What Marketers Can Learn From COVID-19

What Marketers Can Learn From COVID-19

Article by Céleste Lordet

The outbreak of COVID-19 has quickly spiraled into a wave of uncertainty and left many businesses wondering what steps to take to curb plummeting sales. 

As marketers, many aspects of work scope have been reshuffled. This includes readjustment of: budget allocation, channels, mediums, campaigns, content and tone of voice. These, topped with work from home arrangements, have made it a challenge to be reactive at a time when adaptability is crucially needed. 

Yes, this pop-up you had long planned to promote your spring collection will not take place, your PR event to present the new face of your brand will have to be postponed and your digital out of home (DOOH) ads to bring people to your offline stores will have to be suspended. Losses are already happening. Luxury duty-free retailer DFS, had to close all of its stores and postpone indefinitely the opening of its latest space in the historical and prestigious La Samaritaine building in Paris. 

As dismal as this may sound, and although there is no single best way to deal with the downfalls of this pandemic, there are certainly best practices marketers can adopt to adjust their brand strategy to this new, unprecedented reality. Businesses that effectively harness insights and data to pivot their strategy during this pandemic, will stand a better chance of coming out on top of their competitors and ultimately capture new audiences and market shares. 

Marketers must embrace cost-effective, creative and timely approaches to communicate relevant brand value propositions. 

Not to spring too much theory on you but the new agora – or public sphere- as defined by Jurgen Habermas and Marshall McLuhan really is, by default, online. Because of safety measures including quarantines and work from home arrangements taken by governments and administrations across the globe, everything spanning from conversations, news, brand discovery, entertainment and leisure is now based off the internet. 

We saw this first and foremost in China, where the virus forced a lockdown on public and private bodies in December 2019. Time spent online effectively shot up with users especially keen on short videos and livestreaming formats. Shorts video apps such as Douyin (TikTok being the western name) or Kwaishou substantially increased their active users – a 23% growth between February 2019 and February 2020 (Source: Warc)Riding on this trend, companies from western countries keen on capturing new audiences, have been offering free streaming and broadcasting services. In light of new restrictive measures announced in France, premium and privately owned channel, Canal+, offered two free weeks to the public. Meanwhile, the Paris Opera offered all of its ballets and opera performances via streaming on its official website. Similarly, American newspaper, New York Times is providing complimentary access to all news articles considered important and useful during this time. 

Another effect the quarantine has had on online behaviour is the flourishing of e-commerce, whether it be in its classic forms or with the use of livestreaming. Although livestreams had been on the rise in the last couple of years in China particularly, with KOLs selling products ranging from vegetables at the market to the latest luxury lipstick on Little Red Book or Taobao, the effect of social isolation measures has resulted in a spike of online purchases.  To second that, latest research from Ipsos showed that out of 12 countries surveyed, consumers in 11 of these said they had increasingly turned to online channels to purchase their products. This held particularly true for consumers in highly impacted countries such as China (51%) and Italy (31%). These statistics underline the needs for brands to shift their efforts to the online realm to capture the surge of time and users on the internet. 

So, what measures can marketers effectively take to drive engagement and communicate effectively with consumers? 

1.Pivot your marketing roadmap  

Be reactive and proactive. As a marketer how fast you can shift your strategy to this new context will really make a difference in the short term and long term. Based on the product category you are working with (F&B, beauty, clothing), your business model and your market, reviewing your rebounding roadmap will be the first necessary step. This is a good time to pick-up on long term brand building strategies such as: developing your email journey strategy for your inactive user database or to reengage past customers having subscribed to your website but who have not purchased yet, or reviewing your content to optimize your targeting tactics. 

Among internet users, 44% indicated spending more time on social media (Facebook, Instagram). Thus, redistributing your ad spend to appropriate channels and experimenting with audience segmentation and ad settings to harness these habits and capture users’ attention will enable you to collect insights and data about users you wouldn’t have usually reached or engaged with. Remember, people have more time than usual, some are even actively looking to discover new and exciting brand and products during this down time. Now is the time to be bold (as long as you A/B test). 

