It’s never been more confusing—or scary—to be a consumer. Decisions that once required little thought are now fraught with safety concerns as the coronavirus crisis continues. Not only can it be confusing to figure out what businesses are open, but it’s even harder to determine how to behave as a customer, and what measures are being taken at the establishment.
The organizations currently operating are laying the groundwork for our new normal around communicating how business operations are changing. As some areas consider loosening shelter-in-place restrictions, businesses will be looking to learn from what’s open now. Michelle Rios, who leads MWWPR’s Washington D.C. practice, says that the businesses that are doing it best right now are showing how the spread of COVID-19 has changed the customer experience.
“It’s one thing to say we’re open and following guidelines,” she said. “It’s another to take customers on a tour, showing them what the experience is like now in this new environment.”
For Rios, businesses—like one of her favorite local restaurants—that are proactive in showing customers what it’s like to spend money there will have an easier time weathering the storm.
She said they get on social media at least once a week, if not every day, to remind customers what they’re doing to keep everyone safe. Importantly, that communication is happening in videos shared on social media.
“I think most of us today are spending enormous amounts of time on social media. So if you aren’t on there, now is the time to investigate getting started,” Rios said. “It doesn’t need to be highly produced, iPhone-grade video works, consumers expect that level. We’re used to it now.”
Being transparent in this way directly addresses the concerns of potential customers and empowers them to make decisions. If a customer knows what to expect at a business—and what’s expected of them—they’re all the more likely to make the trip.
Olita Mills, a senior vice president and member of the executive leadership team at LaForce, emphasized the importance of being direct with your audience.
“Identify the natural concerns of potential shoppers and proactively share the specific steps you’ve taken to address those,” she said.
If you’re doing contactless pick-ups, taking online orders, having staff and shoppers wear masks and gloves and following protocols based on best practices for social distancing, your customers need to know.
And that’s where Rios said the humanizing nature of video can prove essential. She urges anyone still operating or thinking about what to do once they reopen to embrace showing customers what’s happening inside their facilities.
“Show us contactless pick-up in action,” she said.
But, as with all good communications, such transparency efforts shouldn’t leave out important reminders of why your audience is looking for information in the first place: They want to support your business.
“Reinforce all that with reasons why people frequent (businesses) to begin with,” Mills said.
With the upending of almost every aspect of our lives, reminding your audience of what they love about your business can help keep the lights on. Because throughout this pandemic it’s not just human connection people are craving, it’s also their routines. So even making something as simple as going food shopping a less stressful experience can make a huge difference.
“Simple acts that connect us to our regular lives are important,” Rios said.