Coronavirus (COVID-19) is now a global pandemic, and with the effect this is having on retail, communication with your customers is essential! Vend recently published a blog that acts as a powerful tool for retailers; one of their main points for you, as the retailer, is to adjust how you’re trading (we’ll get into this a little more down the line). But how do you let your customers know you’re making these adjustments? How do you keep your customers up-to-date while still helping them to feel comfortable and confident to shop with you safely?
In this blog, we draw on examples from three retailers to help you craft your own COVID-19 communication strategy.
Now is the time to give your customers as much information as you possibly can. AllBirds do a great job of this through their social media channels. In the following example, pulled from their Instagram account, AllBirds share their empathy, understanding, and, most importantly, critical details about their operations.
Take note of the second paragraph in which they state, “Our corporate staff are now working from home, and our stores in the US and Europe will be closed from March 15th through the 27th”. They then go the extra mile to support their staff and reassure their customers that by continuing to shop with AllBirds, they support an ethical and socially conscious brand: “All employees will get full pay and benefits during this time.”
Following their operation updates, AllBirds also add that as the details surrounding Coronavirus develop, so may their plans. They acknowledge the importance of communication and promise to stay connected through their ‘digital channels’.
AllBirds are careful to keep their customers informed by sharing essential updates while also strengthening their customers’ confidence in AllBird’s company ethics and genuine care for the situation surrounding COVID-19. They do this by updating all of their digital channels, which includes using email marketing. Although tools like social media are a powerful way to reach your customers, it’s also easy for your update to be lost amongst the rest. Make sure you’re sharing your information across all channels, starting with email marketing campaigns.
Showcase your brand:
Vend retailer, Iko Iko is known for their eclectic and colorful branding, and they don’t let the chaos of a worldwide pandemic get in the way of their charismatic communications. Take note of the way that they reiterate that they will be taking extra measures to sanitize their brick-and-mortar store’s high-touch zones: “We are taking a few extra hygiene precautions as recommended by the Ministry of Health. The staff are regularly cleaning high contact surfaces including our eftpos machines [point-of-sale card machines] and countertops …”. By assuring their customers that hygiene is at the forefront of their business practice, Iko Iko helps their customers to feel secure in their decision to continue to shop with the store, particularly because the majority of Iko Iko’s sales are generated in-store.
Iko Iko also let their customers know that the coming weeks may be difficult for them as a business, and they reiterate that customer loyalty is the key to their ongoing success. Finally, they end the email with customized links to their social media accounts, clearly giving customers access to more information from Iko Iko as it’s released.
Iko Iko have done a beautiful job of informing their customers while also showcasing their store’s branding. This not only helps their customers to recognize who the email has come from, but also further entices their customers to shop. The additional graphic design is on-brand with colorful patterns and block colors, but still tasteful and respectful.
Think outside the box:
Warby Parker is a household name; known for their standing as a socially conscious eCommerce and physical retailer for prescription glasses, and they’re acutely aware that the products they offer help people each and every day. They want all of their customers, new and loyal, to feel connected and considered. For this reason (among many others), they created an additional landing page on their website dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
They cut right to the chase and let their customers know that they “have decided to temporarily close all of [their] stores through March 27 for the safety of [their] customers, [their] employees, and the general public.”
Special mention: notice that they’ve included a floating banner at the top of their website that lets all online customers know that Warby Parker’s brick-and-mortar stores will be closed from March 15 - March 27. Now that’s one way to keep your customers informed!
Nevertheless, Warby Parker are careful to highlight that they are still open for business with their online stores, accentuating this with bolded text. They offer several stand-out services, including a ‘Home Try-On Program’, which is still in operation. They also list the ways that customers can get in contact with them, should shoppers have any questions, helping customers to feel cared for and catered to.
Replicating these examples:
So how can you take the above examples and use the key information for your own COVID-19 communications?
We’ve whipped up and broken down a quick example that you can build on. Make sure when communicating with customers that you’re careful to include all relevant details affecting your own business and be specific. For example, if your store is solely online, then you don’t need to add a paragraph about increasing the hygiene standards of your store.
Here at [Store Name], We’re committed to the safety of our team and our community – you.
