Digital marketing

Paid advertising guidance during the COVID-19 crisis.

The uncertainty around COVID-19 has shaken up consumer behaviour and the wider economy on a massive scale. Where does campaign performance stand in all of this? As always, there are lots of conflicting opinions across the industry.

Some businesses are seeing sudden changes in performance, while others haven’t noticed any change (yet). Some big brand advertisers have paused their campaigns completely due to fear of overspending, others have ramped up their budgets to take advantage while there’s less competition.

Results from your campaigns will vary depending on your industry. During times of uncertainty, people start to consider what their priorities are. This impacts their behaviour and how they search and purchase online.

Products and services that are deemed a ‘luxury’ are going to be in less demand. For example, the holiday and travel industry. Items and services that are essential to everyday life will always be in demand, and the challenge shifts to fulfilling orders on time and maintaining levels of stock.

Instead of getting caught up on theory, we’ve been reviewing data from the campaigns we manage and making changes based on real data. Here are some of the things we’ve noticed since the county went into lockdown on March 23rd.

Ad impressions
In other words, how many times an ad is being shown. There has already been huge fluctuation across the board since mid-March and we expect to see it change again, quite frequently. For example, we have seen an increase in impressions across many shopping campaigns but there’s been a notable drop in the majority of Google text ads. This trend can be attributed to your target market and whether it is business to business or direct to the consumer.

Ad click-through rates
An increase in search demand doesn’t always result in more people clicking ads. We’ve seen slightly lower click-through rates for most campaigns, which suggests a higher percentage of people are simply browsing, instead of searching with real intent.

Conversion rates
Ultimately, the most important metric to keep an eye on is conversions and sales. This varies significantly from one campaign to the next. However, there are other factors to consider that could impact the performance of your campaigns.

Supply chain disruption
Due to a shortage of workers, supply and transportation of materials and stock has slowed down. This will impact order fulfillment and delivery times.

Changes in ecommerce
More people are at home and naturally spending more time online, likely leading to online sales increasing. However, this is heavily dependent on industry type. For example, Amazon is hiring 100,000 more workers to help fulfill the increase in demand for household items and essentials.

Consumers spending more time online doesn’t necessarily result in better campaign performance. The best course of action is to review your campaigns more frequently, as things continue to change from one day to the next.

Campaign spend and budget control
It might feel like the right thing to do to re-think direct advertising costs at this stage. But what needs to be considered is the historical data in each campaign, and what position you want to be in when things start to go back to normal.

As a general rule of thumb, we always advise to try and reduce budgets where possible as opposed to dropping them completely. This does depend entirely on product or service offering and the bidding strategy you have set up. For example, data driven strategies may be better running at a significantly reduced budget over the time period, while a shopping campaign operating on ROAS could be paused and restarted as and when you want to increase exposure again.

It’s important to remember that for many paid online advertising campaigns, you pay-per-click so if people are not searching for what your business offers – it is unlikely that you will spend the budget you usually have lined up for paid search activity. Keep reviewing performance weekly.

Onward activity
At The Bigger Boat, we’re closely monitoring performance as the situation evolves and will be in touch with suggestions for each individual account and campaign. Our strategy last week was to simply avoid knee-jerk reactions until we had a valid reason to make such decisions – we’re letting the data do the talking. Going forward, we’ll provide suggestions and recommendations based on how events play out and help drive the best return on your ad spend.

if you have any questions or require any extra support during this time, don’t hesitate to drop us an email or ring your account manager. We’re still here, providing the same level of service and delivering quality projects.

Written by Mark Jenkins
Search specialist and analytical thinker Mark looks after our paid search and SEO services.