The Online Presence In The Time Of Covid-19
Covid-19 taught us not only to “stay home”, but also to work from home, to learn from home, to shop online and to enjoy online entertainment, highlighting that the time for digital transformation and communication is now.
Many of us were quite pleased to say goodbye to 2019 back in December, but no one expected what was about to happen, as it was that exact moment that the coronavirus started its journey. One after the other, countries stated their number of confirmed cases as well as virus’ unfortunate consequences, and let’s admit it, we did not see this situation coming. The spread of the new coronavirus in Italy came as a shock for us here in Greece, the same goes for the rest of the Mediterranean countries, but in Greece, things hopefully went better.
As we were all shaken after the sudden – then again anticipated – lockdown of the stores, bars, restaurants and hotels, consumers, after having their first impulsive reactions (which are completely understandable, based on the fact that we have never experienced something similar before), turned to the only tool that gave them the opportunity to get in touch with the world outside their home, enabling the chance to interact with others. God bless the internet.
The unprecedented quarantine came to shake the market too. The news displayed scenes similar to those of Summer 2015, when capital controls were implemented in our country. Sometimes frantically, other times more calmly, many people turned to new activities in order to save their business, to preserve their revenue, or to even grow. The necessary changes in the economic landscape, along with the shift towards a digital environment were already remarkable from the beginning of the quarantine. One thing is for sure, the market will never be the same again, and digital transactions have become the new norm.
The first statistics
Let’s have a look at the consumer behaviour during lockdown, within our country but also globally, as revealed by numbers. As expected, there was a 41% increase in online sales via Skroutz from the 9th until the 29th of March, in comparison to those completed in February. Globally, during March eCommerce did not have such an increase, but in April related rates tripled (page views, orders, reviews, queries). At the same time, we may have had more page browsing than placing orders in March, but that trend turned into purchases in April.
Apart from the increase in online shopping, there were fields that during lockdown, and maybe for a little bit longer, bloomed, and apart from increased sales, they had an increase in their stock rate. Some of the main categories were and are:
Companies offering detergent, soap and masks. The most important measure to prevent the spread was and still is to wash our hands and other surfaces, and many rushed to have sufficient stock of those products.
Pharmaceutical companies providing either testing equipment or medication to fight the virus.
Food delivery companies, since we avoid crowded places. We should not forget that during lockdown we learned about the grand partnership between two big players in Greece, the leading supermarket chain Sklavenitis and the online platform efood. What’s more, the no-touch delivery option was another added feature, making our decision to order even simpler.
Tools enabling working or learning from home, etc. For example, Zoom “said daily users spiked to 200 million in March 2020, up from 10 million in December 2019”. Serving the same purpose, there was an unexpected increase in sales of computers, monitors, printers, and other home-office devices.
Video streaming providers. In fact, some of them, like Netflix, in order to meet the rising demand, had to reduce the overall bandwidth consumption by 25% in Europe, providing a slightly lower quality.
Gym equipment suppliers and merchants of personal care products. Due to the closed gyms, there were many people searching for online training programs at home as well as personal trainers via tools like skype. Similarly, during lockdown hair salons were closed, as a result, hair clippers and beauty care products saw an increase in their sales.
Bicycles and electric scooter dealers. In contrast to the declining sales of cars, the need for flexible and sustainable transport, for physical exercise and the avoidance of public transport lead to a sudden increase in the sales of those product categories.
A digital tomorrow
Having all of the above in mind, along with surveys and stats published daily, we realise that globally the market will definitely change. The online market may now be on fire, but a research conducted by Juniper Research showed a 14% decrease in the global eCommerce spending by the end of 2020 (however experts note that eCommerce will recover much stronger in the post-covid period).
On the other hand, localization of products or services will be at the forefront, as well as on tourism by locals. Moreover sustainable development and green transformation in our daily life, and digital transformation of the public sector are only some of the useful shifts towards a better future, while private companies should have to digitize their presence if they don’t want to miss the train.
