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Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands across the globe are feeling the financial pinch due to millions of people staying at home and avoiding unnecessary shopping trips. The cure for the virus may still be in the works, but the cure for business owners relies on the public and their transition to digital. During this time, when consumers are adjusting along with their local businesses, it’s essential to practice gratitude and remind customers of why their business matters to you. 

The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude 

It may seem almost trivial at a time like this, but practicing gratitude isn’t just a tactic to stay positive — there’s actually a science behind the appreciation that can help you acquire and retain customers. According to a study from Harvard Medical School, when appreciation is displayed and communicated:

  • It makes people feel valued. There’s a misconception that to satisfy customers, your business needs resources such as sophisticated software systems and ’round the clock call centers. However, a large budget isn’t required to make your customers feel valued — something as simple as a “thank you” note or a personalized message can pull at the heartstrings. 
  • It strengthens emotional connections. When you make a customer feel valued and heard, the emotional connection they have with your brand deepens. They now rely on your brand to fulfill a particular need and trust that you’ll deliver. 
  • It breeds personal loyalty. Value and emotional connections lead to personal loyalty. Out of all the brands that deliver similar products and services, the customer chooses you because you’re considered a part of their everyday life. 

How To Demonstrate Appreciation During Difficult Times

So, how do you show your customers your gratitude during these challenging times? While you may no longer have the ability to connect with your customers face to face, there are many ways you can continue to strengthen your relationships by expressing your appreciation online. 

Celebrate milestones and honor customer loyalty

Just as you would celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with loved ones, you can celebrate company milestones with your customers, too. For example, if they’ve helped you reach a certain amount of followers on Instagram, you could publish a “thank you” post and include a discount. Or, if your brand has been in business for x amount of years, you can run a special campaign across email and social media that showcases a limited edition product. When you share your brand’s important milestones with your customers, it establishes a bond that says, “You’re special to us — let us bring you into our world.” 

In the same vein as making customers feel special and like a member of the community, you can offer exclusive memberships and experiences for those who have been with you since the beginning. Members would be able to access the latest updates, monthly promotions, and exciting content that isn’t offered anywhere else. 

Enact surprise and delight 

You know that feeling when someone surprises you with a gift for your birthday or that moment when you’re about to unwrap a Christmas gift? It’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, and it’s precisely the kind of feeling you want your customers to have year-round, whether it’s online or in-person. Keep track of customers’ birthdays and holidays, and provide personalized messages and gifts on these occasions. 

And note that rewards don’t have to be restricted by “special” days — one of my favorite online retail brands recently rewarded me with a discount code for my third purchase this month (don’t judge me). It was a pleasant surprise and got me browsing for unneeded clothing once again… 

Enhance employee engagement

Let’s not forget about your employees — now more than ever, it’s important to maintain employee appreciation when everyone is remote and working from home. While they’re trying to provide customers with a consistent experience, they’re also struggling to adapt to a new normal. Consider implementing recognition programs and be sure to call out excellence via Slack general channels or through email. Remember that happy employees equals happy customers. 

Standing Out from the Crowd Despite the Scare 

In the current climate, alarming words such as “risk,” “pandemic,” and “outbreak” are scattered all over the news — you can’t escape it. So, how do you stand out from the crowd despite the scaries dominating the web? By thinking outside the box when it comes to your gestures. 

This is a time to be creative and imaginative — pull at the heartstrings to stand out by personalizing your expressions of appreciation. The more personalized that the gestures are, the better the reactions will be. For example, if your customers are quarantined, send them three months of Hulu. Or, help small businesses by sending your clients meals from their favorite local restaurants via GrubHub or UberEats. Your gesture of appreciation could even be a donation to a cause that’s relevant to current events, such as Meals on Wheels. Whatever you decide to do, ask yourself what your clients or customers would want — what would reduce their anxiety or make them feel supported during this time? 

A simple tool that we use to regularly demonstrate customer appreciation is Thnks, which lets us send unique gratitude-filled gestures instantly and digitally via email or text.

Building Long-Term Loyalty Beyond COVID-19

Remember that your customers are your brand’s most valuable assets, and to keep them, you must practice gratitude. As spending patterns fluctuate during this uncertain time, providing value and strengthening your customer relationships will win over the hearts of your customers when they’re ready to spend again. By infusing gratitude into every aspect of your marketing campaigns and customer service, you’ll find that people will stick with you for the long haul. 

Veronica Covdy
Author

As the Customer Marketing Manager, Veronica is responsible for building strong relationships with customers and amplifying their stories. Outside the office, Veronica is happiest when she’s exploring hidden gems in SF, eating her weight in cheese/charcuterie, and dancing at a show (preferably in that order).