The effects of the coronavirus outbreak are cropping up everywhere we look: in restaurants, downtown nightspots, suburban shopping centers, and almost every small business across the globe. It’s exceptionally hard-hitting for companies with products and services that are considered “non-essential” during a pandemic, including furniture and plant shops. While it may seem like an irrelevant time for the home and garden industry, this isn’t so — as more people are spending time indoors, they’re looking to make the best of an unusual situation.
Think about it this way: People can’t return to their work offices, so they’ll need to build a makeshift one at home. They can’t take as many walks in the park, so they’ll want to spruce up their space with plants. And since they’re not allowed to leisurely sit at a restaurant, they’ll require the equipment to whip up their own fancy dinners. Now is the time for home and garden brands to help restore a sense of normalcy to peoples’ lives, starting with their homes.
First Step: Shift Your Thinking
When confidence in the economy is shaken, consumers are extra-careful with their spending. With this in mind, you may be thinking that the last thing people need is a sofa or a desk. It doesn’t help that home and garden supplies are generally browsed and bought in-store because there’s less risk of making a return.
Well, newsflash: Other brands are thinking the same thing, too. And with this train of thought, more brands are reducing their paid media spend, opening up more spaces to place ads. While this tidbit isn’t particularly inspiring at first glance, pivot your thinking into this: More people online + more spaces to place ads = it’ll be easier and less expensive to stand out.
The Time Is Ripe for Brand Awareness Campaigns
Since the first coronavirus reports, we’ve found that cost per thousand impressions (CPM) have decreased by 15% across our networks. This means that even with modest budgets, your reach can increase exponentially. And as mentioned earlier, home and garden supplies aren’t things that are bought lightly — these purchases require a certain level of thought and financial commitment. Brand awareness campaigns are designed to get in front of people as they’re building up to take the plunge. By consistently staying top-of-mind with consumers, you’ll be their go-to brand once they’re ready to make the purchase.
Make a Point to Build Customer Loyalty
When it comes to building customer loyalty, it might be a little more challenging for home and garden brands. Why? Because more often than not, they’re big-ticket items such as furniture or power tools. The consensus is that when the buying cycle is longer, customers aren’t likely to return for a repeat purchase.
However, this is a critical time to emphasize customer retention because it’s more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one. Reach out to past customers to reengage them and remind them of new discounts and product offerings. Suggest complementary items that go well with their past purchases — for instance, if they bought a chair, perhaps they’ll want a matching ottoman next.
Also, consider providing customer loyalty programs or a VIP model to shorten the buying cycle. An excellent example is Costco’s Executive Membership Program. It costs a one-time fee of $110 to become a member, and from then on, members get a 2% reward on all Costco purchases. Or, you could offer a significant discount for every third purchase made, or a points-based system where customers can receive a selection of free products.
Navigating Supply Chain Woes
The rapid spread of the coronavirus is shutting down factories and compromising supply chains across the world. This is a nightmare for many brands, as they work in tandem with manufacturers overseas. So, what do you do when your supply chain is compromised for the time being?
The first step is to be transparent with your customers. Send an email or submit a proactive press release in which you explain the situation, admit fault, and tell your customers how you’ll make it up to them. By clearly managing their expectations, customers are less likely to hold a situation that’s out of your control against you.
Next, conduct a thorough audit of your inventory. Run a promotion on secondary products such as plant food or sofa covers, or clear out the rest of your inventory by discounting excess items.
Other Ways to Pivot (and Keep the Spark)
During this challenging time, it’s not just consumer behavior that changes — it’s their priorities, too. So, how do you help your customers while also keeping afloat? A few ways include:
Discounts: It’s been mentioned several times, but discounts are a surefire way to grab consumers’ attention. Big-ticket items are considered “big” for a reason — they’re highly expensive, so people will notice when the price drops. As a bonus, include free shipping for all items or even a discount voucher for the next purchase. Be mindful of what people can and can’t afford.
Creative messaging: Ditch your old messaging — under these circumstances, something along the lines of, “Modernize your home’s style” won’t cut it. Instead, think about what your customers need right now and update your copy accordingly. A couple of examples:
- They’re working from home, so they’ll need a comfortable office space.
- Ex. “Office Gear to Help You WFH Comfortably”
- They’re cooped up inside and aren’t exposed to as much nature as they’d like.
- Ex. “Bring Nature Indoors”
Useful content: Post helpful content that’s relevant to current events on your social media channels and blog. For instance, “Inside a Lot? Clean Indoor Air With Plants,” or “Ways to Make Your WFH Space Ergonomic.”
For additional reading around how your business can prepare for a new normal, download your copy of Tips for Acquiring and Retaining Customers Through Economic Change.