March 21, 2020
Communicating with customers during COVID: 7 examples
Saying the right thing is hard, especially during periods of great stress. With both businesses and consumers feeling the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak, acknowledging this disruption is key to maintaining good customer relationships. What can you say and do to engage your customers during this difficult time?
Nat Turner said, “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a great deal of confusion, uncertainty, and fear for consumers and business owners alike. While nobody can say for sure how long or severe the outbreak will be, it’s important that we do all we can to seek and provide clarity—to be that bridge for our customers—in the present moment.
It’s hard to say that there’s one right way to communicate with your customers during this unprecedented time—the outbreak has forced everyone to think on their feet in order to adapt—but after evaluating a number of brands and their customer outreach regarding the outbreak, we found a few key elements that stood out as effective, empathetic, genuine, and crystal clear.
These elements are likely to go a long way toward strengthening customer loyalty, bolstering the business against future disruptions, and providing the clarity that everyone is so desperately searching for right now.
Key elements in brand communications regarding COVID-19 include:
- An emphasis on community, care, and connectedness
- Reminders that ecommerce shops are still open
- Offers like discounts, match-for-match donation programs, free delivery, and more
- Re-setting of expectations regarding email cadence and frequency
- Honesty about the gravity of the situation
- Emotional tone, but still true to the brand voice and values
Here are 7 examples of best practice brand communications in the time of COVID-19.
1. Warby Parker
Warby Parker’s updates regarding COVID-19 include an overview of their store hours and closings, a reminder that their online shop is still up and running, and an offer to help their customers with any and all questions they might have.
Why It Works:
- Community focus and care: By closing their stores, continuing to pay their retail workers as if they were working through the closings, and offering consumers one last day to pick up any last-minute items critical to their daily lives, Warby Parker is taking precautions to preserve the safety and well-being of its community.
- Clarity that you can still buy online: Just because consumers have stopped shopping in brick-and-mortar stores doesn’t mean they’ve stopped shopping entirely. By reminding customers that their eCommerce channels are still available, Warby Parker not only ensures that none of their customers are left behind, but also encourages online sales in place of the drop in in-store sales.
- Commitment that they are upping frequency: Warby Parker emphasizes its commitment to helping its customers get through this difficult time with exceptional customer service and digital try-on tools and programs.
Everlane’s COVID-19 message is highly emotive and genuine, featuring a screenshot of its Zoom meeting of remote workers, the tagline “We’re in this together,” and a new promotion to give back to its customers.
Why It Works:
- Community focus and care: By emphasizing unity, humanity, and togetherness, Everlane deepens the emotional connection it has with its customers.
- Adding value in the form of an offer: Everlane says that it would like to provide its customers with “meaningful value in uncertain times.” By giving back to its customers with a $50 voucher off denim, Everlane offers its support to its customers and encourages them to support the brand, too.
- Re-setting expectations: Drastic times call for drastic changes—and Everlane isn’t afraid to “break [its] own rules” and “be in touch more than usual.” Setting this expectation ahead of time is key to maintaining consumer confidence and attention as email frequency increases.
3. Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers’s COVID-19 update communicates that its top priority is the health and safety of its associates, customers and community; reminds customers that its online stores and support systems will remain open; and highlights the brand’s two-centuries-long commitment to its customers.
Why It Works:
- Community focus and care: Brooks Brothers’s email is empathetic and heartfelt in tone, and it conveys the brand’s commitment to the health and safety of its customers and community. As in Everlane’s and Warby Parker’s emails, this care resonates with the reader and strengthens the emotional connection with the brand.
- Trust and confidence: Because Brooks Brothers has been operating for more than 200 years, it has “been witness to many of history’s greatest challenges.” This reminder gives readers a sense of relief and confidence in the brand’s ability to survive this disruption.
- True to brand values: Brooks Brothers tells readers that its commitment to its customers “and each other” is what’s sustained the brand over the past two centuries, and that it fully intends to serve customers with the same innovative vision with which it began. This unwavering focus on its core values helps reinforce consumer trust.
4. Uncharted Supply Co.
Uncharted Supply Co.’s coronavirus update and perspective provides consumers with an overview of Founder Christian Schauf’s recommendations for surviving potential emergencies caused by the pandemic. As a survival company, Uncharted Supply Co. is in the unique position to be highly informative and supportive to its consumers during a time of large-scale fear and uncertainty.
