With green shoots of recovery showing and an easing of lockdown restrictions, businesses need to start focusing on getting back to some sort of normality. A key part of this involves customer engagement; 1 in 3 businesses consider customer engagement their biggest challenge right now, according to a recent survey by Esendex.
The same survey also revealed that almost a quarter of firms (24%) are currently experiencing reduced demand for their services or products. Businesses that have enjoyed extremely high demand face the challenge of maintaining customer interest, whilst those who have struggled due to a lack of demand need to focus on re-engaging their customer base and tempting them back to their previous purchasing habits.
In short, there’s never been a more crucial time to reevaluate the ways in which your business connects with customers. Below are some practical strategies that UK companies can begin implementing now, to ensure that they can remain competitive and successfully navigate the recovery process.
1. Focus on improving your online offering
Home working is likely to remain popular well into 2021 - meaning fewer customers in city centre locations. As such, it's no surprise that eCommerce is set to be a growing revenue channel for retailers. Customers have become used to the convenience and speed of online shopping.
Many businesses can also benefit from the growth in the “O2O” customer experience. An ‘Online to Offline’ customer journey blurs the boundaries between a business’ digital store and their physical shop. A great example of this is Click & Collect which allows a customer to purchase a product online and then collect it in-store.
Similarly, to comply with government guidelines on social distancing, many businesses that didn’t require appointments prior to Covid-19 may well require them now. A mobile-friendly appointment booking experience for your customers may become a necessity to ensure that you are able to serve the maximum number of customers safely.
2. Invest further in delivery
Further to the above: according to the ONS, online sales rose to their highest proportion on record in May while customers stayed at home. They accounted for 33.4% of total spending, compared with 30.8% in April.
A key takeaway here is to ensure your delivery service is robust enough to continue to serve such high volumes of online shoppers and home delivery requests. Make more delivery slots available or ensure a quicker delivery time. Those working in retail may look up to the likes of Amazon which offers its Prime members same-day delivery on millions of items, in certain postcodes. Think about whether you could move some of your store employees to the warehouse or have more delivery drivers available. Could you explore new delivery models such as partnering with a local courier service?
3. Communication is king
When communicating with customers during the 'new normal', your tone, message and channel need to be adapted too. What worked for your business previously might no longer be appropriate or effective. Certain groups of customers are expressing high levels of concern over returning to stores, so communicate to reassure them and remind them of what you're doing to keep staff and customers safe.
The correct channel, or combination of channels, can give companies the edge over competitors when reaching out to a new type of customer. Consider what messaging would be most effective and which channels would be most appropriate for targeting your customers during the next stage of the pandemic. This could mean exploring different social media platforms, Whatsapp or SMS. Today, text messaging is the most effective communication channel for brands and customers alike, with a 95% open rate and 90% of all messages read within 3 minutes.
You may also want to consider how you will push your sales messages via these platforms and what your call to actions (CTAs) will be. At the moment, many businesses are taking extra precautions by serving customers while they wait outside the premises. This means customers have to know what they want before they arrive. To give one example - a cafe may first require customers to download a PDF of the menu and then place their order online, ready to pick up at a certain time.
4. Supply chain diversification
Supply chain diversification is crucial to ensuring your business is less vulnerable. This will also improve your brand sentiment as customers lean towards more eco-friendly, locally sourced products. As such, having a variety of both international and domestic suppliers can strengthen your business and brand whilst encouraging customers to engage with your offering.
5. Incentives to shop
Finally, it may also be worth considering if you are able to offer a loyalty programme. This could be in the form of a free delivery voucher if you reorder within the next two weeks or a percentage discount off of certain products in-store that are likely to sell less during this time. Incentives such as these will remind customers that you're open for business whilst encouraging them back to your doors.
By implementing a handful of these tips now, you can begin to adapt your customer communication strategy and prepare for a return to business. The common theme that underpins all recommendations and current trends seems to be that of communication; whether it be related to a more tailored message to your customers, different conversations and approaches with your suppliers or communicating a more agile approach to logistics.
About the Author
Amy Robinson is a senior brand development manager at telecommunications provider Esendex, which supports businesses with mobile messaging solutions. Amy takes great pride in assessing the industry’s latest developments and adapting them into new and innovative proposals to ensure that Esendex provides a unique and highly effective service to its customers.