How to engage customers in a difficult economy Over the past year, economies all over the world have been drastically impacted. Which in turn impacts everyone’s lives. Friends, families, businesses, and even marketers. Navigating a difficult economy is no easy feat for marketers. Particularly when the landscape is constantly changing, adapting, and pivoting to tackle new challenges. Campaigns have to be paused. Events have to be cancelled. Leads are decreasing. Even core messaging can quickly become outdated and inappropriate. That’s a lot to keep on top of. To help marketers through this time, we have created this guide to explain how they can keep customers engaged in a difficult economy. By following these strategies, marketers can maintain their loyal shoppers, help support their business, and hopefully even win some new customers along the way. For marketers, better starts here. The economy in 2021 What do we mean by a “difficult economy”? Obviously, the state of an economy differs from country to country. However, the pandemic has plunged us into unfamiliar territory. Affecting the entire global economy at a drastic scale. Global growth was projected at -4.9% in 2020, 1.9% points below the April 2020 World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast. Furthermore, the pandemic had a more drastic negative impact on the economy in the first half of 2020 than originally anticipated. And the recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously predicted. But what does that mean for the regular consumer? In the UK, it resulted in 8.8million jobs being furloughed at the scheme’s peak. Unemployment rates rising to 4.9%. 15,700 high street stores closing their doors permanently. And globally, 16.4% of total retail sales being attributed to eCommerce – an all-time high. Brands, businesses, and marketers have had to think on their feet to stay afloat. Turning their regular strategies on their head. And having a clear focus on the customer. A customer-first approach The customer-first approach is a strategy that has been talked about a lot over the past few years. But never has it been so relevant as it is today. 64% of customers believe that customer service and experience is more important than price. Which means all the hard work you put into your product and sales can fail at the last hurdle if you are not engaging well with your customers. Throughout all of the advice we will give you in this guide, there is one stand out approach you will need to remember. Put the customer first. Above all else. Simply, this means marketing around them and what is most important to them. During a crisis, emotions run high and it is easy for businesses to get things wrong. So approach all of your marketing activity by first focusing on your customers’ needs, pain points, and feelings. Before your business. Because right now, businesses need their customers more than ever before. Oatly.com website during the pandemic 6 strategies to engage customers Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of how the economy is affecting marketers. And that should be putting your customer first in all of your marketing activity. But how exactly..? 1. Review what works When you’re in a difficult economy, the marketing rule book can be flipped upside down. But we all have to start somewhere when planning activity. Because of course, it’s not just customers who have to be budget-conscious during a difficult economy. Businesses need to be too. And reviewing past successes is a great place to begin. Look at your campaigns and activity over the past few years and identify what has generated the most engagement. Look at email open and click through rates. Social posts that received the most comments and likes. Competitions that generated the most entrants. Paid ads that received the most clicks. Try to identify any commonalities between all of this activity. Is there a certain topic or theme? Specific messaging or imagery? Or maybe one channel outperforms all others? By gaining this invaluable insight into your campaigns and activity, you can make sure that you are spending your precious time and resource on activity that is far more likely to generate engagement. 2. Show empathy Being in a difficult economy is a stressful experience for everyone. It brings about challenges that many of us could not even fathom. Redundancies, child care, education, physical and mental health. Right now marketers need to be conscious of the tone of their communications and campaigns. And show empathy wherever possible. For example, when so many people are struggling financially. Promoting your most exclusive, expensive products to your entire database is probably not the most empathetic thing to do. So review all of your marketing communications and campaigns, including your email automations, scheduled social posts, content, and website messaging. When scheduling activity, it’s easy for an inappropriate message to be forgotten about, only to land in someone’s inbox or Twitter feed at the most inopportune moment. Instead, address what is happening in the economy and the challenges people face. Be open, honest, and transparent. And continuously monitor feedback and the overall tone of the country. Because now is not the time to take your finger off the pulse. Image Source – Pinterest 3. Make the most of your online offering As we mentioned, a difficult economy poses challenges for both businesses and customers. So marketers want to ensure that they are focusing time and resource on their most valuable channels. Over the past year, eCommerce sales have hit an all-time high of 16.4% of total global retail sales after Covid-19 accelerated years of growth in just weeks. Image Source – eMarketer For obvious reasons, many high street stores are closed or not accessible. And the world is quickly turning online for the entirety of their shopping. So, if you haven’t already. Now is the time to put your energy into pushing your online offering. Consider all aspects of online, starting with your website and email communications, to your social media posting and paid advertising. Every element should be reviewed and tested for messaging, imagery, links, landing pages, CTAs, and so on. Ensuring a seamless online user experience to encourage engagement and purchases. 