COVID-19: Retailers

Goals

To obtain a COVID-19 response strategy/framework for retailers. To determine the stages/phases for responding to the crisis as a retailer and how they should approach messaging to customers/community at each stage until they return to business as normal. To determine the messaging and tactics from a brand level in terms of goal, tone, and strategy at each stage.

Early Findings

Overview

  • Communicating with customers in this season is critical. The main areas that need to be addressed are maintaining trust, reset expectations, and how to recover the customer experience after the crisis has passed.

How Retailers Should Communicate

  • Retailers should ensure that their communication is authentic. As the world adjusts to a new normal, brands need to acknowledge this and adjust accordingly. People need to feel that they are not alone.
  • Retailers need to understand that people still want to eat right, and look and feel good. Customers are focused on ensuring that they take proper care of themselves.
  • Subtle communication in imagery across platforms should focus on uplifting messages. An example here is using a stylish workout photography instead of a luxury handbag.
  • Be honest and transparent about the impact that the crisis is having on business structures. Share about the current limitations.
  • Reducing the number of workers in manufacturing and distribution departments will affect how one can meet the customer demand.
  • Proactive communication of items that are out of stock allows customers to adjust their consumption. Timely, accurate, and secure updates will be critical in maintaining customer loyalty.
  • It is important that focus shifts from physical stores to online platforms. Using influencers lets the customers still interact with the retail products. This "digital clientelling" is most effective in the beauty and fashion industries.
  • Going digital is not comfortable for all retailers as most of their income was from walk-in traffic. Educational content is helpful in bridging this gap. Simple and short tutorials on how one can use the mobile app or a website is critical.
  • Customers also need to have assurances that their information is safe. Many businesses are being forced to go digital. This creates significant vulnerability. Part of this journey is ensuring that the customer can trust the processes that have been introduced/enhanced.
  • When providing information, it needs to be of value to the customer. It needs to be up-to-date and focused on the well-being of the community. Additional measures that the retailer is taking to maintain the safety of the customer should also be presented.

Essential/Non-Essential Retailers

  • These two categories of retailers are seeing an impact in two different directions. One is seeing a drastic rise in sales while the other is languishing. This shift is driven by several factors. The obvious one is that stores are closed. Another factor is the items that customers are looking/searching for.

Summary of our Early Findings

  • Our initial research was able to find information that addressed communication in the retail industry during this crisis. The articles and reports presented only address how retailers should respond and how they need to take measures to ensure the safety of their employees and their customers.
  • We were unable to find communication that was specific to the different stages. Following our findings, we have presented the proposed scope below.

Proposed next steps:

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