2.Leverage your brand’s storytelling 

Communicate carefully. As Charles Caleb Colton once said: “Silence is foolish if we are wise but wise if we are foolish”. It would be a mistake to remain silent in a time at which people’s attention is more available than ever. However, as a marketer, you must tread communication and content thoughtfully. Sure, people’s attention span is greater, but so is their sensitivity. Your storytelling should revolve around brand awareness, identity and entertainment without pretending as though everything is normal. Opt for the soft sell approach and avoid going for the hard sells as this may be perceived as aggressive or inappropriate. During this critical period – the last thing you want is to come off as insensitive and trigger controversy over your brand. Fashion and beauty conglomerate LVMH for example, has announced it will use some of its perfume factories to produce hand sanitizers to donate to health workers in France while Starbucks is offering free coffee in the United States for front-line COVID responders. The Blacksheep restaurant group in Hong Kong has been actively communicating on its social channels and via email to keep customers informed about health and safety measures put in place across their different establishments. Showing best–in–class customer service with caring, reassuring messages and flexibility (on delivery times, refunds, etc.) will be key to building future sales, continuous engagement, and long-term brand value. Airlines such as Delta, Cathay or Air France which usually imposed penalties for booking changes have all adapted their policies in response to this exceptional situation. Brands who stay relevant and top of mind once the pandemic is over will be those that made consumers feel better, safe and inspired. 

3.Be innovative 

Think outside the box. For brands that are experiencing a slowdown in activities, now is also a great time to implement and experiment new tools and train staff accordingly. These don’t have to be costly. Podcasts are a great example and unorthodox medium for some brands to reach new consumers. As of March 2020, a study by GlobalWebIndex showed that 12% of survey participants had been listening to more podcasts due to the coronavirus worldwide. Webinars or Masterclasses are another avenue you can explore as a digital touchpoint replacement for events and conferences even if your business is small. You can start off with free (but limited) tools such as IG lives or try monthly subscriptions on bigger platforms such as cloud-based Zoom conferencing operator. If your business relies mostly on consumer interactions, partnering with software companies to alleviate your business is also a solution you can investigate. Hong Kong based real estate software Property Raptor has been a rescuer for many realtors experiencing cancellations of home visits and tours due to people’s concerns of contracting the virus. The property tech CRM software’s latest March 2020 product release includes a map and satellite view feature that allows agents to easily visualize and filter search listings in surrounding areas to help close deals even from the comfort of your home.  Marketers can leverage these opportunities to adopt digital customer centric communication which will help long term brand equity. 

4.Reach out for collaborations  

Sharing is caring. In times of difficulty is when stakeholders are seeking external solutions and collaborative outreach. This holds true for seeking collaboration opportunities with other brands but also with all third-party partners across the scope: logistics, PR agencies, e-commerce platforms, etc. Your clients and partners are directly impacted by your performance as a marketer, leverage this. One of China’s biggest e-commerce platforms, JingDong (JD) is a great showcase of the latter as they have just announced a “Spring Raindrop Plan” allocating funds up to 1.5 billion RMB to support brands most heavily impacted by the pandemic with perks such as membership premiums, content marketing and data analysis. Similarly, Alibaba also announced a plan to help offline brands get online as brick-and-mortar only business models suffered the most. If you are part of a marketing agency, reach out to your clients to start discussions about how each of your clients could help one another. This could be a spring special giveaway or a joint press feature or a Q&A featuring a different business owner during each session. If you are in-house, think about your partners. 

Digital transformation and agility as a business imperative 

Every crisis presents an opportunity for marketers to learn and to finetune their strategy to create long term brand building that will resonate with consumers and establish their brand’s position as the leading, trusted partner for consumers. Although dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 will require stepping outside conventional ways of working and thinking, marketers ready to embrace and adapt to change will enable their brands to come out stronger.  

Integrated Management Systems (IMS), is Asia’s leading digital transformation agency. Our multicultural team of digital experts (software engineers, marketers , project managers and data scientists) come together to specifically tackle and adapt real time to current business environments to help your brand mitigate risks, and make the most out of tricky situations such as the COVID outbreak we are currently experiencing. With multiple trailblazing offers, such as marketing to China, social listening, e-commerce and data visualization, we empower our clients, by delivering creative and cutting-edge alternatives and strategies outside traditional marketing and sales funnels. 

Get in touch with our team to start the conversation. 

Céleste Lordet

SEM Marketing

SEM Marketing

Most online customer journeys begin with a search engine. Make sure your brand is easy to find and then continue to engage them across social media, display ads, video streaming, mobile applications, and more.

“It takes an average of 7 interactions with your brand before a customer makes a purchase.”

