May 19, 2020
These are challenging times. Before going into business impact, it's important that we acknowledge and prioritize the health and well being of our families, friends, and communities.
My girlfriend runs a women’s clothing boutique in Jacksonville, Florida. Due to social distancing, her brick and mortar business has been impacted as many have these days. She and many other small businesses are now relying on their digital experience more than ever before. Not every small business owner has an Optimization Architect as a boyfriend, so I’m writing this article to articulate the advice I gave to her.
Free Shipping on everything
While Amazon is slowly coming back from their announcement of temporarily suspending the shipment of non-essential items to its facilities and prioritizing household goods, medical supplies and other high demand products; USPS, UPS and FEDEX are all committed to uninterrupted shipping throughout the epidemic.
Consumers are used to taking advantage of Amazon’s free 2-day shipping. In this climate, direct-to-consumer websites have an advantage over the ecommerce giant for a short time as products can be packaged and shipped in most cases quicker than with Amazon. Eliminate the fees for a short time and encourage more online sales while Amazon is busy dealing with the essentials.
One of the greatest concerns for online buying is whether or not the virus can be transmitted via packaging. A preliminary study found that the COVID-19 virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. Regardless of a study, it is important to get out in front of perception. As we’ve all heard before, perception is the key to reality and it's always better to ensure you set the perception.
- Create a message via email and on your website (popup, banner, or a landing page) that acknowledges the situation and clearly states the measures you are taking to ensure safety for BOTH your employees and customers. Be honest about the challenges the business and employees are facing throughout this challenging time.
- Over-Communicate appreciation for doing business with you. Depending on the size of your business, this may be an email campaign or even hand written letters included in each order. This matters, especially now.
- Create a video showing how you are packaging products safely wearing gloves and wiping boxes down prior to shipping and post on your website.
Consumers are looking for brands they can trust now and into the future. These types of trust initiatives increase brand value in an uncertain time and stick in the minds of customers.
Connect to your Customer’s Situation with Empathy
Communicate product uses and benefits that connect to customers' current situation. Depending on your industry, create marketing campaigns that highlight what you know customers are going through. Determining how your products can improve customers lives while being a bit isolated immediately builds a connection. This may require pivoting to prioritize products or collections you typically deprioritize in your marketing communications.
- Americans are working from home. Many retailers are prioritizing athleisure wear as a way to increase comfort level for working from home. Review your product-line and create a digital campaign that builds a connection to your customers current situation.
- Elementary school in the living room. Showcase how your products can simplify or improve homeschooling, relieve anxiety, or simply generate fun. Connections can also be made to improve customers lives while schooling children and working from home at the same time.
Increase social media presence
People are using social media more than ever to stay connected. Social distancing has eliminated get togethers and family events, weddings, birthday parties etc. People will increase usage on social media as a way to stay connected while stuck at home. Creating videos and posting content daily where customers are the most will improve probability for maximum exposure.
Yahoo Finance posted recently, the following statistics:
Key Statistics for Coronavirus Impacts on Social Media Include:
- 66% of social media users believe their social media usage habits will increase in the event they are confined to their home due to the Coronavirus.
- 64% expect their usage of YouTube to increase, only 2% expect a decrease.
- 63% expect their usage of Facebook to increase, only 2% expect a decrease.
- 44% of social media users would consider becoming a social media influencer to earn money for their household during an economic recession.
Key Statistics for Coronavirus Impacts on eCommerce Include:
- 99% of social media users believe there is a chance they will purchase something online if they are confined to their home during a Coronavirus outbreak.
- 92% of consumers who have “a great deal of say” on purchasing decisions believe they will purchase grocery store items online (versus in-store) during confinement.
- 79% of consumers with children ages 3-17 at home believe they may purchase home improvement or DIY items online while confined to home.
- 76% of consumers who have a “great deal of say” on purchasing decisions believe they will order restaurant food delivery online.
The challenge is difficult, however evaluating the situation and finding the right strategy to employ will provide stability in an unstable time. Adjust to the current situation, build brand trust, identify tactics that connect products and services to improve customers' lives today, and identify the best medium to reach customers with your message.