Taking Care of Your Customers and Partners in the Wake of COVID-19

Date

March 13, 2020

Author

Andy Arnold

EVP, Chief Client Officer

Andy plays a pivotal role in Ansira’s growth and success, leading teams devoted to client partnership, new business, revenue growth, sales operations, and marketing and communications.

For brands with a distributed sales model, the projected shift in consumer purchasing patterns, especially, at a local level, will be significant in the coming weeks to months. Today’s sensitive landscape calls for an equally sensitive approach to the way brands interact with customers and how they provide experiences. However, now is the time to lead partners in implementing experiential strategies that reassure current brand loyalists and build credibility with new consumers. While there is no “one solution fits all” approach to mitigating potential impact, understanding your susceptibility is the first step.

Storefront
People shop and spend locally. As regular foot traffic and physical interactions become less frequent, brands that rely heavily on sales from brick and mortar establishments will feel it. In this instance, driving proactive awareness for the preventative steps your brand is implementing can go a long way.

  • Taking outward action such as providing hand sanitizing stations at entrances and high traffic areas, displaying signage on how to properly wash your hands, and requiring all employees wear protectant gloves helps to reinforce trust between storefront and consumer.
  • A brand’s front line of local influence is the individual selling their product or taking an order. For brand’s who don’t directly control that store environment, how do you help answer the inevitable customer questions? Empower Channel Partners (franchisees and retailers specifically) to satisfy inbound inquiries by providing them with guidelines and suggestions for best practices and thoughtful responses to common questions: “what safety precautions will be readily available for me upon entrance,” “what kind of sanitizing products do you use,” and “how often do you clean frequently touched surfaces.”
  • Consider creating new Channel Partner Marketing assets and campaigns for timely implementation over the next few months and use your Channel Partner Marketing solution to communicate, at scale, with partners directly. Make all of these assets eligible for MDF or COOP reimbursement.

Purchasing in a Time of Uncertainty
Give consumers a reason to purchase that overshadows their perception of risk and look ahead to your planned customer communications to ensure that you pivot messaging where necessary — being sure to communicate your brand’s understanding of their situational concern.

  • Contemplate how to augment program mechanics if thresholds and minimums can’t be met by consumers during this time. Know what sponsorships, incentive programs, or other promotions might be impacted and contingency plan now.
  • Evolve current content messaging recommendations to include key content blocks around COVID-19 related updates.
  • Monitoring and tracking are even more critical during an unexpected downturn in sales or time of supply chain uncertainty – especially key for any CPG brand. Lean in to monitor your MAP pricing policies and available inventory. Consider ways in which you might re-direct product or supply to harder hit areas or help local communities significantly impacted.
  • Revisit your media objectives in the short term and adjust messaging to align with the current consumer mindset.

Virtual engagement
As local foot traffic decreases, the demand for virtual engagement rises. Providing digital opportunities for people to continue engaging with, and purchasing from, a brand is now becoming a standard requirement among consumers.

  • Online ordering, delivery, and to-go pick-up options will be in demand. Ensure that you work with your partners to help consumers understand what is available, when. Proactively communicate any purchasing limitations on orders. Restate your short-term policies and practices with regard to sanitation and employee contact on order confirmations/electronic receipts. Think about new features for pick-up or delivery that reduce handling and interaction (pick-up racks or lockers; “leave at door” delivery option; sealed bottles or cans versus fountain drink stations).
  • Consider prioritizing creation of digitally consumed content to help keep potential customers engaged in a longer term or “luxury” purchase. Industries like automotive, travel, and luxury goods can combine digital tools and content to help keep brands and destinations top-of-mind but not outwardly promote purchase.
  • Virtual events, meetings, and ongoing communication opportunities are a safe bet. Now is the time to invest in or expand your company’s use of digital tools and technologies to engage with each other, and with partners.
  • Unlocking content or creating “first look” peeks of future products or product features can also keep customers engaged and loyalty high during a sure to be slower spend period.

The long-term impact of the coronavirus is simply not known at this time and is an incredibly fluid situation. Please defer to updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as specific national and local proclamations, to best inform the decisions you make for your customers and partners. If we can help in any way, contact us, or reach out to your client partnership lead directly.

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