This piece was first published in TotalRetail on May 7, 2020.
COVID-19 has brought new challenges to every aspect of life, and at the same time created opportunities and momentum for new trends and innovations. In an age of social distancing, D-to-C brands are deprived of their routine face-to-face interactions with customers. While a myriad of products are available online, creating differentiation and providing value to the customer is even more challenging when physical interaction cannot play a role in the purchase experience.
During these tough times, brands can rise up by being proactive and showing emotional support, both in words and actions. They can also find innovative ways to create some sense of routine and interaction while keeping safe and bridging the physical gap through digital experiences. Surprise gifts, personalized greetings, and funny messages bring smiles to customers’ faces, even for just a moment. Something that we at Bond have done is added do-it-yourself (DIY) origami greeting cards to all orders being delivered to give consumers and their kids something to do while they’re cooped up in the house. Consumers will remember and cherish these delightful moments, and their impact is enhanced in the context of daily challenges.
The most important value D-to-C brands can offer their customers at this time is a sense of certainty. With so many changes and restrictions, providing clear and accurate information is key to successful digital interaction and delivery. Now it matters more than ever to deliver on promises — and packages. This is the time to give customers one less thing to worry about; they should know you’re there for them.
Using technology to curate an accurate and convenient communication channel can be a major step in differentiating and maintaining a sustainable habit of purchasing online. Take Uber for example. The company has done an incredible job marrying the ability for customers to see the ETA for when a car is going to pick them up and drop them off at their desired destination as well as be able to contact the driver at any point. Technology like this provides both trust and transparency, which is absolutely necessary in any sort of delivery experience. During this time especially, providing clear delivery time frames can be vital to consumers quarantined at home, in need of essential products. These technological advancements allow brands to control their post-purchase experience and respond in real-time to emerging changes before outside circumstances hurt the customer experience.
A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and a lot can go wrong in the last mile, either in the fulfillment or delivery phase itself, some of which include:
Brands that manage to visualize, communicate and control their post-purchase experience can be a safe haven of trust and clarity, which can contribute to higher sales during COVID-19. This is the key to raising brand awareness that can last long after the pandemic ends. Be the brand that stands up even when the going gets tough, and provide a reliable and accurate experience consumers can count on.
May Walter is chief technology officer of Bond, an e-commerce startup working to solve last-mile delivery issues for retailers.