Stuck on lockdown, we are limited to only essential activities outside of our homes. This life will (temporarily) become our new normal. That means businesses are getting creative with how they can bring benefits to an individual who is chained to their couch. For Netflix and X Box, this isn’t an issue. But what about yoga studios? Climbing Gyms? Restaurants? These new norms will seriously impact their business.
Your first reaction may be to cut your losses, turn off all non-essential business practices and weather the storm. If this is a realistic option, then great. If not, it’s time to buckle down and map out exactly how to reach and engage your audience during an economic downturn. The businesses that do this right may come out of a crisis with more loyal customers than ever.
How can businesses that depend on an offline presence shift to their online value?
There will be growing pains, technical difficulties, and some ideas may fall flat. But some digital practices have helped businesses find their online value when offline opportunities are not an option.
Credit: re-inc. IG. This is a table talk taken digital to include the audience in on the conversation.
Growing an online community
Your online community is a valuable asset when there are limited channels of communication. Growing and strengthening that pool of engaged individuals is crucial. The best way to do that is through honesty and empathy. To relate to your viewers, you need to show how the current climate has affected you but how you are working to offer your customers the best possible experience regardless. This humanization is the best way to connect during a crisis. If all you do is post non-related content, you will seem disconnected from the hardships that your audience is experiencing.
Show your audience you are still there for them in real-time by experimenting with live communication. Live communication is unique in the sense that it is an immediate two-way street of B2C communication. It’s about as close you can be to an in-person conversation. IG Live hosts can answer questions and comments viewers have in real time, and engage viewers in the conversation.
Re-inc, an online apparel and lifestyle brand, drives their brand by including their community in their internal content. When in-person events stopped being an option, they switched to hosting digital table conversations on IG live instead. They continued to protect their brand values within the limits of the climate, and a positive impact developed from on taking the conversation online. The viewers became an active part of the conversation instead of passively watching the interaction. This switch strengthened re-inc’s commitment to its brand values and offered a new opportunity for strengthening the perception of their brand as well.
Credit: RAYogaStudios IG promoting the live streaming of their classes
Offer free online opportunities
Just because your value doesn’t directly lie in the online sector does not mean that your value can’t be adapted for online. Products bought in-person can be sold online, so why can’t services temporarily head in the same direction? If you communicate and promote the value of tuning in for these online community events, your customers will appreciate the effort you put into sharing your craft with your community.
In-person services providing online value:
Businesses in the fitness industry are finding ways to still offer classes and activities while following all the current norms. Yoga studios are can post full practices on IG TV or IG Live and request Venmo donations. This is a great way to offer free value while still supporting offering the teacher some income.
Climbing gyms are challenging their followers to find creative opportunities for practicing rock climbing training in their households. In return, they are offering info on how their team is finding ways to train. This creates a space for the climbing community to still feel like climbers, even when they can’t be at the gym or the crag.
Restaurants are focusing on making online orders and deliveries to simplify the process for individuals wanting their food. For example, Chipotle ran a campaign that offered free delivery to remind their audience that eating out is still a viable option during social distancing.
Some creative wineries are even getting in on the fun. Some are offering online wine tasting classes for individuals who are stuck on a couch but still want to try something out of the box.
All this to say, you may think all of your value only happens in-person, but with the amount of communication technology we have today, online can feel almost as intimate as face-to-face.
Take advantage of all communication platforms
The key is to understand what limited resources are available to your audience. Then, match that to what is within the realm of possibilities for your company. What customers can’t do in person is made up of communication on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Podcasts, streaming platforms, phone calls, video chats, and more. Where can your voice be heard? Where do you want to grow your community and reach?
Let’s say you want to offer in-depth online events and activities, but because time and resources when behind the content want to charge for it. If you have to take a paid event online or are offering info that only paid customers should be receiving, don’t be afraid to hop off social and on to a more formal communication platform.
Video conferencing apps like Zoom are not just for remote work – you can host any type of speaking event you like. For example, due to COVID-19, some authors who had to cancel their book tours have taken their book tours to Zoom. Individuals pay for tickets or through Venmo in exchange for exclusive access to the online event. This allows for a large number of people to be involved, while still having a gated aspect to the content.
Credit: Wildfang Website. This clothing brand is offering a discount and donating clothing with every purchase in reaction to the economic downturn from COVID-19.
Sharing brand values through action
It can seem in bad taste to try to continue an unchanged marketing strategy through a crisis. To combat that potential criticism, add a donation percentage to every purchase. This makes people feel more productive with their spending.
For example, this clothing brand is donating one item to charity for every item sold to help individuals who will need new interview clothes during increased unemployment and economic downturn.
Some companies are put their products where their mouth is and use their resources to help their communities and beyond. During the spread of COVID-19, some spirits companies are shelving vodka to manufacture hand sanitizer to help close the gap between supply and demand.
Of course, the driver behind these actions is to benefit communities and fight for a cause. But the side benefit is it allows you space to create a voice during crises and proves your commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
Offering an enhanced customer service experience
There is no gorgeous store to make up for an uninterested cashier, or a fully-equipped gym to make up for an empty service desk. When shifting to your online value, the main weapon you have in your arsenal is amazing customer experience. Because we can’t dazzle anyone with physical assets, your customer service team website are at the front lines in protecting your brand reputation.
We are seeing these small changes in small companies and corporate giants alike. Airline customer services are offering increased amounts of empathy to pair with the special leniencies in ticket cancellations. Companies like Yelp and TripAdvisor are asking about your day while you pause online ad subscriptions. These small changes make a world of a difference when customers are bearing excess stress. To simplify one of those stresses will greatly increase the chances they support your business later.
Increasing empathy towards your customers is key
Understand that everyone is dealing with similar stresses right now. It will help your team look past customer exasperation and focus on fixing the aspects of the issue that are possible for your team to fix.
Offer special leniencies to make your customers feel cared for. If you have a strict refund or exchange program, making exceptions now will improve your brand rep with your customers.
Reward your loyal customers. People are more conscious than ever with their spending in crises. If they choose to support you, it’s for a reason. Welcome your customers like team members and thank them for the support by offering free delivery or a discount on their next meal. This creates a “we’re all in this together” mindset and lets people feel pride in supporting your business.
Do you need help discovering and implementing the online value you can offer to your community? Reach out to our team!