Over the weekend, more and more brands announced that they were shuttering in-person stores as a result of the spread of COVID-19. From restaurants and bars to resorts and gyms to retailers, many businesses are making the difficult decision to temporarily cease business at their physical locations.
That means now is the time to ensure you have a solid digital strategy in place. Here are some key points to nail.
Customer Experience Still Matters
Offering a stellar customer experience at a time like this is one of the ways you can endear yourself to customers for a long time to come. With so much uncertainty in the world at large, when you can communicate clearly and manage expectations, it puts your customers at ease.
Bloomreach shares some practical tips to get you there. Start by ensuring that your online inventory remains up-to-date. As we’ve all seen with the nationwide trend towards toilet paper panic-buying, some items are in high demand and are flying off the shelves. It’s important that you quickly update your product pages when something runs out, so you don’t end up with disappointed customers.
Even if you can’t offer someone the product they want right now, it’s important to be transparent about when you can meet their need. Provide customers with accurate information about when you expect sold-out items to be back in stock. If someone has made a purchase, advise them about shipping time and any potential delays they might experience due to strains on the system.
And this should go without saying, but don’t engage in price-gouging. Not only is it illegal, it’s an ethically-questionable move that will not win you any fans (see this New York Times story—and the comments section—about a man stockpiling hand sanitizer in his garage if you had any doubts about what the general consensus is on trying to shamelessly profit on a global health crisis).
How B2Bs Can Thrive Online
For those in the B2B space, there’s also room to take your transactions online. Many people are now working from home for the foreseeable future, so businesses that cater to the needs of remote workers have an opportunity to gain traction with these customers.
According to this article from Vox, Microsoft, Google, and Zoom have seen a huge uptick in the number of free users of their collaboration tools over the past week. Last week, the Zoom video conferencing app became the number one download on iOS Business for the first time ever in the US, and Microsoft Teams has seen a 500 percent increase in use in China since the end of January.
Even though these new users aren’t paying customers yet, the organizations are taking great pains to ensure they have the capacity to handle the major boost in demand. If the companies are able to impress these new users with free offerings now, they may convert them to paying customers later.
And TechCrunch anticipates that a long-term investment in remote work tools is a highly likely outcome from all of this. When people develop a new habit, they get used to it and tend to stick to it. If they form the habit of working from home using your software or tech, they’ll be more likely to pay for it later so they can continue to work in the way they feel most comfortable.
Of course, we’d all like to be able to offer our customers the full range of experiences they’ve come to expect from our brand. But the current situation with COVID-19 can turn from a loss to an opportunity when you take it as a sign to focus on building a more robust digital experience for your brand.
Then, when we’re able to resume normal life, you’ll bring back the in-person experiences that people love, plus you’ll continue to benefit from your new-and-improved digital presence.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.