Retailers and brands all over the world are facing difficult times due to the economic impact of COVID-19.While creating or optimizing your e-Commerce infrastructure typically isn’t the first thing that comes to mind during a global pandemic, occurrences like this will impact your sales and revenue targets. Whether or not your brand has prepared for a recession, loyalty has your back.
This time has emphasized the need to increase online adoption and profitability while properly leveraging loyalty strategies to keep customers engaged. The good news: consumers are already comfortable online — and those that weren’t will be in no time. Adoption of first-time online shoppers has increased 300% in the last three months, and our data shows that average daily sales online are up 25% compared to before COVID in the retail sectors, with durable goods like homeware, office supplies and furniture far outpacing other sectors with a 119% increase.
Optimize Your Current Digital Experience
Although the U.S.is thought of as being behind in consumer adoption of digital engagement compared to countries like China, Singapore, etc., this is an opportunity to create new lasting habits for your customers. If you’re driving customers to your digital channels, make sure they’re updated and optimized to reflect your brand AND the current situation. Make sure your web site is easy to use with quick checkout options, offers easy-to-navigate functionality and, most importantly, is mobile responsive. Ensure all of your digital channels offer a seamless experience and are aligned with your messaging, goals, objectives and branding across each channel and device.
Look To Other Channels
It is time to move away from just using your web site to drive engagement and sales. Use updated email campaigns, new social channels like TikTok, YouTube or Instagram, direct mail initiatives — whatever makes the most sense for your goals and business strategy. Use this time to create a stronger community online by offering perks such as first-access-type online events, virtual stylists or online appointment bookings. Get your employees involved too; maybe even offer an internal competition where sales associates can drive online business through their personal channels. And lastly, look into partnerships. Everyone is seeking innovative and creative ways to do business, so think outside of your normal channels.
Treat Your Best Customers Differently
They are loyal to you for a reason. Now is a critical time in a customer’s buying decision, when they’ll remember that you were there for them during a time of need or an emotional moment in their lives. Even in a crisis-type situation, it will still hold true that 80% of your revenue will come from the top 20% of your customers (and your top 10% will buy 3X more than your average customer will). We live in a highly personalized, highly segmented world and consumers have high expectations, so use it to your advantage. This is a time to build a long-term relationship which in turn will turn into more profitable times ahead.
Look To Your Customers For Their Opinions
Now is the time to take calculated risks. Ask your customers what they want to see, hear and talk about. Use chatbots, social engagement, points and rewards to drive a strong feedback loop. Your customers are your front line, they’re going through hard times too, let them know their voices are heard. They are your most valued critics.
Keep Advertising And Communicating
Right now, brands are facing the task of balancing customer relationships while slashing marketing budgets in an effort to reduce costs and restore economic viability. However, this is a rare instance where you can guarantee that your customers will be in front of a laptop, on their phone or watching TV more than ever before — so use it to your advantage. Make sure you aren’t over-discounting your products but instead are focusing on emotionalizing the transaction. Keep in mind that now is not the time to send an email every day — your customers are tired of the emails. Have meaning, have purpose and above all else, have empathy.
Proactively Look Ahead
As a recent Harvard Business Review article stated, you should be recovery planning while you are still crisis reacting. You know you will come out of this, but you need to be ready. Businesses take time to ideate, brainstorm, create new concepts, innovate, agree on budgets, apply new policies and socialize everything, so use this time to focus on the long-term preparation.
There is no rulebook to follow or plug-and-play manual for how to react during these times. We are learning as we go…and despite the challenges, brands can take a better long-term solution. By focusing on conveying empathy to the customer and developing a sense of social responsibility, brands can remain relevant and connect with customers who resonate best with brands who understand them. For example, Nike provides encouraging words in its messaging to Nike Club members: “Right now it’s more important than ever to make sure athletes like you are healthy and positive — there’s no better way to do that than by staying active.”
The best brands realize, and our data confirms, that loyalty becomes the catalyst to drive strong value exchanges for consumers through digital channels, tapping into emotions and building trust. It’s all about how you’re going to set yourself apart during these times. Given the nature of recent events, customers want to lean on the emotional connections of community, safety and security. Moving forward, we can expect to see quality of relationship supersede quantity in brands’ marketing strategies.
Dave Andreadakis is Chief Innovation Officer at Kobie. He has one main responsibility: evangelize the power of loyalty. Andreadakis has extensive experience analyzing, designing and optimizing loyalty programs. He is a frequent speaker at industry events, helping organizations understand and solve for customer issues.