Striking The Right Sentiment With Consumers

While in-person mattress shopping is mostly at a stand still right now, you might be wondering how all those ecommerce mattress brands are faring during this moment in time. On the surface, it stands to reason that with all the brick-and-mortar stores closing, all ecommerce could be thriving, catering to those stuck at home with reliable sources of income. While certain categories are seeing an uptick, many are struggling along with brick-and-mortar. Much of the success of any brand today comes down to strategy and messaging, an increasingly delicate aspect of selling during what is shaping up to be an unprecedented universal hardship. So what messages are being sent? Which are succeeding? How are brands, essential and non-essential, positioning themselves right now? And if you are trying to pivot and serve customers digitally, what should you be saying?

Some brands are looking for ways to help. Others are finding ways to stay top of mind with consumers. And some are struggling with finding the right tone and are striking the wrong one in the process. Developing the right message and deploying it effectively in this crisis comes down to what all strong marketing does: really understanding the consumer audience you want to reach.

How Do Consumers Feel?

This crisis is impacting everyone in some way, no matter what kind of job you do and what your socio-economic situation is. But that impact looks strikingly different across the board. While some consumers with job security and remaining confidence in the economy may be taking this time to re-do their homes, especially since they have nowhere to go and nothing but time, others are worried about where they will land financially when all this is over.

In this article from VOX, a variety of consumers were interviewed about their own feelings towards shopping right now—showcasing a range of perspectives and approaches that white-collar workers at home are taking when it comes to shopping.

Some are choosing to hunker down and save for “the next Great Depression we will be having.” Others are caving to emotional impulse buys, like purchasing the loungewear they’ve never really needed before—only to experience buyer’s remorse later. Many expressed concern for the health and workloads of those packaging and delivering products: “I don’t want to stress out the package delivery system even more with unnecessary purchases. If I order something dumb, that’s just added work for them.” While others are focusing on supporting favorite local businesses, realizing that their cash will keep someone employed and a favorite haunt intact.

And according to this article from the New York Times, “In just three weeks, more than 16 million U.S. workers have lost their jobs — more losses than the most recent recession produced over two years.” These individuals are likely focused on necessities and nothing more. And those with essential jobs likely do not have the time or energy to do all that much shopping, apart from immediate needs.

With all these varying consumer experiences, what can you say that will resonate? How can you be genuine about peddling anything when people are losing their livelihood, losing family members and scared about staying healthy? Some brands are getting very creative and smart in response to changing consumer views, others are coming off as disingenuous.

What Messages Resonate? Which Ones Fall Flat?

From smaller start-up brands to larger corporate brands, we are seeing varying approaches to communications. From carefully crafted marketing messages in e-blasts to social channel usage to the inherent message that emerges from how companies are treating their employees right now, there’s so much chatter. Consumers are paying close attention—and they have opinions.

According to this article from Marketing Week, “A survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally by Kantar found that just 8% thought brands should stop advertising. However, there is a clear expectation that companies should play their part, with 78% of consumers believing brands should help them in their daily lives, 75% saying brands should inform people of what they’re doing and 74% thinking companies should not exploit the situation.”

Generally, consumers want to hear from brands, with only 8% of them believing that companies should just stop advertising altogether. But the stakes are high and the “right way” to approach saying something is complicated. According to VOX, “The line between checking in on and trying to be of service to consumers versus profiteering during a moment of panic can be a fine one, and today’s empowered consumers are savvy enough to tell the difference.”

Your inbox is probably flooded with advertisement emails about discounts, sales, deals and other language meant to sweet talk you into pulling the trigger on a purchase. These emails feel a little trite these days. But if you can find a reason to get in touch, remind consumers that you are there for them and also gently remind them that you’re struggling, you probably should. Consumers do understand that companies are trying to hang on, but more than likely they are trying to do the same. That’s why if you do get in touch, it needs to be helpful and it needs to be to the point.

Here are a few strategies for how to reach out to consumers right now:

Offer A Free Tool Or Something Fun

Some examples of crafty ways to stay top of mind without being too aggressive with a sales message come from brands like West Elm, which offered unique backgrounds people could use on their Zoom calls. Similarly, clothing brand Lou & Grey curated a calming Spotify playlist to soothe the anxieties of its customers.

Launch A New Line That Gives Back

Boll & Branch recently launched a new organic bath line. The clincher on this collection is that 10% of a purchase from the company’s website (which is on a 10% off sale right now) will go to company’s efforts to make mattresses and pillows specifically for medical personnel fighting COVID-19. Not only is Boll & Branch putting out a new and interesting home line, but it’s easier for consumers to justify a purchase if they know that their dollars will help support the cause at hand.

Do Something Novel—Subscription Services OR New Collabs

Coffee shops that make their own blends have pivoted to offering subscriptions that help consumers keep caffeinated at home. Something similar could work with linens or bedroom refresh kits. Consider some of the accessories you offer that are low-cost but promote wellness at home. It might be a good time to repackage these product categories to develop care-kit style subscription services. Another way of launching a new and notable line came from Parachute and Madewell, which have drawn some press attention by teaming up for sleep collection. A clear reason to get in touch is to simply do something new and interesting if you have the means. A message that has nothing to do with COVID-19 could serve as a much-needed reprieve for shoppers.

Share Vital Information

Coca Cola donated its social media channel to organizations like the Red Cross to help spread useful information to its large following. Whether you are representing a large corporate brand or you have a local store, sharing vital information that your customers can use will leave a very positive impression.

If your store is closed, but taking online and phone orders—you could communicate this within an email that rounds up local resources or promotes a local charity. Think beyond your brand. Can you partner with a local shelter right now to at least utilize your email list for a meaningful cause? It doesn’t have to cost much or require a huge donation to help your neighborhood or broader community—and the side-benefit is that your business will gain some exposure.

Communicate Your Operations

It is ok to use this time to update your customers about your hours, new digital operations, etc. You don’t want people to come out only to find your doors are shuttered. Make sure your website, Google page and social media reflect your current mode of operation. When it comes to sending out your own updates, take some time to first study all the emails you’ve received from other businesses. People have stopped reading the million COVID-19 response emails from every company they’ve ever bought from. That’s why this information should be part of a message offering support, or talking about something your brand is doing to help.

Say Something With Your Actions

You might not need to send an email to get a message across. Companies that are laying off all their employees, not offering benefits (and are large enough to do so) and ones that are resisting the stay-at-home orders or putting their workers in danger are actively sending an unsavory message to all potential customers. By doing your best to care for your employees, taking the stance to encourage staying in despite the consequence to your business or spending time figuring out exactly what your brand can do to help, you can actually show (and not just tell) that you prize public health over profit. This, for most consumers, is an ideal sentiment.

What’s Next?

In this article from the National Retail Federation, chief economist Jack Kleinhenz says the coronavirus pandemic “has triggered shocks” – but that the underlying economy is sound. However, the soundness of it is largely reliant on how well we stay home and flatten the curve. He goes on to explain, “how quickly the country gets a handle on containing the virus will determine the degree of the impact on the economy and how soon businesses can reopen...We expect a severe contraction, and if the nation doesn’t get the virus under control the fallout will be worse.”

It doesn’t look great right now, but it’s hard to say what the future holds. When it comes to marketing, the aim is not to be remembered as a brand that profiteered during the pandemic. Instead, it’s a good time to be a positive voice—offering solace, support and doing your part.

Read more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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