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How Can D2C Brands Approach Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Andrew Dymski
Updated 04/02/20 6:58 PM

The shockwaves from the rise of COVID-19 are being felt by brands around the world. It has taken a toll on the physical, financial, and emotional health of shoppers on all corners of the globe. 

This global health crisis brings about very real questions for business leaders as they seek to navigate the shifting currents. 

The early data shows the shift in consumer behavior is having an overall positive financial impact on pure ecommerce brands. According to data provided by Emarsys and GoodData, Fashion and Accessories ecommerce spending is up 18% over 2019.


While things look good for now, the volatility caused by economic disruptions are harder to forecast. And the impact varies dramatically by industry and scale.

This prompts a few questions when it comes to doing marketing in this environment:

  1. How can D2C fashion & apparel brands approach marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. In what ways can they engage their audience without being tone deaf to the global crisis?
  3. How can they allocate their marketing spend when they don't know what the future holds? 

To help answer these questions we reached out to three agency experts and asked them to share the advice they're currently sharing with their D2C fashion & apparel clients.


Jayna Grassel, Director of Marketing @ Bounteous

In times of uncertainty, our first reaction as humans can be inaction. We pull back, internalize and wait to see events unfold. As brands determine how to react to today’s current events, inaction isn’t an option. This is especially true for purely ecommerce clients and those brands with retail locations and temporary store closures.

This past month, we’ve seen atypical, unprecedented consumer trends. Businesses are quickly shifting to respond to the ever-changing online and physical world.

Customer communications are imperative, sensitivity in marketing messaging is critical, and supply-chain questions have never been more top-of-mind. 

Our ecommerce clients have seen a healthy lift in sessions and nearly a doubling in conversion rates based on an influx of consumer demand.

The last few weeks in March have seen Black Friday/Cyber Monday levels; some clients saw their largest days in the past 2 years. It seems that people--for now--are looking to buy. 

A healthy marketing program should always contain a mix between new customer acquisition and customer retention. A more mature program may skew more towards new customer acquisition, and how customers discover and buy is vital for a brand to understand. 

A common acquisition channel is search. One of the more interesting trends we’ve seen related to search is the split between brand vs. non-brand traffic. When analyzing paid search campaigns for a large retail client, we saw a growth in branded searches, and a decline in non-branded terms.

This was also visible in the competitor campaigns we run for that client: customers have begun searching more for the top five most recognizable names in that space.


In times of uncertainty, people turn to brands they know and trust. Now is the time to deploy brand awareness campaigns that keep your brand top of mind for existing customers.

Our direction to our ecommerce clients has been three-fold:

1. Take advantage of this spike in demand and conversion rate while keeping in mind broader business considerations. Increased demand is only beneficial if your inventory and operations can support it.

For brands with well-developed supply chains and strong customer demand, this means pulling forward marketing budget from Q3 to fully fund campaigns.

Conversion rates are astronomically high, and while average-order-values are lower, the increase in sessions and conversion are generating notable, business-impacting revenue.

2. Re-evaluate and Realign Marketing Messages

Customers might not be purchasing a new dress for Easter, but we can let them know about cozy slippers and fuzzy socks that are perfect when working from home. Email subject lines, ad copy and Facebook creative should all be reviewed to ensure messaging is appropriate.

Our team just concepted and filmed a grass-roots Zoom campaign for a quick service food restaurant. Finding creative ways to relate to everyone’s new routines can yield big results for companies who are willing to adapt.

Focus on brand awareness campaigns.

In addition to sensitive promotional messaging, most marketing campaigns in the near future should be brand-forward. In a time of uncertainty and instability, people respond to trusted brands with proven quality and reliability.

Clicks on branded terms tend to be cheaper and have higher conversion rates. Fully funding branded campaigns across social media, paid search and display will help strengthen your brand. 

These are unusual, unprecedented times in our world. The same unique consumer behaviors have spilled over to marketing campaigns and online sales.

It’s our belief that retailers who quickly adapt and proactively address the market with concrete strategies rather than inaction will see profits and an increase in brand affinity in the weeks and months to come.

About Jayna

Jayna Grassel oversees marketing strategy for ecommerce clients at Bounteous. As a Director of Marketing at Bounteous, she works with Shopify Plus and other development teams to design short and long-term marketing strategies with a creative bend. Everything from apparel to beauty supplies to home organization. She prides herself on helping clients align their teams and projects to drive tangible results. She's a trainer at heart and speaks at local and national conferences in North America.

Michael Lisovetsky, Co-Founder @ JUICE

D2C fashion & apparel brands should be empathetic with their consumers and be fully aware of what they’re going through. If possible, coupons or discounts should be available as consumer spending may tighten as we enter deeper into this economic pause.


Otherwise, brands need to be careful to not come off as “exploiting” the crisis or be too specific in referencing it. In terms of ad spend, we’re seeing social usage skyrocket as people are spending more time at home and often being less productive at work.

At the same time, many marketing departments are cutting ad spend, leaving a glaring opportunity to purchase surplus inventory at steeply discounted prices.

For example, at JUICE, one D2C client has seen a 61% increase in sales and a 72% rise in purchase conversion value, while simultaneously seeing cost per purchase drop by nearly 30% over the past several weeks.

On the flip side, discretionary spending decreases during economic downturns, so while traffic becomes less expensive, conversion rates are likely to drop in many industries. Know your metrics and keep a close eye on both the cost of traffic and conversions.

For healthy businesses, the math often works in their favor to maintain or grow spend levels, and on a macro scale, that’s precisely the juice that our economy needs at this point in time.

About Michael

Michael Lisovetsky is a co-founder at JUICE, a growth agency helping deserving brands like Buzzfeed, Kenneth Cole, and Perfumania scale efficiently. He started his first company at the age of 14, received a finance degree from NYU Stern, and is the former Director of Growth at Common and former founder of Skylight. Contact JUICE for help maximizing your ROI across ecommerce and user acquisition campaigns.

Chris Gordon, Senior Email Marketing Manager @ Noticed

One of the aspects that makes the COVID-19 situation so difficult to assess is there is no way to predict how long we'll need to practice social distancing.


I have been recommending to clients to encourage purchases with the promise of a future gift card or discount code that is generous, but valued lower than your site's AOV.

This will not only help drive sales today but can help drive sales a week or two down the line when the gift card or discount code is redeemed. An expiration date can also be applied on the offer to drive urgency for the customer and provide future revenue for your brand throughout this time of uncertainty.

About Chris

Chris Gordon is a Senior Email Marketing Manager at Noticed. He has built successful email programs for over 25 ecommerce companies using a data-driven approach to strategy.


One thing is certain: inaction is not an option. Be conscious of the situation, being sure not to make light of the matter. Use the tools at your disposal to engage your customers at every point in the buying journey.

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