By Ashley Kim,
Apr 30, 2020

How Brands are Altering Communications During COVID-19

Female on her phone

In an unprecedented time of uncertainty, consumers are spending less time buying non-essentials and spending more time on their screens. How can DTC brands retain their customers in a time where they’re less inclined to buy?

  • Personalize your communication. Speak human-to-human. Don’t be tone-deaf.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Show how you’re supporting.
  • Be TRANSPARENT. Your customers have questions. Do your best to answer them.
  • Get social on your socials. Engage with your customers/followers to develop a sense of community.
  • Give your customers a reason to shop. Offer meaningful value that will physically and emotionally help them through this difficult time.

Over the last several weeks, the severity of COVID-19 has grown exponentially. People all over the world are fearful and anxious as unemployment skyrockets to a record high, major events cancel, and life operates on social distancing and quarantine.

Significantly less time outside means more time inside, watching the news, browsing the Internet, and self-entertaining on social media. How can DTC brands communicate with their customers, who are fearful of the uncertain future, and have less to spend on non-essentials? We break it down below.


Personalize your communication. Acknowledge what’s happening.

In a digital age where brands learn that “short and sweet” wins, now is not the time to be short on the messages DTC brands send their customers. In a time where many people are quarantined alone and are feeling a lack of support and community, brands should, now more than ever, personalize communication, especially emails since they can often come off very “sales-y.”

We’ve all heard the mantra, “We’re all in this together.” First, yes, it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening and garner a sense of community and support. It’s all part of not being tone-deaf. Business-as-usual is not what’s usual right now.

If you can, go the whole nine yards. CEOs, write and sign the email. Show leadership to your employees and your customers. Many consumers may feel disconnected from the people behind the DTC brands they purchase from. Take this time to change that. Getting directly personal with your consumers instills trust in the brand and the leadership behind it.


Actions speak louder than words.

What people care most about is not how brands feel. We all feel fearful, anxious, and supportive of the less fortunate, the sick, and those saving lives. What people care most about is what brands are doing to support “we’re all in this together.”

If possible, brands should use its resources to give back to those in need. New Balance converted its US factories to develop, manufacture, and deliver facial masks to hospitals across the country, with the goal to make up to 100,000 masks weekly. Not only are they just producing face masks, but they’re constantly advancing the mask design and materials specifications to follow FDA guidelines.

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Not every brand has the capacity to produce PPE, but they can partner with nonprofits and organizations. Enlightened partnered with Feeding America by donating 50% of its in-store and DTC sales to the initiative's COVID-19 Response Fund. The post also included a personal and transparent message from the brand’s founder and CEO.

Enlightened


Transparency is key.

We all have many questions, including your customers, especially the ones who value your brand and are the most loyal. Some questions people are asking are:

  • How are manufacturing factories/warehouses/distribution centers being affected? Especially the ones in China and Italy?
  • What health/safety precautions are put in place for the employees in warehouses/factories?
  • How will COVID-19 affect shipping/delivery timelines?
  • How are launches being affected?
  • How are retail employees being compensated?

You can utilize your communication channels - email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook - to answer your customers’ questions directly.

Even better, you can pre-address your customers’ concerns by hosting Q&A sessions with your brands’ employees.

Another great way to utilize email communication during this time is to send informational emails (not sales) to keep your customers informed and to show them your brand values transparency and the health and safety of their employees. Remember, educating your customers on what’s happening behind the scenes is not the time to sell.

However you choose to communicate with your consumers, honesty is the best policy. Speak to your customers like real people, and put yourself in their shoes. Answer the questions you’d have for your brand if you were on the other side.


Get social on your socials.

If you utilize Screen Time on your iPhones, you’ve probably noticed that your screen times have gone up the past few weeks. We don’t blame you. There’s only so much you can do staying home all day. But spending time on Instagram doesn’t have to be useless, especially for DTC brands.

Take advantage of everyone’s increased screen times and communicate with your consumers through social media. Instagram is a big one. It’s a great opportunity to build your brand, change your narrative, and spread some joy. How can you do that?

  • Humanize your posts and stories. Show your followers how your team is staying connected and working from home, which consequently is working for them, the consumers. Share screen recordings and screenshots of Zoom meetings.

    If your brand is in the fashion space, bring your employees to the forefront by showcasing how they’re staying fashionably comfy in their work-from-home outfits. And then encourage your followers to share theirs for a chance to be posted on the account.

    If it aligns with your brand tone and messaging, spread some smiles with appropriate humor. Outdoor Voices adds a humorous twist to the above example with some furry friends.

Outdoor Voices

  • Partner with other brands, in and out of your industry, that share your values.

    For example, Madewell partnered with Clean Market to share tips on how to find a peace of mind in times of uncertainty.

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Offer meaningful value.

With a record-high unemployment rate, customers may be less inclined to shop. That doesn’t mean DTC brands can’t generate any sales right now. They just need to offer meaningful value. What does that exactly mean?

Many people shop and return in-store to avoid shipping/return fees. Now that brick-and-mortar stores are closed, and customers don’t have the option to shop in-store, offer free shipping and returns. Waiving these fees can go a long way, especially if you usually charge your customers for shipping and mail-in returns.

Companies like Bones Coffee are rewarding customers with deals and sales that encourage online shopping vs. buying their products through physical retail channels.

Bones Coffee

Of course, not every DTC brand offers comfort-related products. If you’re a DTC luxury brand, your customers most likely aren’t inclined to purchase your expensive shoes or cool snowboard. However, framing those wishlist items in the right way with appropriate copy can win customers over to treat themselves, which we can all emotionally use right now. Remember, luxury purchases are emotional purchases. No one buys those heels or that snowboard because they need them; they buy them because they want them.

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Let’s stay connected.

Continue building a community around your brand.

  1. Acknowledge what’s happening. Acknowledge we’re all feeling similar ways. Show care and leadership through personalized messaging. CEOs, get involved!

  2. Actions speak louder than words. What are you doing to support those in need?

  3. Be transparent. Answer the tough questions.

  4. Engage with them on social media. Share how the humans being your brand are staying united during this time, and encourage your followers to be a part of it.

  5. Offer them meaningful value. Remember, shopping for non-essentials isn’t top-of-mind. And the customers who are shopping are now limited to only shop online.