Guest Column | April 15, 2020

Trust: Retaining Customers During The COVID-19 Crisis

By Debjani Deb, ZineOne

COVID 19 Coronavirus

The Coronavirus pandemic is testing leadership on many fronts. Brand leaders in retail, especially food retail, banking, and the hospitality industries are struggling to maintain revenue in a dynamic and fluid ecosystem. Specifically, they are tasked with ensuring the safety and well-being of their employees and customers while maintaining sales revenue as demand increases.

Online shopping has grown exponentially over the past few years, especially with the advent of AI-driven shopping experiences, but the Coronavirus pandemic has caused a surge in online shopping. A new report from brand protection firm Red Points reveals 73 percent of consumers will increase online shopping if the COVID-19 outbreak continues, and 58 percent of consumers have already bought more goods online than usual.

But with this increased activity comes increased scrutiny. If a consumer has less than an excellent shopping experience, they’ll find another brand. They also will leave if they think you are not working to care for them and your employees. Brand leaders are in a heightened battle for the consumer’s trust, and only those who earn and keep it will win. With this in mind, here are some rules for enterprise brands that want to successfully engage with consumers, gain their trust during the COVID-19 crisis, and maintain a revenue stream.

Put others first. Be sure you communicate that you are putting your employees’ and customers’ well-being first. According to Forrester, 52 percent of U.S. online adults prefer to buy from companies that show how they are protecting customers against the threat of COVID-19. Share with your customers the steps you are taking to protect them. Amazon recently communicated how consumers should handle the packages they deliver to ensure they are protecting themselves from possible COVID-19 contamination. A note from a CEO and/or founder expressing how you are protecting them helps engender their trust.

You have to be as transparent as possible while providing a fast, engaging, 1:1 in-the-moment experience. If you are out of a product, tell them and be able to offer an appealing, alternative product instantly. If you can let them know when the product they seek will be available again, so much the better.

Make sure you are offering products and services that contextually relate to the consumer’s needs. Who are they, where are they, and when are they shopping must be factored in instantly. Let’s say a consumer resides in Miami, FL is price-conscious, and it’s March. A retailer would offer warm-weather clothing displayed from low-price to high. But if the consumer travels to Denver, CO, in that same month and browses the site, the retailer should offer the consumer cold-weather gear instead that is readily available in inventory so it can be shipped right away.

You must follow consumers across all channels and provide the most updated information so you can stay engaged and relevant. Multiple devices are still in use even though we’re staying home. People may start browsing for an item using their laptops during the day and move to a tablet and/or mobile phone in the evening to finish their purchase. It’s our job to follow them from device to device to ensure a seamless shopping experience.

Lastly, you have to scale. Internet traffic is growing and spiking in ways that are different from just a month ago. Enterprise brands selling online have to provide the same online shopping experience at peak times as they do during slow traffic. The consumer doesn’t know when or care when internet traffic spikes; they only care if the brand is providing a timely and relevant experience.

When consumers find those brands that prioritize the customer with care and superior online shopping experiences, they reward the companies with preference, advocacy, spend, and — the most precious currency of today — trust. This trust you will continue long after the COVID-19 virus pandemic leaves us.
About The Author

Debjani is the cofounder of ZineOne, which provides the #1 AI-powered personalization platform. She leads the execution of ZineOne’s vision and is responsible for the overall company performance. Previously, she was the co-founder of EmPower which was sold to Genpact (NYSE G) and the Worldwide CSO at GCI, a WPP company. She also has worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, ONI systems, Mayan Networks, and AT&T Bell Labs. Ms. Deb has an MBA from MIT and an MS from Stanford University.