The Covid-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge for the retail industry – particularly when looking to increase customer engagement. With a nationwide lockdown, most retail businesses have had to close their bricks-and-mortar locations, not knowing when they can reopen.
Not only does this have a catastrophic effect on revenue, but also impacts marketing for the time being. With people staying indoors and foot traffic halted, marketers need to re-evaluate their marketing strategies and take a close look at what they can do to thrive in the current crisis.
Good news is that online demand is still high. When analysing the March revenue impact of Covid-19 on a number of key retail verticals, we found that sales rose by 39% on average. Toys/games, food /drink and vaping even saw their revenue rise to over 200% their normal. But home/garden, technology and sports/hobbies have been popular too.
While purchasing behaviour may have shifted quickly, it’s never been more important to provide consumers with a relevant and positive shopping experience. By focusing on convenience and relevance, brands can build a long-term loyalty that will carry them through the crisis and beyond. Here, we’ll explore four ways to increase customer engagement during Covid-19.
Review current marketing tactics
Typically, marketing campaigns tend to be planned weeks, or even months, in advance. However, due to the current situation, marketers need to carefully review campaigns in the pipeline. For example, campaign creative around sporting events – such as Wimbledon or the 2020 Olympics – or summer barbecues for customers need to be put on hold.
In a similar vein, marketing tactics being used need to be re-evaluated. Some consumers might find themselves with more time to browse online than ever before, while others need to balance busy work and childcare schedules. Therefore, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) tactics might be seen as off-putting. Likewise, countdown timers might not have the impact they usually do.
Being mindful of the tone of messages and content is another consideration for marketers. Of course, brands should acknowledge the situation and be open with consumers, but they should play it safe with the content. Whilst it’s important to lighten the mood, anything that could be considered insensitive is best avoided.
Most importantly, while recent and returning customers will be eager to receive information about your updated shipping policies, someone who hasn’t ordered in a while is less likely to. Now’s a perfect time to segment your marketing list, to ensure individuals receive an experience that’s relevant for them.
Win new customers for life
With some leisure activities on hold for now, many people are exploring new activities such as painting, gardening or at home workouts. When they search for supplies and find you online, are you prepared to capture the information that allows you to market to them effectively?
Adopting pop-ups is one way to gather critical information, such as their email address and preferences, so you can connect with them once they’ve left your website. The timing and context of the pop-up are key here to induce the desired action. A one-size-fits-all popover that seems to appear for no apparent reason could cause potential customers to leave your website. The best way to get popovers right is to serve them in response to browsers’ behaviour. To work out when to use a popover – and what content to include – consider the shopper’s interests, lifecycle stage, and place in the buying journey.
With more time at their disposal, many customers are looking to develop their skills. So educational content can work extremely well. For example, if you’re a beauty brand selling makeup brushes, why not create ‘how to’ web and email content on how to use them for different makeup looks. Not only is this a good way of keeping customers engaged with your brand, it also gives you an opportunity to educate and convert new buyers.
Leverage automated emails to increase customer engagement
If people place items in their online shopping cart but leave before the checkout, there isn’t a better time to reach out to them. After all, an abandoned cart or browse session could easily be the result of a distraction at home. Why not send a triggered email, reminding them of the viewed item?
Showing you know what your customer likes is key to securing the sale. Customising the email to the viewed brands or adding in recommendations for other items the shopper might be interested in is likely to encourage them to reconsider the purchase and bring them back to the website.
Be transparent and convenient
With supply chains disrupted, it’s important to be upfront and clear about delivery times and potential delays. Being as transparent as possible on this will go a long way with your customer base. We rarely discuss how our products get to our customers, but in difficult times it’s important to assure people that their online order isn’t putting someone else at risk. So why not include a section on your website and in emails about what your company is doing to keep everyone safe.
“Back in stock” messages are also essential, especially if you are selling items that are prone to outages. When the sold-out item, size or colour is restocked, an automated email is triggered to those shoppers who viewed the product to let them know it’s available now.
With Covid-19 having changed our lives drastically, it’s imperative for marketers to adjust and adapt. By refocusing marketing strategies on providing a helpful and straight-forward online experience, brands will be well-positioned during the pandemic and beyond.
Contributor: Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder, Fresh Relevance
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