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Interview: Online Marketing in Times of Crisis

How does the corona crisis affect online advertising and online trade? That’s what we asked our HSBA professor and vice president research and international affairs, Prof. Dr. Goetz Greve and our HSBA professor, Prof. Dr. Dennis Ahrholdt

How does the corona crisis affect online advertising and online trade?

Prof. Dr. Greve: The online advertising and online trade markets are clearly among the winners of the crisis. The consequences of social distancing, due to COVID-19, will continue to drive the trend towards more online and mobile commerce. The online advertising market currently seems to be in a state of upheaval, with Google and Facebook recording significantly fewer advertising space bookings. This can be explained on the one hand by the fact that people are currently not very receptive to a whole range of products and services, such as travel. On the other hand, companies are forced to reduce their spending and therefore prioritise their marketing actions.

Prof. Dr. Ahrholdt: People were and still are more or less forced to use online commerce because of the crisis. Among these are many who were quite unsure about online trade before and who have now become regular users, probably because of their good experiences.

Are there any industries that benefit currently more than others? Is it just food now that is bought online or is there an increased demand for other products as well?

Prof. Dr. Greve: There are many products that are now increasingly bought online. There has been a huge increase in demand. In addition to delivery services for food such as lieferando, there are many restaurants that now offer take-away or delivery services. But clearly the largest beneficiaries are the large platforms such as Amazon or Otto. Also, many online marketplace operators offer newcomer discounts to retailers who become active on their platforms. Other winners are online streaming services such as Netflix or Disney+.

Prof. Dr. Ahrholdt: Currently there is a lot of mentioning of services or products that are necessary to keep society and industry going. We should be careful- and I think that the Anti- Monopoly- Office is aware of this too- that the big online trading portals are not becoming too large and too important for a functioning society themselves and will gain too much market power in the long term. One indication of this is, for example, a French court ruling that Amazon had to limit itself to the delivery of food, hygiene and medical products.

How can companies draw more attention to themselves during this time? Where and how should their advertising be placed these days?

Prof. Dr. Greve: Classic marketing will continue to lose importance during and after Corona. Companies have already realised that offline advertising campaigns with a very long planning run-up are no longer justifiable. Quick reaction time and adaptability is the key to success - and that's what online marketing offers.

Are there any online marketing channels that companies should be focusing on now (SEM, display, email marketing)?

Prof. Dr. Greve: In addition to the channels already tried and tested, companies continue to test out new formats in order to keep customer contact. Live streams, podcasts, webinars and virtual reality experiences offer opportunity for interaction.

Prof. Dr. Ahrholdt: Personally, I am a fan of search engine marketing and surveys. Online marketers see great potential in these methods, as well as in social media marketing. Especially in the field of search engine marketing, one should think in future more like "voice" and "picture" than “text” because searches these days are increasingly more often spoken and not written. They are therefore available in natural syntax; unlike abbreviated texts entered via a keyboard. In my opinion, there is even more potential in using pictures to search for products and information. There is so much in the world that cannot be described with one specific word or text. If you want to know more about the façade or the construction of our SQUARE HSBA Innovation Hub in Hamburg’s city centre, how exactly would you describe it?

What is the long-term perspective? Will the market return to the way it was before the crisis or is there a long-term shift towards online trading, and what should companies do to prepare for the future?

Prof. Dr. Greve: No, marketing will not be the same after Corona as it was before Corona. Advertisers will re-think their marketing strategy. I assume that the trend towards more online advertising will continue. Mobile commerce will become dominant. In addition, data-driven and technology-supported marketing will continue to increase. Together with my colleagues Dennis Ahrholdt and Gregor Hopf we have published a book called "Online-Marketing-Intelligence" which provides an overview of the most common online marketing instruments based on scientific findings. Based on these it makes recommendations for the effective usage of these instruments.

Prof. Dr. Ahrholdt: Exactly, this book can indeed be very helpful to successfully counteract the strong budget shift into the online sector of marketers and consumers.

Prof. Greve & Prof. Ahrholdt
Publikation, Online Marketing, Prof. Dr. Goetz Greve

Prof. Dr. Goetz Greve has been Professor for General Business Administration Theory, in particular Marketing and Sales since 2007, as well as Vice-President for Research & Internationality since 2012.

Professor Greve studied business administration at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel and completed his doctorate at the Department of Innovation, New Media and Marketing of Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Sönke Albers. Before joining HSBA, he worked as a consultant at the business consultancy firms Accenture and OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Professor Greve’s research interests include customer relationship management, sales management and online marketing. Professor Greve has published three books on these topics as well as numerous articles in international journals such as the International Journal of Research in Marketing and the Marketing Review St. Gallen. Professor Greve also acts as an expert consultant for scientific journals, has been a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Marketing Studies since 2011 and of the International Journal of Internet Advertising and Marketing since 2013. Since 2018, Prof. Greve has been involved in the Charter Digital Networking on social topics of digitization in Germany.


Prof. Dr. Dennis Ahrholdt has been Professor of Digital Marketing & eBusiness at HSBA since April 2013. He studied business administration at the University of Hamburg and the University of Technology Lappeenranta in Finland.

After various positions in industry and setting up an online retail company, he completed his doctoral studies in 2009 with summa cum laude at the Institute for Operations Research at the University of Hamburg. Most recently, he worked there as a research associate and post-doc student. His dissertation on the topic "Success factors of an e-commerce website" won several awards including the prize for the best dissertation in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Hamburg and the BÜROPA PRIZE 2011 from the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, a foundation that promotes research into trade.

Professor Ahrholdt is a Visiting Fellow and Doctor of Business Administration Dissertation Supervisor at the University of Newcastle, Australia, as well as an expert appraiser for the European Journal of Operational Research. His research interests focus on the topics of eBusiness and Service Management.