Uncertainty the greatest business challenge as coronavirus crisis deepens

As the Covid-19 outbreak accelerates, marketers are concerned about the uncertainty it brings, and how their teams and clients will react.

uncertaintyUncertainty around budgets, planning and events is seen as the biggest challenge for marketers as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the UK and around the globe.

In a survey of 887 UK brand marketers conducted by Marketing Week and sister title Econsultancy, uncertainty was cited as one of the top three challenges by 69% of respondents. Organising people and systems for remote work was seen as the second biggest challenge, cited by 45%, while 43% see maintaining strong communication with clients as a key area of concern.

The survey, which was conducted before the interventions yesterday by the UK government to shore up the economy, shows businesses already taking action in response to Covid-19.

Some 45% say their company has created a team specifically to deal with the implications and impacts of the outbreak, while 44% have changed employee policies in areas such as remote work, travel and bonuses.

A further 18% have changed marketing strategy, for example shifting messaging or rethinking discounting. Almost a fifth (17%) have changed customer policies, for example by waiving fees or updating terms, while 11% have changed vendor policies through extending timelines or payment terms.

Despite this actions, a majority of businesses are already feeling the impact. So far, 63% of marketers believe employee morale has taken a hit, while 45% report reduced productivity due to travel restrictions or new processes, and 39% have seen lowered demand for their services.

Looking longer-term

Looking ahead to the next two quarters, employee morale remains an area of concern for 69% of marketers, while productivity (68%), lowered demand (61%), new requirements for remote working (50%) and supply chain issues (46%) are also worries.

Of those expecting demand to suffer, 36% believe this hit could be more than 20%, while 16% expect it to be between 16% and 20%. A quarter (24%) have no ability to gauge.

How marketers can be more effective when remote working

The outbreak is also having an impact on marketers’ views of work. Some 56% said they would feel uncomfortable having to travel by public transport, while 21% said they would feel uncomfortable attending a meeting of 10 people. The vast majority would prefer not to attend either small or medium-sized conferences – although since this survey was conducted most have been cancelled or postponed.

Some 60% of marketers say they are more concerned about the economic impact than the outbreak itself (once again with the caveat that this survey took place last week), while 58% are more concerned about how people will react. At the time of answering, almost a third (31%) of marketers thought the country was not doing enough to fight the outbreak.

To help with the transition to remote working, Econsultancy is running a free webinar on how to effectively work remotely on 26 March.
To register for the event, click here.