In a previous post, we wrote about adjusting your communications strategy for the new normal during the Coronavirus pandemic. While daily operations may not have changed for your business yet, some local governments and states are already easing stay-at-home restrictions, meaning customers will start adjusting to life outside of delivery and curbside pickups.
While it will ultimately be at the discretion of your business to decide when to open your doors, it is necessary to create strategies so you can react quickly once it’s time to re-open. Here are a few operational messages and marketing strategies to implement when you start turning the lights back on.
The Basics: We’re Open
Open for business may not look the same as it did earlier this year. Your business may need to abide by social distancing regulations and reduced capacity requirements after the “stay at home” orders have been lifted. It’s a good idea to be very clear about policies before customers reach your door. Email is a great way to disseminate these protocols and requirements, saving your front-line staff from having difficult conversations with customers when they come to visit.
If you do face protocols, it’s important to deliver this message to audiences who will be impacted by these regulations. If one state has different protocols than another, a full “here’s what you need to know” email is not appropriate. You’ll want to be specific in delivering the right message to the right audience, now more than ever.
Even if not legally required, customers may still have questions about how your business is taking steps to keep your staff and customers safe and healthy. This can come in the form of a secondary message in an otherwise planned calendar deployment. You’ll also want to make sure this information is readily available on websites or landing pages for customers to check continuously for updates.
Right Message, Right Time, Right Audience
If you have a business with multiple locations, there could be a time when individual stores are operating under different protocols. Having clean customer data is more important than ever, especially location information. Your company may need to keep the “delivery and curbside only” message on for some customers, while others can be invited to dine, shop or visit other locations.
You won’t want to tell a customer to come to your store or restaurant before you’re ready, nor will you want to keep customers home longer than necessary. Use your proximity information and source your operations team to determine the drive radius you’ll want to use to tell customers that your locations are now open. Customers may be willing to drive a little further to eat out right now, but nothing extravagant.
Also keep in mind that even when you’re open, there may be a portion of your audience who may not feel comfortable venturing out just yet. For customers who continue to prefer contactless business operations, reassure them that these options are still available. If operations prohibit maintaining contactless or in-person business models, be sure to explain why, and give a clear “stop date” for contactless delivery or pick up methods.
Marketing Messages: Beyond the Open
Opening is great, but not everyone had to close their doors in the first place. As customers move away from their screens and toward more in-person transactions, companies will need to anticipate a potential drop in digital consumer engagement and online revenue.
Planning for sales of popular products during the quarantine can give customers a valuable product at a discounted price. If the popular products were popular because of the quarantine, their legs may lose some strength after the restrictions are lifted. “Have you tried” product suggestion emails will keep customers engaged with your company, while also sourcing new popular product trends for when restrictions are lifted.
To keep customer’s attention via email once they’ve started venturing out of their homes, try a “show this email” message for in-store redemptions. This tactic can keep the email channel valuable for the customers, while also giving them a reason to visit a store in person.
Customers who remained loyal during the pandemic can also be rewarded with personalized codes or one-time-use coupons that include a deeper discount, or a discount on a product that doesn’t usually have an offer because of its popularity. Were your customers forced out of your native apps or websites, where they earned points or loyalty rewards, for purchases with third-party delivery providers due to operational limitations? Consider a “thanks for your patronage” email, with a reward or loyalty points for those customers once they return to in-store purchases.
Fully Open Updates
If your company has restrictions, self-imposed or government-regulated, and at some point those change, it will be important to keep your interested customers up to date. This is not a message that should go to the entire audience — use website data and email engagement data to determine your audience for these sends. For example, if your website has cookies enabled or some other sort of audience identifiers, and a customer has been on your site recently, it would be prudent to include them in company updates, even if they are not engaged within email.
Transactional Emails for Non-Opt Ins
Marketing messages are no-go’s for your non-opted-in subscribers, but operational messages can be sent to customers with a purchase history within a relatively recent time frame. Don’t tell customers from 2008 that your store or restaurant is now open for business, but you could send a very transactional message to customers from, for example, 2018 and beyond.
Use these messages sparingly. One should be OK, but if you continue to engage with these customers without an opt-in, there could be complaints, and that will hurt your overall deliverability, and you could potentially end up in a CAN-SPAM lawsuit.
Email is Still Essential
From marketing to operations, email will be a great tool for keeping your customers up to date with what’s going on with your company. If the open rates of our clients “we are closed” emails are any indication, the “we are open” messages and operational updates will also have strong engagement with your audience.
It’s also important to ensure your entire audience hears the message. Not everyone prefers email when it comes to receiving operational communications like I do. So be sure to combine your email campaigns with social media and website updates. Even a 67% open rate means that 33% of the audience didn’t get the information in your email. And even if you reach another 9% through a resend to non-openers (which is always a good tactic), there’s still 25% of the audience that may be missing crucial information. Catch your non-email audience with social media posts that direct to a landing page that can be easily updated. Your company most likely already has a landing page that is kept current with COVID-19 updates.
By leveraging these strategies, your business has an opportunity to quickly react once it’s time to re-open. And while the timing may look different business to business, having a solid plan for your operational messages and marketing strategies will allow you to efficiently and effectively reach your audience.