Commerce and COVID: How Retailers Can Survive and Thrive in the Time of Coronavirus

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With no return to’ business as usual’ on the horizon, retailers find themselves facing an uncertain future- but there are opportunities for those who are able to adapt to adversity.

Sked Social is hosting a series of educational periods with manufacture experts to help you upskill during this time of world agitation. The third of these’ Upskill and Chill’ forums,’ Shopping ain’t what it used to be: Turning commerce on its head’, brings together two marketing experts to discuss how businesses can rise to the occasion and adopt the opportunities of eCommerce.

Tim Doyle is the founder of Eucalyptus, the’ brand engine’ responsible for building eCommerce health startups Kin and Pilot, and the onetime head of marketing for upstart online mattress companionship Koala.

Laura Dew is the director of The Wonder Co, a Perth-based marketing and PR consultancy that works with retail, tech, life-style and friendlines symbols throughout Australia.

Facilitator Meg Coffey, a social media strategist, quizzed the duo on their top tips for communicating with customers and establishing an eCommerce identity in the current climate.

Framework is king

It might be tempting to bury your premier in the sand and continues its your usual communications strategy, but both Tim and Laura emphasised that it’s essential to adjust your symbol messaging to acknowledge the impact of COVID-1 9.

“I’ve never been in a situation before where one issue hangs over everything, ” Tim said. “Every piece of communication is contextually incorporated in a world where people are at home, they’re isolated, and they’re dealing with the forks of COVID-1 9. Any communication we’ve put out that is unaware of its context has disappointed miserably, but everything that has been contextually relevant and aware has spiked massively. I’ve never had to do such a fast re-skin of all of our comms for a different world.”

“We have changed[ our brands’ messaging] vastly, because any campaigns we were working on precisely weren’t going to work, ” Laura lent. “We’ve been working from a more reactive model, which I don’t like, but unfortunately that’s the path it has to be at the moment.

“Especially early on, when the Prime Minister was saying something new every other day, we were having to change our comms, and conversion some of our clients’ gives, almost every other day … at the moment, it’s about trying to strike a balance with all of our clients to reflect the severity of the situation and how severely they’re taking it, while still having that genuine brand articulate and trying to brighten up someone’s day.”

While it’s important to be contextually aware, Tim too emphasizing that labels knowing their boundaries.

“You have to know where you’re relevant and where your right to play is, ” he said. “The firstly and most fundamental question you should ask yourself is whether you need to turn up[ the frequency of your communications] or turn it down. The second most important thing is to know where you can be helpful and where you can be valuable, because that will dictate your tone.

“If you can be essential to people’s lives, and you can provide some value or switching your business somewhat to provide that value, that’s marvelous, and you should talk about that. If you’re not essential to people’s lives, but you can be a source of recreation, that’s great, very- play in that space.”

Honesty, Tim said, is the best policy.

“Supply chains are incredibly erratic at this time, and we’ve seen that with one of our brands that sells the contraceptive pill, ” he said. “There have been national dearths … there’s not exactly a lot of freedom on our percentage to solve for that question. Our response has been to overcommunicate, and parties have been very willing to be resilient, because they know it’s an amazing and difficult time. I guess arranging your comms in framework, and being willing to say,’ Hey, things are hard and we’re doing our best’, earns you the right to be a bit more flexible with your customers.”

Retain your eyes on the loot

Yes, “youve got to be” accept and reactive. But, Tim said, you don’t need to throw the child out with the bathwater.

“Operationally, we’ve been extremely responsive on a day-to-day level, but you need to keep in mind that a lot of the sound that will be there over the next few months doesn’t undoubtedly vary the entire long-term outlook for your label, ” he said.

“What we’ve been trying to do is ask ourselves, how do we come out of this with the strongest possible offering? What bits of infrastructure do we need to build now? What do we focus on, in terms of technology and long-term marketing means, in order to come out of this in the best position, rather than running ourselves into the ground by trying to respond to every single change in legislation that happens now? ”

One thing retailers can do that will pay off both now and in the future is to ensure they have a strong eCommerce offering.

