When Covid-19 struck the world during the first quarter of 2020, we were all asked to stay home for the greater good of humanity. Our front-line workers - like nurses, doctors and essential services, kept society running on skeleton systems while we all waited for what was to come next.
However, for those of us working in digital marketing and e-commerce, we were not only lounging about and perfecting banana-bread recipes. Lockdown in South Africa proved to be a crazy and chaotic time for all businesses, and especially for those working online. Here are five lessons our team learned while helping our brands navigate life in lockdown.
1. Adapt or die
One common denominator for both brands and people during the Covid Lockdown in South Africa was the sudden disruption to nearly all aspects of our commercial society as we knew it. For brands, and especially those involved with online marketing or e-commerce, Lockdown provided plenty of challenges – from changing government-regulations to restricted services – many businesses were left unable to produce any profit at all.
Because of these real-world restrictions, brands and businesses were required to turn online or find creative ways to stay afloat. From restaurants selling meal-kits, fashion outlets producing face-masks or alcohol-beverage companies assisting with producing sanitizer – now was the time not only to help, but also disrupt our boundaries.
With so many new challenges brought on by Covid-19, there were as many opportunities for brands, business or entrepreneurs to adapt, and even thrive.
2. Go global but stay local
With most of the globe locked up in their homes - having a strong online presence was vital during Lockdown. With physical restrictions, a strong support for local and community support quickly grew – and this too was reflected with online-shopping behavior.
There has been a turn away in sentiment from major retailers – struggling with large order volumes or attracting crowds – towards supporting local business. Not only does this help support our local communities’ sustainability, but this is also opening a whole new micro-system in terms of e-commerce and digital marketing. Local grocers, crafters and producers of all kinds now require strong online e-commerce support with easy, secure payment systems & clever marketing. Thanks to new online platforms and channels - this can be achieved in many different ways without the usual budgets associated with 'traditional' e-commerce. From your local shop down the road, to a New York high-streets – the e-commerce opportunities are endless. ironically by keeping us locked up, many brands, businesses and creators have come together across the globe to show the power of strong communities.
3. Plan to be flexible.
Brands or businesses are well-known to plan marketing calendars many months in advance. This is, and always will be, a vital process in any strong marketing or business strategy. During Lockdown however, most marketing plans became irrelevant overnight. Planning that campaign for a summer holiday competition? Scrap that. It is important to always bear in mind that your creative concepts, assets, and strategies can be affected by unforeseen circumstances.
When planning marketing calendars, campaigns, or communication-strategies, always ensure you have a plan to change your plan – and change it quickly. Covid-19 proved just how valuable it is for businesses to plan – yet remain flexible enough to adapt quickly.
4. Clear, authentic communication always wins
With all traditional shops being closed, and the various levels of regulations as to what can and cannot be sold, e-commerce saw a huge increase in traffic and conversions. All forms of online traffic were increasing daily. Even Netflix, for instance saw an increase of 142% in usage during Lockdown.
With many businesses running on skeleton staff and with huge increases in online traffic, delivery fulfillment and customer care become a vital part of all lockdown brand communication. With most businesses as confused as consumers, customer service teams were put to a very new test. As difficult as it is for all parts of a business to function efficiently – it is important to ensure your customer communication is always clear, quick, and authentic. You can achieve this by having a strong customer-response communication plan in place, but also to take matters into your own hands when it really comes to crunch time.
In South Africa specifically, brands that were slow to respond saw significant sentiment damage, while those that were quick and honest – even if it meant admitting to mistakes – always came out looking better. In one local instance, a CEO sent out his personal phone number to all customers to try and ensure they could clearly communicate the queries and frustrations directly to him. This initiative may not have actually solved their delivery situation, but did prove they were transparent and willing to help as much as they could.
5. The new ‘digital’ normal.
With businesses opening up again globally, and many shutting shop for good – the entire Lockdown experience has shown us how completely unforeseen events in life can have long-lasting effects on your business – sometimes for better or worse. One important lesson from the pandemic we are fighting, is that consumers are now seeing the numerous benefits of utilising online tools to conduct all types of business in more efficient, ethical, and sustainable ways. Now is certainly the time for your business to make digital the 'new normal'.