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15 Ways COVID-19 is Changing Behaviour in Sri Lanka & How Brands Should Adapt

Social distancing has become the norm. According to experts, this trend will continue in the near-term and we will see social distancing widely adopted for at least 3 to 6 months and possibly longer.

The face of the world and the paradigms of business have shifted. The carpets have been pulled from beneath our feet and a new world has emerged in a very short time. Only the businesses that adapt will survive and a huge part of this will be in terms of marketing, digital in particular.

In this article we’ll look at some of the changes that have and are taking place, what the future could hold and how brands can adapt to the new marketing environment.



Boost for Digital


What is immediately clear is that digital channels have received a huge boost. Facebook, for example, is seeing massive surges in activity. The company has even described the surge in activity as “well beyond” the levels normally seen on New Year’s Eve.

Confined to their homes and with limited movement, people are spending more and more time online and using online platforms to connect with people even more than usual. Just to illustrate:

According to Social Media Today, Facebook’s messaging apps including WhatsApp and Messaging have experienced 50% increases in usage.

Video call volumes have surged 200% and the time spent on Facebook apps have increased by +70%overall.

TikTok saw an increase in engagement rates of 27% and over 112.9 million new app installs in February 2020.

Online gaming and streaming platforms also show massive increases in activity; Verizon USA reports a 75% increase in online gaming after the outbreak.

In Sri Lanka


Google trend analyses show that Netflix use is up; indicating that people are getting more comfortable with online streaming services.

There’s also increased interest in news sites, indicating that people are beginning to rely more on online news sources.


According to data from the service itself, use of Viber has spiked massively; with Sri Lanka’s Viber communities growing by a whopping 10-fold during March 2020.


All of these reports are reflective of the growing trend towards and reliance on digital technology for communication and entertainment.


Changing Consumer Behaviour


Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly across the world. We’re seeing sharp increases in spending for groceries, pharmaceuticals and other essentials. Massive increases in online shopping and demand for delivery services. Reduced spending on travel, dining out and entertainment. Overall, we’re seeing a massive disruption to spending patterns; purchasing power redistributions that brands must anticipate and try to claim for themselves through prudent marketing, innovation and repositioning.



Changes in Digital Ad Spends



The COVID-19 global pandemic is disrupting industries worldwide. As some industries face huge losses of business, many others are facing increased demand. This is affecting the usual levels of Ad Spends for these brands in various business categories.

Marketers should be aware of these rapidly changing trends so that they can adjust their strategies to meet the demand where it exists.




Impact on Digital Ads

The crisis is making it such that there has never been a better time to advertise online. Facebook and YouTube for example are fertile grounds for digital marketing as CPMs (Cost per 1000 Impressions) are low due to increased ad slots.

Increased usage also means that it is now much easier to reach a higher percentage of a narrow target group. Reach performance on ads is likely to be significantly higher than normal as a result of lower CPMs.

Also, because usage is significantly higher, many more ad slots are available when compared with normal conditions.

Possible Behavioural Changes in Sri Lanka Due to Social Distancing

1. Rise of the Remote Worker – Especially for white collar jobs and others where remote work is possible, this will be a strategy adopted at least until the recovery is complete and possibly even after that.

2. Digital Oldies – Older people will be forced and or incentivized to adopt digital tech.

3. Increased Digital Connectivity – People will be more connected digitally.

4. Increased Internet Data Consumption – As a result of increased online activity, increased internet data consumption is likely to occur.

5. Social Media Wins – In 2019, the average person spent 2.5 hours per day on social media. This may potentially increase to 4 hours or more in 2020.

6. Real Rise of e-Commerce – We’ll probably see more online shopping. E-commerce is not as big in Sri Lanka as it is in other countries. This crisis could be a catalyst for increased adoption.

7. Result Driven Vs. Visibility for Marketing – Brands will look to more result driven campaigns instead of just visibility; especially for digital media.

8. Online Business Boom – Online businesses will likely benefit from this crisis. Particularly services with home delivery and or providers of home delivery services.

9. Socially Distant Entertainment – With a lack of social events and travel, people will find ways to entertain themselves in relative isolation. A lot of this will be online.

10. Luxury in the Backseat – Luxury services and products may take a significant hit in 2020 as people reprioritize their lives and needs in the face of the crisis.

11. Family Time – People will likely spend more time with close relatives.

12. Rise of the Home Cook – People who couldn’t boil eggs a few weeks ago are now accomplished bakers and cooks. This trend of cooking at home will likely grow, negatively affecting restaurants and food service businesses.

13. Workout from Home – Home based physical fitness and exercise will see a huge boom.

14. Trying New Things Online – People will be much more willing to try new things online. They’ve got plenty of time and incentive now.

15. More Content Creation – With time on their hands and creativity’s increased potency in an atmosphere of boredom, we’re likely to see people focusing on creating new content.

Tips for Brands

Don’t Appear Opportunistic

– In a time of crisis, brands who may even appear to be opportunistic will receive a lot of hate.

Kindness & Inspiration – Advocate for your brand through acts of kindness or inspiration.

Build an e-Commerce Model – People are very receptive to e-commerce right now. It’s the ideal time to capitalize on this model.

Increase Spend on Digital Marketing – Everyone’s online now, more than ever. Your brand should be too.

Result Driven Marketing Campaigns – Visibility is less important now more than ever. Instead, it’s necessary to gain traction through result driven campaigns that can be measured.

Lower CPMs – Lower cost per impression at this time of high online activity, make it cheaper, easier and more effective to reach out.

Take on New Platforms – Social media is always evolving. Try out new platforms like TikTok, which is super-hot right now.

Curate Content in Keeping with Your Values – Make sure the content you curate is comforting, entertaining and in line with your brand values.

Keep Morale High – People are working from home and can easily become disengaged or suffer from low morale. So, it’s a great time to run internal campaigns targeted at your employees to reassure, comfort and motivate them whilst building admiration towards the brand.


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