In a short period of time, markets and consumers’ behaviors have undergone drastic changes due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). From people raiding grocery store aisles to the cancelation of the world’s most significant events and mandates for “non-essential” businesses to temporarily close, this pandemic is having a substantial impact on the economy and society as we knew it. 

So much so, that the stock market experienced its biggest single-day-decline since 1987’s Black Market Crash. During this time, when people are feeling scared and are adjusting their behaviors, savvy direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers know it’s critical to pivot their strategies and communications to support their customers’ experiences empathetically.  

Despite how easy it can be to get vortexed into the doom and gloom, D2C marketers are incredibly resilient. That’s why it’s no surprise that in AdRoll’s #growthguerilla (direct-to-consumer/e-commerce marketing community) Slack group, members have been strategizing on how to manage marketing in the COVID-19 landscape effectively. 

As surfaced by the community, these are the top consumer buying behaviors and market trends you should be aware of as you’re swiftly adapting your D2C growth marketing programs to survive — and better yet — thrive.

Nice-to-Have or Non-Essential Goods are Experiencing a Dip in Demand

People tend to spend more of their income on items perceived as nice-to-have or non-essential (think things like clothing, shoes, makeup, jewelry, games, electronics, home decor, kitchen gadgets) when markets are strong and stable. In times of economic instability like we’re experiencing right now, consumers’ priorities shift as they deprioritize buying these nice-to-have items. 

Survive and Thrive D2C Opportunity: 

If the D2C brand you’re responsible for growing falls into this nice-to-have or non-essential category, don’t fret. Take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and remember that your brand has a big advantage. 

We’re all looking for ways to connect and share our humanity. Now, perhaps more than ever, D2C companies have significant opportunities to deepen their meaningful relationships between their customers and their brands. Brainstorm ways your brand and its products can show up and support your customers through these uncertain and scary times. Do this well, and when things start to normalize a little, they’ll loyally wipe your proverbial online shelves clean. 

Now is also the perfect time to have a little fun and get creative in your digital marketing programs! In the world’s effort to flatten the curve, people are stuck at home with little to do and are spending a lot more time online looking for entertainment. What are some creative ways you can enable them to have fun with your brand online?

Essential Goods are Experiencing Extreme Demand

If you’ve gone to a brick-and-mortar store (or four, like me) lately with hopes of buying frozen and shelf-stable foods, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, or toilet paper, you’ve probably been SOL. The same thing goes for e-commerce stores when it comes to these types of essential goods, too. Fear of the unknown has sparked peoples’ desire to prepare for the worst by buying overly-large quantities of goods that prevent the spread of COVID-19, along with products they think they might need to survive a long-term quarantine. 

While extreme demand might sound great for D2C brands offering these types of essential survival products, that’s not necessarily the case. Not having enough supply in-stock or customer care hands on deck can quickly lead to angry customers, and this risk is heightened when consumers’ purchasing decisions are being driven by fear. 

Survive and Thrive D2C Opportunity:

To thrive during this time when your supply likely doesn’t meet the demand, prioritize customer care, communication, and expectation management. As critical as it is for brands who provide non-essential goods to deepen their relationships with customers during these uncertain times, the same goes for you, too.

Non-Essential Health and Wellness Goods are Experiencing Little to No Change in Demand

From period care and vitamin/supplement brands to stress management and at-home fitness brands (and more!), the wellness industry is diverse and vast. In this landscape of COVID-19, one might think that health and personal wellness brands are experiencing extreme demand right now, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Although consumers are thinking about wellness, surviving is more top-of-mind than thriving. Wellness brands that are non-essential to directly preventing the spread of disease or long-term quarantine survival aren’t experiencing extreme demand in this landscape of COVID-19… yet.  

Survive and Thrive D2C Opportunity:

If the products your brand offers aren’t experiencing a lot of demand right now, it can be tempting to leverage third-party e-commerce platforms like Amazon that are surging in demand. Don’t go there. It’s not worth handing over your customer relationships and data. When the craziness dies down and people aren’t making purchase decisions out of fear, your brand will miss out big time if customers think, “I bought it from Amazon,” instead of, “I bought it from (your brand’s name).”

The dust is starting to settle from the shock of sudden lockdown due to COVID-19. Now that people are inside and stocked up on essential items, they’re beginning to think about making the most of this experience by looking for ways to manage their health and wellness from home. 

Can your brand’s stylish yoga pants help a WFH force go from a virtual meeting at 11:30 am to a virtual yoga class at noon? Will your meditation app enable people to manage anxiety during this stressful time? Could the puzzles you provide help people unplug from the noise? Now’s the time to restrategize your messaging, introduce your brand to new customers, and double down on existing ones

Connect With Your Community of D2C Marketers

No matter the types of goods your brand provides, we’re all in this together, and there are lots of shimmers of light for D2C brands in this landscape of COVID-19. Let’s start by rebranding, “social distancing” to “physical distancing,” because digitally connecting with your community of fellow e-commerce marketers can make all the difference to surviving and thriving in uncertain times

If you’re not already in AdRoll’s free #growthguerilla community Slack group and would like to be, let us know by filling out this form. Here, D2C marketers connect to share ideas, get inspiration, seek advice, or just to simply read up.

For additional reading around how your business can prepare for a new normal, download your copy of Tips for Acquiring and Retaining Customers Through Economic Change.

Stephanie Abe
Author

Steph is the Community Marketing Manager at AdRoll. A relationship-builder, she’s behind the Growth Guerilla Collective (GGC); the community for D2C marketers. Before AdRoll, Steph ran Customer Marketing at a B2B SaaS company in San Francisco. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing.