As social distancing measures continue across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are changing their buying habits too. Marketers can keep up by adapting to the social and economic climate as it evolves out of a phase of nearly total confinement. In short, brands that are in touch with easing the burdens placed on consumers are gaining appreciation, loyalty and even sales.
People still need products and services, but consumers are shifting their focus to education, entertainment and inspiration. Brands can shift their focus too, regardless of what product or service they usually offer. For example, some fashion and sports brands that normally make clothing and uniforms have switched their efforts to sewing much-needed face masks. Home and personal care giant Procter and Gamble has partnered with TikTok’s top influencer Charli D’Amelio to spread the message about social distancing.
Now more than ever, brands will appeal to consumers when they focus with empathy and understanding on the benefits consumers need. The authenticity that’s inherent to influencer marketing is a natural fit to accomplish this. Influencers are already intimately in touch with their audiences and engaged in listening to them and meeting their needs. During the pandemic, social media usage is up higher than ever, with platforms like TikTok soaring in popularity. Influencers are also reporting an increase in comments and direct messages from followers, new followers and story views, reports eMarketer.
While there’s a decline in interest around certain topics, savvy influencers have quickly shifted their focus to education, entertainment and inspiration. In April 2020, IZEA conducted a consumer consumption trends survey of 1,061 U.S. internet users who’ve been confined to their homes. We’ve analyzed the data to give you insights on how it applies to the influencer marketing industry. With that in mind, we’d like to show you how marketers can create influencer content that can inspire, educate and entertain your target audience during the pandemic.
A Word About Taking the Focus Off of the Product
During this time of economic uncertainty, it’s natural for companies around the globe to worry about their bottom lines. Sales are down or have disappeared in certain industries, and businesses are grappling to stay afloat or ahead of the curve. It’s natural to want — and need — to make sales. But during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s wiser in the short and long run to take the focus off of your product for a moment. Instead, focus on meeting basic human needs and getting the message out about staying safe, staying positive and staying healthy — together.
Brands that don’t take the opportunity during COVID-19 to change focus and show compassion for the hardships and uncertainties many are experiencing will likely suffer. They’ll come off as disconnected, insensitive and even inappropriate. And worse still, they may find less customer loyalty on the other end of the pandemic as a result.
It’s encouraging to see many local and global businesses changing their focus and leading the way during the pandemic. Encouraging mental wellness is also one key area in which businesses that are embracing corporate social innovation are supporting society. Your brand can certainly play a similar role in meeting consumers’ needs through education, entertainment and inspiration, especially with the help of trusted influencers.
Craving a Sense of Normalcy
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Since then, most of the world has been on lockdown. Even from the beginning of stay-at-home orders, families, couples and individuals sensed they’d be indoors for the long haul.
As these isolation measures continue, people are craving a sense of normalcy that reminds them more of life as it was before “the new norm.” As a result, 45.4% of the respondents to IZEA’s survey say they’ve made non-essential purchases during their COVID-19 confinement.
So, while consumers are more cost-conscious due to economic uncertainty, they’re still buying certain non-essential items. Actually, some of these items are feeling more like essentials. They’re meeting the needs of entertaining children at home, breaking the boredom and taking our minds off of issues that can become too weighty.
Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks sales data on nearly all major businesses that sell online, reports rises in purchases that go beyond groceries and cleaning supplies. The data reflect the year-over-year growth from March 2, 2019, to April 12, 2019, as compared to March 4, 2020, through April 14, 2020.
- Books: up 295%
- Sports and outdoors: up 122%
- Toys and games: up 119%
- Warranties and service plans: up 96%
- Electronics: up 86%
- Pet supplies: up 74%
- Tools and home improvement: up 60%
- Health and beauty: up 52%
In March, among the top sellers on Amazon were board games and jigsaw puzzles, reports CNBC. And not trailing far behind were video games, movies and crafting and baking supplies. In response to the high demand for Hasbro games, such as Sorry, Monopoly and Connect 4, Hasbro says it’s planning to release new products to help fill the void caused by stay-at-home directives.
A glance at Amazon’s Best Seller’s list in early May 2020 shows items like bubbles, board games, pool inflatables and sidewalk chalk selling fast from the toys and games category. Gift cards for video games and workout equipment folks can use at home, such as resistance bands and jump ropes, are top-ranked items on Amazon too.
How Influencers Can Help
Consumers are turning to entertainment and other non-essential purchases. They’re also spending much more time on social media to stay connected, amused and even distracted. This is where brands can reach their customers — those that are established as well as potential customers. And at a time when traditional ads are striking consumers as insensitive and distasteful, influencers push all the right buttons.
TikTok, in particular, is a platform that marketers can zero in on to find consumers who are keen on making non-essential purchases during COVID-19. All platforms, however, including blogs, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitch, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are prime places for focusing your marketing efforts, according to IZEA’s survey results. Consider the following ways of creating influencer content during the coronavirus to connect with consumers as they’re looking to be entertained and inspired.
At-home beauty makeovers. Have influencers demonstrate beauty makeovers for the at-home casual look or the more indulgent in-home date night. Products can include make-up, shampoos, nail polishes, masks, bath salts and so on. Add promo codes with discounts to show your brand’s sensitivity to the tighter financial climate. Nearly half of the respondents to IZEA’s survey say they’re looking for a 50% discount in order to make a non-essential purchase. Others are willing to make a purchase with a lower discount, while about 15% are buying now with no discount at all.
Smart home upgrades. Electronics brands can use influencers to demonstrate how smart home devices can make the new routines of staying at home easier and more energy-efficient. Smart plugs put lamps on a regular schedule, smart speakers enhance entertainment and smart thermostats help save energy, for example.
Storytime. Parents have become instant teachers as their kids have suddenly become homeschoolers. Influencers can ease the burden by reading bedtime stories, fairy tales and chapter books as a video upload or livestream. These read-alouds by influencers can appeal to young children and even teens. And the gratitude parents will feel toward your brand for providing this service will go a long way.
Family fun. Influencers are family members too, and they can show or describe how their families are coping with the social distancing measures. Helpful content includes games, arts and crafts, hide and seek, blanket forts, sidewalk chalk drawings and decorating the front windows for a game of neighborhood I spy.
Health watch. With gyms and workout facilities closed, consumers are getting their exercise at home. Influencers can demonstrate workouts, yoga and other stress relievers. Highlight your brand with clothing, accessories, athletic shoes, workout equipment, mats, home decor in the background, water bottles or whatever fits naturally into the scene.
Willing to Try New Things
With many retail establishments closed or with limited access, people have fewer choices of products and services from brick-and-mortar establishments. This is leaving the door open for competitors to meet the needs of consumers and encourage them to try something new. In fact, 46% of IZEA’s survey participants have tried at least one new brand since quarantining. Another 36% haven’t yet tried a new brand but are open to it. And 26.4% are researching new products more than they did before COVID-19.
How Influencers Can Help
Let your brand stand out by using influencers to get the word out about what you’re offering. Without directly selling or seeming to push your product, influencers make product endorsements naturally flow into their conversations. Consider the following examples of ways influencers can help consumers try new things.
Taste-testing. Let influencers highlight the qualities and benefits of your food or beverage brand with a taste-testing session. This can include a comparison to competitor brands. Point out attributes that set your brand apart, such as lower calories, smoother taste or healthier ingredients.
Home office essentials. Most of the working population have become at-home workers. This trend is likely to continue after social distancing measures are lifted, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Based on past trends and the number of people now working from home, it predicts 25 to 30% of the workforce will be working from home by the close of 2021. Gartner research firm polled 317 CFOs in late March 2020; 74% say they expect some of their employees to continue working from home after the pandemic.
Influencers work from home as well. Brands that produce office supplies, furniture, electronics and decor can have influencers use their products. Have a home-office shopping haul to demonstrate how to set up an efficient home office that’s organized for productivity. Demonstrate how your brand’s filing system, whiteboards, printers, standing desks and so on benefit the stay-at-home worker.
