According to CRM expert Paul Greenberg, "Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer." The bit that stands out is "chosen by the customer" — out of all the brands that exist in the e-commerce space, your customers decide to interact with yours. And as a business, the significance is enormous: When customers choose to interact with your brand, this means that they trust in what you have to offer. However, what happens when a global crisis hits? What happens when your team sees lower than average response rates in their outreach efforts?
The answer is: You keep offering engagement opportunities. As a brand, you don't stop being there for the customer, even if it means pivoting strategies. Your customers have historically supported your business — now, it's time to support them during hard-hitting times. And this doesn't necessarily involve a huge budget on your end — something as simple as ramped up customer service and helpful content goes a long way. Here are some tips on how to keep customer engagement alive during this time of economic uncertainty.
Figure Out “Why”
Part of the relationship-building experience is having a genuine understanding of the “why.” Build surveys and sync with internal experts to uncover ways of keeping communications open and connecting to really understand customers. Consider creating polls or quizzes on your social media channels to elicit immediate feedback.
It goes without saying, but it’s important to be consistently updated on current events. In this case, the coronavirus outbreak has left people uncertain for a variety of reasons. Ask yourself: What is affecting their priorities? What do they need most during this difficult time — and can you help?
Show Up for Your Customers
It's vital that while thinking of a way to break through the noise, your brand remains authentic. This means showing that you care without coming across as having an agenda. Already, many brands have sent out emails addressing the virus, emphasizing concepts such as "community," and "health," and using anxiety-inducing words such as "monitoring" and "situation." While these communications are undoubtedly relevant, it's also worth trying to connect with your customers outside of the heavy stuff, too. Reach out to your customers to connect — not to acquire new customers or sales, but rather to ask, "What can we do for you? How can we help?"
Create Timely and Relevant Content
In the same vein as showing up for your customers, you can provide educational and helpful content that’s relevant to your followers. If you stumble across useful tips specific to your industry, share them with your audience to show that you care.
For example, if you’re an owner of a small grocery market or restaurant, you could provide cheap and easy recipes for those who are struggling financially. Or, if you’re in the business of mattresses, you can offer tips on how to sleep soundly during these stressful times. If you’re in the beauty industry, you could detail skincare routines using natural ingredients, or the benefits of going make-up free while in quarantine. The key is to be creative with the content around your industry.
Give Back to the Community
If there is a global situation beyond your control that has taken priority in your customers’ lives, consider opportunities to contribute in these areas. 88% of general consumers are more likely to buy products from companies that care about charitable causes. Perhaps your brand can donate a portion of sales to a specific health charity, or even partner with a charity to produce a limited edition product. By participating in important causes, you evoke not only compassion from customers but attract new ones who are passionate about the cause as well.
Here are some brands that are stepping up to help customers and those serving on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis:
- Chains such as Subway, Pret a Manger and Nandos are among those offering discounts on food or free coffee for medical workers who are working around the clock. Across the US and Canada, Uber has also pledged free food for healthcare providers and is aggressively launching marketing campaigns to promote delivery from 100,000 independent restaurants.
- An excess of handwashing equals dry skin. Skincare brand L’Occitane has been sending hand creams to hospitals to help soothe their hands.
- Perfume giant LVMH has been producing luxury perfume-scented hand sanitizers for French hospitals. Even the beer industry is taking part — BrewDog, a distillery in Scotland, has been whipping up hand sanitizer (BrewGel) for their local hospitals.
- Pernod Ricard donated 70,000 liters of raw alcohol to manufacture hand sanitizer.
- Soap giant Lush has been offering the public free hand washing as a way to help slow the spread of the virus.