The global health emergency will have long-lasting effects on the way organisations plan their marketing budgets, structure their teams, and run processes. Considering these impacts, which we have explored previously, we will be delving further into how Covid-19 has affected the relationships between businesses and their customers, more specifically, how will organisations best reach their audiences moving forward? 

This topic was discussed at length during our recent webinar where we were joined by an expert panel of digital and marketing leaders, including Richard Benton, ex Head of Marketing, Barclays Wealth and Investec Private Bank, Dan Jones, Managing Director, Focus on Media, and Kathryn Hall, Head of Digital, Visit Britain (previously Clarion Housing, Institute of Cancer Research). You can view the full webinar on demand here.

In this article, we break down some of the key insights that emerged for digital channels.

What has changed so far? 


With the fast switch to remote working, and social distancing measures in place, online platforms became the primary touchpoint for many businesses. As a result, e-commerce has grown significantly, with recent IMRG figures highlighting that online retail sales growth was up 32.7% year on year in May. The increase in the UK is even greater than, for example, that of the US, which is perhaps because the US is already further along on its digitisation journey. 

Audience and consumer behaviours 

In line with the shift to online, the audience landscape has changed. There has been a marked increase in the online presence of audiences that had previously not engaged with online platforms en masse, such as those from the ageing population (56+) and lower socio-economic backgrounds. 

Lower media costs 

The cost of digital media has decreased significantly as they are run through auction systems. With fewer organisations in those auctions, prices have fallen. 

Digital communication

Not surprisingly, the style of digital communication has changed. In the initial stages of the global crisis, organisations shifted to a more empathic tone, which was demonstrated by the huge rise in the use of the word ‘unprecedented’. Now, statistics show audiences are tiring of this language, and the language is switching to ‘adapting to the new normal’. 

How should organisations be adapting their digital functions?

Data-led decision making

First and foremost, businesses must be ensuring data is used effectively in decision-making. Understanding the demographics of your new audiences – and how to best connect to them – along with how the needs of your previous target audiences may have changed, will be crucial. Now is the time for organisations to be truly customer-centric and tailor their messaging through the first-party data they have and will continue to collect. 

Content design

Similarly, those who have not already should be thinking about content design. That is, stressing the discovery and user-research phases of content production to ensure that, when finished, it aligns with what key audiences want to see. Considering budgets will likely be tighter and the efficacy of the digital function further scrutinised, now more than ever we cannot afford to make decisions based on historical precedent and intuition alone. 

Integrated digital systems 

Organisations should also ensure that their digital systems are integrated. CRM systems must marry up with other marketing platforms so users can be reached more effectively. We saw during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis that organisations which invested in CRM during the downturn by and large performed very well and the same will likely be said here.

Budget management

As for digital media, there is an immediate need for those responsible to be savvy in managing their budgets. Auctions being less populated means you can do more for less and provides an opportunity to steal a march on one’s competitors. Similarly, relationships with any external agencies must be handled even more prudently. There may well be mutual gains to be made in assessing the time and spend commitments with partners. The capacity to recognise if and where this is the case, and to have those conversations with suppliers, is more important than ever for digital professionals.     

Agile working 

Further to the above, the meaningful adoption of Agile ways of working will be hugely beneficial. Smaller, cross-functional teams will be able to make faster decisions based on expected value. Less concerned with perfection from the outset, Agile teams will be able to draw insight from testing campaigns and messages on a small population before scaling up. 

In summary, organisations need to be aware of changing needs and adapt to their audience more than ever. Data can and should be fully utilised in deciding how best to do so, optimising responses and user journeys accordingly. The conversation around integrating data to decision-making has been had for some time, but this pandemic has shown why it should have its place in building and rebuilding effective digital functions. 

If you would like to discuss these insights further or how we can support your business at this time, please get in touch. Whether you are a candidate looking for a new role or an employer looking to navigate the current market, we are here to support you.  

Ben Cook
Senior Consultant
Not for Profit & Public Sector, Michael Page Digital