Influencer Marketing in the Time of the Coronavirus

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The spread of COVID-19 will continue to profoundly shift consumers’ shopping behavior with long-term repercussions even as the virus’ spread diminishes. As this new normal of the Stay-Home economy emerges, Influencers are uniquely poised to capture consumer’s attention: from what to order and where to shop online, great pantry meals at home, entertaining and teaching kids out of school, how to dress in a time of economic austerity, saving money, and thousands of other emerging thoughts and anxieties in consumers’ minds.  More than ever, consumers will turn to social media for content, comfort, and creativity.

We’ll see a strong increase in online shopping and digital media consumption as consumers try to keep themselves and their kids fed, entertained, and educated in the confines of their homes. Plus, we’ll have millions of workers adjusting to remote work, often with the added distraction of circumstance they typically leave at the door each morning.  Increasing numbers will also face unemployment, both from the inability to do their job remotely, but also due to the lasting impact, these closures will have on businesses across the country. Whether at high risk or not from Covid-19, everyone will face major disruptions for an undetermined amount of time.

We’re now living in a time where it feels as if “Life is Cancelled.” People truly need and almost feel desperate for content to absorb that serves as a counterpoint of normalcy. Ask your family and friends, and you’ll see most raising their hands on that one! At a time like this strategy is more important than ever.

Many brands will be reluctant to spend on traditional or social media advertising, especially if supply chain issues delay or stop their products from getting to market. Keeping brand affinity strong with these consumers will be paramount. It is equally (possibly more) important to maintain the relationship with consumers as it is to see products fly off the virtual shelves.  Brands need to respect that in order for consumers to respect them.

Brands Want to Stay in the Conversation but not Be the Conversation

Brands do not want to go dark in the consumer conversation either but wrestle about how they can smartly weave themselves back in. That’s where influencers will play a huge role. That’s also where strategy, expertise and collaborative teams working with Influencers will really show value. Having a team or an ally in this landscape provides a sounding board that a singular person or system cannot duplicate.


Online shopping, as proven by Amazon’s dominance, remains incredibly convenient and will now emerge in consumer’s minds as essential. As Amazon hires 100,000 new employees to support their warehouses and deliver goods to consumers; and other food delivery services lower commissions, we’ll see the strong emergence of a gig delivery economy. Outside of an imposed curfew, we’ll see Uber and Lyft drivers recommissioned to deliver groceries, take-out food, and online orders. Amazon’s talk of drone deliveries suddenly becomes more than merely a sci-fi concept to the every-day consumer.

Influencers powerfully drive online sales and will prove a key component as brick and mortar stores and malls temporarily close for foot traffic during this social distancing period, as well as shutter their retail doors permanently.


Big chains like Walmart have been passionately focused on online grocery pick-up, and this will likely become more normative as consumers stay in their cars while grocery store workers load the goods previously purchased online. This will calm anxiety about exposure in the stores, as well as the ability to get perishables like produce, dairy, and fresh vegetables. Instacart has reported a ten-fold increase in sales, seeing numbers 20 times higher than average in states like California and Washington.

As restaurants close their doors to patron dining, we’ll see continued interest in take out. OpenTable has shared a 42% drop off on restaurant dining, and these are early days.

We’ve already seen a big trend over the past year for restaurants to create separate facilities dedicated to take-out only, and this will only accelerate this trend. Online delivery companies from UberEats to Grubhub have suspended their commission fees to help smaller restaurants out of bankruptcy. Out of increased social responsibility and solidarity, many people will get takeout and buy gift certificates to local restaurants to help keep them afloat.

Food and recipe bloggers have started to see a dramatic rise in traffic and engagements around their posts. This will only grow stronger as everyone cooks the majority of their meals.

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