With the rapidly changing developments of Coronavirus (COVID-19), we believe it’s important that you’re kept up to date, and you feel confident that your health and safety is a priority. As we learn how to contain and manage the spread of COVID-19, we are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of our customers, employees and extended community.
You should only include key information that is relevant to your customers. Have you increased your hygiene practices for your brick-and-mortar stores? Are your online stores up and running, but seeing delays in shipping? Whatever you have decided is best for your business, make sure you describe this clearly without going into too much detail. And make sure that any information you add to your communications is accurate. Some examples could include the following.
If your eCommerce store is seeing delays in shipping, you could include something like the following paragraph :
Our online store is operating as usual, although we are expecting delays in shipping. We are working to guarantee the safety of our employees while also fulling your orders as quickly as we can. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here:
Hygiene practice adjustments for brick-and-mortar stores (ensure these practices are in place before you notify customers):
We understand the need for extra precautions and have additional sanitization practices in place, with a particular focus on high-touch zones like door handles and card machines. We will ensure that can maintain the highest possible standard of hygiene by keeping hand hygiene stations stocked throughout our store(s).
Finally, let your customers know that any of this information could change at any time as the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic develop. This could include a paragraph similar to the following:
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to develop and change, our strategies and practices may too.
This is an opportunity to add your social media icons and direct customers to follow you if you plan on also updating customers there. And make sure to let your customers know how they can stay up-to-date with your store practices.
Finally, sign off in a way that includes your store name and add some reassurance – a little positivity can go a long way too! Don’t be afraid to follow Iko iko’s suit and fit your brand into the messaging.
We appreciate your ongoing support and understanding in these uncertain times.
Stay safe and healthy,
[Store Name]. Or [Your name], from [Store Name].
Adjust how you’re trading
We touched on this a little in the intro so let's break it down. With many people practicing social-distancing or even self-quarantining, some brick-and-mortar stores may find a reduction in foot-traffic – some countries are even requiring stores to close. Look at this as an opportunity to develop your business and cater to more online customers. If you’re in-store only and you have to shut up shop for a while, now is the perfect time to work on getting an omnichannel operation set up and starting an online store, or giving a little more love to your online store if it already exists. Set up automated email campaigns while you’re at it, and actively retain online customers without any additional manual work.
It’s reported that eCommerce could account for 40% of all retail purchases in the UK as a direct result of COVID-19. Just think about how huge that is on a world-wide scale and get excited to embark on a new frontier of online shopping. Omnichannel stores are not only a strong retention marketing channel, they’re a fantastic way to keep the local economy going without having to be physically present in-store – even some supermarkets offer online shopping! If it’s within your margins, why not offer customers free shipping, even if it’s just locally? This will encourage customers to shop with you. Adding incentives for customers to share your store with their friends (think: discount codes for proven referrals) will help you to acquire new customers.
Adaptability and resilience is the key; many retailers are revamping their in-store hygiene practices, implementing social-distancing strategies to protect their employees and customers, and putting countless other changes in place to protect their customers and their businesses. Just don’t forget, transparency is your friend. If you’re expecting delays in shipping, add this to your email campaigns and digital channels. If it’s taking a little longer than usual for your new stock to arrive, using tools that allow customers to ‘wishlist’ or save items could be a nice touch too.
Now is the time to take note of Warby Parker’s example again – do you want to compile this information on a landing page? Perhaps you could instead direct customers to follow you on social media if an additional landing page isn’t quite your speed; or, perhaps now is a great time to try adding SMS campaigns to your toolkit.
However you chose to do it, the bottom line is that communicating clearly with your customers is essential. Whether it’s affecting your shipping times, forcing the temporary closure of your brick-and-mortar stores, or just creating added stress, it doesn’t hurt to let your customers know how you’ve been affected and remind them that they are what keeps you trading.
If you’re looking to email your customers to communicate about COVID-19, you can get started with Marsello’s campaigns feature for free. Email marketing is the perfect way to communicate with your customers and set expectations, so when you’re back to trading at full-capacity again, don’t forget to shout it from the rooftops throughout all your communication channels, starting with a one-off email campaign.