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Pandemic Continues To Affect Marketers As Consumer Behavior Shifts.

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impact marketers amidst radical changes in consumer behavior. According to a report from eMarketer, nearly half of the 200 marketers surveyed said they have delayed a campaign launch since the pandemic started and 45% said they pulled campaigns that were already underway.

Categories that are projected to be hardest hit through the end of 2020 include travel and tourism, brick-and-mortar retail, restaurants and automotive, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. On the flipside, categories that demonstrated increased coverage during the pandemic, such as consumer packaged goods and grocery stores, face supply issues. “Both ends of the spectrum are struggling with how to advertise at a time when either demand or supply is uncertain,” John Kenny, Chief Strategy Officer at FCB Chicago said in a posting by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

Marketers are also reprioritizing their media planning and spending, Kenny says. Rather than focusing on long-form media, marketers need to remain top of mind. “You don't know where your growth is going to come from — no one has models for situations like this — so media choices that allow you to go broad have been most effective,” he says Those choices include shorter-form media, such as six-second pre-roll advertisements or 15-second linear TV spots.

“The changes in consumer behavior have been swift and notable,” says Michele Morelli, Senior VP of Global Marketing Strategy at market research company Toluna. Among the biggest shifts in consumer behavior are an increased amount of time spent on social media, increased consumption of online video and increased e-commerce spending. “This has led to some obvious changes in how [marketers] are managing their media mix and where they are putting dollars: more social, more video, less outdoor, [and] the realization that desktop isn't dead,” Ellie Bamford, VP and Head of Media at agency R/GA adds.

Predicting the future of consumer behavior in this unprecedented time has never been more difficult. “There are so many unknowns in terms of how consumers will behave in a post-COVID environment,” Morelli states. “Will we still be socially distancing in pools, restaurants, and other places? Will messaging still need to be focused on hygiene and safety? No one can answer these questions quite yet, so it's incumbent on brands to monitor consumers in real-time to understand how and where to engage them.”

Opportunities For Marketers

Despite the current turmoil, there are opportunities for marketers. Bamford says R/GA is seeing a decline of up to 60% in cost-per-thousand (CPM) and cost-per-click (CPC) prices. “Even Facebook CPMs have fallen 15 to 20 percent,” she says. “With less money chasing more eyeballs, cost per view drops. This is an ideal opportunity for some marketers to acquire new customers at a lower cost than previously.

The unique times also present the opportunity for brand marketers to steal share and build a loyal base, especially for categories where a shortage of product may exist. “Global COVID-19 Barometer results showed that (a third or more of) U.S. consumers who were unable to access their normal product or service try a new product or brand,” Morelli reveals.

Not surprisingly, e-commerce is thriving with a consumer base shut-out of, or cautious about returning to, brick-and-mortar retailers. This is a shift that is likely to continue. CommerceIQ expects e-commerce to account for 50% of retail sales in the next five years and plateau anywhere from 16 to 27 percent higher than previously predicted.

Categories that were not usually strong for e-commerce, such as supermarkets and home improvement stores, now show potential. “This presents a massive opportunity for brand marketers to surface their products in front of shoppers and convert them into customers and brand loyalists,” CommerceIQ Head of E-Commerce Advertising Solutions Himanshu Jain says.

Kenny says the important thing for marketers to remember is to not panic, reminding clients that the word is not one of the four P’s of marketing – product, price, place and promotion. “Our job right now is to not overreact to every new piece of data, but to relook at the long-term trends we've been making marketing bets on, identify how the recession and pandemic are impacting those trends, and adjust accordingly,” he says.

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