The Be Found Be Chosen ecommerce guide to surviving the uncertainty around coronavirus 

By March 20, 2020 No Comments

It’s a crazy time right now. 

First things first, your health is the most important, precious and valuable thing you have. Take the Coronavirus threat seriously. Follow government advice. Take the necessary precautions. Isolate if appropriate. We all need to look after ourselves and each other. 

For those of us lucky enough to be at work, we are in tough times. Economic uncertainty generates fear, doubt, angst, worry and stress. People are losing their jobs and things are getting very serious. 

You are not alone. We are all in this together. 

We too, are vulnerable. 

We can’t predict what’s going to happen, at all. 

We’ve already had clients wanting to triple their marketing spend, and we’ve had others dial down completely. Consumer appetite is unpredictable and we are not too proud to admit that we’re worried. 

Your decision to fight or flight will be very much industry-dependent.


The mettle of ecommerce managers across the UK, and the world, is about to be seriously tested. It’s a new virus, but not a new situation. In 2007, several of us at BFBC were working within viewing distance of Northern Rock HQ. When the first whispers of the financial crisis landed we felt the ripple gently touch our office. As people queued up to withdraw their cash we had to get a plan.

Northern Rock Customers queued for hours to take out savings

Drawing upon countless years experience the message from the top was very much – if you stop shouting about your services, you will not survive. 

Consider Cadbury, advertising through WW2 when they could barely supply their product due to rationing. Which confectioner would come out biggest and strongest at the end of the war? 

By 1945, if you thought chocolate, you thought Cadbury. Strong and brave. We salute you Cadbury.

The same can be said for the 2007 outlook- the companies who gutted their marketing budgets, regardless of where they started, were the ones who fell behind after the dust settled, if they survived at all.

People are about to have a lot less money. They’re going to get much more careful in how they spend it. Purchase journeys will have increasingly more touchpoints.

Surely now then, is the worst time possible to be the brand with no presence and no message? People are squeezing every penny; they need to know they’re getting the best deal possible. They won’t know that’s your deal, unless you tell them. And if you’re a newer, less prominent brand? We’ll let David Ogilvy answer that one:

“If you stop advertising a brand which is still in its introductory phase, you will probably kill it- for ever. Studies of the last six recessions have demonstrated that companies which do not cut back their advertising budgets achieve greater increases in profit than companies which do cut back.”

Ogilvy said that in the middle of the 20th century, and the recessions that followed have hardly bucked the trend.

Except now, it’s not war time. It’s March 2020. What do you need to do in an online world, while offline takes a beating, your competitors panic and it’d be easy to lose your bottle? Here’s our best advice.

Slow down, but never stop

You might need to turn down your ad spend, but if you turn it off, you might never get the chance to turn it back on again. Intuition makes it feel wrong, but if you keep advertising, you’ll be the first person people think of when they’re ready to spend again. Some of your competitors will not hold their nerve and who will be there to pick up their customers? Whoever’s still advertising. You. And in an auction-based setting like Google Ads, you’ll have a cheaper time of staying in the game until then.

Optimise your conversion rates

Now is when conversion rates and remarketing really matter. Look after the people who are showing buying intent. If you’re spending less on traffic acquisition, you need to nurture that traffic to get every bit of value from it you can. How can you show that your customer you love them; why should they love you? Is the customer informed about delivery times? Is your search highlighting the products most in demand or most searched for right now? Are you making the process as simple as it humanly can be? 

Brand is everything

Do not stop brand advertising. When you are being searched from a word of mouth or a social starting point, you need to be there as big and strong as ever. Your customers may not buy now but they’ll know you are still in the game when it comes to decision time. Can you use Google Ads + Google My Business to get crucially important messages out to customers who aren’t subscribed via other mediums?

Gather and effectively use your audience data

You will have a lot of visitors to your website. People are working from home, spending more time on the internet and researching stuff they haven’t had time to in the past. Collect that audience list in Google Analytics. If this current situation is going to last 3 months, set the audience membership to 120 days so you get them all (and beyond) and craft the perfect message to remarket with. 

Similarly, you should already have some great data on past website visitors. Use this to your advantage and remarket to them until they decide to purchase. Be there when your competitors aren’t.

Email has a time to shine — again

Already, the messages coming from businesses are plentiful, yet bland. ‘A message from our CEO….’ Say something more human and provide some value. You can’t come to my soft play centre right now but we’re doing 30% off vouchers for June. You know you’ll be back so grab a bargain. Every parent does soft play. Especially if the kids have been stuck in the house since March. Use email to make your voice heard, but make sure you’re saying the right things.

Social usage is peaking

Get social. Facebook, Twitter & Instagram usage is going to be massive over the next few weeks and months. Work out a strategy to get that top of funnel, “just having a look”, traffic onto your website at a low cost. These can be future purchasers, if you can hold their attention through the lull. Enable your social remarketing campaigns for these visitors and, when they want to pull the trigger, your brand will be there at the right time. One report put Instagram usage up almost 75%, so ad inventory will be through the roof too- that can mean cheap clicks.

Now’s the time to get into video

Get on Youtube. It is so cheap (free, if they skip it fast enough!) to have your video pre-rolled at the start of appropriate videos and channels that match, and could enhance, your brand. The most common mistake people make with YouTube ads is shotgunning a load of money on ads everywhere. If you’re going to do it, pick the correct videos to align with. If it’s fast fashion, pick a load of videos of girls showing off their ‘haul’ (where big spenders on a given store show off their purchases to their following); if the stars align they’ll even have one for your store and you can really capitalise on any interest.

Cantona’s celebration after sublime lob against Sunderland AFC in 1996

If you’re selling retro football shirts, get on the start of a video of Eric Cantona scoring that impossible goal against our beautiful neighbours, Sunderland AFC, in 1996. Pop your replica shirt that he was wearing in the Shopping feed against that actual video. Could you resist!?

Employ some empathy

It’s tough for you, but it’s tough for your customers too. It’s always tempting to go heavily promotional, but use this time to tone down your outbound. Can your ad copy respectfully play on the current situation? Or can you add a landing page that is genuinely useful to your customers, whether that’s an offer of a free consultation, a message about delayed delivery or a discount for your very best customers who are supporting you during this tough time? Don’t go too sales-heavy, love your customers and in time, they’ll love you back. 

A word from Be Found Be Chosen…

Our values are radically honest, focusing on what matters and ultimately driving online sales. With recent events, that last one is particularly tough. Let’s readjust, let’s get through this. 

We’ve seen this before and the providers who stop spending now are the ones who don’t come out on top when things go back to normal. People will keep spending and they will not be doing it in traditional bricks and mortar establishments.

If you need our help, we’d love to offer you some advice on what we’re seeing in the market in general, across our client base and how we can assist you. We are here to help and taking this very seriously. We’re not in The Winchester enjoying a cold pint waiting for it all to blow over. We’re in it.

We’d even be happy to offer just a second opinion, if you’re uncertain. Don’t worry, everyone and everything is uncertain right now.

So for us, as it should be for you, it’s (almost) business as usual, just with a bit of extra care.


BFBC ♥️ 

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