With companies worldwide striving to return to “business as usual,” experts claim that marketing will be an essential part of recovery. But, as we know, the crisis has and continues to affect some industries far more than others. Businesses deemed “essential” are struggling to meet demand, while 65 percent of retailers have noticed a decrease in revenue since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, when is it appropriate to start marketing to customers again and what should the messaging be?
Considering that experts estimate China is roughly four weeks ahead of Europe and the rest of the world in terms of pandemic recovery, we can look at their business recovery rates and successful strategies for some guidance on what trends to expect and how this might inform our customer communication.
A predicted u-shaped recovery means there will likely be a lingering effect over the coming months before trade returns to normal. During this period, it will be important for businesses to communicate with customers and be mindful of the continuing levels of uncertainty felt by the population.
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To help, we’ve pulled together a few important points to consider when creating your customer communication strategy for getting back to business.
Assure customers of safety measures in place
If your business has a physical presence like a brick-and-mortar store, the first step in your communication strategy needs to be assuring customers that it is safe to return.
Research shows that while 54 percent of men surveyed said they would feel comfortable returning to shops, 58 percent of women said they would not. As such, it is vital to communicate in a clear and effective way the measures your business has taken to ensure a safe environment for customers, members and staff. For example, highlight any additional cleaning measures or capacity restrictions you’re enforcing.
Furthermore, as some businesses may require customers or members to follow new protocols to uphold safety guidelines, these need to be clearly communicated. For instance, a store may have arranged a new collection process for purchased goods or may need to maintain a reduced capacity on premises. By detailing these policies to customers, you can ensure guidelines are maintained and that individuals know what to expect when visiting.
Communicate your current offerings and any subsequent changes
For businesses to survive during the pandemic, many have gotten creative. The response has differed in each industry, but to highlight just a few examples, beauty businesses have run online consultations so they can recommend facial kits, bars have opened for take-away drinks and gyms have created online sessions.
Though each response is largely unique to the industry and business itself, businesses must communicate new offerings to consumers. For many businesses, it has made sense to start with limited products and services and then extend these when demand and operations permit.
This offers a great chance to engage with customers, as you can ask them which products and or services they’d like to see reintroduced and enables a softer way to start marketing to customers again.
Create an authentic buzz around reopening
Getting back to business with a bang is top of mind for many entrepreneurs, and to do this successfully, it’s important not just to communicate details of reopening, but to also get customers excited about it!
For this, it really pays to know your target audience. KFC UK recently launched its “we missed you too” campaign, which successfully created a buzz around the brand’s reopening. The tongue-in-cheek video starts by showcasing customer attempts to recreate KFC chicken dishes at home, some more successfully than others. It then goes on to reassure customers that they too have been missed and that KFC will take care of the chicken dishes from now on.
Given that this is a sensitive time, this slightly more fun approach to the campaign could have been very risky. However, following customer surveys, which reported that individuals were tired of sympathetic advertisements, the brand was confident that it would be positively received. So, when you’re planning your back to business strategy and drafting your communication plan, make sure you do so with your target audience in mind.
Consider which communication channels you are using
Hubspot recently reported that 44 percent more emails are currently being sent than before the pandemic began. Clearly businesses are keen to communicate with their customers, but given that many will find themselves in a more competitive situation, you need to ensure that your messages aren’t lost amongst the noise.
For this, your choice of communication channel is vital. While these channels will largely be guided by customer preferences, given the overwhelming number of emails and already relatively low open rates, it is worthwhile to consider SMS. Text messages benefit from an open rate of 95 percent, and the average user response time is just 90 seconds, meaning the reach and speed far surpasses that of other communication channels.
So, particularly when you first start communicating with customers post COVID-19, utilizing SMS could help ensure important messages are received and read, as opposed to being lost amongst a sea of other brand’s emails.
Don’t over communicate
This is one point that always bears repeating: though it is essential that you keep communicating with your customer base, a recent study reported that 51 percent of consumers felt brands were over-communicating with them during this time.
To avoid making customers feel overwhelmed, consider prioritizing content and audience segmentation, even more so than usual. By creating content specifically for different segments of your audience and sending only to those it will be most relevant to, you avoid individuals receiving information overload that will not add value.
Ultimately, your communication plan should support your business strategy and abide by the principles of right message, right channel, right time. After all, customer retention is key to business success.