Customer interactions during a crisis can be difficult: while retailers don’t want to act like they can’t see what’s happening in the world, they also don’t want to add to the gloom. Shoppers have been trapped inside for well over a month, and they’re well aware that their previous plans for spring and even summer have been disrupted. Rather than ignore this fact, retailers should embrace the situation and align their messaging with shoppers’ current needs.
Some of the retailers that have been successful in adjusting their customer outreach include:
- Anomalie, a made-to-order e-Commerce bridal retailer that leans into to its transparency, trust-building and consultation strategies to guide shoppers and build loyalty;
- IL MAKIAGE, a DTC beauty brand that taps into the connective power of music to brighten customers’ home offices; and
- ELOQUII, a plus-sized fashion retailer that has altered its social media and influencer programs to work within current conditions and match its shoppers’ needs.
Transparency Is Important, Particularly In Uncertain Times
Anomalie is facing the challenge of operating in a world where the pandemic has put a temporary pause on the wedding industry. However, the company has been built from the ground up with transparency and trust as core tenets, and Anomalie is drawing upon its experience in these areas to work with both new and existing customers during a difficult time.
“A lot of uncertainty is happening in the world around us,” said Leslie Voorhees Means, Co-Founder and CEO of Anomalie in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Having to postpone or cancel a wedding leaves a big question mark, but we continue to have really transparent conversations and we’re leaning into it more in our social media strategy. A lot of people are home, on their computers and on Instagram or TikTok, and we’ve really upped the volume of communication through those social media platforms.”
These efforts, along with a guarantee that all dresses will be delivered at least a month before the wedding or Anomalie will refund 1.5X the money back, have contributed to a sales jolt. The company recently experienced its best-ever month of sales, driven by a 25% increase in signups and 3X weekly sales compared to six months ago.
The retailer also has rolled out Zoom Design Appointments to help shoppers connect with designers in a more personal way. Customers receive fabric swatches beforehand to get an idea of what their dress may look and feel like, while screen sharing during the call itself helps designers better understand what the shopper is looking for to further build the relationship.
Even though the nature of the business makes most Anomalie shoppers one-time customers, their experience is still vital to the brand. A happy, satisfied bride is more likely to become an advocate and recommend the service to her friends, particularly if she has formed a real bond with the retailer.
“It’s always been a part of our practice to stay really close to brides and available for any questions that come up,” said Voorhees Means. “There are a lot of relationships that have formed between stylists and brides, because similarly to other vendors like the wedding planner we’re really involved at every step. We want to be a trusted friend, ear and sounding board for brides — especially now that everything happening around us is so stressful. From a business perspective, it’s always worthwhile to invest in additional resources to have that connection and that empathy on the other side of the phone.”
Music Can Play A Role In Keeping People Connected
Another of the issues faced by shoppers stuck at home is a sense of isolation. Zoom calls can help, but that doesn’t make up for the in-person interactions at social gatherings. However, retailers can help out by giving their customers a chance to be heard and hear back in turn — sometimes literally.
IL MAKIAGE has channeled its high-energy messaging into Spotify “Slaylists” like #Slayinside and Werk From Home. These channels started with a selection of relevant songs for fans looking for a pick-me-up or a companion piece to get them through the workday, and followers have helped expand the lists even further.
“Engagement on our page has definitely increased, and followers are even sending in song requests via DM to fit the mood of each one of our Slaylists,” said an IL MAKIAGE spokesperson in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They’re even more engaged and interested in finding fun ways to collaborate with us as a brand as we’re all isolated. People are seeking more connection now, and we’re definitely seeing it through the power of music.”
This isn’t a new venture for IL MAKIAGE — the retailer launched its Spotify page in August 2019 — but the retailer has tied its playlists to its overall social media outreach, which has resulted in an influx of new followers to both their individual playlists and Spotify page as a whole. The brand see this as way for customers “to bring that (fun) office vibe into their homes,” and a great way to kick off organic engagement with its fans.
A ‘360 Feedback Loop’ Keeps Customers Engaged Even When They’re Stuck At Home
It’s not difficult to adjust your operations to match shoppers’ needs if you’re constantly reaching out and, more importantly, listening. ELOQUII prides itself on a “360 Feedback Loop” that generates a transparent dialogue between the brand and its customers.
“Early on when lockdown began, we asked ourselves, ‘What does our customer need, and what’s going on for them right now?’” said Mariah Chase, CEO of ELOQUII in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’ve reached out to our community to understand their feelings and needs, in addition to what she wants to see and hear from us overall. That desire to have authentic conversations with our customers is always something we’ve aimed for, but it is more important than ever as we navigate these uncertain times.”
The retailer has stayed in touch with its customers through email, surveys, social media and Instagram stories, and has refined its approach based on their feedback — going so far as to straightforwardly ask, “What do you want to see ELOQUII posting during this unprecedented time?” One thing ELOQUII learned is that shoppers are still interested in fashion even when stuck inside, and that there is still a healthy interest in new collections and styling tips.
The company also is exploring new events, such as the Instagram Live series #XOQatHome, to help people stay connected while sheltering in place. The pandemic also has caused ELOQUII to refine its use of influencers: without the ability to hold in-house photoshoots, the brand is working with its influencer community to help them show off its new collections in their own homes. ELOQUII is providing some direction, but not dictating the way that the influencers should show off the items. This has helped the brand’s partners present their natural styles first and foremost, which is in line with the open relationship ELOQUII maintains with its shoppers.
“As a digitally native direct to consumer brand we have a highly engaged relationship with our customers,” said Chase. “We are obsessed with the customer experience — trying to ensure that each customer interaction, both on and offline, is real and authentic to our relationship with our customers.”