A Digital World: The Impact of COVID-19 on Modern Marketing

Karmen Clark
March 28, 2021

A Digital World: The Impact of COVID-19 on Modern Marketing

COVID-19 has been an ongoing challenge globally, throughout 2020 and into 2021. It has changed how many people go about their daily lives and has affected businesses and employees alike. Most businesses and marketers found themselves in uncharted waters. Despite the initial uncertainty and struggle at the start of the pandemic, there were some positive outcomes that emerged as companies learned to adapt to this new market situation.

One such positive is that the onset of COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the transition to a digital world, particularly when it comes to marketing and buyer behaviour. The pandemic has accelerated the digital market so much so that we are currently in a place which we expected to be 10 years from now. Businesses were forced to pivot in the ways they served clients, and many who could not adapt, found themselves closing down.

Let’s explore some of the key changes that emerged amongst consumer behaviour during this time, and discuss how businesses responded in real-time to meet their needs.

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How COVID-19 Affected Consumer Behaviour

The economy was deeply affected by COVID-19. There was so much uncertainty in the initial days of the pandemic, and this still exists now even into 2021. However, there were some interesting trends and shifts in consumer behaviour and marketers took note.

Initially, in the early days of the pandemic, globally businesses saw a substantial amount of panic buying. People were buying up and hoarding non-perishable goods such as canned foods, pasta and even toilet paper as they prepared for the worst.

As consumers adapted to the new normal, there was a rise in seemingly nostalgic behaviour (trading Pokemon cards) as well as nesting behaviour such as DIY home projects, baking trends and home renovations (creating home offices.) People were stuck at home in isolation and this was a comforting response to the chaos of the outside world.

For businesses, fewer visits to physical stores posed the substantial challenge of keeping customers engaged and in touch with their brands during the pandemic. But the economy still needed to continue, despite a massive blow, companies knew they had to adapt and fast to the new circumstances. That shift can be seen through changes in advertising that took place during this time.

Moving Online: Businesses’ Response to the Pandemic

Companies had to move online to share their messages with consumers and stay relevant during the lockdown. This was largely due to the physical restrictions imposed by the virus - people could not shop physically in stores, they had to keep a safe distance. During quarantine, the restrictions were much more severe, limiting many to solely shopping online. As a result companies utilized various channels of communication such as social media, email and their websites to stay in contact with buyers.

Impact on the Advertising Industry:

Many brands had gone dark during the initial phase of the crisis, there was no playbook and no certainty. Those that experimented with solutions to address the crisis had a higher chance of success.

Traditionally, in advertising and marketing, it was considered taboo to associate your brand with bad news. Early on in the pandemic, many large companies did not want to be associated publicly with a crisis going on in the world. It could reflect poorly on the brand and it did not fit with established brand personalities.

Thus, during this time, those that spoke up had higher exposure because there were fewer voices competing on the world stage.

Companies learned quickly that you have to be present during this time in history and take it as the new reality. Brands adapted their brand messages to align with the current market landscape and consumer sentiment. Empathy, compassion and a sense of togetherness were all at the heart of successful marketing campaigns during this time. Buyers didn’t want to be ‘sold’ to, they wanted companies to acknowledge the trying times and provide solutions.

We saw banks sharing constructive savings advice as well as lenders providing mortgage deferrals. Restaurants transitioned rapidly to provide delivery services and companies, such as Amazon flourished with online shopping. Companies responded to consumer desires for answers and worked to provide constructive solutions to problems posed by the pandemic. Companies knew they had to accommodate for these new needs in order to stay afloat.

The Future is Now

In a way, COVID-19 had paved the way for the beginning of the next phase of marketing. There is uncertainty as to whether or not there will ever be a return to “normal life” as it was a year ago, and many sources state that this change in buyer behaviour is permanent.