Looking to Video Content to Learn New Things
With less time spent commuting, socializing and traveling, consumers are filling the void by learning new things. And it’s no surprise they’re turning to video content to do it. Before the pandemic, 85% of U.S. internet users watched video content online, says Oberlo. In mid-April, YouTube reported a 15.3% rise in usage on its site, according to the New York Times.
Focusing specifically on research and educational videos, IZEA asked its survey participants what topics they’re seeking out in these categories while impacted by coronavirus. Cooking and recipe videos are attracting the highest percentage of women viewers at 33%, while 24.1% of men are also seeking the same content. Fitness and health, financial research, home improvement, and arts and crafts are also gaining a lot of steam.
The unemployment rate also hit a record high in April at 14.7%, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. This is spurring people on to look for free or low-cost video content to learn a new, marketable skill or turn their passion into a profession.
How Influencers Can Help
Influencers are creatives, and just about all of them are comfortable in front of the camera. Use social media influencers to inspire and educate consumers who are looking for high-quality video content to learn new things. You’ll find your audience on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms that support video.
Recipe swap. Whether or not your brand is directly related to cooking, share your influencer’s favorite recipes to help your audience as they seek to liven up their meals. Focus on tasty creations that use pantry and freezer staples, which consumers are likely to have more of compared to fresh produce. Healthy snacks and drinks are also appreciated, as are low-carb recipes; people have less options to stay active and burn calories while quarantined.
Cooking demonstrations. Food and cooking influencers are skilled at showing others how to create masterpieces in the kitchen and demonstrate culinary techniques. Highlight your kitchen products if that’s your brand’s focus. Or, offer these educational videos as a service to your audience regardless of your brand.
Budgeting basics. With the economy in a fragile state, consumers are looking for advice on how to protect themselves from the impact of the pandemic. Engage finance influencers to offer budgeting tips and up-to-date information on Small Business Administration loans, stimulus checks, renter relief programs and more. Your audience will likely be grateful for this reliable information and will associate your brand with trustworthiness.
Getting crafty. Parents especially are looking for inspiration on how to help their kids fill the time with creative, productive things to do. Arts and crafts influencers know how to create appealing video content to show kids how to make homemade slime, paper airplanes, magic sand, paintings and so much more. Appeal to your older audience as well with DIY projects for those who may find themselves with more time on their hands.
Relying on Home Delivery
To cut down on person-to-person contact and limit possible exposure to the coronavirus in public, many consumers have turned to home delivery services. Grocery delivery is soaring. In March 2020, Instacart reported a 218% growth in app downloads, according to Statista. Shoppers downloaded the Walmart Grocery app at a 160% increase and Shipt at a 124% increase.
In March, Amazon hired over 100,000 workers in an effort to keep up with the sudden surge in online purchases, reports CNBC. In April, the online shopping giant announced it would hire an additional 75,000 employees. Also in April, 41% of consumers polled by Statista said they were likely to purchase restaurant food delivery online while confined to their homes.
IZEA’s survey results reveal that consumers ages 30–44 are up to four times more likely to use delivery services than those ages 45–60. Yet a majority of consumers of all ages plan to take advantage of grocery and restaurant delivery. In addition, consumers report that coffee, alcohol, home improvement products, clothing, and arts and crafts supplies are also on their delivery lists.
How Influencers Can Help
All brands are wise to consider the feasibility of switching to or strengthening their delivery services to meet the needs and current buying trends of consumers. Brick and mortar establishments that are adapting to offer curbside pickup or delivery are adding to their bottom lines. Influencers can help too.
Delivery demo. Have your influencers test out your delivery or curbside pickup service and vlog, blog or post about the experience. In learning how it’s done, consumers are more likely to take advantage of your services. They’ll know it’s available and know how to do it.
Coffee hour. Offer discount codes through your influencer to encourage coffee lovers to order home delivery from your coffee brand’s subscription service. Codes that are COVID-19 specific can also send an uplifting message, such as JAVAFROMHOME and STAYINSTAYWELL. Coffee brands might offer free delivery during the pandemic for orders over a certain amount.
