Mark Wright

BBC Apprentice winner and Climb Online MD

With the latest reports revealing that the UK economy declined by 20.4% over the last quarter, the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly no secret.

While businesses operating in home improvements, IT and PPE would have experienced a significant boom during this period, as supported by Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q, reporting 225% growth in online sales, other industry sectors have experienced a significant decline.

Industries adversely impacted like hospitality, travel and manufacturing aside, the key difference between whether or not businesses fared well during this period would have been down to how they marketed their business and what channels they used to engage with their stakeholders.

According to the latest stats, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, grew his fortune by $24 billion during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic; a figure likely to soar over the coming months as consumers continue to opt to shop online.

Bezos’s inspiration behind Amazon was speed and efficiency, enabling consumers to purchase what they want, when they wanted, safe in the knowledge they would receive it within a short timeframe. This very concept played right into the hands of the pandemic, where reliance on Amazon increased as other retailers were forced to close their doors.

However, those with an online presence would have still continued to generate revenue during this time, as demonstrated by the fact ‘buy online’ related searches almost doubled during the first month of the pandemic and were up 50% across the globe during June 2020 alone.

Comparatively, Primark, one of the UK’s biggest retailers, which made £7.79 billion during 2019, would have generated £0 as the brand has no online presence and no eCommerce store.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, increasing numbers of businesses and brands understood the importance of having a strong digital presence, but now it couldn’t be clearer: if your business isn’t online, you’re not in the game.

Not only is an online presence vital for maximising revenue, but it also enables businesses to respond and adapt quickly to changing customer demands, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic.

As lockdown measures commenced, business leaders across the globe were forced to close their doors and adapt to remote working environments. In a bid to save costs, a vast majority reduced or simply cut their digital marketing spend, with reports revealing that even large-scale advertisers reduced their spend by a minimum of 20%.

With lower ad spend comes a reduction in ad costs, meaning those who took advantage of the situation not only benefitted from a reduced average cost per click [CPC], but also reduced competition per keyword. With less competition, the businesses that remained bold and focused on utilising this period to disrupt their sector, wiped out their competition and continue to dominate top page positions in the search engine results.

Even now, the average cost per click remains competitive, providing the opportunity for businesses to maximise their paid media spend and generate new leads as markets start to recover.

The brands that have and continue to do well during the pandemic are those that have revised their messaging to ensure they resonate with consumers.

For example, during the lockdown large brands like Nike produced clear and simple messaging around staying safe and staying at home, which read: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the World”

The key to customer engagement is, therefore, relevance. Although honing your own tone of voice and understanding your USPs is important as a business, so is showing value and empathy to consumers. The more they resonate with you and believe in your brand values, the more likely they will convert into a paying customer.

Although we cannot predict what will happen over the next 3, 6 or even 12 months, we can control what we do as business leaders to navigate through the pandemic and ensure that we emerge stronger once we come out the other side. The key to driving survival is not waiting, analysing or ‘seeing what happens’, it is pushing forwards, making decisive change and being bold, where the best place to start is a focused and relevant digital marketing strategy.