How eCommerce Companies Should Change Their Communication During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the eCommerce world upside-down. Many companies are either struggling with the reality of closing their warehouses and scaling back business, or struggling to keep up with skyrocketing demand while complying with ever-changing regulations. During this situation, we are happy to serve as a resource for eCommerce businesses, helping them thrive even in the face of uncertainty. 

While we know that all of this may seem overwhelming, and it may be tempting to just press pause on your development and marketing progress, we encourage you not to just maintain the status quo – or worse, halt your communication efforts. Instead, take this time to focus on really connecting with your clients and your online community. 

Buyers in the current market are experiencing a range of emotions. People are feeling fear over lack of resources and potentially contaminated items. There’s pride in seeing local businesses and communities come together to support front-line workers. Purchasers’ standards of on-demand convenience are being undermined by decreased availability and longer shipping times. On top of it all, many people are feeling overwhelmed as they try to adapt to a new balance at home with family. 

With everything happening right now, it can be hard to know what to say. But now is an important time to speak up. As a brand people trust, you can help bring people peace of mind.

Research tells us that purchasing decisions are strongly influenced by the level of identification or connection a buyer feels with a brand, and now is the perfect time to grow that connection.  When all of this is over, customers will remember the businesses who saw, addressed, and met their needs.

We highly recommend that all eCommerce businesses incorporate the following public relations messages into their communication with clients via website, email, social media, and any other appropriate communication channels:

Focus on Health and Safety 

Tell your customers what you’re doing to prioritize safety. Don’t just assume that they know you’re taking extra precautions. Your customers are likely very concerned about the safety of the products they are bringing into their homes, and the safety of those who work in the companies that make those products.  

If you are still selling/shipping products:

  • Clearly communicate the steps you are taking to keep customers safe.  Are you sanitizing packages before they leave the warehouse? Have you increased the cleaning schedule in your facility?
  • Share how you are working to keep employees safe while they are on the job. Have you decreased the number of employees on shift at any given time? Have you offered increased protective equipment or access to healthcare? Have you staggered shifts so that less people are working at the same time?
  • Share other ways you are caring for your employees, like increased pay, access to child-care.

1-800 Contacts is updating their header message daily on their COVID-19 response.

If you are no longer selling/shipping products:

  • Clearly communicate your commitment to keeping your employees safe. Explain that you value their safety and that you are gladly complying with regulations.
  • Communicate anything you are doing to help your employees who are not working – Are you continuing salaries or providing access to resources? Even a general statement that you’re “doing everything you can to support your employees at this time” will go far. 

Share Community Involvement

Your customers want to support companies that are supporting their communities. If you’re doing something to make the situation better where you are, tell that story. Even if folks can’t buy from you now, the goodwill you create will keep you top of mind later. Use photos and videos to tell the story whenever you can.

Showcase Your Customers

There’s a good chance that your online community members have found themselves with an increased amount of free time. Take advantage of that! Reach out to them and encourage them to engage with you!

  • Ask questions that will get them engaged! Use this time to gather feedback on new product ideas, ask how they’re using your products, or ask what new services they would like to see offered. 
  • Ask for and share their photos of your products “in the wild” during this time of social distancing. Give them a chance to show off what they’ve been working on.
  • Hold a contest. Ask your audience to use your products in a relevant way, and then reward the most creative submission.

Imperfect Foods is highlighting creative customers repurposing their branded shipping boxes.

Practice Excellent Customer Service

Your customers may have a lot of time to interact with your brand right now, especially online. It’s vitally important that you are ready and willing to respond.

  • Proactively respond to posts, comments, messages, and reviews.  Since more people are spending time online, the likelihood that they will see others’ comments about your brand – both positive and negative – is increased. 
  • Communicate clearly and frequently. Try to think of questions your customers will have for you, and communicate the answers before the questions are asked. Do this via social media, website content, email, or all of the above! 
  • Ensure that your responses give an extra dose of empathy. Many people are frightened, and their stress levels may be higher than normal.  
  • Don’t make jokes. Humor can be a great stress reliever in difficult times, but leave the jokes and memes for personal communication. As a brand, it could really send the wrong message to your customers.

We hope that this quick list of recommendations will help your eCommerce business navigate the uncertain circumstances we’re all navigating right now. Day-to-day operations for your business may look very different today than they did a month ago, and they may look very different one month from today. But you have the opportunity right now to take steps that will help your company maintain, or even grow.

If you find that your business needs more in-depth help, or you’d like to discuss how these recommendations fit into an overall eCommerce strategy, please contact us today.

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