COVID-19 has changed our behaviour virtually overnight. Last week much of the business world effectively closed its office doors and moved staff to working from home. We find ourselves in a situation where not just our health, but the commercial health of the country is at risk. Businesses face unprecedented challenges as people fear the unknown and with society’s bedrocks like education, commerce and healthcare on shifting sands, the path ahead feels far from certain.
This is the very real backdrop marketers are facing at the moment. We’re busy navigating today’s ever-changing reality, and the strategy and plans we have in place for 2020 no longer seem relevant. We have seen a deluge of “COVID-19” related emails in our in-boxes – an acknowledgement of the evolving situation and initially a desperate plea to tell the world “We’re open as usual.”
As we move beyond the immediate shock, there is a pressing need for marketers and businesses alike to take stock and calmly consider what can be done to mitigate and plan for the coming months ahead. With the help of a recent report by Gartner, we look at what brands can do to plan and adapt to the new reality. At the heart of this is how you treat your customers now.
Review and adjust your strategy
Conduct an extensive review of live or upcoming campaigns – does the sentiment in email copy still stand in the current environment? Does it require a re-write or is a completely new creative approach needed? Ensure any PPC, online and social advertising are adjusted so that they are in tune with what’s happening now. An advert for a local gym, telling people there’s an open day tomorrow where all are welcome, is seriously opening itself to wrath and ridicule.
Identify the specific challenges facing the business and draw up a plan for best, moderate and worse case scenarios. This way it will be easier to adapt to a fluid situation. Look at alternative ways to reach customers. The old way may not be the right way now.
Use social listening to navigate the situation
Look out for concerns and sentiments that are relative to your brand. Use feedback from comments, customer care emails, phone calls and service chats to get an up-to-the-minute picture of the current landscape.
Develop alternatives to events-based programmes
Events will have been cancelled, so find an alternative plan. Look at harnessing customer support and hosting virtual events.
Deliver some compelling content
As more people are spending time at home in the coming months, there will be an appetite for uplifting content that’s non-Covid-19 related. Online stores like Trouva have been quick to adapt their messaging, with their email “The art of working from home” focusing on creating a stylish office so that you can “up the ante on your next video call.”
Operate with integrity and transparency
Set realistic expectations about current service levels, product launch dates, and product availability. If products can no longer be delivered in a usual framework, ensure customers are informed in good time, helping to build trust with the customer.
Give customers information they may need in the current situation.
Pull together useful FAQs to help address any specific concerns they may have about services.
It’s a time to be innovative
We can learn from China who saw an upward shift in patterns of behaviour, media consumption and media platforms whilst consumers were isolated. Gartner found that time spent online in China in recent months increased by 20% as people were confined to their homes. Social networking, mobile gaming, watching short videos and reading the news all saw significant surges in activity.
Finally, there is a new role here for brands to ease people’s concerns and sense of isolation with messages of fortitude and solidarity. It is possible China may be emerging from this difficult time, providing a possible glimmer of hope on the horizon. The new normal may become normal for some months ahead, but there is no doubt we can act smart and will learn much as we navigate our way to safer shores.