IMS will work with you to optimise your paid ad strategy across the client’s entire path to purchase. Our expertise covers:

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) isn’t just about showing up in search results, it’s also about making sure your customers see your display, video, or shopping ads as they browse other websites.

Retargeting helps you show content to consumers who have interacted with your brand. You can show different ads to consumers who have added products to basket, signed up to your newsletter, or simply read a blog post.

Social media advertising is one of the best ways to amplify reach of your brand. We identify top-converting content for each of your personas to help drive website visits, engagement, newsletter sign-ups, and sales.

Content matters in SEM and social media advertising. Our SEO experts and content strategists work together to identify the most effective content for your call to action. Our strategic approach to leveraging dynamic content, A/B testing, lookalike audiences and keyword audits allow us to maximise results for our clients, helping you achieve growth for your business.

Case study: for one FMCG client, IMS improved sales conversion rate by 4x and number of impressions by 9.2x while reducing overall spend, in just 3 weeks.



Guide Your
Consumers Across
Their Journey of Brand Discovery:
From Awareness
To First Purchase

Showcase your products or services on a functional and beautiful e-commerce platform. Maximize conversion rates with a value-adding customer journey optimized for every device.Our in-house developed Mavista e-business platform provides scalability, flexibility and features designed to grow your e-commerce business. We also support other e-commerce solutions such as BigCommerce, Shopify, X-Cart and more. These are feature-rich platforms that offer brands flexibility and control of the presentation as well as functionality of their online platform.Once your site is live, our marketing specialists will help you develop and execute the right strategy for your industry and target audience. By using state-of-the-art tools and advanced analytics to map out your consumer journey, we make sure that you deliver the right content to the right audience at every touch point.

Website & App Development

Website & App Development

Engage and Excite
Your Audience
Through a Customer-Focused Website

Re-imagine how powerful your website could be. Not just a podium to showcase your brand, but an immersive experience designed with the user in mind. Reinforce your brand identity that helps you stand out from the crowd.We work with best practices in search engine and conversion rate optimization for a responsive site that tells a compelling story. We identify pain points throughout your customer journeys to provide a seamless user experience and improve conversion rates. Whether you need a landing page for a paid advertisement campaign or a fully customised e-commerce platform, our experts in UX will help you translate your brand values into a strong online presence.

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And Foster Loyalty
Through Intuitive Apps

Whatever idea you have, we can turn into a reality.Engage more effectively with customers using personalised apps that integrate with the CRM database and built-in AI and connect to the internet to offer a seamless user experience across online platforms.Boost productivity by designing an app for internal functions such as HR, finance and IT. Use automation to eliminate repetitive and mundane tasks to speed up business processes.Our team of developers possess the expertise necessary to take your creative idea and turn it into a unique, engaging and fluid mobile app.

Growth Marketing & Engagement

Growth Marketing & Engagement

Grow Your Business,
Establish a Strong Brand Presence, And
Tell Your Story Through
Digital Marketing

Create meaningful conversations that ignite excitement and loyalty among your target audiences.We use the latest tools to really listen to what your audience says about your brand, your products and services, your competitors, and what they want. We then use all of this information to create an effective strategy on how to communicate with potential consumers: from email direct marketing to content creation to social media campaigns. Once you’ve got their attention, we help you keep it through experiential and engagement tactics that delight customers and drive repeat purchases and organic brand advocacy.If you don’t have a rigorous online strategy, then you are neglecting opportunities to increase your brand presence and nurture customers. Digital marketing can be the most cost-effective way to stand out from the crowd and deepen your relationship with customers. We will help you:

  • Set goals;
  • Engage your followers;
  • Build 1-to-1 customer journeys at scale;
  • Offer outstanding customer service;
  • Grow your reach;
  • Optimize your paid campaigns;
  • Deliver valuable, relevant content at each step of the consumer journey;
  • Respond to evolving market trends;
  • Measure your impact;
  • Manage Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs);
  • Manage your social media accounts.

We’ll help you define your online presence to promote your brand while gaining invaluable insights about customer behaviour that can be used across all aspects of your business.

Conversational Marketing

Conversational Marketing

What is Conversational Marketing?

Conversational marketing allows brands to offer one-on-one interactions with consumers, shortening the sales cycle, increasing lifetime value of a customer, and creating a more human customer experience.

What role do chatbots play in conversation marketing?