4. Personalise Personalisation is key when it comes to engagement. In fact, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences. And when consumers are in a difficult economy, they feel stressed, isolated, and even alone. So a little personalisation can go a long way. There are so many opportunities for personalisation to support your customer base right now, for instance: First name By simply adding a first name to email subject lines and email copy, you are adding an easy personal touch which can help catch your recipient’s eye. Location With lockdown restrictions and high street store closures, the location of your recipient can have a big impact on your messaging. So use your website and emails to communicate store closures and delivery restrictions, and offer helpful information. Anniversary Anniversary emails generate open rates that are 3 times higher than regular emails. So they’re a great engagement tactic for marketers. With the added benefit of delighting recipients. Whether it’s a birthday, sign up anniversary, or a date that’s special to your audience, send a little celebration to their inbox, and maybe even include a discount code. Behavioural and purchasing Use behavioural and purchasing data to recommend related products, send replenishment campaigns, or offer an abandoned basket nudge to your customers. Ensuring you’re showcasing the most relevant products as possible. 5. Automate Automation is key for many businesses at the best of times. But even more so during a difficult economy. With budgets cut, roles furloughed, and unfortunately in some cases, redundancies made. Marketers are having to make the most of every penny. This is where automation comes in. Automation enables marketers to send out streams of highly targeted, personalised emails and website communications – like the ones we mentioned above – without having to create and schedule each message manually. Time is invested in the early stages to set up the automations. But once that is done they can run in the background. Continuously engaging with customers, with little additional work needed from the marketer. This means that brands can send the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Increasing engagement levels without increasing resource. 6. Build community During times of crisis, many turn to their community. And for marketers, building a community is a fantastic way to keep customers engaged, informed, and loyal. Unlike many other forms of marketing that is focused around generating new customers, community building is focused around connecting and engaging with customers to build long-term relationships. It’s about starting conversation. Making your customers feel heard. And connecting them with one another. And there are so many ways for brands to build a community. Begin by checking in on your email communications and social profiles. Can these be increased to encourage conversation? Or start hosting competitions that encourage others to engage with you, their friends, and others in your audience. You can even provide community through content. Hosting videos and live events that your audience can join and directly engage with. Engagement checklist Marketers have a lot to deal with right now, so we understand if that was a lot of information to take in. To make your lives easier, here is a checklist to help you engage with your customers right now. Review what works Before you get stuck into reinventing your marketing strategy, take a step back. Look at what has previously worked in your campaigns and communications, and identify how you can incorporate this into your future activity. Show empathy It can be easy to get the tone of your audience wrong right now. And this is a mistake that many brands have made. Make sure that your messaging is in line with the challenges your audience are facing right now. And show true empathy wherever possible. Make the most of your online offering As stores close and people are plunged into lockdown restrictions, online shopping is receiving an understandable boom. So make sure yours is top-notch. Review all of your online messaging, imagery, and processes to offer as streamlined a buying journey as possible. Personalise A little personalisation goes a long way. So make your audience feel special in these difficult times with targeted anniversary emails, suggested products, and discounts. Automate To achieve perfectly personalised communications, you’re going to need marketing automation. This will allow you to send the exact right message, at the right time, to the right person. With little additional work. Build community Many are craving community and connection right now. So start a conversation! Reignite your email comms and social platforms. Hold engaging competitions. Or host online events. There are lots of fun options to bring people together. Customer-first Last but not least. Remember to put your customer first in everything that you do. Learn as much as you can about them right now. And incorporate that into all of your marketing activity moving forward.