It’s truly a new time for marketing. Consumers don’t want to be talked at, they want to be communicated with and as a business, you need to determine how you will fit into a society that is currently being re-created. It’s a rethink of how you communicate and how you create a sense of community with your buyers. People have different needs today and it is essential that companies are sensitive to that. Being compassionate and in-the-moment with buyers will increase trust and secure loyalty with customers in a new way.

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How to Leverage Digital Marketing Channels for Your Business

So, you may be wondering, “How do I apply these new concepts of digital marketing to my company or my business?”

There is no ‘one size fits all solution’ when it comes to determining the best digital marketing solution for your business, unfortunately. Each company and each sector of work is unique. However, there are a few simple ways to level-up when it comes to creating a digital presence for your business online.

The key here is to build trust remotely with consumers via communication. Share your message and share it often and show your clients how you can benefit them during this time.

Your Digital Marketing Checklist

Your customers still want to hear from you. Here’s a quick and easy checklist to leverage multiple digital channels to communicate directly with your clients.

Email Marketing

No, email marketing is not dead. In fact, it’s thriving right now. Whether you are in retail, real estate, education, finance, the health and medical industry or a small business, email marketing is an excellent way to communicate directly with your audience.

If you have an existing mailing list, utilize this to convey updates, current sales and new resources for your clients. If you do not yet have an email marketing system in place, there are many platforms available, such as Mailchimp, to help you get started.

Social Media Accounts

Social media usage spiked during the pandemic. Users were craving the sense of community and social interaction during enforced lockdowns. Social media was and still is heavily used on a personal level to communicate with loved ones. It is also used as a place to shop and enjoy lighthearted entertainment.

If your company was not on social media before the pandemic, now is the time to focus on creating those core Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, to share your presence online.

Local Search

Local search platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp and Bing Maps are all places that can help local users find your business when they are searching online. It is free to create accounts on most of these platforms and they are relatively easy to make. That way, users searching for local, nearby services will see your business on the map. If you own a bakery, for example, you will show on a map when a user nearby searches “bakeries near me.”


Pay-per-click marketing involves advertising on search engines such as Google and Bing in order to attract customers to your products or services. There are many different forms of digital ads and there may be some that are more applicable to your business than others.

You can also use PPC marketing on social media platforms such as Facebook Ads, as well as Instagram and Youtube Ads. These work in much the same way as PPC ads on search platforms and can be a powerful tool in your marketing initiative.

The key benefit of PPC marketing is that it is inherently easy to track. You can see what is working and what is not fairly quickly and easily in order to generate a positive return on investment.

Website Upgrade

Your website is truly your digital storefront and should be treated as such. Just like an in-person store, you want to make your website easy to find, easy to use and appealing for customers. If you do not yet have a website for your company, now is the time to make one.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Utilize multiple channels to increase your chance of exposure. For example, if you have an existing email list and you have just created a social media account for your business, let your email subscribers know that they can find you on social media channels now. Cross-promotion and sharing content across multiple channels maximizes your potential to be seen and noticed by your customers.

Moving Online

Moving marketing online can be overwhelming for many small businesses, who are used to walk-in clients. The switch to going digital is a complex process and many companies require the help of marketing agencies to get their websites and online stores up and running.

The BC government understands this burden that has been placed on businesses and is offering to help. They created the Launch Online Grant program which provides funding for businesses to create or improve their online shop or online booking system. This grant covers up to 75% of expenses with a maximum of $7500 per business.

The funds must be used to hire a BC-based marketing company, to help local businesses level-up their inline marketing. Are you looking to take advantage of the BC grant? Our team can help you build your dream website and help you with your online advertising goals.

Contact a Digital Marketing Agency

At ElementIQ we specialize in digital marketing. We have helped hundreds of small to medium-sized businesses adapt and thrive within this changing environment. Sometimes it’s best to consult the professionals. If you are looking to set up digital marketing channels for your business, we would be happy to meet and determine how we can help you achieve your goals and get your company noticed online. Click to book a consultation with our team.

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