The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted consumer behavior and shifted how brands need to keep customers on board. With more time spent at home and online, shoppers now make more online purchases without seeing products in-person first. In addition, job insecurity has tightened wallets, making it even more important for shoppers to trust what they’re buying to ensure they get the best value for their dollar.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report 2020[1], 70% of respondents said that trusting a brand is more important today than in the past. With that in mind, keep reading to see how you can maintain – and build trust with your shoppers.

 

Deliver a Great Customer Experience

To consumers, it’s not just about the product or service they’re getting. According to Salesforce research, “84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”[2] Positive customer experience can be a great way to build trust or turn a bad experience around. Think of a time that a brand went above and beyond for you: that interaction likely stayed with you and helped build affinity for that company. Examples like stellar customer service, personal follow-ups or a unique discount code can all increase customer retention and even help grow your following through word-of-mouth.

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Be Empathetic

Everyone is experiencing uncertainty and upheaval as we try to find our footing in this changing world. While some businesses may only think about their bottom line as they worry about their survival, Forbes contributor Brian Solis writes, “executives cannot lose sight that customers are human beings who are worried about the health and well-being of their lives and the lives of their loved ones.”[3]

As a brand, one way to build trust with your consumers is to relate to them through understanding and empathetic messaging. When shoppers feel like a brand truly understands their situation, the notion that the product or service will also deliver on their needs is reinforced, making it easier for shoppers to decide to click “checkout.”

 

Show You Care

With the additional challenges consumers face, they need extra information, guidance, assurance, and support. Being a dependable resource when everything else feels overwhelming and uncertain can go a long way in deepening their connection to your brand.

To show you care, find ways to create one-on-one interactions with your shoppers. Reach out, not to sell a product, but to ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can do to make their lives a little easier. By relating to them on a personal level, you’re staying on their radar while showing you’re humble, sensitive and sympathetic to their situation. As Solis writes, “It’s an opportunity to humanize and enliven touchpoints, to touch the customer in a novel and refreshing way that creates memorable experiences.”[4] Don’t underestimate the power these unique opportunities have in building significant connections with your shoppers that will keep them coming back.

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Read the Cultural Room

As the pandemic spread earlier in 2020, fast-food chain KFC ran a series of slow-motion close-ups of people licking their fingers for their “Finger Lickin’ Good” campaign. With the heightened concern of the spreading of germs, the advertisements came across as tone-deaf and were eventually pulled, but not before the spots reportedly racked up 163 complaints to the U.K.’s Advertising Authority.

Fortunately, KFC got it right with another spot. Knowing their delivery workers are away from their families, they arranged for the workers to make a special delivery, showing that the “F” in KFC stands for “family.” This campaign received a much better response as it showed the brand understood what their employees were going through and did something to help.

To make sure you always hit the right tone, read the cultural room and critically analyze your communications. If you sense that something may be inappropriate, realign your messaging to suit the mood of other communications in the market.

 

Stay Current

While this pandemic has no end in sight, the world will eventually get back to business as usual, and with that will come more shifts in operations and messaging. Companies that understand the need to evolve with these changing times have the best shot at staying relevant and keeping customers on their side long after this crisis subsides.

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[1],[2] Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020. Edelman, 2020. 

[3],[4] Solis, Brain. "In An Era Of COVID-19 Disruption, Brands Must Rethink Marketing As Empathetic Customer Experiences." Forbes.com, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolis/2020/07/09/in-an-era-of-covid-19-disruption-brands-must-rethink-marketing-as-empathetic-customer-experiences/?sh=32c182c17aa1.

 

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