What Does COVID-19 Mean for Digital Marketing?


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Digital marketing has become all the more important against the backdrop of a global pandemic, but adjusting techniques has become just as vital.

Article 4 Minutes
What Does COVID-19 Mean for Digital Marketing?

Every aspect of life has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing big changes in the way that things are done. Digital marketing is no different and it’s been vital to adapt to the new environment quickly in order to ensure continuity within individual businesses. As consumer behavior continues to evolve, marketers must make decisions that reflect the new normal in light of the pandemic.

Crisis mode

At the beginning of the pandemic businesses went into crisis mode. This looked different in various industries but can be widely split into three categories:

  • Paused - some businesses had very little prospect of making sales, so they stopped marketing efforts almost immediately. This was especially prevalent in the travel industry.
  • Doubled down - others used marketing techniques to generate as many leads as possible and create revenue so they could survive.
  • Diversified - many companies shifted their marketing budget into areas reflecting the challenges and new pain points thrown up by the pandemic.

Rebuilding in a COVID world

Many businesses didn’t discriminate between their digital marketing channels, putting everything on pause, but those who considered each element carefully put themselves in a strong position. Now, as many organizations are rebuilding their marketing strategies in an unprecedented climate and with more pressure to justify spend, each channel must come under increased scrutiny.


Optimizing content for the web remains a pillar of digital marketing and with many consumers working from home, they’re spending more time than ever online. Despite Google continuing to implement updates throughout the pandemic, the algorithm remains largely the same. Businesses can’t afford to slip down the rankings at a time when it’s harder for them to survive.

Paid media

Pulling out of paid media was among the first actions for many marketers when the pandemic struck, as they felt they couldn’t justify the ad spend. For those who continued to advertise, the lack of competition translated into increased impression share and better results.

Social media

Social media usage has increased dramatically during the pandemic and the way that it’s used has changed too. While traffic from social media was less likely to convert immediately than other channels in the past, it’s now driving more direct sales to smaller businesses. This is mainly due to customers’ reluctance to go into larger retailers and physical stores.


In a climate where the news agenda has been dominated by COVID-19 stories, it’s been challenging to push PR campaigns. Those that have been successful were mindful of the context of the pandemic and ensured their tone reflects the situation customers now find themselves in.

Now that the world has been living with coronavirus for an extended period of time, there’s more scope for PR campaigns that aren’t directly linked to COVID, as journalists look to broaden their search for stories to present to a public that is weary of a pandemic-saturated news agenda.

Marketing trends and activities to consider

Being flexible and quick to adapt to change is important in a world that’s unrecognizable to its former self in many ways. Businesses that manage this will become market leaders and will be rewarded with new customers and greater loyalty to their brand. Among the trends to take action on are:

  • Engage with empathy - using real-time data and listening to your customers will help you to address their needs in a challenging environment.
  • Personalize communications - getting the right message across at the right time to the right person has never been so important in business.
  • Find new ways to communicate - as consumer behavior changes, it’s important to meet customers in their new surroundings.
  • Embrace new partnerships - working in a different way means teaming up with organizations with diverse offerings to meet customer needs.
  • Think long-term - short-sighted decisions like trying to make a quick buck out of the crisis will likely have a negative impact on your business for years to come.

Survival of the fittest

It’s been estimated that the overall impact of COVID-19 on the global economy could come to $2.7 trillion. With many businesses seeing decreased or obliterated footfall in their physical retail spaces, the online marketplace is more vital to the survival of companies than ever.

The instinct of many organizations is to cut down on ad spend as the implications of the pandemic bite, but digital marketing is vital to produce traffic, leads and conversions. It’s now more critical than ever that marketing budget is directed to the right areas and strategies are tweaked to meet the changing needs of customers.

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