We are in the midst of an unprecedented time in modern history. The COVID-19 virus has brought the country and the rest of the world to its knees, we are down but not out. Social distancing and self-quarantining are having profound impacts on local economies and personal finance in a way we have never seen before. This is uncharted territory.

Consumer spending represents roughly 70% of our GDP. This means in order to rise back up we must get consumer spending back up!  Here a few tried-and-true strategies we have learned from supporting more than 10,000 local advertisers across the U.S.

Keep Connecting with Customers

Local businesses must connect to their customers in a meaningful and relevant way that will help re-establish trust and belief in the greater economy. Nielsen has published a very detailed analysis of six consumer behavior thresholds and their respective impacts on sales lifts for health and safety as well as pantry-product spending. Local marketers should leverage this framework with respect to all the other local market categories to better understand consumer thinking through this complex evolution of decision making. Since most of us are through either threshold 4 or 5 – preparing for or in restricted living – the ideas we explore below are for these two phases. It is worth remembering that we will all eventually get to the final threshold where things return to a new sense of normal and many of these ideas are for building a new advertising foundation for your business to consider in a post-Covid-19 crisis.

Go Online

It is worth every local business thinking through how they might virtualize some form of their local offerings and deliver them over the internet. For example, if you are a restaurant, publish the recipe of one of your favorite dishes with preparation tips or even a short video; add ideas for sourcing ingredients or reminding customers it is available for pickup or delivery (the same could be said for a bar and its most popular drinks, aside from the pickup/delivery part). Think outside the box and get creative by bringing the products and services your customers love most into their home and onto their computers or connected TV screens. Remember that your customers want to connect with and support you!

Be Part of the Community

As a successful local business your advertising messages during this time should reflect your value to, and membership in, the community. Consider acknowledging the hard times both your customers and you (all of us) are living through. If you can engage with them in some meaningful way at home then do so. Digital content consumption will be at all-time highs and all of us will be hungry to read or view content that reminds us of our favorite local spots, brands, and services. If you are unable to create content and offer an essential service that can be transacted with appropriate social distancing, then communicate that clearly as well. If none of these are possible then consider more of a brand-building public service approach that establishes trust and a durable relationship that can and will transcend this troubling period – connect in an honest and sincere way, like a good neighbor.

Understand the COVID-19 Media Landscape

Amidst all of this uncertainty and fear, the thing we can count on is that we will all be at home far more than we ever have been (possibly ever!). Our morning and evening commutes will be characterized by more browsing time on larger computer screens, our work days will be 100% computer time with video conferencing, messaging, and a lot of casual browsing and news checking; and finally, our evenings will be dominated  by TV-viewing that is increasingly on smart TVs with a mix of subscription-based content and ad-supported streaming. Nielsen predicts our already prolific media consumption will rise a staggering 60% citing similar TV viewing spikes from 45-56% during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and NYC Snowpocalypse in 2016.

Nielsen is already seeing a 22% increase in total TV usage in the Seattle/Tacoma metro area week-over-week with teen usage up 104%. Furthermore, historical analysis shows that remote workers watch 3+ more hours of TV per week during normal times. Cross screen media consumption could easily pass 12 hours a day during this time and therefore it might be worth considering creative formats (display, digital video, and OTT) that reach across screens and time of day.

Comscore has seen a big bump in local TV news viewing up 11% in the top 25 markets and this also flowed into digital with news websites seeing the biggest week of the year in visits (week of March 9th). Special telecasts related to the crisis also garnered 18M viewing hours across 170 different shows. Local news sites and OTT apps are a great target just make sure to customize your message to the context and stage of the crisis as there will be many concerned consumer eyeballs focused there.

When times get tough, we turn to our TV screens for both news and entertainment. Make sure you’re there, too!

Aman Sareen, CEO & Co-Founder, ZypMedia

Local Advertising During COVID-19 stock photo by Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock