7 ways Coronavirus is changing marketing in 2020

How Coronavirus is impacting marketing

The volatility in financial markets, border closures, and stringent measure to contain the outbreak have naturally created uncertainty for businesses and marketers.  In this article, we present 8 ways coronavirus is impacting marketing based on feedback from Beijing and Rome.

  1. Boost in e-commerce for daily necessities

With brick-and-mortar stores in Greater China and Singapore having been forced to curtail their business hours or close completely, shoppers have gone online for daily necessities. This has led to a boost in online grocery and fresh food sales – a trend that is set to hasten the growth of the online ordering format. This bodes well for supermarkets that have home delivery.  In Rome, my friend reported on March 12th that pharmacies, banks etc were closed, but supermarkets remained open.  The food industry gets the tick – though of course with hospitality and logistics affected, less dining out means less demand for premium NZ meat and wine, placing unwelcome pressure on drought-stricken NZ farmers, fishing enterprises and meat processors.

Relatively under-served e-commerce markets such as Hong Kong have also seen a jump in online sales, which may signify the beginning of a long-term fundamental shift to an online economy. E-commerce platform HKTVmall reported a 64.7% y-o-y surge in average daily orders in January.  HKTVmall is also reportedly working with its merchant partners to set up pick-up points in their stores.

2. Shift to Social commerce & Live Streaming

The Intime Department Store in China has partnered with hundreds of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) to host livestreaming sales events during the outbreak. As well as online grocers and fresh food, other industries such as medical doctors and educational centres have been forced to operate online during the outbreak, to varying degrees of success.

One of our former employees who went to Beijing to do his Masters, has not been allowed back to Beijing after travelling to Asia, and is stuck at his parent’s home in a smaller city. All university study is being done online.

The daughter of a friend in Rome is not enjoying doing her schoolwork by Skype.  The lack of a disciplined school structure is not good for her anxiety.

3. Preference for retail outlets that have hygiene measures

Hygiene and other measures to ensure facilities are safe and clean for employees and customers will be top of mind. Permanent measures may include providing hand sanitiser at entrances and more regular cleaning of goods or locations frequently touched or used by shoppers. Some places in China are doing temperature scans before you can enter.  The Warehouse and Noel Leeming sent out emails promoting their increased sanitization measures.  Some supermarkets are offering disinfectant wipes at trolley bays.  I admit to having disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves in my car, as well as using napkins to avoid touching café doors already! Am I paranoid?

4. Native advertising

With the higher focus on news readership on global online news websites, native advertising should be high on your agenda.  Native ads appear at the bottom of news sites with an image and a headline.  These escape ad blockers.  It’s a time when health and cocooning topics should get good uptake.  If you’d like to know more about native advertising options, please contact us by Live Chat at https://alexanders.co.nz


5. Growth in online advertising

My friend in Rome – who is a publisher – is noticing a lot more online ads especially from big brands.  Perhaps that’s because he is online more, because he can’t zip around everywhere in his convertible Jaguar.  Whilst brick and mortar book sales are down, he is selling more of his work on Amazon.  He sent me a picture of the walls being constructed at the border of Italy with Slovenia – sadly reminiscent to him of the Berlin Wall.


6. Sales to liquidate cash tied up in inventory

Companies may offer special bargain promotions to clear stock and generate cash, in anticipation of a squeeze.


7. Increase in email marketing

It’s more cost effective to reach existing clients than new ones.


Change in marketing spend in NZ

At Alexanders, we have seen fewer companies investing in big ticket projects like significant web builds, while more companies are investing in their existing websites, getting help to improve the conversion rates. We recently helped one company to achieve a whole year’s worth of web enquiries/quotes in the first two months of this year – a rewarding outcome!

Google Ads and seo budgets have remained consistent though there has been some softening in clicks in March. However, with the change in the way seo has evolved for voice search and intent, there is more focus on content planning, based on an analysis of customer segments and page bounce rates.  We’ve observed consistent traffic but diminished conversion rates for one clothing e-commerce site in the first half of March. The growth in anticipated time spent online shopping could be countered by caution regarding job stability.

I anticipate more loyalty club offers, based on headwinds for retail, hospitality & tourism as people stay at home and the flight bans are in place.  Cathay Pacific pilots were requested to take three weeks unpaid leave, while the airline was forecasting a loss for the first half of the year.  For one of my friends, it’s a bonus to have her husband in Christchurch for a few weeks, but tourism losses will put livelihoods at stake.