What if there was a way to help solve your consumers’ problems while guiding them down the sales funnel from brand discovery to purchase? Welcome to the next great marketing channel! From personalized product recommendations to after-sales support, chatbots are an incredibly powerful platform to deliver value-adding services to your consumers, increase conversion rates and improve customer engagement.In a world where consumers are looking for genuine brand-user connection, conversational marketing is key to staying relevant. Bots are a conversational interface that allows users to interact with your brand through messaging platforms. For example, you can provide fast and reliable customer service, have users subscribe to push notifications, and convert first-time customers.

Why use IMS to build your chat bot or conversational marketing strategy

We can implement rule-based bots or AI-powered bots, depending on your needs. We understand that the bot is a personification of your brand, and we know what makes conversational marketing engaging and useful to consumers. We’ll audit existing touchpoints and customer journeys to understand the best conversational marketing strategy for your organisation.No matter what value-adding service you want to provide, IMS can build a bot for it !

Social Intelligence

Social Intelligence

Omni-channel strategies need omni-channel insights

Make the leap from siloed data channels to a comprehensive understanding of what consumers are saying online. By crawling channels across millions of online sources, we unlock big data and transform it into digestible, actionable strategies.IMS can help you to:

  • Monitor consumer reaction of a new product launch, shop opening, or market launch;
  • Analyze emerging market trends or conduct competitor benchmarking;
  • Conduct social media monitoring and optimisation;
  • Compare brand sentiment analysis across different audience segments from different locations;
  • Develop your understanding of brand-consumer interaction to inform future campaigns;
  • Conduct influencer analysis to find users with the highest impact among your ideal target audiences. And so much more!

Turn social data into awareness, engagement and sales

Whatever idea you have, we can turn into a reality.If you are able to listen, consumers are constantly giving feedback about what they like or dislike about your brand, and your competitors! We will help you sort through market noise to reveal genuine insights that can be used to optimize your marketing campaigns, social media strategy, and refine your brand storytelling.Whether you are a new brand looking to build your online presence or an established brand looking to appeal to a new generation of consumers, IMS uses social intelligence to build data-driven marketing strategies that reflect real-time consumer preferences.

Extraordinary decision-making through stunning data visualization

Empower your marketing, sales, customer service and management teams through stunning data visualization displays with real-time data.Access a world of knowledge at your fingertips and achieve truly transformative results. Align teams from different departments – and even different continents – by providing a 360-degree view of your social media, website, sales, and marketing data.

Data Analytics

Data Analytics

Compete in a
Data-Driven World
By Incorporating Analytics into your Business Strategy

Position your organisation at the forefront of your industry by unlocking new opportunities through the use of technology solutions and data analytics. It’s not just about collecting data, it’s about how you use it.

We can help you overcome any challenges to becoming data-driven. As your data architects, we can ensure quality and consistency of your data, develop data solutions that provide actionable insights, and build interactive dashboards and decision-support tools. Our goal is to help you solve critical business problems, build consumer feedback into solutions, and increase efficiency.

AI Services

AI Services

Smart profiling

Apply AI techniques to analysis and segment users/customers based on static and behavioral intelligence

Smart matching

Leverage Deep Learning models for effective matching customers users’ needs to content, products and services.

Personalized web design optimizations

Self-adaptive web design optimizing for better user experience and conversion rates.

Personalized communications

Communications relevant to contact profiles based on past interactions with IMS platforms.

Blockchain Services

Blockchain Services

Registration of tangible asset ownership

Blockchain is the technology that utilizes open decentralized/ distributed ledger of transactions involving value. Its coding method allows for secure record keeping in distributed online ledgers where members share and confirm information with no central authority. Blockchain platform for Unified Registry will provide the trust and security needed for multiple stakeholders to connect on the shared ledger.

Claim certifications and authenticity verification

Blockchain provides a secure digital distributed ledger that will connect multiple participants to one source of data – the golden record of truth. This can be leveraged to implement seamless business processes which involves various participants and eliminates the need for issuing the paper-based certificate credentials. The authenticity of these digital certificates can be verified by the anyone instantly against Blockchain, without depending on the manual intervention of the Issuing authority. Digital medium is protected with cryptography

Commercial value record keeping

Blockchain provides immutable and transparent transactions. Decentralized and distributed ledger also eliminates any process of reconciliation and settlement.

Transactions and Trust

Blockchain is highly secure and almost impossible to counterfeit due to underlying cryptography used. Independent auditor can monitor mischief in the network. Blockchain will provide the trust and security needed for multiple organizations to connect on the shared ledger