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The Current


Connecting with customers in the midst of COVID

What do people expect from brands in times like these? How does the COVID-19 quarantine change how brands talk to their customers? What do direct-to-consumer brands need to do to weather the storm and even evolve to be ahead of the game when this is over (or sooner)?

27% of businesses expect COVID-19 to have a moderate to high impact on their revenue. For those that are negatively impacted, 42% cite slower sales, while others are struggling through supply chain disruptions.

“Past data has shown that when anxiety goes up, consumer confidence goes down and spending patterns shift. However…this crisis isn’t going to be as easy to predict what’s going to happen as past crises. That’s why brands need to understand how people feel now to predict how they might react in the future.”


Welcome to a whole new world. With the coronavirus running its course and most of us in lockdown mode (physically and financially), consumer behavior has changed, and ecomm brands are rushing to adapt to a situation complicated by everything from supply chain issues to consumer anxiety.

“…supply chain issues, product shortages and potentially declining consumer demand could also blunt e-commerce growth”

Marketing Land

Your particular situation probably falls somewhere on this scale of “dire” to “directed” (with probably a touch of “discombobulated” in every scenario). But no matter who you are, what you sell, or how hard up things look, you have a chance – right now – to find the hidden opportunity and emerge stronger than before. 

Let’s get into some scenarios and solutions.

Your brand doesn’t really provide a product or service of particular use to quarantined people during the virus. You’re seeing sales drop off maybe WAY off. And it’s making you nervous. What’s a brand to do?

Don’t feed the chaos.

People’s emotional energy is running ragged these days, and they don’t need you to feel desperate, too. Your brand should be a stalwart example of emotional maturity in rough times, even if you’re having trouble holding it together yourself. Practical tip: Unless you’re in the health and science space, don’t take it upon yourself to suddenly become a resource for health and science.

Look for new needs.

So your product looks completely irrelevant and “extra” right now. So what? Maybe there’s an angle you haven’t explored yet, or maybe there’s a small change that could turn your offerings into something people could really dig right now. Just check out how Barbie (yes, Barbie) pivoted to become a force for good:

Plan for the long game.

Organize. Strategize. Dream. Basically, get it together. There’s opportunity in every crisis, and this moment could be a pivotal one for your brand – in a positive way. One opportunity for you could be solidifying your purpose as a brand that cares, like Chipotle just did with their “burritos for healthcare heroes” campaign that we helped launch. 

Don’t make the crisis about you.

Maybe your positioning gives you a voice to say thank you to a group of people on the front lines. Maybe it’s a chance to educate about supply chains or manufacturing practices that are normally invisible to the average consumer. We’re all connected, and this is a chance to show it and be grateful for it. You’d only know this TV spot was from DoorDash if you recognized the minimalist logo, but what a fitting, on-brand tribute for the times. Building goodwill goes a long way, and people will remember the helpers. 

Your products were born for this moment. You run an ecomm business with products or services that would be useful to the “new normal,” but you’re struggling to get the word out effectively.

First, strategize.

What need exactly are you able to meet? Dig deep to look beneath the surface. While your product may be obviously useful, uncovering the emotional benefits (peace of mind, preparedness, connectedness) of your product or offering might prove to be an angle worth exploring.

Increase your social media budget.

An easy place to start is Facebook and Instagram ads. Run paid Facebook ads. Boost posts. Talk to and interact with your customers, who may be congregating online while quarantined at home. Meet them where they are.

Put your email list to work.

Email marketing doesn’t cost anything to run. And people handed you their email addresses, so what are you waiting for? It’s easy to get overzealous (and subsequently overwhelmed) by mapping out daily emails, so go slow. Find ways to add value to your emails — thoughtful insights, free downloads, styling or use tips. Truly connecting with your customers requires having a good handle on who they are, so make sure you get a refresh on their demographics before diving in. 

You were primarily brick-and-mortar, but that presence is considered non-essential and you’re being forced to explore ecomm or else call it quits.

Welcome to the (web) side.

If you’ve been putting off a shoppable website, make the investment now, when you have a little extra time and can clearly see the need. Not sure how to start? We can help you get a site together that’s fast, mobile-friendly, and ready for the future. 

Get your list together.

Email is a powerful and cost-effective tool for reaching customers who have said they want to hear from you. Phase One of your email strategy should be simply growing your list, so your email campaign may actually start with a social media campaign or some website plugins/apps that help you gather contact info from the people already following you.

Don’t abandon customer service like shoppers are abandoning their carts.

Be more reachable than ever. Maybe you even hire some of your in-store staff to manage customer service digitally. Online chat, Facebook Messenger, and even automated chatbots can give you the opportunity to provide the kind of extraordinary customer service that rivals what you’re known for in your stores. Customer service is especially beneficial for brands exploring ecomm because all that time spent talking to customers is actually time spent listening to your customers — getting to know who they are and what they want. This is finger-on-the-pulse stuff right here. One note: Be willing to flex and shift your brand as you discover these things. We all know the customer isn’t always right, but don’t underestimate their ability to steer you in new and exciting directions.

You have no idea what’s happening, or what day of the week it is, but you think that maybe you should come up with… a plan… to do… something.

Realize that you are a creative human and there’s a unique opportunity waiting for you.

Maybe even a REALLY GOOD opportunity. Don’t believe us? During the recession of ‘08-’09, these companies were founded: Uber. Airbnb. Slack. Pinterest. WhatsApp. Square. Venmo.

Evaluate the needs of the new market.

What we know: People are working from home. People aren’t going out to shop in stores. People have more time on their hands. People want to help each other and connect with each other. You might find something to sell, or maybe give away (banking goodwill and loyalty for when things return to normal-ish).

Take stock of your resources.

You have more than you think at your disposal: People, connections, skills, supply chains. What could you get equipped to do in order to meet a real need both now and after this virus runs its course? Come together.

Find your inner force for good.

Still not sure where to start? Find something you’re passionate about. A cause, a group of people, an unmet need. Then figure out how to be a force for good in that direction. Solidify your brand personality as a brand that cares.


A final word: Remember who you are. 

You might be feeling lost right now, and that’s okay (also: you’re not alone). Take some time to wander through your resources (one of our favorites: brand archetypes), rediscover your “why,” and do what you need to do to get your feet back under you.  

If you’re coming up dry or need some extra oomph from a team that’s got this teleworking thing figured out, reach out. We’re at your service, and we’re still working to help D2C brands stand out. 


VOLTAGE is a digital agency specializing in eCommerce, digital brand experiences, and web apps. Get emails and insights from our team:

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