Coronavirus impact on NZ businesses

Uncertainty breeds caution and tightening belt straps.  Yet among our New Zealand clients, some businesses say they are continuing double digit growth, some report no sign of change, while others are deeply hurting.  Feedback from clients and accountants during the last month indicates:

8 Growth & opportunity sectors in Coronavirus:

  • Hygiene, sanitization & respiration
  • Home schooling, online tutoring and virtual classroom tech
  • Funeral directors
  • Online meeting software like Zoom & Skype
  • IT services: growth in data centres as companies move email and servers to the cloud to support flexible working.
  • Hire equipment store demand could rise as people spend more time at home and do home projects. Whilst party hire equipment might suffer, garden and small home diy project hire could be a winner.
  • Pantry providers & supermarkets – canned foods, pasta producers
  • Food delivery apps and courier services

Business as usual despite Coronavirus:Government funded entities such as roading/approved education projects – make get a boost with infrastructure spending as governments aim to boost flailing economies

So far house building, high end furniture, section sales are steady, as existing projects carry through.

Quieter sectors:

Retail, meat, expecting property transactions to diminish

Deeply affected sectors:

Travel, hospitality, tourism, logging.

10 sectors that thrive in a potential recession

  • Accountants
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Home Maintenance Stores
  • Rental Agencies / Property Management Companies
  • Grocery Stores
  • Bargain / Discount shops
  • Repair industries e.g. automotive
  • Vices
  • Funeral services
  • Government projects

Do you know of any other sectors that are thriving or barely surviving?

P.S. If you’re interested in renovating rather than rebuilding your website, find out how we delivered a year’s worth of web quotes/enquiries in two months, working on an existing website.  To request your copy of this case study, please email Rachel [email protected]  Or if you have time up your sleeve to prepare content, talk to us about a User Experience Workshop and defining Personas, so you can make good use of your time to be more engaging with customers.  It’s likely your target audience will have more time online.



Source: CBRE report on the impact of Corona virus on Asia Pacific Real Estate

Live chat vs email vs phone

Web design: Live chat vs email vs phone – which performs better?

It is said that only about 3% of people visiting your website are ready to take action.  What can you do to get more from the 97% of people who are further down the funnel?  Can your contact method make a difference?

Why don’t those 97% get in touch?  Many of them have an unanswered question, but don’t want to make a formal approach.  Email or phone calls are quite a formal expression of interest.  They are also not the main tool for communication used among younger generations. People will use whatever enquiry method is most convenient or that they are most comfortable with. 

I wondered: was our enquiry method – with email forms and phone numbers – out of date?  With the rise of Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp, SnapChat, quick messaging tools have become the norm for social communication.  Would using Live Chat increase the contacts from younger visitors?

For visitors aged up to 44 years old, Live Chat is actually their preferred method for online shopping queries:


Chat vs. Phone call

So is email on the way out?  This graph (from 2017) shows that even then, it was phone enquiry that was declining, while Live Chat was already a rising star:


Interactions by channel

Fast forward to Jan 2020 and now more than 41% of customers expect live chat on your website. For customers that visit your website on a mobile device, this number is as high as 50%.  

However, fewer than 9% of companies have Live Chat on their site. 

Although Live Chat has been around since the 1970’s, its popularity has seen a resurgence. It’s expected to continue to grow by as much as 87% in the next 12-18 months. The reason for this increased adoption is simple: more than half of all customers prefer to chat with someone in real-time and online, rather than call a company for support.

Live chat has become the leading digital contact method for online customers, as a staggering 46% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 29% for email, and 16% for social media. (source https://www.superoffice.com/blog/live-chat-statistics/)


We’ve found that roughly 50% of chats turn into jobs.  According to CrazyEgg 38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support.    

Live chat leads to a 40% increase in conversion rate.


What is the expectation for response time through web chat?

The average response time for emails is 12 hours.  For social media, it’s 10 hours. By using live chat, your customers can get answers to their questions in two minutes.  If you’re online.

So what about when you’re not at your desk?  With the Chat software we’ve implemented on WordPress sites, you can have several people be notified re inbound chat enquiries.  You can get the app on your phone so you can check it when you’re away.  You can specify the hours for which you’re available for monitoring, and if you are away from your desk, it does prompt people to input an email address, so you can follow up shortly if you miss it.  Not everyone leaves an email, but I’d say around two thirds do.

You can also have multiple people answer chats in different departments (you pay by user by month). 

Automated customer support

One of the cool features, it that you can also set up chat bot that asks pre-defined questions e.g. Hi.  Are you interested today in [product A], [product B], or [something else]?  If they click product A, a different set of questions come up.  And if they click [something else], you can say, “would you like to speak with a human?”  Just finding someone….

So how much does it cost to implement Live Chat?

The Live Chat software we like and have tested for WordPress is NZD$113 per month, with about $1380 to cover our programmer’s to install and configure it, and support you to set up the autoreply messages.  Have a look at it on our site https://alexanders.co.nz (it’s set to pop up after 60 seconds on our site).

Easy win

There’s no doubt that understanding your personas and customer journey, preparing blog content that caters for people who are not ready to take action, and setting up some kind of automation for nurturing them is a great way to address visitors that aren’t ready to take action just yet.  However, this is not a quick fix (we love doing these too if you need support). Live Chat is simple to implement.  Our programmers can do this on WordPress sites very quickly.

Other ways to improve engagement

One of the key strategies we’ve used in the past three years to get more leads or conversions from a [non-ecommerce] site is putting in an enquiry form at the bottom of product pages with a Click to Call number for mobile visitors or email enquiry form.  For most companies, email enquiries go up dramatically.  For some companies whose clients are more hands-on types, phone is still the go-to over email.  However, we’ve discovered that now, the majority of our enquiries are by Live Chat. I was inspired to try Live Chat after liaising with a UK door knob supplier.  After all, Live Chat offers instant gratification.

And who doesn’t like instant answers?


Doubling sales: web design case study


How we doubled sales enquiries, & turned around an underperforming website, without requiring an expensive re-build.

Alexanders Digital Marketing in Christchurch were approached by a regional hire company to quote on a Google Ads campaign. But rather than starting Google Ads straight away, we recommended there were a few things that should be adjusted on the client’s website first, so their promotional spend wouldn’t be wasted.

The client had an enthusiastic sales team member who was keen to implement what they could themselves, with guidance from us.

Our initial review of their site revealed that the WordPress theme was not too old, and the general design was presentable, but we could see a number of obvious and easy layout changes that would improve enquiry rates and the user experience. 

Although the client did not have keywords properly put in the site, they were accidentally ranking quite well for a few, but I suspected we could improve traffic by at least 25-30% by being more focused.

If a platform is too old to get looking good on mobile phones, a rebuild in a more modern template can be the first step. But in this case, we felt the money would be better spent on renovation so we could get onto marketing and bringing in results sooner.

  1. Analysis of customer behaviour
    Firstly, there was no Analytics set up, so we created some tracking. We were interested to know the most visited categories and popular hire products.  Our aim was to make it easier for people to get straight to what they were looking for or show the more popular sections more prominently. 
    I asked the client also to check sales figures (this was not an e-commerce site) and give me a list of the top ten items hired by volume, and also by profit. 
    We also noted that one of the most commonly visited pages was the search feature. So we added a big search field overlaying the top of the banner on the home page. 

  2. Making it easy for people to get to the popular items
    The website had rotating banners on the home page, showcasing popular items.  There were some quick links from the bottom of the banner to categories, but these were not the most visited categories.  With the client data, we changed these out to the most popular four categories.  There was also room for an extra row of four categories below the banner that we added.


  3. Legibility
    Some of the writing overlaying the home page banners was difficult to read.  That was a simple fix – we added some fuzz shadow behind the text so that if there was a white part on the photo, the text was still readable.
    Also when you clicked on a category, the grid of products presented had dark black View More buttons. The spacing between the rows was tight, so it was confusing to see if the black buttons were for the product above, or the one below.  That was a simple quick fix – we added more spacing between the rows in the default settings, and changed the default button colour to yellow.  Much more appealing!



  4. Navigation
    Below the categories, the client had two rows of featured products and another menu.  Then some two rows of blog posts.  It was too much!  Our focus was sales enquiries, so though blogs were helpful, they were distracting away from helping people to get to the right category. We took out one row of featured products, and made the menu list a bit shorter so as not to be overwhelming.  We also helped the client to set up blog categories, and edited the site so that only relevant blogs would populate on the category pages. Who wants to read about wedding marquees in the farm equipment section?

  5. Product page enquiries
    The product pages were built using a fairly standard catalogue page layout with a product name, photo and description, then tabs for detail below.  However, the client had not filled out any of the long descriptions, and some of the short descriptions were too lengthy and technical.  I recommended they add common uses into the short description, to help customers be sure that what they were getting was ideal for their purpose, and to move the more technical details into the long description gradually over time as they were editing products. 

  6. Improving the call to action
    The major opportunity on the individual product pages was that there was no obvious enquiry form for each product. Our WordPress programmer noted that the easiest place to make this happen was actually on one of the existing product detail tabs.   So we added an enquiry form to show on the first tab.  We were not sure at this stage if more people would make contact by phone or by email, so we put a phone number at the top of the email form.  These days we like to add Live Chat too, but first things first. The shorter description would also hold attention and ensure the contact enquiry form was not buried too far down the page.


  7. Supporting people who were unsure of which item best suited their needs
    Only about 3% of people on a website are ready to order or buy right now, but I knew if we could get a dialogue going, we could convert many of the other 97% to bookings. Thinking of people like myself – I do hire some seasonal gardening gear but I’m not an expert about these things – I noted that a competitor said “Not sure if this is the right item for your job? Our experienced sales team can guide you” so we added a similar line in above the enquiry form, to try and get more enquiries from those who were sitting on the fence. 

  8. Providing trust and reasons to choose
    There was a small module half way down the product page, on the right hand side that showed “related products” but this module was out of date, hadn’t worked for eons, and in fact showed product that was completely irrelevant to the user’s behaviour.  Yes we could update the module.  But in provincial areas, local ownership is a strong point of difference.  So we replaced this with some icons and text encouraging people to “shop local”.


  9. Improving speed on mobile
    The existing host was pinning our client down to renew their hosting contract.  Our speed tests showed that the site was slow to download, but the images weren’t too big (large image sizes that are too high in resolution is a common cause of slow websites). 
    We duplicated the site and did a dummy trial on our Amazon server.  You’re supposed to get most pages downloading in under 3 seconds as it improves enquiry by 15%.  The other host must have had an older server, because we managed to get pages downloading in 3 seconds, when on the competitor’s old server, it was taking 10 seconds.  It was going to cost the customer a little more, but every mobile user gets frustrated these days with slow sites, and every lead counts, so the client was happy to switch to our set up.

  10. Campaigns to drive traffic
    Now that the site was set up to convert better, we were ready to start bringing more traffic to it. We started a Google Ads Search campaign, for the 12 most popular items/categories based on the client’s own sales data.

    Within a week, I noticed a search phrase for a category that the client didn’t have listed, yet they supplied a whole lot of hire equipment that delivered on this need.  I asked the client to add a new category to their website – and bingo, within days, this was one of the most popular categories.  Hire for one significant item in this category was booked out four months in advance when it had usually only been booked up for two months in advance.

    We ran the geo-targetted Google Ads campaign for three months to get some good data, identifying variations of phrases.  For example, would toilet hire or portaloo hire work better?

    I then made a keyword plan for these top pages, and trained the client how to seed the keywords into their pages, doing the first one as an example.  The client (who is so much fun to work with) made a bold effort.  Granted, it did take a few hours of extra twiddling by us afterwards, but the team effort was worth it because the client wrote with humour and a knowledge of what clients were looking for.  Our job was to make sure Google would know what to rank the pages for.

    The client’s manager wanted to stop Google Ads.  So we did, though we would still recommend an ongoing maintenance budget. However, as they were organically ranking really well – due to being in a regional area with only two main competitors – neither of whom had done seo – we were happy to let this lapse for a period to check if organic sales would replace the paid leads. The sales volume had jumped markedly but naturally the traffic dropped a little once the Adwords campaign was paused.

The result?

The client has doubled their website emails/quotes for the year ended March 2020 (and there are still three more weeks to go before March ends) compared to last year


The client reached 84% of last year’s entire inbound email quotes in just the first two months of this year – and there are still 10 months of the year to go:


Value of inbound email quotes 10 weeks into the year at Mar 4 2020 – already achieved 84% of whole year last year

Hires of the highest priced item had already exceeded last year’s 12 month total by 8% at month 9.  

The sales team were busier than ever.  Of course, this created another issue: the sales team want to address some automation for quoting!  

The client was overjoyed and referred us to a key supplier.  The only downside for the client is that the enthusiastic sales team member is asking for a pay rise.  Well deserved if you ask me!

The cost? 

All up this cost around NZD$10,000 over 5 months to implement the changes and run the pilot Google Ads campaign, with a lot of regular work being done by the client’s website administrator, who was enthusiastic with content loading (and got training from us on how to do a few things along the way). 

What would a new site have cost? Probably $25-30k excluding the 3 month Google Ads campaign.

This was a clear case where a web renovation was a better choice than a web rebuild.

Now that the website is working harder to generate leads, another clear opportunity is to guide their social media calendar and customer email strategy, to increase bookings and awareness among existing customers of seasonal hire items.  It’s not all about new leads – there are many opportunities to grow repeat orders from existing customers.

We have really enjoyed working with this client and are looking forward to working on another of their businesses shortly.  Creating better results is what we love and do best.  If you’d like to discuss getting better results from your site, we’d love to chat.  Live chat with us on https://alexanders.co.nz, call Rachel 03 3488 477 ext 1, text 021 556 560 or email me on [email protected]