While there are many uncertainties regarding what’s to come, the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited several long-running trends in digital advertising: supply is up, CTV viewership is growing, ecommerce purchases are becoming the norm, and consumer habits are changing. How can marketers capitalize on these trends in market dynamics to successfully connect with customers during this downturn?

Marketers are responding to these changes in a variety of ways. 48% of advertisers have adjusted their media type usage or shifted budgets, whereas others have halted or slowed overall spend.

However, if we take a look back at the 2008 global recession, we may find some strategies to help weather the storm. Brands that kept their advertising steady in 2008 recovered 9x faster during the recession. Those that leaned into customer-centric innovation also fared better in the long term.

Now that our lives are largely online, it’s time to leverage digital channels that have previously been underutilized in other marketing plans. While no one knows with certainty how this is going to play out, here are a few powerful strategies to help your brand maintain visibility, engage with your best customers and find new ones:

1. Leverage 1st party location data 

from trusted vendors to plan re-openings with mobility insights by location in mind. Mobile data partners have keen insights that can be helpful to understand how active or inactive customers are at brick and mortar locations as state and city social distancing protocols change. Not only can this data support decision making regarding when to open your doors and when to maintain a heavy digital push, but it should also be considered for staffing and inventory-related planning as consumers cautiously re-enter public locations. 

2. Invest in transforming your brand digitally

Do you have a robust CRM system? Is your UI/UX built to handle web activity, conversions and purchases in place of brick and mortar? Regardless of when shelter in place is lifted, it’s expected that public consumer behavior will shift in the long term, so take this time to evolve your approach to doing business digitally in anticipation for that more macro evolution. 

3. Always retarget, always

There’s no more effective and cost-efficient way to patch a leaky purchase funnel than programmatic retargeting. As budgets get trimmed down in the face of COVID-19, maintain an always-on approach to retargeting to ensure that any customers who reach your site without ultimately converting are continuing to keep your brand top of mind to make their way back to you. 

4. Expand OTT/CTV budgets

Capture audiences who are watching more TV, and ensure you are taking advantage of this channel’s SOV growth. An already fast growing channel, CTV advertising increased 20% in the first month since the stay-at-home order was first introduced, with consumers now watching more TV on multiple connected devices during all hours of the day. CTV is a perfect channel for this rapidly changing world compared to traditional TV,  offering advertisers the ability to pivot in real time, and apply insights from other channels and tactics as soon as you have them. Unlike linear TV, CTV does not require extensive pre-planning and budgeting with rigid processes around making changes as consumer behaviors continue to change and unfold.

5. Maintain or increase performance budgets to capture demand in this period of growth and time of uncertainty

If you’re looking to capture online shoppers and drive new customer acquisition, DTC brands may need to invest more. With many stores still closed or available for online shopping only, competition has increased in many industries to reach certain demographics digitally.  

In lieu of reducing advertising, experts are recommending that marketers shift to a digital-first model. In the current unstable market, brands need to reposition their campaigns— from out-of-home and in-person activations to channels like CTV, Display, and Mobile (high impact and in-app) advertising—to reach home-bound consumers, who are now spending most of their time watching TV, and surfing the internet on their computers, tablets, and phones.

Brands that pay attention to people’s experience and use those insights to inform the way they speak and act can find the right tone to foster moments of genuine connection. Consumers are anxious, which will, in turn, continue to lead to behavioural shifts, many of which likely won’t snap back to “normal” anytime soon. In some cases, the tone and voice you find at this moment may characterize your brand for years to come. If you are looking to connect with your customers, it is more important than ever to adjust your strategies to engage with them in real-time.