By Ginny Marvin
Here we are at the beginning of May. Many businesses still can’t resock inventory, but the initial jolts to supply chains and fulfillment systems have somewhat subsided. The mortality rate attributed to COVID-19 declined in the U.S. last week, “but remains significantly elevated.” Roughly half of small businesses said they could survive just two months in late March, and the gradual reopenings by states are now “a source of uncertainty rather than confidence,” for many of them. Overall, business confidence in the U.S. plummeted 17 points in April.
The jobless rates are staggering, but U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up slightly for the second week in a row at the end of April. Yet, those consumers are nearly evenly split on how they envision economic recovery. There are the 47% who see the U.S. economy rebounding as restrictions are lifted. While among the 49% of consumers who don’t expect a quick economic recovery, sentiment is near the lowest in the 18 years.
Mix in consumer stimulus checks and the Paycheck Protection Program, and it’s even hard to find the signal through the noise. As with so much of this crisis, the business impact of COVID-19 is situational. It has gravely impacted some while other businesses have never experienced current levels of demand. That said, from an advertising standpoint, there appears to have been a sentiment shift over the past week — or even few days — with many advertisers starting to spend again.
Leading indicators. For example, with the travel industry among the hardest hit, it’s notable that several online travel agencies (OTAs) have resumed paid search advertising, as Conrad O’Connell of BuildUpBookings. a digital marketing agency focused on travel and accommodations, noticed this week.
Trivago and Booking Holdings’ Priceline and Booking.com are running paid search campaigns. Trip Advisor, AppleVacations, Omni Hotels, Norweigan Cruise Lines, Sandals Resorts are among the other travel businesses currently running ads on Google and Bing.
“For long term planning, cruises, vacations, conference centers, etc, we’re seeing some of them come back,” said Brad Geddes of ad testing platform AdAlysis said by email yesterday. He noted the OTAs and larger companies seem to be back more than the boutique businesses. For short term travel such as flights and hotels, Geddes said it appears several are also back advertising, “but we don’t have enough data to understand how they are bidding yet and if these are limited campaigns/budgets or some companies trying to advertise through the virus in preparation for a return to normality later this year.”
What’s motivating these businesses to turn the marketing spigot back on is unclear. There is little indication of shifts in search behaviors trending in their favor, though searches for “vacation” began trending up slightly in the last week, according to Google Trends. But they may be seeing more granular improvements and signs of interest. (Booking Holdings and Expedia Group will each report their first quarter 2020 financial results on May 7.)
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