Since February, marketers increased their social media and mobile spend by 74 percent and 70 percent, respectively, according to a new special COVID-19 edition CMO Survey from Deloitte, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association (AMA).

The results indicate consumers are now more receptive to digital experiences but are also more deliberate in their purchasing. As for marketers, optimism about their company and the overall economy has plummeted to near 2008 recession levels while marketing budgets account for the highest percentage of firms’ overall budgets and revenues in CMO Survey history.

As consumers increasingly shop and socialize online during lockdowns, 84 percent of marketers say customers are showing an increased openness to new digital offerings, a newfound value they believe will remain high post-pandemic.

Social media budgets jumped from 12.3 percent to 23.2 percent of total marketing spend, leading to a 24 percent in brand performance since February and marking a record first lift. However, performance remained unchanged by increased investment in mobile.

Brands have primarily used social media during the pandemic for brand awareness, retaining current customers, acquiring new customers and running brand promotions. Additionally, 7.5 percent of marketing budgets involve the use of influencers, with the number expected to reach 12.7 percent in three years.

While the number of Americans seeking jobless aid balloons, 67.2 percent of marketers have observed a lower likelihood to buy and 43.3 percent have observed an unwillingness to pay full price. Nevertheless, they’re optimistic that consumer behavior will return to normal in six to 12 months. 

About 20 percent of brands believe consumers’ highest priority will be trusting relationships, up from 19.9 percent in February 2009.

Brand building and retaining customers have been two areas of focus for marketers, at 33 percent and 32.6 percent, respectively. Over half (60.8 percent) say they’ve shifted resources to building better digital customer experiences, 56.2 percent say they’ve transformed their go-to market business models and 41.9 percent are working to expand into new products and services.

While a global push for racial equity persists, 79 percent of marketers say consumers are taking greater note of companies’ attempts to “do good.” Yet just 18.9 percent of respondents deem taking a stance on politically charged issues as appropriate, citing benefits such as standing out, showing that their company cares and attracting new customers.

Respondents report a major loss of sales revenue, products and customer acquisition. For example, nearly 17 percent of marketers have lost over 50 percent of their revenue, with sales revenue dipping 17.8 percent. Compared to 64 percent of marketers who report sales losses, 30.3 percent have reported gains and 5.2 percent have reported no change.

Ramifications also include losses in profits and new customers, with 14.4 percent reporting a loss of more than 50 percent of profits and 11 percent reporting a loss of more than 50 percent of customer acquisition. Brands expect the aforementioned to rebound in 2021, anticipating a 7.1 percent growth in customer acquisition, a 4.2 percent rise in revenues and a 2.6 percent increase in profits.

Despite these disruptions, marketing budgets remain critical as the data show they have increased to the highest percentage of firms’ overall budgets and revenues in the survey’s history, at 12.6 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. Comparatively, nearly half of digital marketing budgets remain unchanged.

The job market for advertisers has also taken a hit, resulting in a nine percent loss of marketing jobs, with 24 percent of marketers expecting those jobs to never return.

The results are based on a survey conducted among nearly 300 marketers at for-profit US companies, between May 5 and 27.