We have witnessed prominent and established brands that have continued the marketing momentum to drive demand and sales during these difficult times, but have stopped communicating with their customers. So, while the demand generation engine continues full throttle to keep getting orders into their e-commerce sites, the response mechanism in the form of regular communication is not keeping up with the marketing machinery. All that the buyer gets in return is an AI-driven message or an auto response citing the current situation. Thus, it is unfortunate that the buyer must wait till things settle to receive order or to even receive any communication at all.
From a consumer stand point, there is a certain amount of trust and belief in the brand and that is why he or she invested in it in the first place. Additionally, there is a reaffirmation as the brand continues to advertise to sell in social media, leveraging its remarketing techniques, email marketing, etc. With e-commerce flood gates opening up, special discounts are available, giving us umpteen reasons why we should be buying right away, but only to place orders and be left at the mercy of auto responses and long wait times to hear anything at all.
There are reasons why these brands are falling behind. High dependency on on-site customer care; customer care officers’ inabilities to travel during lockdown; and with that the lack of realignment of the customer service to meet the need of the hour. Data privacy is a big deal and working on-site has been the solution to avoid data breach. Also, the supply chain is not anything like it used to be during the normal days. Subsequently, the result is, while the order is received in the system or available in the pipeline somewhere, the customer is clueless and has to haplessly wait to hear from someone on what is going to happen next. To top it all, even regular mechanism of trying to cancel orders on the same e-commerce site, which gives you immense assurance of “no questions asked return” ironically doesn’t work till the order is delivered.
On the other hand, there are brands whose brilliance shines on quick adaptation to tricky unprecedented situations. They communicate while they are realigning (either through AI, proactive mails, social media communication, et al) and their customer service communicates more effectively and adeptly post that. They keep in touch, talk about what they are doing and more importantly use all their marketing levers to stay in touch and keep their customers informed. They wisely use their marketing engines to communicate rather than continue to create demand which lacks the support of a thought through back end.
A brand really needs to quickly realign and strike the right balance between sales driven marketing, communication or completely being off the grid especially in times like COVID-19. Also, in these times honest communication holds the key to sustenance. In good times, use this lever to talk about your portfolio of products and go all out and sell. In tough times, use communication to stay connected, be honest and share the learning curve you are experiencing and whenever you are ready, start selling and communicate that to your customers.
So, how did your brand react during the lockdown?