Influencers can also explain the benefits of buying coffee beans in bulk online and teach viewers how to store them for optimal freshness. Have them demonstrate brewing techniques and provide grinding tips. Keep in mind that consumers are looking for ways to buy small, affordable quantities as well. Offer delivery or pickup of smaller orders and single servings when possible. Utilize your influencers to keep customers informed of when your coffee shop will open again and what your policies will be concerning social distancing.
Grocery haul. Instead of a typical shopping spree haul, have your influencers order groceries online and take their audience through the experience. Film the delivery and then have an “unboxing” of the groceries. A similar concept can apply to curbside pickup. Have your influencer demonstrate proper handling of packages delivered by following the guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Virtual preview. Because shoppers are limited to what they can buy locally, equip your website with a virtual tool that allows consumers to visualize your physical product. Nineteen percent of the respondents to IZEA’s survey said they’ve used a virtual tool to help them preview a product online since being impacted by the coronavirus. Influencers can take this one step further by showing the process of ordering your product and then showing how to use it after delivery.
Refocused influence. As your brand turns to delivery over in-person shopping or dining, continue to engage your influencers, but refocus their efforts on delivery as well. If your restaurant is now offering pickup, for example, have your influencer highlight the process and benefits of having a date night in or family feast.
Remember that as stay-at-home orders gradually relax, consumers will get back out to retail stores and restaurants. Continue to serve them during the sheltering phase of the pandemic with delivery and curbside pickup services. And use your influencers to help keep your audience engaged with your brand as things change.
Sprucing Up the Home and Yard
With much more time spent at home than usual, people are engaging more than ever in home improvement projects. Some have more time on their hands and are finally able to get to the honey-do list that often gets neglected. For others, DIY home and gardening projects are a welcome — and needed — relief from the confinement of home.
IZEA’s survey revealed 33% of male respondents and 24.4% of female respondents had made a trip to their local hardware store by April. Among these folks, those in the 18- to 29-year-old age group are significantly represented. Perhaps these younger consumers make up a target audience that’s not yet accumulated the supplies and tools needed to undertake various home improvement projects. Additionally, of the video content being consumed during the pandemic, 18.9% of men and 14.1% of women are watching home improvement videos.
How Influencers Can Help
Let home and garden, DIY, home improvement and other influencers use their expertise to reach consumers who want to revamp their homes inside and out. Use these ideas for inspiration.
Flooring makeover. Twenty-eight percent of IZEA’s male respondents say they’re considering installing new flooring while impacted by COVID-19. Home improvement influencers can demonstrate how simple, inexpensive flooring makeovers can add a refreshed look to the rooms in their homes. Focus on floor stickers in the bathroom, laminate plank flooring in the living room and carpet squares in the kids’ rooms, for example.
Budget DIY projects. Show consumers how small changes can make a big impact on the aesthetics of their homes. DIY influencers know how to install utility hooks above the kitchen counter to organize measuring cups, cooking utensils and dish towels, for instance. Paint or wallpaper over an otherwise drab interior door adds charm and color. Install a new doormat to spruce up the entryway, or adhere rubber floor tiles above the bathtub to create a colorful backsplash in the kids’ bathroom. Let your influencers help consumers paint the front door, upgrade the doorknobs or complete myriad other simple yet refreshing inexpensive DIY projects.
Landscaping lessons. Lawn and gardening influencers are eager to share their knowledge and experience on how to keep lawns beautiful and create attractive, efficient landscaping. Teach simple projects such as installing solar-powered sidewalk lighting, planting bulbs that bloom every spring and pruning trees and bushes. Show homeowners how to plant evergreens that provide a wind block or natural fence and discuss which plants make great ground cover for weed control. The options are limitless, and consumers will appreciate the helpful advice from your brand as they landscape around their homes.
Instant home office. As many employees find they’re now stay-at-home workers, they need a space to separate home life from work life. Home improvement and DIY influencers can show how to turn a closet, room corner or part of the garage or basement into a home office. Assess how your brand fits into this scenario to provide this educational service to your audience. Whether your brand offers tools, office supplies, decor, paint or lighting, you can make a positive impact on your audience and your brand.
