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Coronavirus and the paid search sector: How businesses are gearing up to come out the other side

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Over the past couple of weeks, paid search specialists Adthena have been sharing some fascinating insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the paid search sector in markets around the globe.

I spoke to Adthena’s VP of marketing Ashley Fletcher about the questions C-level executives are asking, their plans in the short and longer-term, and what he is observing in the data.

We’re past the shock stage

C-level executives now want to see the lay of the land amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Retailers, for instance, want a view of who’s moving out and many are asking:

  1. What’s happened to strategy?
  2. How are markets reacting?
  3. How do we now adjust?

Paid search is a fantastic window on all of this. While our offline lives have been massively disrupted by the coronavirus, the paid search sector is comparatively ever-present. We see customers switch to the channel when they can’t use others and we have good segmentation within data across products and more business verticals.

“Search intelligence offers not only remarkable clarity but also a real-time lens into market movements, trends, and opportunities across verticals and in close to real-time”,

Fletcher writes at the Adthena blog.

“PPC is a stable, transparent refuge every marketer needs to be leveraging right now to keep the oars in the water.”

There is positivity even in industries that have been hardest hit

One of the surprises for Fletcher is that the sentiment among marketers he is speaking to is not all doom and gloom.

Coronavirus hit paid search sector still industries positive

“Businesses like the UK travel sector (we’re seeing this with some of our hotel chain clients) have been the hardest hit. But the positive aspect of this is we are already seeing this sector with eyes on their recovery and looking at where they go next”,

Fletcher said.

“People are prepared to lower spend now, but are gearing up for coming out the other side.”

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Data showing significant feats of agility

It is not only the travel sector which has had to change track quickly.

“In the food vertical, many brands have been seen to suspend some generic ads, but they are keeping the lights on for brand traffic”,

Fletcher said.

“Managers are coming to the paid search data asking: What’s my brand looking like while competition might be able to take more capacity?”

This is particularly visible as vast numbers of users seek to use delivery services offered by the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the UK, as well as Coles in Australia (see below).

Coronavirus effect on paid search trend

Digital-first brands like Amazon, Catch, and Hello Fresh are jumping into the gaps created when the legacy supermarkets have quickly hit capacity for food grocery deliveries.

We can also see Amazon shifting paid ad priorities to essential products, which is creating further gaps. This means other companies like Best Buy have then been able to garner clicks for things Amazon has had the monopoly on till date – such as TVs, kitchenware, and mobile phones.

Fletcher is seeing this agility being demonstrated in other sectors too – from online banking to online betting.

Takeaways for digital marketers

The paid search sector gives us a fascinating glimpse into the disruption at play across the global business. But the positivity, agility, and resolve on display is heartening too.

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The real-time data available to paid search marketers answer three key questions

  1. How consumer habits sometimes shift rapidly
  2. How their brands are retaining visibility in the melee
  3. How competitors are changing strategy and focus in order to adapt

In some cases, we can certainly see prices go up and clicks go down as users and brands change their ways. The flipside of this is that gaps and opportunities are opening up in surprising places as big names shift their focus to specific products and services. Smart marketers will be observing those gaps and acting on them.

Yet, the most important takeaway from Adthena’s data is a long-term strategy

Here in the UK and US, we may still be in the beginning stages of this global event, but while many businesses have been forced to make some quick near-term changes, some are already making plans as to what their priorities will be when coronavirus is behind them.

Marketers can expect that business and consumer habits may well be altered entirely, but in the very least the value of search and data will continue to be vital. In order to remain agile and competitive in the markets of tomorrow, it’s likely to become even more important.

Search Engine Watch – PPC

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MARKETING

5 tips for building customer trust during the supply chain crisis

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5 tips for building customer trust during the supply chain crisis

The supply chain crisis continues, partly caused by COVID-19, partly exacerbated by war in Europe, and beyond the capacity of marketers to solve. The Brooks Group is a sales management, training and consulting firm. “We work with sales organizations, primarily B2B, to help them equip their teams with effective processes and the right sales skills,” said VP of sales performance research Michelle Richardson.

We spoke to Richardson and her colleague Russ Sharer, director of strategic sales excellence, about some lessons they’re teaching sales organizations, not least in their recently published book “Agile & Resilient: Sales Leadership for the New Normal.” The advice is good for marketing organizations too.

Positive strategies to build trust. Richardson and Sharer are offering advice to their clients which they agree is good advice for marketing organizations too.

  1. Be transparent. “Make sure that when you are dealing with customers you are updated them along the way in terms of what’s happening,” said Richardson.”If you have product delays, let them know there are product delays – be clear in communicating that.”
  2. Be proactive. “Reach out when you have new information,” said Sharer. Some dealers find it difficult to have repeated conversations about problems with manufacturing or delivery. Sharer’s question for them: “If a manufacturer knew a delivery was delayed, when would you want to know?” The answer, of course, is immediately. “Well why wouldn’t you do the same for your customer? While it may be painful at that moment, you are building a reservoir of trust that will ultimately benefit you.”
  3. Build trust. “In order for someone to do business with you, they have to trust both the individual they’re dealing with and the organization too,” said Sharer.
  4. Have empathy. Not just with your customer, but with your employees. Dealing with frustrated customers day after day wears down employees on the front line. Sharer tells the story of a CEO who was asked to spend an hour or two taking customer calls to better understand the situation. His reponse? “’I’m not going down there. Do you know the kind of grief those people are taking?’That right there says a leadership vacuum as well as an issue.”
  5. Accept there’s a new normal. “I worked with a guy one time who joked, never confuse selling and delivery,” said Sharer. “Always get the order, then figure out how to fill it. That’s old school to me. If you make a commitment and miss it, people are just going to go somewhere else.
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Read next: How changes in logistics and the supply chain will impact customer experience

The state of the crisis. “Some of our clients are in the professional services business, but most of our customers have real physical products that they deliver – industrial manufacturing and distributing, medical devices, agro-chemicals,” said Sharer. “They’re seeing the supply chain issue up close.”

COVID is still driving many of the problems with ports in Shanghai and other parts of China still dysfunctional. “I wouldn’t put COVID in the past,” Sharer said. The situation in Ukraine is not yet causing supply shortages (with the exception of food — it’s a major grain exporter) but it is having an impact through fuel shortages causing additional price increases in transportation.

“The other piece,” said Richardson, “is that it adds uncertainty, unrest and upheaval, and that certainly can impact business’s outlook – how they view and mitigate risk.”


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Why we care. Delivering on commitments, or being transparent about it if you can’t, is an essential element of providing a great customer experience. Marketing, sales and customer success teams may be downstream from manufacturing, but supply chain issues can leave them in the lurch, like Wile E. Coyote, running on thin air.

The experience we’ve had as consumers over the last two or more years, increasingly buying online, has raised our expectations across the board — including when making considered, often expensive business purchases. B2B needs to learn how to live with supply chain challenges, many of which are not easily tractable. “I’d like to say this is going to be the last crisis,” said Sharer, “but I’d be willing to bet you it’s not.” We didn’t take the bet.

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About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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