Why It Works:
- Got out early: This email was sent in late February before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. True to the brand, Uncharted Supply Co. had been monitoring the spread of the disease and sent out predictions and advice to its consumers to help them prepare ahead of time.
- Very informative: In times of crisis, understanding the facts, probable outcomes, and educated assumptions about the world’s response can help consumers relax and feel more confident about the future. Uncharted Supply Co.’s email provides consumers with this information to help them make informed decisions about what to do next.
- Honest about the supply chain impacts: With so many consumers scrambling to prepare for the pandemic as best they can, Uncharted Supply Co.’s inventory levels have been affected. Being honest about this impact, providing consumers with an approximate timeline for new stock, and emphasizing the brand’s goal “to provide an immediate solution to [the] Uncharted family without compromising quality” helps preserve consumer trust and loyalty.
5. Mountain Khakis
Unlike many of the grave and emotional COVID-19 communications on this list, Mountain Khakis’s outreach takes a humorous approach. Some might describe this as “zigging when they zag,” and it provides consumers with some much-needed comic relief during a stressful time.
Why It Works:
- Relatable humor: The email’s subject line, “Business on Top, Comfort on the Bottom” and accompanying image is a fun and relatable hat-tip to the rise in remote workers due to the pandemic. This humorous approach will likely resonate well with consumers who are bored or stressed at home.
- Offers helpful products via the online store: Mountain Khaki encourages ecommerce sales by telling consumers to “make the best of [their] WFH situation in the most appropriate attire.” Linking to comfortable WFH clothes on their online store is a light and respectful way of marketing to consumers while still being sensitive to the situation.
- Tips for working from home: As seen in the previous examples, brands that are as supportive as possible will be the ones strengthening and maintaining strong customer relationships during this time. Mountain Khaki does this by offering quick tips for adjusting to working from home.
Lunya’s “We’re in this together” email is an honest and brand-appropriate letter to its customers. It conveys the importance of support and connection during this shared experience, provides a heartfelt thanks to customers who choose to continue shopping at Lunya during the pandemic, and harkens back to its brand voice and values.
Why It Works:
- Community focus and care: Like the majority of the emails on this list, Lunya’s letter is highly emotive and prioritizes connection, empathy, and care. These elements are key to helping customers and businesses make it through this difficult time.
- Offers gratitude for customers: Many retailers are facing drastic drops in revenue due to the pandemic, and Lunya is honest about the “people whose livelihood depends” on its business. Sharing genuine gratitude for customers who continue to shop is a great way for the brand to give back and strengthen its connection with its customers.
- True to the brand: As a women’s sleepwear brand, Lunya emphasizes its core values and reason-for-being with statements like “being home is kind of our forte,” and an offer to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how Lunya’s team is coping with the pandemic on social.
WILDFANG’s COVID-19 email kicks off with love, gratitude, and honesty. It communicates with customers about store closings and the state of the business, conveys gratitude for continued sales in the form of a 25% off discount, promises to donate to a relevant organization, and stays true to its brand in voice, tone, and messaging.
Why It Works:
- Community focus and care: WILDFANG emphasizes its focus on health, safety, and well-being by letting customers know that it’s closing its stores and embracing one-to-one connections with its customers via social media. True to the brand, it tells consumers, “social distancing is a radical act of care, and we want to stay (digitally) connected with you.”
- Honest about the gravity of the situation: It’s true that these are unprecedented times for retailers, and WILDFANG is honest about the fact that “there is no guarantee of survival for small businesses.” By fully embracing the reality of the situation—rather than running from it—WILDFANG incentivizes its most loyal customers to do what they can to support the brand.
- Offers value and gratitude for customers: As a small business, WILDFANG knows that its customers can spend their money anywhere and offers a heartfelt thanks for their continued support during this difficult time. By offering a 25% discount and promising to donate to Dress for Success, the brand gives back to its customers without drastically slashing prices and further jeopardizing its business.
COVID-19 has brands everywhere prioritizing genuine engagement and exceptional customer experiences.
If there’s one message to take away from this roundup of examples, it’s this: Genuine, human engagement is key to strong customer relationships and retail success—and it’s the best approach for brands whether we’re in a time of global panic and uncertainty or a time of stability and peace.
By sticking with your brand values, putting the customer first, remaining communicative, and adding value at every customer touchpoint, you’ll build a loyal customer base that will stick with your brand through thick and thin.
For more information about navigating the retail world during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out these resources. We hope you’ll find them helpful: