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


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

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