2020 was the year of resiliency.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across industries operated freely, serving their customers as they saw fit. Few, if any, governmental regulations restricted retailers. Only those that sold alcohol, tobacco, and firearms had to follow strict laws. For the most part, businesses exercised sovereignty, as constitutional rights and free market capitalism allowed.
But when the novel coronavirus broke out, spreading quickly and alarming the masses, everything changed.
Seemingly overnight, federal and state governing authorities instituted safety protocols that restricted nearly every aspect of human life, from the way we bought groceries to how we educated our children to whether or not our chemotherapy, dialysis, and other life-extending treatments were "essential".
But that's what circumstances demanded. The consequences of not abiding, we were told, would lead to death and devastation. So, companies pivoted, recalibrated their operations, and organized new protocols that would satisfy government mandates while also serving their customers.
Retailers that not only survived the economic downturn of 2020, but thrived, were those that adopted three crucial survival strategies.
On this side of 2021, what began as survival strategies have become the three leading trends in customer loyalty. Now, it's time for you to strategize for a post-pandemic market using these three customer loyalty trends.
"You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is."
Before you can mitigate risk at your business, you first need to understand the definition of risk mitigation. Risk mitigation refers to developing, testing, and planning procedural protocols that are specifically designed to eliminate threats—both possible and unforeseeable—before those threats, or risks, impact a business. When threats cannot be eliminated, the business' protocols aim to reduce the damage that could be caused.
Developing, testing, and planning procedural protocols to mitigate risk always includes creating strategies to identify, monitor, and evaluate risks. Putting action items into place comes next.
During the COVID-19 outbreak last year, which gave way to constantly fluctuating contagion rates, the most successful risk mitigation strategy was the "contactless" and "touchless" shopping protocol. For some retailers this meant launching eCommerce websites, discontinuing traditional in-store shopping, and offering curbside pickup or delivery when appropriate. For other businesses such as gyms and fitness centers, "contactless" workouts meant shutting their location down completely and only offering fitness classes via Zoom and other digital platforms.
Have you assessed the risks associated with in-person shopping at your retail location? Follow our action items to gain insight for your business.
● Expect that customer fear of COVID-19, both rational and emotional, has shifted since a year ago.
● Use feedback forms and surveys to solicit your customers' current concerns, and adjust safety measures accordingly while staying in compliance with federal and state authorities.
● Consider partnering with non-competing businesses and brands to craft custom, safety-and-sanitation-based shopping experiences for your customers.
"When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."
If the general public wasn't concerned with health and wellness, no one would've batted an eye when COVID-19 emerged a year ago. In the spring of 2020, we didn't know the facts about how contagious or fatal the virus was, and those unknown variables influenced communities to err on the side of caution. An emphasis on wellness, and staying home to stay safe, was established, and to this day, it remains.
An unintentional consequence has risen alongside the wellness-based "stay home to stay safe" tactic. Social isolation, feeling cooped up, and becoming unemployed have directly affected mental health for the worse. As it turned out, the full-blown shutdown strategy that some industries suffered ended up being utterly detrimental to health.
Businesses that acknowledged both sides of the wellness coin fared much better throughout 2020 than those that failed to address the issue. Which side of the coin did your brand land on, or were you able to give equal weight to both?
Have you developed new marketing campaigns and strategies that succeed at emphasizing your company's commitment to health and wellness? Follow these action items to generate ideas for your business.
● Examine your customers' COVID-19-specific "pain points" with the goal of solving those pain and stress points as they relate to the "customer journey" that your business provides.
● Foster connections between your brand and consumers, and also among your customer base by establishing mini-communities on social media that focus on common interests and wellness.
● Enhance your customer service efforts with personalized, customer care protocols that include digital public forum discussions and online conversational community boards, and always be sure to surprise-and-delight customers with rewards for their participation.
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
DEMONSTRATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, demonstrating social responsibility was paramount to a business' success. "Cancel culture" has been around for nearly a decade now, and businesses that don't stand on the "right side" of social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues can easily become boycotted in the blink of an eye. Similarly, businesses that did not have the "right" response to COVID-19 were quickly viewed as either reckless, foolish, or some dangerous combination of the two.
Demonstrating social responsibility is so important to the success of businesses in a post-pandemic economy that we had to include it in our three customer loyalty trends.
A retailer's underlying business goal should always be to keep attracting new customers while retaining current ones, and the ways in which you demonstrate your brand's commitment to staying socially responsible can positively accomplish this.
Did you know that you can demonstrate social responsibility by simply starting a conversation about it? Follow our action items to enhance your customers' perception of your brand in the midst of the pandemic.
● Promote your company's values and COVID-19 response on your website, social media accounts, and other appropriate platforms, and clearly highlight how your values are informing your current business choices.
● Organize and host digital social events that authentically represent your business' commitment to fully serve customers during the pandemic and the resulting economic aftermath.
● Implement the timeless adage "think globally, act locally" and start investing in your community by creating job opportunities, leaning heavily on contactless and work-from-home positions.
In conclusion, we'll leave you with one final quote from our favorite American actor, humorist, and cowboy that perfectly sums up how every retailer and business owner should feel as we head into an optimistic future:
"Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."
Interested in investing in a customer loyalty rewards program that comes with the right technology to support your business' risk mitigation strategy while enabling you to market your brand with an emphasis on wellness and social responsibility?
Loyal~n~Save is for you! As a digital marketing and customer relationship tool, our rewards program has been configured into a fun, user-friendly mobile app, and yet continues to retain the traditional components that consumers trust and love, such as scan cards and our website for accessing rewards accounts and points balances online.
To learn more about the ways in which Loyal~n~Save can help you increase customer retention and satisfaction, visit our website. For more helpful marketing articles, check out our blog, where our weekly posts provide valuable digital marketing tips and loyalty program tricks to help retailers of all industries stay strong during the COVID-19 post-pandemic economy, and beyond.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.