The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed many businesses to the brink. It has closed shops and restaurants worldwide, whilst forcing changes to people’s purchasing patterns. However, it has also created opportunity. Data published by Facebook shows that online shopping activity has increased 32% across all markets. Facebook and Instagram browsing have also increased, by 53% and 32% respectively. Whilst online streaming has increased by 42%.
This data shows that because people have more time at home, they are spending more online. This gives businesses a fantastic chance to rise above the Corona blues and improve sales.
The increase in online buying activity also coincides with many platforms choosing to support merchants, by offering free advertising. From free listings to ad credits, there is a fair range of options for getting word out.
So what is the best form of advertising for you to take advantage of the spike in online purchasing caused by COVID-19?
4 ways to advertise for free during Coronavirus pandemic
Free listings - Increase your visibility
Regardless of the type of business you run, free listings are a type of advertising that you should always consider. This is due to their versatility and reach. Here are a few examples of free listings that could skyrocket interest in your brand:
Google My Business
Arguably the most lucrative of the free listing options, Google My Business adds your brand to Google Search and Google maps. It also uses location based technology to increase your chance of being seen locally. In addition, it also shares a depth of other information that could be helpful to a potential buyer, such as reviews and opening hours. Some of this is exceptionally important during Coronavirus, such as whether you offer delivery on products.
Get started with Google My Business by completing your profile here.
To take full advantage of this free resource ensure you provide complete data, including category, business hours and photos. According to Google: “Businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.”.
Google My Business also allows businesses to publish posts to listings for free, creating a great opportunity for reaching your potential customers with relevant updates and offers right when they are seeking more information.
Google shopping has just rolled out free product listings. Although this is only in the US at the moment, Google aims to make it available worldwide by the end of the calendar year. Free listings will give businesses a new level of reach and allow them to be shown to millions of customers a day. Free listings will appear in the shopping tab only, as opposed to paid ads which can appear on a standard search page. To opt in to the free product listing program, you will first need to set up a merchant center account. After that, select “Growth” and then “Manage programs” on the menu. Next, select the “surfaces across Google” card.
And remember, the visibility of your free listing is down to the quality of your feed. To enhance and optimize your product feed on a mass scale, try a third party feed solution such as DataFeedWatch. Be sure to check the most common feed errors Merchants should avoid before adding your product feed to Google Merchant Center.
In a modern digital era, billions of people use Facebook. During Coronavirus people are using the social media platform to an even greater extent. So why not have your business listed? After all, it is free exposure. Facebook allows you to list business hours, location and receive reviews, similarly to Google My Business. However, Facebook also excels in bridging the gap between merchants and customers. The ability for customers and brands to directly communicate ensures that customers can find out anything they may need to in difficult times.
Furthermore, businesses can also post regular updates during an ever fluctuating environment. So if Coronavirus forces a restaurant to close, they can inform customers and also tell them they are still open for delivery. By providing information so quickly, brands can stay on top of the situation and present themselves as part of a caring community.
Free advertising credits
Free ad credits are a great way to increase your brand exposure during COVID-19. Free ad credits can be attained on Google and Facebook at the moment, and are generally valid until the end of 2020. When used correctly, advertising can gain businesses a substantial amount of new users. As the ad credits are charged on a CPC (cost per click) basis, it is vital that you are reaching out to the right users with the right products. Because of this, it is important to optimise your feed prior to using ad credits.
So how can you get ad credits for each platform?
Google has stated that it will be giving small and medium businesses over $340 million in ad credits, to help them through Coronavirus. However, to qualify, advertisers need to have spent funds directly. This could be through a Google ads account, or through a partner in 10 of 12 months in 2019 and in either January and/or February of 2020. Google has been very unclear about the size of the credits it will currently offer. However, it has stated that they can be used on any area of Google advertising. Eligible accounts will see the credits added to their accounts by the end of May, and distributed over the course of several months.
Facebook has also introduced ad credits for small businesses due to COVID-19. In order to qualify for Facebook’s ad credits, you first need to check if your region is eligible and apply. At the moment, Facebook is still in the process of organising the available regions. However, we do know that they aim to make ad credits available to over 30,000 eligible businesses in 30 countries. We also know that companies must have between 2-50 employees, have been in business for at least a year and be near a location where Facebook operates. In addition, companies must also provide evidence of the effects Coronavirus is having on them.
Reach your audience using social media
Social media is an excellent way to captivate customers during COVID-19. There are a number of helpful strategies that may help to engage current customers and even gain new ones. They include:
Whether it’s Facebook live, periscope or Twitch, all can help to draw customers in and create higher levels of engagement. You can do live Q&A sessions or even create fun activities that integrate the audience.
Keep your pages up to date
By keeping your pages up to date, customers can see the latest developments with your business. This has never been more important than during COVID-19, due to the constantly changing environment.
Interlink your social media
By interlinking your social media platforms together, and to your website, customers can easily view every aspect of your brand. It may help them get the answers they need to make a purchase, ask a question and it will definitely increase the likelihood of them engaging.
Engage through hashtags
Hashtags are always going to extend your reach, due to people engaging with the latest trends. Use Coronavirus hashtags to reach a wider audience and present your business in a positive light.
Adapt your marketing strategy
Adapting your marketing strategy to the current environment is always integral to any business' success. This has never been more true than with Coronavirus. Consumer wants have taken a rapid and substantial turn and because of that is even more important that you get your business noticed.
One of the best ways to adapt your marketing strategy is to first learn where the potential lies. Find your failings and resolve them. However, that is often easier said than done. Especially when you’re a small business owner with very little resources. But despite the lack of resources that may be available to you, there are still plenty of free resources that can be of great value. These range from analytics and data tracking tools, to courses to help to attain new skills.
An alternative option is to offer free assistance yourselves. In a time where many people and businesses are struggling in a variety of ways, helping a community can go a long way. It also reflects very positively on a brand. In the meantime, you should also aim to stay connected with both the community and your customers. Offer an ear and listen to their issues. Try to create fun new ways to engage customers and draw attention to your company. You can do that through social media or even through email outreach with promotions or other offerings.
Last but not least, try to take advantage of all listing options. This includes on Google, Facebook, and even Bing. Make sure your business is engaged and utilizing Google Shopping, Google Maps and Facebook. Ensure you are listed as a business on both Bing places for business and Google business profiles.
Coronavirus has created a situation where many businesses are falling upon hard times. And the situation for many seems dark and hopeless. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Businesses can use many methods to ensure they have the best chance of thriving under such hardships. And in turn they can help their customers get through it too, by adding a much needed psychological boost.
With the aid of the world's powerhouse brands, small businesses can continue to grow even in such a situation. With that support, and increased advertising awareness, hope springs eternal.
At DataFeedWatch, we are also aiming to support other businesses through these hard times. Our goal is to optimize advertising so you get the best value for money, and so you can continue to grow during COVID-19.
Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 and how to adjust your strategy:
- Hard-Fought Battle - How Coronavirus Impacts eCommerce. [UPDATED]
- 5 Tips to Increase Sales After the COVID-19 Pandemic
- How Big Brands Reacted to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- COVID-19: 7 Shopping Channels Offering Discounts to Retailers
- How to Move your Brick and Mortar to Online