How to Keep Customers Loyal and Engaged: COVID-19 Edition

The COVID-19 outbreak has left many brands at an impasse, as normal daily life as we know it has halted for the foreseeable future. It’s understandable to feel worried, nervous, and frustrated when so much seems out of your control. Here’s the good news though. There are some strategies that brands, particularly retailers and restaurants, can employ to make customers’ lives easier during a difficult and stressful time and simultaneously continue to operate and generate revenue.  We’ve outlined a few of them below. We hope they provide some guidance. 

Mobile and Digital Ordering

It’s important that we all do our part to follow social distancing measures to #flattenthecurve. While in-store operations and dining options are limited, many brands are leaning on mobile and digital ordering to heed mandates while still providing customers with their daily coffee or their favorite lunchtime burrito bowl. 

  • Chipotle has begun offering free delivery — only via purchases made through their website or app, and all deliveries use a brand new tamper-evident packaging seal. 

Drive In-store Shoppers to Their First Ecommerce Purchase

There are still some shoppers out there who favor in-store as their purchase channel of choice. However, with more restrictions around travel, shopping and socializing, 21% of people have started shopping online more frequently, according to  AgilityPR. Now is the time for retailers to motivate those brick-and-mortar customers to shop online or via mobile app. Incentivize digital first-timers with a personalized offer or discount for making an ecommerce purchase. 

  • Brands could/should take the time to highlight what they offer via their website, app, and other digital channels. Brands could also reward customers with points or offers when they complete valuable behaviors, such as downloading their app or browsing their website a certain number of times. For example, DSW is offering $20 off all online purchases and free delivery while their brick-and-mortar stores are temporarily closed.  

Combat a Dip in Frequency with a Larger Basket Size

With stricter measures in place preventing consumers from popping out to their usual dining and retail establishments multiple times a week, brands need to shift their focus toward motivating customers to buy more when they do make a purchase. Leverage specific offers and incentivizes, possibly based on geolocation, to help increase baskets. 

  • Utilize bonus points or rewards to incentivize the purchase of additional items. For example, with a minimum $10 purchase, get 50% off a side item, or buy two side items and get a third free.

Communicate with a Personalized Touch 

It’s crucial to keep your customers up-to-date on the COVID-19 situation as it relates to your brand. Be sure to send personalized outreach and campaigns that align with regional needs. For example: altered hours, precautions and availability at the specific locations where a customer shops. 

  • Nike is encouraging everyone to “Play inside, play for the world”, and providing members with free access to their community of personal trainers and offering daily inspiration, guidance, and Q&As. Lululemon created an online community (#thesweatlife), granting consumers access to free workout and mindfulness sessions. Utilize what makes your brand unique to deliver value to your customers. 

Delay Point and Coupon Expiration

When customers can’t get to the physical store there are fewer opportunities for them to utilize loyalty points or coupons, many of which have finite expiration dates. Delaying these expiration dates is a small way to show your customers empathy and build goodwill long after normal life has resumed. 

  • Starbucks is showing empathy by delaying the expiration of all stars between March 17th and June 1st. 

Extend Return Deadlines

It’s harder for people to leave the house these days to get to the post office or a UPS location to return things they’ve ordered online. Don’t let a stringent return policy deter your customers from shopping with you. Making policies a little more lenient, will not only encourage customers to continue to make online orders, but also engender positive feelings about your brand.

In a time filled with great uncertainty, one thing brands can control is the customer experience they deliver. We hope the strategies outlined in this post offer some support and inspiration as you continue to grow more loyal, profitable customers — in new ways — in the days ahead.