Wiring wonders. Home projects that involve electricity can be intimidating, but home improvement influencers can show how to safely navigate these DIY upgrades. Demonstrate how to install a new doorbell, create under-cabinet track lighting in the kitchen and hide home office or home theater wiring along baseboards. With summer temperatures heating things up, consumers appreciate knowing how to install ceiling fans to make AC cooling less necessary or more energy-efficient.
Tool tutorials. With more consumers buying hand tools, power tools, and lawn and garden tools, they’ll be looking for video content about this new equipment. People want to understand what to buy and how to use their new gizmos and devices. Turn to savvy influencers to review and demonstrate your products. If your brand isn’t tool-specific, ask influencers to educate consumers on tool kit items they’ll need to complete various projects inside and outside the home.
Gardening resources. People are sheltering during the spring and summer months, which is prime planting time for home gardens. The pandemic has also made consumers more keenly aware of the need to prepare for emergencies. The stockpiling that the nation — and world — saw as the outbreak began has alerted people to the need to be more self-sufficient. This includes growing our own foods.
Gardening influencers are go-to sources for easing people’s minds by showing them how and when to plant a vegetable garden. Extend this initiative to harvesting season, and engage food influencers to show proper techniques of canning, drying and other food-storage techniques.
Opting for Comfort
Clothing and apparel choices have changed during the pandemic. Instead of purchasing vacation wear, business attire and date night garb, consumers are opting for comfort and practicality at home. This includes workout clothing and attire that’s business savvy for video calls but comfortable enough while working in the home office.
The results of IZEA’s consumption trends survey reveal the following percentages of consumers who say they’re likely to buy certain clothing during the pandemic:
- 34%: T-shirts
- 27%: Activewear
- 19%: Jeans
- 16%: Socks
- 15%: Pajamas
- 15%: Gym shoes
- 14%: Underwear
- 10%: Flip flops
How Influencers Can Help
Clothing, fashion, fitness, lifestyle and other influencers are experts at helping your brand reach your target audience. Try out these ways influencers can work with your brand to meet the needs of consumers looking for comfortable apparel during and after the pandemic.
Work from home wear. Most influencers themselves work from home on a regular basis, so they’ve perfected the art of staying comfy while also looking work-presentable. To take things up a notch, social media influencers who are specifically work-at-home influencers know how to make the best garment choices.
Show your audience which fabrics are breathable and wrinkle-free. Discuss how to avoid the temptation to work in your pajamas so you feel more productive. Simple hacks like putting on a scarf or blazer over a plain T-shirt let stay-at-home workers go from casual to business in a second for a video call.
Fitness from home. Fitness influencers are making a big impact on social media audiences who are trying to stay fit and keep off unwanted pounds. Let health and fitness influencers share at-home workout tips while wearing your brand’s clothing, shoes, socks or other apparel. Include workouts and stretches that can be done from an office chair, especially those that target the neck, back and hands. These areas get extra tense when working at a computer, especially if desk and chair positioning is not optimal. Consumers will appreciate the tips that keep their stress down during this anxious time.
If you’re marketing an electronics brand, what can you do to meet the needs of consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic? Firstly, people are looking to be entertained while at home. Also, they’re working from home and need routers that provide reliable high-speed internet, laptops, dual monitors and so on. And people are relying more than ever on video conferencing and sharing apps to stay in touch with each other. This means they’re looking for webcams for their PCs and upgrading their smartphones.
Determine how your brand can meet the needs of consumers looking to be entertained, working from home or staying in touch with others. According to IZEA’s survey, consumers have purchased or say they’re likely to purchase the following electronics while impacted by the coronavirus:
- Desktop computers
- Smart speakers
- Computer monitors
- Game consoles
Along with these items, consumers are buying accessories that complement these larger purchases. Amazon’s best sellers in electronics during COVID-19 are items like remote controls, Wi-Fi routers, memory cards for game consoles, cable-management clips and surge protectors. Consumers are also interested in smart home cameras for added security and fitness smartwatches to track their activity in an effort to stay fit.
How Influencers Can Help
Tech influencers are well-versed in partnering with electronics brands to recommend, review and demonstrate their products. Get inspired by the following ways influencers can provide consumers with entertainment, education and health as they pertain to electronics.
