A #COVID19 #BusinessTalk webinar with Peter Hooley, Kevin Briscoe and Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson

  • 10 June 2020
  • 9 min read

In these unique times how will my business be perceived. As a community, many businesses and individuals have come together to help the vulnerable and those struggling with COVID-19 issues. Will that change once lockdown ends? Can I plan to ensure my consumers continue to do business with me?

In this webinar Kevin Briscoe from briscoe:pr and Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson answer your questions around consumer psychology and your business.

Below is a condensed version of questions and answers from our webinar for those who want a quick summary.

Quickfire summary

Sianne: Very few consumers will be making a conscious effort of looking directly at businesses. It’s the old saying of as soon as businesses step out of line, or do something wrong, then they’re suddenly on their radar. It’s all about the synergy between what that business stands for and what they stand for as consumers. As soon as the business puts the wrong foot forward it’s very difficult to get that consumer back because these companies won’t realise they have lost that consumer

Kevin: The reputation that businesses have, counts for a lot for consumers. I think and it’s very difficult for companies to speak to consumers on an individual basis. people are able to forgive those businesses that have had difficult decisions to make. I think people will come to accept that sometimes difficult decisions may have had to be taken. It will come down to how those businesses have behaved and whether or not they think that behaviour is something that represents the value of that business, and whether it matches up with their personal values.

Kevin: Consumers need to be reassured about the business. Reassurance can be on a number of different levels if they are a retail business for example, how safe is it for people to come and use that store? How safe is it for them as shoppers and how safe is it for staff? What sort of cleaning regime do they have? What sort of social distancing measures do they have? Have they changed their business at all? These sort of issues are what consumers really want to know about. In terms of the messaging, it needs to be clear, reassuring, not alarming, it needs to be uncomplicated, simple. They need to make their messaging distinctive. Businesses really need to think clearly about how they deliver messages.

Sianne: In terms of the messaging, they need to be very visible and show how they have been taking action against COVID. They need to be relevant, in terms of lockdown a lot of companies need to be continuing to communicate with consumers but not to the degree that it was before, they need to keep themselves consistent. It’s all about building relationships post-COVID.

Kevin: Businesses, especially in retail need to make sure that the messaging they are providing is absolutely relevant to the people who are using their business. They need to be very clear and really specific.

Pete: Is it all about words or is there an opportunity for imagery and graphics?

Sianne: It’s a combination of things, words are only a part of it. With consumers, there’s a lot of trust issues, uncertainty, there’s been a lot of mixed messages. It’s not just through words it’s through imagery and sharing practice. It’s not just a verbal communication it’s a non-verbal communication as well. The tone needs to be right to whoever those consumers are.

Sianne: Companies should have always been reassuring to consumers, we are in the times of sustainability. Consumers are now realising that by being in lockdown and commuting less, shopping less and travelling less, that has had a positive impact on the climate. You have had some stores who have remained open during lockdown have done really well. Maybe consumers are reassessing their former type of consumption patterns and their needs as well. The smaller types of businesses are really good at reacting and creating opportunities. It’s that recognition of ‘what will the new normal be?’ We don’t know but we do know it will be different from what normal used to be.

Kevin: This has been happening a long time since COVID-19 came along, the pandemic seems to have accelerated that process. During the time that businesses have been closed or perhaps running at a smaller level, this has given businesses time to think about how they deliver the work they deliver that can build on their customer loyalty.

Kevin: Prices are always important to consumers, probably more so when times are difficult and if we are heading for a recession and if money becomes tight for people then price will pay a very large part in how they make their decisions. Where price is comparable between two different organisations people will want to work the one that has the ethical background or does things the right way and matches up with what their values are.

Sianne: We’re entering a recession now so a lot of options have gone, a lot of choices have gone so it’s down to survival. The price will be a large part of decision making. I think consumers will be looking more locally, this pandemic has created more of a sense of community e.g. helping local SME’s, helping the vulnerable, let’s buy local.

Sianne: The bad examples are those that are seen as quite opportunistic and lack a lot of empathy. It’s about being mindful and empathetic and recognising that consumers won’t forget, so the minute you make a wrong step we tend to remember more negative things rather than positive. It’s about being conscious and aware that you have got to survive post-pandemic.

Kevin: A fairly recent example was this catalogue site where people can buy goods and pay from a store card or equivalent, and some email communications came from this organisation with ‘we’re here to help’ and essentially it was ‘you’ve still got to pay your monthly payment, and here’s some alternative ways you can still make those payments’ If you really dug deep into the company it was that they were offering payment freezes for vulnerable people. They completely undermined their customer base by taking a cold and clinical line with them instead of thinking a bit more carefully about what they were saying. Businesses can still get their messages out about the services they provide without doing a hard sell.

Kevin: I think the supermarkets have been superb and moved very quickly, dealt with providing information and they have set the standards for all the other shops when they open on how to social distance etc. Greggs, the baker has done lots of ‘greggs-it-yourself’ recipes where you can make your own favourites, and this has provided fantastic engagement.

Sianne: There have been quite a lot of local leaflets that have come through the door, with the focus on consumers during periods of uncertainty. Costa was very good to jump on the lack of flour availability by suggesting cakes that didn’t require flour and posting the recipes.

Pete: A lot of distilleries have turned overcapacity to generating alcohol cleansing gel. At a national level, the beer producer Brewdog has donated to care charities.

Sianne: It goes back to whatever business models or research that businesses had on consumers pre-lockdown, it is now out of date. Consumers are now working from home, and their consumption patterns have changed. In terms of consumers, they should have two-way communication. There needs to be a constant dialogue.

Kevin: Existing customers will know the business and have a basic understanding of the business and a built-in connection with that business. New customers may be coming as the previous supplier is no longer there or maybe they think it’s time for a change. For the new customers, it’s about starting from scratch in building that relationship with them. It’s about different communications for different types of clients.

Sianne: With existing customers, they would have changed anyway so it’s about constantly doing that planning, planning for contingencies. Because it’s evolving it’s important to start with the new customers as well.

Sianne: It’s all about being visible and showing how you have been taking action against COVID. It’s about continuing to be relevant and building those established relationships that have been nurtured throughout the pandemic. It’s about anticipating different scenarios.

Kevin: It’s important to listen to what your audience is saying and take the pulse of how they’re behaving and what their feeling. Create your content and your story on what your hearing. Build your strategy on what answers their needs.