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Tuesday, 28 April 2020

What changes have been made in the digital environment due to COVID – 19?

Ποιες αλλαγές επέφερε στο digital περιβάλλον ο COVID-19;

The last period we are going through with the COVID-19 crisis has significantly changed our way of life. The changes that have taken place, the domestic restriction of citizens in their homes, the shutdown of several businesses for security reasons, and the closure of borders in most countries are now being strongly felt, creating a difficult and quite demanding climate for citizens, and therefore for businesses.

Given the challenges that have arisen, we have to manage and understand a situation that has affected both our country and the rest of the world. Inevitably, questions are raised about the best way to adapt to the prevailing conditions, in terms of consumer transactions and the best way to manage the crisis, on a digital level from brands.

Changes in consumers

Consumer behavior has changed widely. Those who are in isolation or generally in quarantine now encounter difficulties, as the activities that were included in their routine no longer exist. These may include gatherings with friends for coffee, an exercise in the gym, and even day shopping at the neighboring supermarket.

With inclusion and containment measures, the public is turning to alternative ways to manage their time and meet their needs. As expected, the consumption of content on the Internet is on the rise. Users now spend more time on social media, as they are the dominant way for information and communication with the outside world. Also, the more frequent use of them strengthens critical thinking in several users who are no longer confine with passive consumption of content but share and comment on what is important to them. It is understood that social platforms can give voice to a difficult time, an opportunity that has been lacking for decades.

Also, on-demand services from entertainment platforms are on the rise, as well as purchases from stores and especially from online stores and online supermarkets. The need to avoid the virus and make it easier to meet all needs, even the most basic ones, has turned more and more consumers to online shopping. From users with prior knowledge of online shopping to new customers who have been forced to adapt to the new conditions, sometimes delving into things unprecedented for themselves. However, this attitude will have a positive effect on both the public and the market, as more and more consumers are now being added to the online shopping market, which in the past they probably ignored.

Consequently, the consumers are being hastily led to a new reality, which in the future will be quite useful for them: will check the availability of products in the eshop, instead of the physical store and will continue with price and quality comparisons. A reality created among the most "aware" consumers, who will now further expand this "digital elite". At the same time, search engine research is becoming more specific and less generalized, with an emphasis on long-tail keywords (targeted and long phrases used by users who are closer to completing an action/purchase).

Changes in company behavior

History has shown several times that innovative companies or ideas thrive in times of crisis. Many companies that have been forced to close their doors to consumers are now looking for alternative ways to promote their products. Some examples include restaurants that were directly moved to set up online stores so they can offer delivery and takeaway services to old and future customers. Besides, small and medium-sized enterprises in stores supply staples choose to set up temporary online shops to catch up with their competitors.

Of course, such an investment does not only concern companies operate in the food sector but also in other sectors. Several companies have limited their physical presence, moving away from the daily routine of the consumer, losing significantly their purchasing power. On the contrary, companies that invested in creating and maintaining eshops, so to continue the distribution of their products, although faced with significant losses, have managed to support themselves during the crisis of COVID 19.

However, the shift towards eshop creation does not guarantee immediate results. To support such an endeavor, it is important to evaluate the state of business readiness and the number of products available on the online market. The high demand should be followed by the corresponding stock, so to be covered successfully. Also, more importance should be given to the quality of the e-shop that will be set up. An online store that is not tailored to the user's best experience will soon lose traffic and therefore sales. So, it's necessary to have proper guidance and design to deliver, even in the midst of the pandemic crisis.

Changes in digital agencies

The pandemic and spread of COVID-19 could not leave also unaffected the digital marketing agencies. Actions on two of the largest and well-known platforms, Google and Facebook have begun to shrink or even be cut off abruptly, as several companies choose to stop advertising immediately to save as much as they can. Especially the Facebook platform, which due to the home restriction, has increased its usage numbers to new highs but has not managed to maintain all the campaigns that were abruptly interrupted. In an attempt to maintain or even to restore previous campaigns, a change was made in the pricing (eg 9 cents instead of 11 in CPC).

Those that have been benefited from those changes are companies that deal with topical products, such as medical care products, on-demand entertainment, fitness equipment, and beauty products, which choose to invest more in promotional campaigns. This has also led to increased competition for paid advertising on Google Ads campaigns.

Among the digital marketing strategies that have been affected is SEO. As this strategy is based on the optimization of the online content of a page for organic searches, several companies are complacent and do not insist on expanding their existing strategy. As a result, other companies, which were ranked lower in search but insisted on their SEO campaigns, improved their content, and managed to rise steadily in searches. In other words, there is an interesting change in the ranking, since it is obvious that people who stay in it are constantly looking to cover their needs through the Internet.

Surely companies that will insist on 'listening' to consumers' needs and adapting to adverse and demanding conditions will be able to come out with less harmful results for them.

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