When dealing with crisis management, business owners must account for a number of vital considerations. Settling bills, paying employees, and acquiring inventory through the current supply chain disruption have all been top of mind through the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, there is one thing that should never fall to the wayside during unpredictable times like these- the way you show up and engage your customers.
The Significance of Customer Engagement
Customer engagement is defined as the willingness to interact with your brand. This can include purchasing from you, entering your store or website, or commenting, liking, and sharing your social media posts.
Ultimately, it’s the measure of your customers’ emotional connection to your brand, because that is the driving force behind that behavior. But customer engagement doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s the responsibility of all businesses to create an experience that provokes it.
In the event of a crisis, the importance of evoking customer engagement increases tenfold. It keeps your business aligned with changing consumer needs, allows you to weather the storm, and leaves a lasting impression that results in a fiercely loyal customer base.
Here’s how retailers can overcome the challenges of a crisis while providing value with a customer engagement strategy.
Service Customers with Online Storefronts
Retailers that have online storefronts have a distinct advantage over those that aren’t. They are much more flexible when disasters cause logistical challenges, such as those imposed from social distancing efforts.
E-commerce solutions can serve customers promos, coupons, and provide access to goods and services without requiring a physical presence. Purchasing is possible from anywhere, at any time with online shopping, especially with multiple selling channels.
Having a presence in multiple places across the web will not only secure various revenue streams, they make it easier to captivate passive online scrollers. Popular selling channels include websites, Facebook, Instagram, and branded mobile apps.
Use Social Media to Create Customer Relationships at Scale
Because of their massive userbase and high return on investment, social media sites have become some of the most popular places for businesses to build a presence. Facebook pages, Facebook groups, and Instagram business accounts have given retailers the edge they need to engage and serve massive audiences with a personal touch.
The social networks’ biggest appeal is their ability to create those coveted customer relationships at scale. Just as people come to social media to interact with their friends and family, they also use it to interact with the brands that they love.
Businesses can make use of many tools within the social platforms to spark engagement. The most powerful social tool to carry retailers through the COVID crisis has undoubtedly been Facebook Live Sales.
Facebook’s livestreaming capabilities create a medium for retailers to mimic an in-store experience, where customers and retailers can talk with each other in real-time. It’s an opportunity not only to answer inquiries, but also get to know customers on a deeper level.
But even without live video, brands find it extremely useful to use social media to deliver value to leads and customers. It is the easiest way to distribute fun, engaging, and promotional messages that make it simple to elicit a response through comments, likes, and shares.
Motivate Customer Engagement with Incentives
One of the best ways to encourage customer loyalty that will last through a crisis is to create incentives for them to keep coming back to shop or interact with you.
Automated emails can deliver personalized messages and offers to bring unengaged shoppers back to your online storefronts. Loyalty programs are also a significant driver of repeat business by offering rewards and discounts for the next purchase. Referral programs can encourage them to refer your business to their friends in exchange for account credits.
All of these actions bring incredible value to your business, they’re effective, and they give back to your customers. That’s something you can both appreciate.
Provide Value Beyond Profit
During a time where people are grappling with anxieties over their next paycheck, their health, and loneliness, your brand can serve in ways that go beyond selling.
While there certainly are monetary benefits to Facebook Live Sales, they also provide therapeutic value for your customers. During a time of high anxiety and isolation, people are looking to connect with others and keep their minds from wandering.
However, your content does not have to be promotional at all! Live video offers brands the ability to check in with their customer base, a way to chat and entertain, and provide a way to disconnect from the chaos around us.
Even businesses that don’t have the ability to sell need to be engaging their customers. Despite empty shelves from supply chain disruption, many retailers are still serving by merely showing up to entertain and create a sense of community.
Contests, games, cooking classes, workout sessions, and digital happy hours have taken the place of their regular content. Some have taken this time to post inspirational messages or chat about the collective struggle. These raw and relatable messages seem to resonate with audiences and bring their brand community closer together.
Providing value in other ways gives purpose to your business. It drives lasting loyalty that people remember long after a crisis. People might not remember the content you made, but they will remember that you showed up and how you made them feel.
How a brand responds during a crisis says a lot about the way they regard their customers. Show up consistently to respond to their needs, and don’t be afraid to be creative in order to meet them!
If you routinely show up to serve in whatever way you can, you will build lasting loyalty that will help you carry your business through the most challenging times.
Read 4 Steps to Building an Engaged Social Following for more tips on sparking customer engagement.