“We’ve been setting up eCommerce places for all of our clients who can sell online that weren’t once selling online, ” Laura said. “Of course, the majority of them had online storages previously, but in those cases, we’ve fixed sure their storage is really up to scratch, leaved how much more demand there will be for it now.”

While eCommerce presents energizing openings, Tim stressed that retailers who are new to the online space need to avoid biting off more than they are unable to chew.

“The advice that I always give to those establishing the transition into eCommerce is to be penalty, ” he said. “I think the lure to tell you,’ Look at all of these cool things we can do; look at the variety of things we can do; look at all of the different ways we can communicate’. In reality, for most firebrands, you’ve only got a very small amount of people’s attention, and that attention is very fractured, so you have to be punished about what you offer and make sure you get it on well.

“For example, Koala sells one mattress and has one very simple proposition- fast transmission with convenient returns and 120 -night tribulations. It’s an exclusively convenience-based business, and it merely hammers that sense again and again and again, until it’s instructed into people’s heads.

“But a lot of businesses, when they start out in eCommerce, try to do a thousand different things for a thousand different beings. You have to know what you’re offering and what differentiates you, and then communicate that repeatedly and diligently. You simply have a small opportunity, and you can’t waste that possibility with desegregated messaging.”

Possibility is everywhere

It may not seem like it right now, but both Tim and Laura said that the current situation presents opportunities for labels who know where to look.

“I think there are parts of such opportunities that are striking, ” Tim said. “For one, Facebook CPMs[ overhead per thousand impressions ]… the cost is down to half of what it was a month ago. That initiates a singular opportunity to hit a large audience for an inexpensive amount of money. They were not able to be transacting now, but there’s something in the fact that there is a big, inexpensive audience that’s highly committed, unlike ever before. There is definitely a role for messaging in a world where it’s so cheap to do that messaging, even if purchasing behaviour doesn’t correlate with it right now.

“There’s never been a better time to go back to the canals that have worked for you, historically, because they are 30 to 50 per cent cheaper at the moment. Now is not the time to be looking for value-adding new channels, because the big-hearted participates- Facebook and Google- are guaranteed to be cheaper now.

“The second element of the opportunity is that all of the big existing retail and hospitality participates are hurting, and they’re uncompromising. There’s an opportunity for you to be more flexible by virtue of being smaller than them, and to be the first and the fastest to react.”

Laura said the current climate presents an unprecedented probability for firebrands to tell their story.

“We’ve never had more of a captive public, and it’s important to make that opportunity, ” she said. “It’s a time to make sure you’ve crafted your label fib really well, and you’re using confidential- yet quite recreation- communication to engage with your audience and tell that story.

“Communication is more important now than ever. I thoughts people are is becoming more vocal than ever on social media about what they need, because clearly their statu has changed. What we’re trying to do is listen to those customers before we modify the product offering, or convert the lane it’s boxed or handed or whatever it may be. We’re listening and crafting the product offering- and all of our comms- around that feedback.”

Tim referred to his former employer, Koala, as an example of a company that has been able to successfully continue selling in the current climate.

“They virtually tried to frontrun the worst of the crisis by doing a lot of discounting as things were degenerating, ” he showed. “I was surprised, on some position, because I thought it was a bit high-risk from a brand view, but it seemed to work out well for them.

“What they did was the priorities in the pour, they replaced all their TV commercials and radio ads with awfully brand-focused messaging about patronizing small business. Then, in the mid-funnel, they went into full-on discount mode, with a sale where you got a $ 200 Uber Eats voucher if you bought a mattress. It simply shows that the tactics that you utilise in order to better drive sales … if you can place them in the privilege context, and you can get the comms right, they’ll continue to work.

“It’s not business as usual … but’ business as usual’ is a bit of a strange expression, anyway, isn’t it? Things are always moving.”

To see more’ Upskill and Chill’ webinars, receive information on upcoming hearings and hint topics you’d like to learn more about and professionals you’d like to hear from, click here.

Robert F
Author: Robert F


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