With now-daily upheavals to the status quo, right now it’s anybody’s guess exactly when COVID-19 will subside and business operations will begin returning to normal. However, research indicates there are three prevailing trends that speak to the current state of the HVAC landscape and which may remain relevant in the aftermath of COVID-19:
Trend #1: Emerging Digital Opportunities from Increased Screen Time, Advertiser Pull-backs and Decreased Competition
Millions of Americans are currently stuck at home following the outbreak and government mandates to self-isolate. This all but guarantees that mobile device screen time will increase considerably.
At the same time, a fair number of brands are slashing ad budgets, and as some HVAC contractors shutter their doors to wait out the storm, there will be less overall competition in many markets. This creates some unique digital opportunities for contractors who are looking to build as much business as possible during this time of uncertainty:
- Generally speaking, increased screen time translates to more opportunities to get eyeballs on your brand’s message and offers. This is particularly true on platforms like Facebook and Instagram; users were already spending around 33% of their mobile device time engaging with the platform prior to the crisis. These platforms are ideal for building up the mental market share among your potential customers.
- Advertiser pullbacks mean that the cost per result for digital advertising campaigns potentially will be much lower. Subsequently, ads will get more views and engagement for the same level of investment.
- A decrease in competitors also means that paid search and Google Local Services Ads (GLSA) are likely to yield more phone calls and leads at a lower cost per lead for your brand.
For contractors operating both in the country at large and in locked-down areas where HVAC has been classified as an “essential service,” the opportunities are considerable. COVID-19’s effect on the digital advertising ecosystem potentially means a lower cost per lead, higher conversion rates, and increased leads.
Trend #2: HVAC Brands Need to Address Myriad Consumer Fears & Health Concerns while Keeping Personnel Safe
Given the current climate surrounding the outbreak, there will be several consumer fears related to public health, the economy, and other related issues:
- Bringing the virus into a home via contact with shared surfaces or infected individuals;
- Having an infected HVAC technician or other home services professional enter the consumer’s residence, potentially spreading the virus to the consumer and family members;
- Being confined to a residence in a designated stay-at-home area with an underperforming or broken AC system just as spring temperatures begin to rise;
- Fears of the economy, widespread unemployment and future financial well-being and the crisis progresses.
Contractors who are able to effectively address these concerns while also protecting their own workers will have a distinct advantage versus nearby competitors. ACHRNEWS and ServiceTitan both recently published extensive guides (ACHRNEWs guide and ServiceTitan guide) that outline various operational adjustments HVAC brands can take to tackle concerns head-on while taking precautions to keep their own personnel safe. These include:
- Beginning each day with a temperature check of your technicians using a “non-contact head thermometer.”
- Calling customers ahead of time to verify whether the home is COVID-19 free and to discuss safety procedures that are in place to protect the consumer.
- Having a defined plan of action for residences where the homeowner is infected with COVID-19.
- Requiring technicians to wear booties, protective glasses, gloves and masks. To underscore the value of these preventive measures to the consumer, ACHRNEWS recommends that technicians “arrive without the mask and then tell the customer that you’ll be wearing a mask as a precaution for their benefit.”
- Washing hands regularly, maintaining proper social distance, and properly disposing of all protective gear.
- Knowledgeably discussing whole home IAQ equipment, including filtration systems, UV lights, and ventilation. Have collateral prepared for kitchen table conversations.
- Creating and promoting “safety videos” to highlight safety and hygiene precautions.
- Utilizing pre-recorded or live video introductions between the technician and the homeowner.
- Implementing contact-free signatures and no-contact payments, either by processing estimates and payments online or via phone.
- Engaging in deep-cleaning workspace and vehicle sanitization practices, including what ServiceTitan characterizes as “creative usage” of anti-microbial foggers and UV lights.
Once these measures have been established, consumer-facing messaging and brand positioning will be key for achieving awareness and overcoming objections. Emphasizing value, highlighting consumer savings, and having compelling offers will be essential for addressing economic concerns and general consumer uncertainty.
Trend #3: Re-evaluating Ad Creative and Pivoting Messaging
COVID-19 has deeply disrupted the fabric of American life. With “social distancing,” restrictions on public events and gatherings, and the closure of many businesses—the virus has fundamentally altered every aspect of how consumers socialize with one another and approach the world at large.
Subsequently, HVAC brands will need to re-evaluate their ad creative and messaging. Concepts that resonated with consumers prior to the outbreak now may carry different meanings thanks to the radical change in context. Here are a few things to keep in mind when re-evaluating your ad creative and messaging:
- Avoid images depicting large groups of people or people congregating in public spaces like coffee houses or restaurants.
- Images of technicians shaking hands or standing close to a homeowner should similarly be avoided.
- If your company has doubled down on the aforementioned no-contact transactions, be mindful of images that would contradict this, such as imagery of technicians holding out tablets or clipboards for customers to sign.
- Humorous, irreverent or overly lighthearted messaging should generally be avoided; for the short term, at least, the consumer mood is somber and fearful. Strive to reassure and establish trust with customers instead.
- With increased consumer sensitivity surrounding the economy, financing offers are a strong play. ServiceTitan advises dealers to “offer financing on everything. We are not currently seeing a drop in financing approval rates.”
At the end of the day, with summer looming on the horizon, a dealer’s core priorities are to inform the public that they’re servicing customers and taking every precaution to keep them safe.
Eddie Childs is the Inbound Marketing Manager for Mediagistic. His writing has been published by a range of websites and publications including Copypress.com, Jambase.com, NFLSoup.com, FootballNation.com, and Boating World, KnowAtlanta, Men’s Book, Cobb in Focus, TCL, Blush, Charged Electric Vehicles, Business to Business, and Catalyst magazines. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on Linkedin.
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