’s tourism markets. We can see the effect of such restrictions in the declining search trends for “Flights to Singapore” and “Singapore Flights”, particularly from the middle of January to February when the number of reported cases for the virus was high. The trends, however, have picked up pace again in the beginning of March as airlines dropped flight fares to boost low demand.
To cut losses, many airlines have aggressively advertised for their low-cost flights on numerous marketing channels. This may seem counterintuitive at first. Nevertheless, while the interest in flying out may temporarily dip at the moment, particularly in Asia, Wordstream highlights that some airlines consider this strategy as a long-term investment to build up interest for future value. Weighing on the current climate, airlines have made a decision to shift their marketing focus to create a stronger market base for next year rather than now.
On Advertising Industry
The advertising industry paints a different story. While the global revenue forecast for ad spending was 4% lower than the initial prediction, the market, for the most part, remains divided. With countries in droves deciding to quarantine their citizens, the revenue of digital advertising for online streaming platforms may experience a slight increase as viewership is predicted to spike.
Meanwhile, online retail has shown signs of decline in ad spending as third-party sellers, particularly on Amazon, have experienced tighter cash flow. Out-of-home and traditional advertising has shown quite a similar downward trajectory as well. This is especially true given that social distancing and other isolation measures are now in full swing.
In this time of uncertainties, here are some measures that businesses can take to weather through the storm:
Activating a Business Continuity Plan in Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak
While there is still a sliver of hope that things will resume a certain level of normalcy within the next few months, the knock-on effect on our economy could still persist for more than a year. Our economic analysts have predicted that with the estimated 0.5% drop in annual GDP forecast, Singapore will likely face a full-year recession in 2020. To mitigate the economic slowdown, the government has planned to inject massive stimulus packages into the affected sectors and agencies.
On the business front, many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have activated their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) following the government’s decision to raise the threat level of the virus. While each firm has a different set of priorities in its BCP, the government primarily advises all businesses to include a set of procedures that would minimise the possibility of viral transmission in the workplace.
Many businesses have opted for giving their workers flexible work arrangements by delimiting work travel and face-to-face interactions. Such arrangements include remote working and telecommuting. In instances where operations management necessitates direct contact with customers, an effective BCP must set aside recourses to provide protection for the workers and maintain proper sanitation in the workplace.
Having a BCP in times like this is absolutely necessary to help you maintain your day-to-day operations. If you don’t have your own BCP, you can follow the government’s guidelines here.
Readjust Your Annual Marketing Plan and Budget
The business slowdown also means that some marketing strategies you have laid down ahead of time may no longer work. This may occur for numerous reasons. However, the prevailing sentiment, and rightfully so, is that people simply have less desire to purchase non-essential items when the safety of their families becomes their utmost concern.
Naturally, brick-and-mortar businesses other than grocery stores have seen a decline in leads and foot traffic. While this may cause frustration, marketers have no other options but to recalibrate their current annual budgeting and advertising strategies.
Marketing readjustment may entail different courses of action for different industries. For industries catering to secondary and tertiary needs, this means resource reallocation and putting non-essential marketing campaigns on hold. Against lower market demand, these businesses must also apportion their ad spending more to brand keywords for high-quality organic turnouts.
In contrast, businesses offering primary goods and services, such as hygiene and toileting supplies, face a whole different ball game. For them, a strategy readjustment requires advertising campaigns to keep pace with stock availability in the storage. This is not only to ensure that their advertising strategies can support their daily operations smoothly but also to prevent panic buying due to an unexpected shortage of items.
Tailor Your Message Appropriately
Although circumnavigating the current disruption should be every marketer’s top priority, maintaining ethical and scrupulous business practices is also crucial. You need to be mindful of what kind of marketing strategies that you disseminate to the masses. For one, refrain from sharing sensationalised or inaccurate information that induces panic among the public.
We also strongly advise businesses against capitalising on the pandemic to accumulate short-term profit. Generating sales during these times may be difficult. However, exploiting people’s sense of panic and fear can only jeopardise your brand reputation down the line.
Additionally, marketers must review every campaign and collateral that they have already placed in the pipeline prior to distribution. Avoid sending out any promotional posts, newsletters, or any marketing creatives that ignore or downplay the gravity of the outbreak. The sales event you were planning a year ago might sound like a great idea back then. But, organising such an event now may place you in a position to account for things beyond your control.
Conversely, you still need to inform your customers of any changes that you have made in light of the outbreak. You can send out a newsletter to your loyal customers or post an infographic on social media to explain how your business has been adapting to the new environment. You can also use your content marketing channels to notify any recent changes in your value offerings. Maintaining open communication with customers through honest and authentic messaging is an integral part of your current content strategy.
Fighting the Coronavirus Outbreak through Content Marketing
Rather than solely focusing on sales, we can utilise our resources to find and redistribute information to help the public. Our marketing channels, from social media to email marketing, can contribute to raising awareness of the outbreak in our communities. This may include, among other things:
- Nifty tips on basic hygiene and personal care
- Infographics on the profile of the disease
- A handy post with directories on how to contact the authorities
Sharing such knowledge to our loyal following may not feel much. Nonetheless, it can still lessen the burden of the first responders and medical practitioners battling in the frontline.
We from Script Consultants have endeavoured to play our part in fighting against the Coronavirus outbreak as well. We believe that the safety and health of our community are paramount. That’s why we strive to share any important information on our platform. So, stay tuned for more updates from us. In the mean time, you can also check out our other marketing insights here.
To end this post, here are some of our tips on how to reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission: