The COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the globe in late 2019 and recently reached the U.S. in dramatic fashion. The highly contagious virus can lay dormant in individuals for up to two weeks without showing symptoms and can live on surfaces for up to three days, making it easy to contract and spread unknowingly. 

This has led to more than 69,000 deaths and 1.27 million cases worldwide as of this writing, and experts expect the numbers to grow drastically in the coming weeks. While medical professionals work tirelessly to find a vaccine, many countries, states and cities have implemented ordinances requiring residents to stay home and have advised them to stay at least six feet away from one another. Additionally, businesses not deemed essential to the public have been forced to close their doors. Many brick and mortar stores have taken a massive hit or been forced to shut down for good. The impacts of this virus are not only hitting smaller, local businesses but larger corporations and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands as well. 

Over recent weeks, DTC brands have been working within these new restrictions and doing their best to stay afloat. Some of the most well-known names have closed the doors of their brick and mortar stores around the globe. Glossier, Outdoor Voices and Warby Parker are among some of the first with even larger brands like Apple and Nike following suit. While some DTC brands have been struggling since before the COVID-19 outbreak, the new frugal buying habits of consumers have made things even more dire. 

As a result of COVID-19, many Americans have lost their jobs and people are less inclined to spend money on non-essential items. This has led to unfamiliar hurdles for companies. The cost of Facebook advertising has jumped since the outbreak and many DTC brands, especially smaller businesses, that experienced success with the social platform are struggling. Experts at Business Insider report that many of these brands plan on cutting advertising by 80% because sales are dipping and they don’t want to risk their messaging falling flat. With a reduction in buying, there is also a lack of data that startups rely on to help strategize and create future projections. If a DTC brand only uses one warehouse or shipping facility that potentially shuts down due to COVID-19, all business could be halted. Over the coming weeks all companies are facing the same question, where to go from here? 

With a majority of the U.S. population stuck at home, people have been consuming digital media at an exponential rate. Luckily, many DTC brands already have a leg up because their marketing strategies are web-native, making it easier for them to maintain a digital presence. If brands can capitalize on this trend and continue to advertise on the right platforms, they could see a short term boost while increasing brand awareness and recall. According to Business Insider, some DTC brands are even doubling down on the amount of content they are pushing out, moving from direct-to-consumer to “direct-to-community”. In addition to digital-focused solutions, businesses need to assess their current strategies for relevance. According to AdExchanger, they should start monitoring metrics to see how things are changing day to day and ranking media investments for efficiency, reach and flexibility. They must also make sure the creative is still relevant to the changing views and circumstances of customers. If not, it’s imperative to strategize and find adaptable creative solutions immediately. 

If struggling DTC brands plan for change, they can readily adapt. Agility is key in this new, unprecedented market and the businesses that proactively and strategically prepare will come out on top. In the words of Abraham Lincoln at a time of great adversity, “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.” COVID-19 is no doubt a calamity for the people around the world and a setback for businesses. However, in many ways, it can also be an opportunity for the latter to employ innovative solutions that set them up for success.