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COVID-19: Three tips for connecting with consumers

Finding the new normal

Restrictions are lifting in many states, but the pandemic is far from over. It is now up to each individual to decide what they are comfortable with, and brands need to provide the right services and offerings to encourage consumers to engage. Use the three tips below to create better, long-lasting customer connections.

 

TIP 1: KNOW WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE SPENDING THEIR TIME

Even in the earliest days of the pandemic, nine out of ten consumers still wanted to hear from brands. However, where consumers are spending their time is changing, potentially impacting your brand’s advertising and communication strategies.

Digital media: During the pandemic, many consumers increased their digital media usage—and this doesn’t appear to be letting up. As of May 22, 30% of American consumers plan to spend more time texting, messaging and chatting; 29% said they will spend more time on social media; and 28% said they will spend more time consuming video content.

Social media: Consumers increased the amount of time they spend on social media from 75 minutes in 2019 to 82 minutes so far in 2020. They are spending more time on Facebook (39% increase in usage), Instagram (29% increase in usage) and YouTube (29% increase in usage). And while they’re there, many are shopping: Alliance Data’s proprietary data shows 15% of consumers bought a Mother’s Day gift on a social media channel.

Television: In addition, television consumption will increase for the first time since 2012, growing by 8.3 million to 287.3 million viewers. This is spread across all age groups, with those 65+ and 25–34 experiencing the biggest jumps.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Your customers’ media preferences may have shifted during the pandemic. Look at your engagement data on email, social media, website, mobile app, text and messaging apps to understand where your customers are today, and adjust your strategy and spend as needed.

 

TIP 2: EMPOWER CONSUMERS TO SHOP THE WAYS THAT MAKE THEM MOST COMFORTABLE 

Just because a state has relaxed restrictions does not mean consumers are comfortable going back to stores yet. As of May 24, 61% of consumers said they are in-store shopping less than before, or have stopped in-store shopping entirely, according to a Lieberman Research Worldwide survey. As brands reopen their doors, it will be important to show customers all of the ways they can shop and engage, enabling them to choose the option that feels best for them.

Since the pandemic, more than 20% of consumers are using buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or curbside service more than before. Another survey found 56% of consumers said contactless delivery is a factor in determining where to shop. But, according to McKinsey, contactless purchasing is not important to consumers choosing where to shop, as 89% said it was not a factor for them. Some stores are offering special hours for older and immunocompromised shoppers, and others, like Best Buy, offered appointment-based shopping hours.

KEY TAKEAWAY: What makes one shopper comfortable may not fit another’s preferences. Ensure your brand offers a variety of ways to shop and engage, and that those are prominently promoted in all channels.

 

 

TIP 3: SAFETY MEASURES SHOULD BE VISIBLE—BOTH IN SIGNAGE AND ACTION

When choosing where to shop, consumers have three clear priorities: cleaning and sanitation (31%), masks and barriers (25%) and physical distancing (14%).

As stores continue their reopening strategies, customers are likely to be greeted with signs that communicate the brand’s COVID-19 policies and cleaning procedures. While transparency and authenticity are important in these communications, so is empathy. Ensure messaging considers how you are taking care of both customers and staff.

These promises need to be seen to be believed—actually seeing employees disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks and politely promoting physical distancing makes shoppers feel safer in the store environment.

KEY TAKEAWAY: How brands make consumers feel safe in store needs to be more than marketing—it needs to be seen in action. Brands should take special care in training associates on how cleaning and maintaining the stores’ policies in full view of the public will impact customers’ view of the brand.

As we navigate this new normal, connecting with consumers becomes an even greater challenge. To re-engage and create lasting connections, brands must stay off the sidelines and visibly empower customers to make choices that feel right for them.

 

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