3 Ways Your Brand Can Approach This Holiday Season With Empathy
A year that has seen a pandemic, social unrest, natural disasters and political turmoil has left consumers stressed out and uncertain about their futures. In this context, the aggressive sales and marketing tactics of previous holiday seasons will not only be less effective in 2020, but can make a brand seem tone deaf.
Instead, brands need to practice what's called "compassionate marketing." Consumers are craving empathy, benevolence and genuine connection. Compassionate marketing means ensuring your brand’s marketing embodies those values.
It may be challenging to look beyond the next few months’ immediate goals, but a marketing strategy guided by empathy is the best way to create loyal customers and future-proof your brand. Here are three key ways your brand can practice compassionate marketing:
1. Encourage, Enable and Reward Safe Behavior
Waiting in line for Black Friday bargains and braving crowded shopping malls to find the perfect gifts are holiday rites of passage — but not this year. In the ongoing pandemic, health and wellbeing are the primary concerns of consumers. A brand’s marketing must recognize our new reality and convey that the company is foremost watching out for its customers and employees.
Begin with clear marketing around safe shopping options. If you have both offline and online sales channels, and if your business model allows, encourage customers to shop online. If retail locations are vital to your brand, explain the steps you’ve taken to keep stores clean and employees safe.
Reinforce that you ensure a safe, socially distant shopping experience by maximizing the availability of popular options. It isn’t the year to take advantage of FOMO and the doorbuster effect. Be sure to encourage curbside pickup and local delivery as well.
Also, consider using holiday discounts and promotions in ways that reward safe behavior. That might include special online-only items or pricing, as well as free shipping. Follow the lead of some grocery chains and offer specific shopping hours for customers over 60 or those with high-risk conditions. You can reward customers who shop during off-peak hours with coupons or discounts.
2. Promote Responsible Consumption
It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging customers to spend wisely will motivate them to buy more from you over time. Encourage messages that promote the quality of products, not the quantity.
Avoid offers that push people to spend more than they originally planned, such as “Buy 3, Get 1 Free.” Promoting free shipping only for orders over a certain amount rather than to all customers is also off-putting — and can send consumers to find brands that are offering the perk to everyone.
Do acknowledge the reality that many people are shopping with budgets, and help them stick to them. Prompt shoppers to browse your store by a range of cost (under $10, under $100, etc.), with some “manager’s specials” at various price points. Limiting the portfolio of items on which “interest-free installments” or “shop now and pay later” options are available is a subtle way to keep customers from falling into debt. Depending on your niche, educating customers about payment options as well as credit and debt can make your brand stand out as one that cares about people.
3. Prioritize Relationships Over Transactions
Customer service and a great shopping experience are fundamental to a retailer’s success. That's especially true in 2020. You don’t need to go as far as ordering a pizza for your customers, as Zappos’ support team once did, but fast, effective and courteous service will go a long way to lifting your brand above competitors.
If you provide world-class support before, during and after a purchase, it will show customers you care about them. Use the emails you send as opportunities to let customers know what support is available and the best ways for them to reach out.
The rise in e-commerce sales also means a higher chance of shipping delays. No one enjoys when an item they had planned on gifting to a loved one is delayed. Being as transparent as possible with customers and having empathetic customer service representatives on staff will improve the odds they give your brand another chance.
Compassionate Marketing in a Nutshell
Taking care of your customers is always a smart business practice, but in 2020, it's the only way to go. Hard times don't create heroes; they reveal the heroes in us. The same is true for brands. Once better days arrive, we will all remember which brands were good, bad and ugly during this challenging year.
People need to trust things right now, and through compassionate marketing, a brand can show it's reliable and values its customers. That bond is required now more than ever.
Thibaud Clement is the CEO and co-founder of Loomly, a brand success platform that empowers marketing teams to grow successful brands online through collaboration, publishing and analytics features.