By Ross Kramer, CEO, Listrak | March 17, 2020

I have been personally struggling with the right message to send to Listrak clients and partners.

Just one more “we’re concerned and cleaning surfaces” message did not seem to be incrementally valuable. Neither did a message that “we’re taking care of our employees and business will continue to operate as usual.”

We’re all in uncharted waters and facing this unprecedented situation together. Knowing how this crisis is affecting our retail clients, I have an incredible amount of empathy for what they are currently experiencing.

Addressing COVID-19 in the Retail Industry

For many companies, it’s become a balancing act between saying nothing and saying the wrong things. At first, companies were hesitant to say anything at all around COVID-19, but now it seems they are sending a new message almost every day.

It can be a fine line but during these times of uncertainty, no one wants to appear to be tone-deaf, insensitive or seen as virtue signaling. The fear and anxiety that comes along with this crisis could easily turn customers off from your brand if you approach your communication efforts wrong.

If you’re unsure that your COVID-19 communication is hitting the mark, Gartner analyst, Augie Ray, wrote a very thoughtful piece on the dangers of virtue signaling in brand communication regarding COVID-19. It’s a great resource to help companies ensure they are providing the right resources to their customers during this time.

- Augie Rae, Gartner - “Beware of Virtue Signaling or Outright Greed in Brand Communications About COVID-19”

So as we face this new challenge together, we feel the most impactful way to help our partners is to share highlights of brands who are doing a good job at communicating with customers through this crisis.

While this is an extremely fluid situation and the world seems to change a bit hour-by-hour, these are some of the best email messages I have seen in the past 48-hours.

Using Email to Communicate COVID-19 Efforts

Over the last two weeks, you’ve most likely received dozens of emails from companies you subscribe to around their COVID-19 efforts. But when they first arrived in your inbox, they may have felt generic and disconnected.

This is likely because at that time many brands were unsure if they should or should not address the topic. They were trying to tread lightly to gain a better understanding of what content worked, and what didn’t.

That has quickly changed over the last week and in that time we’ve seen companies begin to expand their communication efforts. Sometimes even receiving multiple emails within one day from the same company about limited hours, store closures, or other efforts they are making during this crisis.

Let’s look at a few brands that have done a good job implementing these tactics into their COVID-19 communication efforts.

Kendra Scott: Donating to Response Efforts

Kendra Scott is a historically philanthropic brand and that holds true during this crisis. Even though they have chosen to close all of their stores due to COVID-19, they are still choosing to donate to the cause.

Here’s what they did well:

  • Committed to donating to help those affected by the crisis
  • Built a sense of community and devotion to their customers
Kendra Scott utilizes their emails to give back to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a great way for them to show that they are dedicated to their community and stand with their philanthropic image.

50% of all the proceeds from the Everlyne Bracelets they sell are donated directly to the COVID-19 Response Fund. This is a great way for Kendra Scott to bring what their brand stands for into their efforts and communication around the crisis.

Not only are they donating a portion of their proceeds, but they’ve also chosen to kick-off the campaign by donating 500,000 meals for students who rely on National School Lunch Programs. This email does a great job of building a community feel and letting their customers know they are committed to helping everyone in this time of need.

AHAVA: Helping Customers Stay Healthy and Happy

According to the CDC, washing your hands frequently is one of the best steps you can take to prevent yourself from COVID-19.

Skincare brand, AHAVA, realizes that washing your hands and using hand sanitizer frequently can cause your skin to become dryer than usual. So in an effort to help their customers stay healthy and happy, they are offering their best-selling mineral hand cream free on all orders over $60.

Even if it’s a small gesture, AHAVA is doing its part to encourage customers to continue to wash their hands and decrease the spread of the virus. With a free moisturizer, no one has an excuse for not washing their hands.

Here’s what they did well:

  • Addressed a problem that their customers have when frequently washing their hands: dry skin
  • Provided a solution to this problem to help keep customer healthy and happy

AHAVA reminds customers of the importance of washing their hands, but also realizes that’s a recipe for dry skin. Providing free moisturizer lets them keep customers healthy and happy.

Goop: Providing Daily Health-Related Updates

Goop is helping its customers with everything life throws at them during this unusual time. They have an entire section of their website dedicated to helping customers by providing research and health tips for both physical and mental health.

Here’s what they did well:

  • Provided their customers with tips and resources to help them to protect themselves through prevention
  • Shared content around anxiety and mental health which may affect many of their customers during this time
  • Used research to help customers educate themselves on the issues at hand
Goop provides customers with more than just a discount or deal. They provide a source for research and healthy living.

Providing customers with the resources they need from building up your immunity, finding quick and easy recipes, and ways to ease anxiety, Goop is providing their customers with much more than just a brand-eccentric experience.

This also offers them the opportunity to continue to provide customers with the content they want and need in the future.

KAY Jewelers: Promoting Online Shopping

Knowing that customers are practicing social distancing and may not be shopping in-store like they normally might, many brands are choosing to offer free shipping.

Kay Jewelers did just that and encouraged customers to have a “safe and healthy experience no matter how they shop.” By providing customers with free shipping and enhanced remote customer service, they are making it easier for customers to continue to shop for jewelry even if they are stuck at home.

What they did well:

  • Offered customers free shipping to encourage online shopping
  • Made customer service easily accessible for anyone who has questions or needs further assistance
 KAY Jewelers wants customers to know that they can still shop for diamonds and get them shipped for free

Anthropologie: Adding Subtle Messaging

While others have taken a much more direct approach, Anthropologie opted to provide customers with a more subtle message. In their messaging, they use a simple headline that reads: “challenging times call for thoughtful choices.”

The simplicity of the message is what makes this email work. It doesn’t make customers nervous about what lies ahead but instead provides customers with something to take their minds off of the craziness going on in the world around us.

Here’s what they did well:

  • The message was simple and subtle
  • It doesn’t make customers worry or nervous about what’s going on in the world around them

Anthropologie takes a more subtle approach to their messaging. Letting customers know that even during challenging times, they’re still there for their customers. Image courtesy of Anthropologie marketing.

Moving Forward With COVID-19 Communication

While this is definitely an uncertain time for our customers and uncharted waters for both us and our retail partners -- it’s a great opportunity to show what sets us apart. Each example that we highlighted in this article provides you with a different way to approach the pandemic at hand.

It may not be the best-case scenario but if we band together, we can find the best solution for your business needs and provide customers with the reassurance they need.

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