Reviews. Let your tech influencers continue to do what they do best and review your electronics products. Highlight the qualities that make your product stand out from the rest. Appeal to consumers’ specific needs at this time as well. For instance, demonstrate how your product can make teaching kids from home easier or keep them entertained or engaged in fitness.
Point out how your product helps consumers stay more productive while working from home or communicating with colleagues, friends and family. Highlight the importance of products that provide high-quality entertainment while theaters, sporting events, concerts and other outside entertainment forms aren’t options or are very limited.
Gamers for health. Livestreaming gamers on Twitch and YouTube, for instance, have devoted audiences. Brands that partner with gaming influencers can make a significant impact in spreading awareness about COVID-19 issues. These range from proper hygiene and social distancing standards to mental health issues. The CDC recognizes that the stress and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus can cause a variety of reactions in people. These include fear, worry, difficulty sleeping, worsening chronic health and mental health problems, and increased use of addictive substances.
Gamers are generally no strangers to stress themselves and do not shy away from talking about sensitive yet necessary topics such as mental health. Regardless of what your product is, you can partner with gamers whose values align with your brand to raise awareness.
During your sponsored streams, have influencers provide reliable information sanctioned by the CDC, WHO and other authoritative sources on coping with stress. The CDC, for instance, recommends the following coping mechanisms that influencers can share with your audience:
- Taking breaks from news stories about the pandemic
- Eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
- Taking time to engage in enjoyable activities
- Talking with others about concerns and feelings
It makes sense that while people are cooking more at home and searching for ways to be creative and healthy, they’re also buying kitchen appliances. Brands should be looking to appeal to first-time buyers as well as consumers who want to upgrade their existing appliances. Refrigerators and dishwashers are among the high-priced items consumers have purchased or may purchase during the pandemic, according to IZEA’s survey. These items are especially popular among the 18- to 29-year-olds who are likely making these purchases for the first time.
Coffee makers are in high demand among all age groups. Consumers need to replace their daily cup of coffee they used to get at local shops with coffee brewed at home. People are also planning to or have purchased toaster ovens, blenders, waffle makers, pizza ovens, ice cream makers, barbecue grills and bread makers.
How Influencers Can Help
Brands can help consumers make purchasing decisions and use their products with the help of lifestyle, foodie and other influencers.
How to purchase. Let your influencers educate consumers on the features to look for when purchasing kitchen appliances. Major purchases like refrigerators, freezers, microwaves and dishwashers require an awareness of features consumers will be happy with for years. Key in on energy efficiency, space-saving dimensions, convenient storage qualities and smart home features. Influencers can also demonstrate how to navigate your website and choose options, such as color, size, warranties and delivery choices.
How to use. Before and after consumers purchase kitchen appliances, they want to know how a product works and how they can benefit from it. This is where foodie, cooking, lifestyle and kitchen influencers shine. Have them whip up a hearty breakfast that includes homemade waffles, for instance. Demonstrate how to make the batter, how much to pour into the waffle maker and how to know when the waffles are done. Apply the same principles to making smoothies in a blender, the perfect pizza in a pizza oven and delicious flavors of homemade ice cream.
How to clean. Caring properly for kitchen appliances prolongs their life and saves consumers money from having to purchase new products. Whether people are purchasing new kitchen appliances or using the ones they already have — but more often — they’ll benefit from expert tips on cleaning. Have influencers explain the best cleansers and techniques to use when cleaning a grill, for instance. Show how to properly clean the various components of coffee makers, blenders and bread makers too.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, influencers are just as effective for your brand as they’ve ever been. While some influencers are having to refocus their efforts away from topics like travel and fashion, others are shining within their genres. In particular, home-teaching, fitness, food, health and DIY influencers are helping their audiences navigate these unprecedented times.
If your brand is already engaged with influencers, continue to use their expertise to reach your audience in ways that may or may not directly relate to your product. Are you ready to find influencers that will help your brand as it adapts to the changing consumer climate? Look to IZEA’s experience and expertise for influencer discovery and management.