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How to Communicate with Customers During The Coronavirus Crisis

Ann Pichestapong
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April 10, 2020
E-Commerce Operations
Operaciones de e-commerce

There’s no denying that the current global COVID-19 crisis is having a ripple and devastating effect one very business around the world. While your online sales may have dropped, we believe the effect is only temporary. As customers are spending more time at home on their devices, they will switch from buying exclusively essentials (groceries, medicine, personal items) to non-essentials soon.  

During this challenging time, it’s the communication that you send to your customers that will have a lasting impact after the crisis.

 At DataCue, we believe your brand strength is built on the customer experience that your visitors receive through different touch points. During this time, it’s prudent to revise your communication strategy so that every message you send your customers is full of understanding, respect and engages them in a dialogue.  

it’s the communication that you send to your customers that will have a lasting impact after the crisis.

During this challenging time, it’s the communication that you send to your customers that will have a lasting impact after the crisis.

The elephant in the room

As more and more customers are at home under increasingly strict guidelines from their government, it’s obvious that the C-word is on top of their mind. It would be wise to address this head-on.Your customers will have concerns about how your brand is adapting to this crisis. They’d be wondering if you are still able to fulfil orders or how this might affect their purchases.

If you are scaling back on deliveries, you should let them know. Make it clear if they would be impacted by the ongoing crisis – if at all.  

Pura Vida has made it clear that they have their customers in mind in the middle of this crisis with a clear message on the homepage.

PuraVida's message on the homepage that they are standing strong with their customers

Once you click on the banner, this takes you to a FAQ page where they outline some of the most common questions their customers have.

 

PuraVida's FAQ page is nice but would have been great if they communicated about the delay on the homepage

It would have been a nice touch if there was a clear message on the homepage about the delivery. If there’s no delay expected, this should be communicated front and center so the visitors are not kept wondering.

Make it clear if they would be impacted by the ongoing crisis – if at all.  

For instance, Tony Bianco has made it clear on their homepage that they are expecting delays.

 

Tony Bianco's clear message on the homepage about expected delays due to the crisis

Refrain from targeting new customers

It may seem untimely if you try to target new customers during this uncertain time especially if your business is based on non-essentials. Not only will ads reduce your brand perception among customers, the ROI will also be small as customers are becoming more conservative with their spending.

Therefore, your current marketing strategy should focus on existing customers or visitors who have visited your website. These customers have expressed interest in your products and are therefore less likely to perceive your brand negatively if they receive communications from you during this time.

For existing customers, you can engage them with content that your customers can better relate to. If you are selling home deco, can you run an article on how to set up a home office? Or how to keep children entertained at home? If you run a kitchenware store, can you publish new content on recipes on a budget? What about tips to stretch groceries over more meals and avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket? For clothing stores, interesting content could be comfortable clothes for a work-from-home setting.

The possibilities are endless and the key is to empathise the situation your customers are in and adapt your messaging to be more relevant.

 

Skinny dip's latest blog posts focus on quarantines and important updates regarding COVID-19

If you are selling essentials like food, vitamins, supplements and medicine that people need on a regular basis, business is likely going to be booming. However you shouldn’t be perceived as taking advantage of the situation at hand by overly promoting your brand. Your messaging must sound respectful to what’s happening in the world.

You shouldn’t be perceived as taking advantage of the situation at hand by overly promoting your brand.

Feed, a snack bar brand, could improve the tone in their ads during the crisis. Instead of focusing on the convenience of replacing a meal with a snack bar, they should talk about the product’s nutritional value or that it’s great as a snack for kids.

As customers are spending more and more time at home under quarantine, they now have plenty of time on their hands to cook and enjoy a meal. Therefore, convenience can be perceived as insensitive in this situation.

Feed. should focus their brand messaging on nutritional value or other benefits more appropriate to the global situation

The bottom line is brands need to reevaluate their content strategy and make sure that their current and future communications are honest, respectful and relevant to the global situation.

 

Show that you care

One of the most frequently asked questions related to the pandemic is if the packages and items can transmit the virus. You should talk about the measures you are taking to address this. This is especially true if touching and handling your products could raise questions around hygiene and sanitisation.

There are multiple ways to show your customers that you care about the situation:

Be empathetic

There has never been a better opportunity if you are in a position to help and give back to the community.The impression your customers have of your brand will have a lasting impact beyond the crisis. Here are a few different ways to do that:

Social distancing

While it’s unarguably a difficult decision, it’s important for brands to close down their physical stores and encourage staff to work from home. Tell your customers the measures you have taken to protect your employees. This tells your customers that you care about the ongoing crisis, you respect the wellbeing of your staff and you are doing your part to encourage social distancing.

Colourpop lets their customers know that they have had to suspend physical stores and distribution centers in response to the crisis

Give back

Position your branding as a business that is giving back to the community in this trying time.

 

All birds is offering a free pair of shoes to all healthcare professionals

Use humour

If your brand messaging is of the funny and bright tone, you shouldn’t stop during the pandemic. Humour is a good way to distract people from the tough time they are in. It’s going to make amore positive impression on your customers as well.

 

Humour is a good way to distract people from the tough time they are in.

Be human

Rather than receiving another automated email, your customers will want to see the face behind the brand and how your business is responding to this crisis. It’s important as a business owner to send a personal message to your customers about the measures you are taking during this crisis. It’s a display of empathy and humility.

Ask for help if needed

There’s nothing more precious to business owners than a healthy cashflow at the moment. If your business is experiencing delays and you foresee issues relating to fulfilment, you can offer vouchers or gift cards to keep the business running.There’s a lot of demand to support local and SMEs. Shopify, for instance, has enabled a free gift card feature.

 

Since the situation is very volatile and changes every minute, it can be hard to plan your marketing campaigns and communications. What works is to ask your audience directly what resonates with them during this time. This starts a conversation with your customers. If you are planning to launch a new collection, check if it’s OK to post photos on social media or it’s better to cool it off for a while. Your customers will appreciate it.  

 

The team at Ref asks their customers if it's alright to be updating them about new launches
Be respectful, understanding and appreciate the situation your customers are going through.

Conclusion

While there’s no certain guideline on how brands should respond and communicate with their customers during the crisis, it’s important to keep in mind that you have to be true to your brand positioning. Be respectful, understanding and appreciate the situation your customers are going through.

At DataCue, we have been interviewing a number of merchants and how they are responding to this pandemic. As John Moss, CEO of English Blinds, has rightly pointed out“Finally, remember, the impression that you give now when things are uncertain for everyone can mean a customer retained or a customer lost in the long term when things begin to return to normal.”

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

 

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About the author

Ann is the co-founder and CEO of DataCue. Her unique background as a data scientist and an ex-management consulting helps her use sophisticated technology to solve real business problems. Her passion is to open up the power of personalization from only big tech companies to everyone.

Sobre el autor

Ann es co-fundadora y CEO de DataCue. Su experiencia única como cientista de datos y consultora la llevado a usar tecnología sofisticada para resolver problemas de negocio reales. Su misión es extender la poderosa herramienta de la personalización, hoy relegado a grandes compañías, para todas las empresas del mercado.

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