As the world reels from the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, two industries stand to lose—or win—everything. While retail stores have shifted to online channels, the travel and tourism industry stands to lose a substantial portion of their workforce, with more than 100 million job cuts predicted worldwide. Even after the pandemic subsides, the recovery of the industry is expected to take no less than ten months. The travel industry alone accounts for 10% of the global GDP, so the expected ripples will continue to hit the economy long after the vaccine will arrive.
Consequently, the events industry has also suffered due to travel restrictions and policies all around the globe. According to a global study conducted by the University of Westminster in London, one-third of respondents believed that the demand for events would significantly decrease due to the pandemic. At this stage, it doesn’t matter that it experienced high demand in 2019. A change in pricing schemes was necessary if the sector is to survive, according to 66% of the respondents. Similar to the travel industry, layoffs and furloughs are common, with 25% of respondents having furloughed full-time employees and 13% resorting to job cuts.
Now, more than ever, you must keep the communication lines open between your brand and your customers. Many transactions have now moved online, and it would be best for companies to beef up their online channels if they are to retain their presence through the pandemic.
Keeping Communication Lines Open
There are various methods and media you can use to communicate with customers, but the ways people interact with brands, and each other have changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government restrictions and social distancing policies have limited the way we do business to online alternatives or any others that would help limit physical interaction and going outside. Since many are working at home and staying indoors, people spend more time doing their shopping online, checking social media, reading online publications, and living their lives online. Before the pandemic, the travel and events industries enjoyed the luxury of choice in communicating with their customers, which were not limited to online channels.
While many are spending a significant amount of time on their social channels, social media engagement has always been a challenge for many brands. It’s becoming even more difficult now with the pandemic causing drastic and unforeseen changes in consumer behavior. Two months into the pandemic, we saw a 74% spike in social media enterprise spending, in an attempt to provide new opportunities to interact and engage with their audience.
Without a doubt, it’s clearer now that you have to leverage your social media and maintain existing customer relationships while building new ones. It’s important to show consumers that you’re aware of the current challenges brought about by COVID-19 safety measures and what you’re doing to help out. However, while providing emotional support whenever possible is appropriate in the current situation, you must not overdo it. You must function as a beacon of humor and light in this situation and provide memorable mental breaks, even if they are momentary. Without a doubt, a challenge.
As COVID-19 continues to affect different areas of the world, it has become a national news story that your audience wants to get updates about. The pandemic has reinvigorated interest in local and international news, especially in reports and updates about the pandemic. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans currently follow news about COVID-19 at both the local and national level. It’s also not limited to news about the pandemic; approximately 23% are paying more attention to local news since the pandemic started. Getting your brand mentioned in the news will send a message to your customers that, although all industries have been affected globally, you are prepared to provide the service they expect to the best of your ability.
While providing updates on how you’re addressing the pandemic is the right way to reassure your customers that you’re doing all you can to help curtail the spread of the virus, as mentioned previously, it shouldn’t be the only topic you talk about. With all the available time in people’s hands today, it’s one of the best times to showcase your expertise in your chosen field through well-crafted and timely thought-leadership content. Publishing eBooks and white papers, and making them available for download on your website can also help deliver your message; ever since the pandemic lockdown, people have been reading more eBooks.
TV, Radio, and Billboards
Above-the-line advertising still has its place despite the online revolution, but this may not be the case now as people stay indoors and in front of a screen most of the time. While this may still be a viable marketing channel, consumers are mostly online now and, consequently, expect the instant gratification that on-demand services provide. Meeting your customers where they are now is also cheaper than traditional advertising on mass media and will yield more targeted results. Marketing strategies will change during a pandemic even after it subsides. The unpredictability of market trends calls for methods that can be easily tracked and measured, so it will be easier to respond at a moment’s notice.
When it comes to customer acquisition and retention, email marketing provides you with assets, access, and means not available via other platforms. In addition, it’s the most cost-effective strategy, with the highest ROI. In a close second, we have social media, which is excellent for engagement and community building. Still, if you’re looking to provide personalized experiences that lead to conversions, the best way to achieve it is through email marketing. A survey by emarketer shows that 81% and 80% of respondents state that email marketing is one of the main drivers of customer acquisition and retention, respectively.
Personalization is key in email marketing, and you can tailor the message depending on customer actions and feedback.
Why Email Marketing Is Your Best Option
While many have mentioned the demise of email as a medium of communication in recent years, the numbers portray a different image. According to eMarketer research, 62.9% prefer to receive communication from companies via email. It’s still the official communication channel of businesses, and it’s still used for personal correspondence. It’s easy, inexpensive, and allows businesses to reach many consumers at almost zero cost.
Email marketing is not merely creating an email message and sending it to specific recipients. It’s a method of segmenting your audience into mailing lists, crafting a message specific to each segment, and creating full-blown customer journeys with sequences. Email is also more action-oriented than social media, where users can idly scroll by your posts without even reading them It’s transactional by nature and, as such, can help in driving traffic or even sales.
For instance, if you are in the travel industry, one thing your audience will appreciate immediately is travel plans or event itineraries that are based on their interests. You can dive even more in-depth and ‘Corona-proof’ them, making sure that these destinations have either low infection rates or except travelers from your customer’s location.
The global pandemic may have changed the way we work and communicate for good, and it will take some creativity and empathy to indeed be a customer-centric brand in the time of crisis. Email marketing provides an avenue where you and your customers can communicate and interact with each other without the noise found in social media and other online channels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa Pekel and Haim Pekel , VP Marketing & VP Growth at Ongage
Melissa Pekel and Haim Pekel are VP Marketing & VP Growth at Ongage, a data-driven, high-end, email marketing platform. H&M spearheaded together marketing and growth operations in startups, agencies & companies worldwide, bringing a unique approach that builds SaaS, Martech, and software companies from the ground up.