Here's how COVID-19 is likely to affect digital marketing in the long run

3 MINUTE READ - 29 Jun 2020

Emily Park
Emily Park
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It goes without saying that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all our lives. The majority of people have been stuck at home for the last three months and only leaving the house for essentials. Some have also lost their jobs or been furloughed, which means money is tight. As you might expect, this has had a knock-on effect on the ecommerce and digital marketing space, as our shopping priorities and behaviours have changed in various ways.

While some of these shifts might just be temporary, the landscape will have also been permanently affected in a number of ways. Here, we're going to look at how the ecommerce and digital marketing space might have changed for good over the last few months.

Online shopping's rise in popularity will be here to stay

Due to the UK lockdown that was put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, people have been trying to stay home as much as possible, and non-essential shops were forced to close for a while. As a result, there's been a huge influx of people shopping online. In fact, 30% of all retail sales were made online in April 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics, which is the highest level we've ever seen.

While this percentage is likely to start dropping now that non-essential shops are allowed to re-open and a lot of lockdown restrictions have been lifted, we shouldn't ignore that many new people have now been introduced to the convenience of shopping online. And people who might have picked the odd thing up online in the past may have become fully fledged ecommerce fans. So, digital marketers need to recognise that they might be speaking to a wider audience, or even new demographics, when they're putting together future campaigns.

Some businesses have pivoted, creating more competition

While, sadly, some business owners have had no choice but to shut up shop due to the financial impact of the coronavirus, other companies have pivoted to survive. And one of the ways this has changed the commercial space is that businesses that were previously run completely offline have found ways to continue making money online. As a result, brands might find that they have new competitors in the digital space.

As things start to slowly return back to normal, you can't just assume that you'll be up against the same companies that were around pre-COVID. Just like you did when you first set up your business, you need to take stock of who you're sharing the same space with, what they're doing differently to you, and how you can stay competitive. It's good practice to do this every six months to a year anyway, but it's even more important after such a significant shift in most markets.

Local SEO could be more important than ever

One of the biggest ways in which the coronavirus crisis affected our shopping habits is that more people started to buy their essentials from smaller local shops, according to data given to This is Money by digital banks Revolut and Starling. There could be a number of reasons for this: some shoppers may have been worried about visiting a larger and potentially more crowded supermarket, while others might have recognised that smaller businesses would require more support to weather the coronavirus storm.

This means that a lot of people who had previously only shopped with popular supermarkets and their favourite high-street stores have discovered the magic of shopping local. So, we expect local SEO to be more important than ever before. If you aren't familiar with the concept or would like to learn more, check out our guide to competing on the high street with local SEO for plenty of hints and tricks.

Marketing teams are more agile and adaptable

There's a reason everyone keeps calling these "unprecedented times" — none of us have ever experienced what's happening at the moment, which means we're all learning to adapt as we go along. This means marketing teams everywhere will have spent the last few months trying to work out how they can continue doing their jobs in a way that's sensitive to the current climate. Many businesses will have also had to completely rethink what they were planning to promote this summer. For example, we've seen most high-street fashion brands that are used to pushing swimwear and sandals at this time of year changing up their approach to focus more on loungewear and Zoom-friendly work tops.

Most companies will have had to completely abandon their existing marketing strategies and come up with new ones to suit what's currently going on in the world. While this certainly won't have been ideal, it does mean that marketing professionals across the UK have learned a lot about rolling with the punches and changing tack at a moment's notice. So, if we do see a similar crisis in future years, marketing teams will be far better prepared. And they could also find that they're able to react to smaller shifts in the market far more quickly and effectively, which will help them to stay competitive overall.

It'll be a while before we know the true extent of how coronavirus will affect the digital marketing and ecommerce space, but these are just some of the changes expected to stick. If you would like more regular updates on how things are changing at the moment, make sure you also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, where we share industry news on a regular basis!

And, if you're struggling to decide how you should be marketing your business during these unprecedented times, we can help! We specialise in organic search, paid search, and affiliate marketing. So, get in touch if you would like some help from our experts.