It’s in every headline and a widely discussed topic across social media. The global Coronavirus pandemic continues to alarm readers with an impact felt in every possible aspect of life in society. Officially designated in February as ‘COVID-19‘ by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus has seen Australians in rural and urban areas shying away from their usual public haunts. The result of this consumer reaction causes a domino effect in dwindling retail foot traffic and decreased demand for retail services. Across the nation, businesses of all types have scrambled to find ways to prevent any additional losses to income.
With more calls for people to work from homemade at the state and federal government levels, COVID-19 has rapidly disrupted local and regional supply chains and the profitability of businesses that depend on them. Food & beverage, as well as retail services like hairdressers, are among the worst-hit types of businesses to bear the full brunt of quieting retail activity. However, many restaurants have quickly adopted a take-out only model, which has, in turn, created a rise in demand for the food delivery industry. Although some might feel that the pandemic spells the end for retail activity across the board, other business owners have kept a sense of opportunity, especially seen with the example of thriving take-out only and food delivery businesses. With plenty of these businesses turning to online channels to ensure their business continuity, have you considered what your business can do to keep up with all this disruption that’s been caused by COVID-19?
Keep focused on your customers’ needs
The message is clear, and there’s no surprise why most shoppers and diners are choosing to stay home. Despite the general call by authorities for people to stay indoors, the food and beverage industry provides just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how your customers will still have needs that your business can possibly fulfil. The words ‘stay at home’ may ring like a death knell for retailers who once relied heavily on retail foot traffic to pay their rent, but consider what opportunities there are for your business to make the best out of your customers’ needs during their time in isolation.
Apart from dealing with thirst and hunger, there’s plenty of reasons why your customers would be seeking entertainment and information during the pandemic. Fortunately, social media provides plenty of clues if you are a business owner who is looking to better understand your customers’ needs during this time. There are plenty of related hashtags and even an Instagram-commissioned ‘stay at home’ sticker that is being used to tag posts for anyone wanting to share their experiences while in isolation. Social media platforms are simply a goldmine of information for retailers wanting to market their businesses despite the drastic change in consumer behaviour that is occurring on a nationwide scale. Considering that most of your customers will be on the lookout for convenient access to goods and services while in isolation, is there anything that your business can do to meet these needs while helping them maintain their social distancing?
Build trust in your brand by keeping your customers reassured and informed
Leading digital marketers in the US have gone as far as to describe a brand’s ability to connect with audiences as a new form of ‘currency’. This perceived value is what customers place on a business, and its ability to connect with audiences. Such a value is definitely not one that’s to be underestimated during a time of global crisis. Your customers will be looking to their favourite brands to fill any gaps of information that aren’t being addressed by the mainstream media, or by authorities. While it isn’t the role of your business to supplement their need for facts to do with the pandemic, you may be able to suggest practical ways for them to navigate their new lifestyles in self-isolation with greater ease.
Your customers may be looking to your brand, to get a better sense of how else their daily lives can be improved during what may seem like a complete retail lockdown. This could be an excellent time for your business to reach out to and build trust with your customers through online content. By staying on top of your business and the pandemic situation, you can tactfully reassure your customers through messages that either use humour, or by addressing relatable everyday scenarios. There are a few common experiences felt across the board by those working from home, and being able to align your business with these experiences can result in pure gold when it comes to building rapport with your customers while they remain isolated.
Incentives always complement convenience
Just because most people are choosing to stay at home, doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to try out new products and services. Business owners and marketers are presented with unique opportunities to provide their customers with a range of product and service variety they may feel deprived of, especially while in isolation. Bring them that familiar feeling of retail browsing while they face this abundance of screen time from working from home. With plenty of platforms to consider advertising on, there’s no reason why you can’t further incentivise potential consumer decisions with a signup bonus, or by rewarding return purchases to your site.
Your customers are already seeking convenience with their online purchases. Providing attractive and relevant incentives for their purchase decisions may mean all the difference when it comes to helping your business grow during the pandemic. Remember that essential needs will remain, even during a pandemic. While there may be fewer people browsing stores in person, that doesn’t mean that your customers’ needs have disappeared. Whether it’s for daily necessities like coffee, pet products or household goods – there’s always a way for your business to remain relevant to your customers’ needs. If you haven’t already considered leveraging on the abundance of customer information that’s willingly shared online and via social media, now is perhaps the best time for your business to seize the success you had always set out to achieve.
Copywriter and Digital Marketer with published experiences writing for tech and healthcare brands in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. I continue to help small business owners with their digital marketing from my desk at ITCC Melbourne.