Therefore, the time is now for:
eCommerce for everyone
The creation of a new and unconventional distribution channel was always an option for businesses, however, now is a necessity. Place has recently become the most important p of the marketing mix since, without a placement (even a virtual one), there cannot be a sale. According to GR.EC.A., eCommerce consumer spending in Greece jumped weekly 171% year over year in April. What’s more, a new consumer behaviour survey shows that, globally, over 40% of consumers will shop online more frequently. In the same survey, we read that 50% of consumers expect free shipping, not to mention that fast and reliable delivery plays a major role in their decision-making process. Regarding the latter, we had several unpleasant shopping experiences from online stores during lockdown, which proves that various e-shops in Greece were unprepared to respond to the rising online demand. An interesting fact of the period is the 5th position of ACS courier in the search results of google trends in April.
Digitalisation of culture
When we started writing about digital theatre, we had not foreseen how relevant it would be to our current situation. At the end of February, theatre lovers could watch the online-streaming performances of the Theatre Karolos Koun via their website by giving a small amount of money, whereas many theatres uploaded theirs for free in Vimeo or YouTube. Apart from that, new home entertainment platforms rose (for instance cinephile Cinobo), and most of the museums mentioned frequently in their messages about the virtual tours of their exhibitions while uploading audiovisual content online. In addition, dozens of music bands performed live on YouTube or uploaded some of their older concerts, famous DJs played their sets on social media, and the list goes on. There is no need to mention that the experience is completely different, we already know that. But during lockdown, we all wanted an escape from our daily routine and no one said no to it. Even now, that we have moved to the next phase, those initiatives become an example to be followed in the future.
Google: our most important ally
With multiple features and its large database, Google has supported its users since the beginning of the pandemic, offering solutions and instant updates, as well as providing companies with multiple solutions to keep their clients updated. Google now offers the service of Google Shopping Ads without charge in the States, while announcing that apart from the amount that would be given to organisations fighting the virus, it would also support with 340 million dollars in ad credits many small businesses that use Google Ads. The constant stream of information shared through notifications or via her platforms, newsletters, podcasts, and insights, made her a helpful ally for benchmarking and strategic planning to any business that stays in the loop.
SEO. Always there
A properly functioning website, right keywords and tags, rightly edited metadata, high-quality backlinks, interesting internal links, and undoubtedly original and useful content will take you higher on Everest. As you may have guessed, we are referring to Google – and other – Search Engines, since now it’s more important than ever for a website to be ranking in the first page, especially if we are talking about local commerce and products or services that cannot be found in the aisles of supermarkets.
Change in your communication strategy
Flexibility is one of the key features in every organisation, human or not. The messages as well as your way of communicating with your consumers and audience needs to be modified and adjusted to the current situation. We should not use extreme or extravagant content, but at the same time one should not become introvert or be absent. Emotional appeals should be used – in moderation – in new ads, which should also be respectful towards those that have been infected by covid-19 or experience the negative consequences of the pandemic. CSR (Corporate social responsibility) initiatives should also be included in your marketing strategy, and you should create useful and honest messages for your audience. Get the chance to express your solidarity with the people that struggle every day and businesses that may reel. And of course do not forget to show your appreciation for your employees’ and partners’ effort to complete their tasks so that your business operates smoothly.
Social media. What would we have done without those during quarantine?
Leaving aside the already existing growth of social media’s popularity, during lockdown, they skyrocketed. According to Statista, SM had a 21% increase in their users during March and there was also an increase in the number of users that created videos in order to upload them on SM. Just admit it, you have also downloaded TikTok and spent lots of hours trying to upload a video of your favorite animal or to perform “I’m savage”’s choreography. SM channels now play a vital role in the corporate strategy, and being absent during critical periods, like the one that we are going through, might be proven to be crucial for a business’s image, the relationship with its customers as well as the business’s development.
To sum up, prudence and calmness are the best allies to cope with this new reality, both on a personal and professional level. The Internet and new technologies are at our disposal, and we should all together try to find a way for a smooth transition into a new era.