COVID-19 Digital Marketing Symptoms

Digital marketing in 2020 started off like pretty much any other year. However, in the early spring, things changed rapidly thanks to a global pandemic. Within a fairly short span of time, routines that were long-established with buying habits and patterns changed dramatically.

Things such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, and the need to spend more time at home or setting things up to work from home resulted in some Covid marketing trends and related shifts in digital marketing trends. Many of these changes will very much carry over to 2021.

Below, we put the focus on both the negative and positive aspects of coronavirus on the digital world by discussing Covid 19 digital marketing symptoms and trends.

Less Ad Spend (as a Not-so-Good Thing)

According to one survey of marketers, more than 40 percent of those questioned considered budget cuts to be a “top concern.” The big impact digital marketing-wise with budget cuts is having to prioritize marketing-related spending.

For many businesses, this has meant pulling budgets away from paid advertising, or PPC. What this actually does is make advertising platforms more aggressive. For instance, Google Ads and similar platforms are being more aggressive with search engine result pages. What this does is change the landscape considerably for organic results.

This can be a challenge for smaller businesses, in particular, since they tend to rely more on organic results rather than paid campaigns.

Less Focus on Target Audiences

Diminished engagement is still a concern among marketers in a post-Covid world. However, results from the same survey mentioned above more than 60 percent of those surveyed didn’t consider changing their target audience as a challenge. In fact, just 1% considered it a top concern.

Some Marketing Tactics Have Taken a Hit

Not surprisingly, marketers reported big increases with remote or digitally accessible forms of engagement since the pandemic became a widespread issue. Specifically, increases were seen with digital efforts involving:

  • Webinars
  • Organic social media
  • Online videos

…and Some Haven’t

On the other hand, marketers reported big decreases with event or experimental marketing, out of home marketing efforts, and television-related marketing. Paid social, however, was kind of in the middle. There were both spending decreases and increases reported by the marketers surveyed.

But Budget Is Still a Top Concern

Overall, however, more than 70 percent of the marketers questioned said budget concerns were the top reason for cutting back on investments involving digital marketing. But there are some positive Covid marketing trends to consider as well.

Less Ad Spend (as a Good Thing)

Less ad spend isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. Because of a drop in ad spending, for instance, businesses now have the opportunity to focus more on long-term strategies – but through organic marketing efforts.

A big reason for this shift in digital marketing trends related to Covid is because long-term strategies typically work well. Plus, they often payoff well with results that are harder to get with short-term tactics. What’s more, trying to adjust ad spend on volatile market conditions is riskier for businesses already dealing with tight budgets and decreased revenue from traditional interactions.

More Competition Online

More online activity may seem like a good thing – and in some cases it can be. However, a boost in online activity also means more competition for the same online searchers. This can be a problem for smaller businesses not adept at establishing a stronger online presence.

Additionally, many smaller businesses are not finding themselves competing with bigger brands going after the same target audience. While it is entirely possible to compete with the “big boys” online in a cost-effective way, not all small businesses know how to quickly make this adjustment.

On the plus side, a boost in online competition can provide an added incentive for businesses looking to be more competitive online through:

  • Social media engagement
  • How user-friendly a business website really is
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) efforts
  • How existing customers are already interacting with a particular business online

Industry-Specific Trends

The impact of Covid on digital marketing can be further broken down by industry. For instance, internet providers saw a huge surge in sales due to more people working from home or setting things up for home-based education.

On the negative side, auto sales dropped since people aren’t regularly commuting to work as much or going on long trips. The restaurant industry has certainly been hit hard, although some local eateries and larger chains had survived by shifting more attention to delivery services or pick-up.

Online ordering has also increased significantly. While Amazon has certainly reaped the rewards of more online ordering, smaller businesses have been making inroads with such efforts as well.


The biggest busts in terms of sales and revenue generation for 2020 by industry included:

Brick-and-Mortar Retail Sales

Not every business, especially smaller ones, can quickly transition from in-person engagement to online-based sales. The nation’s in-person stores saw a drop in sales that exceeded $200 billion in 2020.

Auto Retail Sales

As discussed briefly above, fewer people are buying cars because of Covid-related lifestyle changes. Auto sales dipped by more than $100 billion in 2020.

Digital Travel Sites

Consumers aren’t booking trips like they used to because of travel restrictions and other Covid-related limitations. As a result, the digital travel industry also lost more than $100 billion in revenue in 2020.

Apparel Sales

This is a kind of mixed bag when it comes to the Covid-related impact. E-commerce apparel sales actually remained fairly strong in 2020. Even so, most people tend to prefer to buy their clothes in person – and that’s where the biggest decline was. So, overall apparel sales took a hit when factoring in both e-commerce sites and traditional clothing retailers.


As mentioned above, some industries actually benefited from a shift in buying habits and digital marketing engagement in a post-pandemic world. Industries that did well in 2020 include:

E-commerce (Consumer Electronics)

More people staying at home meant more of a need for various devices and other electronics to help with home-based work, learning, and play. For this reason, the e-commerce businesses specializing in consumer electronics enjoyed nearly $30 billion more in sales in 2020 than what was originally predicted or anticipated.

Home Improvement

Staying at home more has inspired many people to focus more on improving their living spaces. Since a lot of the big box furniture stores were closed in 2020, more home improvement planners went online in search of new furniture and other things to update and improve their homes. In 2020, this meant an uptick of more than $15 billion for the home improvement industry.

Healthcare/Beauty (E-Commerce)

People also loaded up on healthcare and beauty products due to Covid-related changes in purchasing and daily life habits in 2020. However, they primarily did so by making such purchases online. The result was a nearly $15 billion boost in online sales of this nature in 2020.

Food/Beverage (E-Commerce)

Yes, the food and beverage industry as a whole did take a big hit in 2020 because of coronavirus. But food and beverage sales in the e-commerce world saw a huge spike because of more people ordering edible and drinkable things online. In fact, the e-commerce food/beverage industry saw a boost in sales of just over 40 percent in 2020.

Buy Online, Pick Up in Person

Also referred to as click-and-collect, buy online, pick up in person became a growing trend in 2020. This was a way for some brick-and-mortar stores to remain above water by allowing customers to conveniently order online. Walmart is one of those leading retailers doing this on a national scale.

Get the Guidance You Need

If changes with digital marketing 2020 are still leaving you struggling to find a happy medium between online engagement and budget management, I’m here to help.

Check out this great covid marketing impact infographic