While nothing can beat face-to-face customer interactions, there is a very strong case for using digital tools and channels to communicate with shoppers.
For starters, using things like email, social media, or even SMS allows you to stay in touch with your customers even when they’re not physically in your store. And given the current retail landscape, doing this is more important than ever.
Regularly touching base with shoppers keeps your brand top of mind, and helps you generate traffic and sales both online and offline.
To that end, it’s important to have multiple tools in your customer communications arsenal, and you need to sharpen them regularly.
Here are some tips on how to do just that.
1. Establish a regular customer communications schedule
One of the keys to a successful customer comms strategy is to interact with your shoppers on a regular basis. Rather than a sporadic schedule where you only get in touch when you feel like it, make it a point to have a consistent schedule for your messages.
Decide how often you’d like to communicate with your customers, create a calendar for your posts and messages, and execute consistently.
In terms of messaging frequency, the right answer depends on your audience as well as the communication channel you’re using. Here are some best practices:
- Email – At least once a week, but test sending emails more often to see how your subscribers react.
With social media, things aren’t as straightforward, as your posting frequency and schedule should be tailored to each network. CoSchedule did some research on how often to post on social networks and recommended the following:
- Facebook – 1 post per day
- Instagram – 1-2 posts per day
- Twitter – 15 tweets per day
- Pinterest – 11 pins per day
- LinkedIn – 1 post per day
2. Have a healthy mix of content to share
Posting the same type of content will get old quickly. So, diversify the types of posts and messages that you publish. Your calendar should have a healthy mix of various content pieces to avoid audience fatigue.
Here are some of the types of messages to put out there:
This is a common one in retail and for good reason. Promotions are a proven way to increase sales. promotions can lift your conversion rates by up to 3150% (not a typo)!
So if you’re running offers in your business, be sure to tell your audience. The most effective types of promotions are the ones that are timely as well as relevant to your customers’ needs.
Run offers that are tied to a particular season or holiday (Mother’s Day, back-to-school, etc.). Or better yet, create offers that are specifically tailored to each customer.
One company that does this well is the personal care brand Mountain Madness Soap Co., which sends different email marketing streams based on each customer’s behavior. For instance, brand new customers get a different message and offer from existing shoppers who haven’t bought anything a while.
Mountain Madness’ effort to personalize their customer communications has paid off tremendously. According to the company, 60% of their shoppers end up buying again and they’ve generated thousands of dollars in sales from their campaigns.
Have you checked out Marsello? It’s a loyalty and marketing automation tool that makes it easy to create personalized campaigns. With Marsello, you can send targeted communications based on each customer’s behavior, purchase history, and brand interactions, so messages will resonate more with shoppers.Learn More
Educational, inspiring, or entertaining content
Promotional messages are great, but be sure to balance things out with content that isn’t too sales-y. Your content should go beyond “BUY NOW” messages, and instead add value to your customers’ lives.
That value can come in the form of education, entertainment, inspiration. Here’s a cool example from Nike, which does all of the above.
In the message below, you’ll see that there’s a piece about gratitude to inspire readers, and Nike also shares workout videos and community post to educate and entertain the brand’s audience.
Put the spotlight on your customers by re-sharing their content. Encourage them to send photos or videos of your products in action and with their permission, share their posts with your subscribers and social media audience.
The skincare brand Curology does this well. Curology regularly shares before and after photos of its customers, to give social proof that its products work.
3. Utilize multiple communication channels
We talk about “omnichannel retail” quite a bit. It can be a mouthful, but it’s just a fancy way of saying that retailers should have a strong presence online and offline, and that your physical and digital stores can “talk” to each other.
The concept of omnichannel can, to some extent, be applied to customer communications. In the same way that you’re using multiple tools or channels to sell, you should also be using different platforms to get your message across.
And for brands, the top communication channels are:
- Your website
Your customer communications strategy should include a combination of the above.
The more traditional methods — such as in-store discussions with associates and phone conversations — are great for relaying information in more detail and interacting with customers at a deeper level.
Your website is ideal for customers who want to get information on a self-service basis — i.e., purchasing things themselves or looking through your FAQs page.
Meanwhile, email and SMS work best for promotional messages and announcements.
Each communication channel has its place. Determine which tools and methods make the most sense for your business and start using them to keep in touch.
4. Double down on social media and explore new platforms
With more people staying at home, social media activity has skyrocketed. According to a March 2020 survey by Statista, 44% of respondents worldwide are spending more time on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more.
As mentioned earlier, you should be posting content frequently — at least once a day, depending on the social network.
Use the tips and examples we shared above to determine what type of content to publish and how often to do it.
You could also take this time to explore other platforms and channels. An extremely popular one right now — particularly among Gen Z and millennials — is TikTok. The app recently surpassed 2 billion downloads and set a record for the most number of installs in a single quarter.
When the pandemic hit and nations implemented lockdowns, the lingerie retailer Aerie took that as an opportunity to get into TikTok.
The company created its account on April 14, then launched a sponsored #AerieRealPositivity hashtag challenge. The initiative encouraged users to upload TikTok videos sharing what they’re grateful for and using the hashtag in their content. Aerie teamed up with the influencer Charli D’ Amelio (who has 51.1 million followers) to spread the word.
The results were tremendous. According to Glossy:
In the two weeks after the challenge went live, Aerie earned 17,400-plus followers. There were 6,600 videos that were posted with the challenge hashtag, which together saw more than 1.3 billion views. While the brand did not share specifics on the cost, sponsored TikTok hashtag challenges cost $150,000 for six days, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. The week of April 15, Aerie also reported 16,000 new Instagram followers (a 1,000% increase, compared to an average week) and a significant increase in traffic to the #AerieReal Life homepage, with 138,000 views in a single day.
So, should you follow in Aerie’s footsteps? Maybe, maybe not. The key takeaway here is you should continuously explore channels and tools to reach your customers. TikTok could be the right platform, but maybe it’s another website or app.
But you won’t know unless you explore your options and experiment.
5. Constantly reassure shoppers
During times of uncertainty, you need to be a voice of reassurance. If you’re currently trading, constantly remind your customers about the measure that you’re taking to keep everyone healthy and safe.
If you’re not currently open, use this time to craft a strong communication for how you will reassure customers and get them to shop at your business when you reopen. Much of the same principles above apply.
Enforce the proper policies to protect your staff and customers, and communicate those policies using both physical methods (in-store signage, PA announcements, reminders from your straff) and digital channels (email, SMS, social media, website/blog).
6. Don’t just talk — listen
We discussed talking to your customers quite a bit in this article, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the power of listening.
So, while you’re crafting your content posting messages, be sure to balance things out by listening to your audience.
Pay attention to the messages and comments that you’re getting, as well as the things that they’re posting on their own. What are the trending topics in your community? What is the overall sentiment of your audience?
The answers to these questions will shed light on insights that can inform not just your messaging, but your product decisions as well. If you’re trying to figure out what to stock up on, listening to your audience is one of the best things you can do.
Communicating with your audience is something that:
- you should do consistently; and
- constantly improve.
In a highly competitive and crowded retail landscape, your messages need to be relevant, and they must be delivered at the right time, using the best platform.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.