Monitor consumer behaviour and adapt accordingly
It’s more important than ever to closely monitor consumer behaviour. As expected, there has been a massive shift to online retail, both with direct to consumer, and via retail sites, with consumers taking advantage of the ability to order and have it delivered direct to their door. It is likely that if this added convenience has been beneficial and the experience positive, it will be an ongoing behavioural change. Both brands and retailers need to ensure that they can provide for this shift, assessing capabilities of their technology to cope with added demand and also looking to review business strategy accordingly.
It’s essential to continually review your activity plans for the coming year to react to the market conditions and take advantage of any opportunities that arise. Unfortunately, time won’t be on our side quite as much, and we’ll find that we need to react much faster to the environment we find ourselves in. Make sure that you have procedures in place to allow you to do this and areas of the business are aligned.
Adapt your external communication approach and ensure it’s sensitive to current climates
The current situation is of course difficult for everyone, consumers and businesses alike, but we must ensure that communication is both aligned and sensitive in terms of content and tone. Communication needs to be clear, timely and transparent, backed up with effective action.
Brands must identify the appropriate channel(s) for the audience. What works for one brand, isn’t forced to work for another. What is your demographic? How engaged is you audience? What has worked previously? What are you communicating? These are all questions you need to consider when choosing your communications strategy.
Social media in particular has become a major focus and regularly communicating with consumers on a range of subjects has been hugely beneficial – what we’re doing internally and how we’re reacting to the crisis; advice around social distancing; messaging around panic buying and why it’s not necessary, as well as how people can keep their pets healthy and happy during the ever-changing climate.
The beauty of social media is that it allows you to engage with your audience, as well as provide key updates quickly and effectively, and it’s been a key channel for customer service. It’s worth brands and retailers investing in this space, as the importance of social media almost certainly looks to continue to reign supreme.
Brands and retailers who succeed in providing strong customer support services beyond this crisis, I believe, are those that will effectively win and come out on top. Consumers deeply value being able to pick up the phone and speak to someone knowledgeable who can provide them with advice, and that’s certainly something we pride ourselves on.
Be supportive in your leadership and keep clear lines of communication across stakeholders
As with consumers, it’s important that you focus on communication with your stakeholders, both internally and externally.
For us, staff have remained our number one priority with regards to their safety and wellbeing, and ensuring they can work as effectively as possible. This situation, however, has of course required their support – it’s very much a two-way street. Lead from the front and ensure they are recognised for the work they do as appreciation goes a very long way.
It’s also key that you keep staff updated with any new changes or processes so that they are clear – conversations that take place at the highest level must filter down so that everyone is on the same page.
Your supply chain is just as important as your own business functions – without them, you simply can’t provide the same service you were. Ensure you communicate continually and effectively with them, and should any problems arise, work alongside them to combat what you can and support where you can.
Move forward positively and celebrate the successes
Understandably, the Covid-19 situation has posed numerous problems for brands and retailers, but there are still positive lessons that we can take from it. It’s important that brands give themselves credit for the incredible work they’ve done in steering their way through it.
Ways of working for example have become more streamlined because of the crisis and will prove beneficial in the long run – as I’m sure is the case for many. We can all be guilty of not using our time most effectively, and have found that meetings have become more focused, processes more automated and less time has been spent travelling.
From a retail perspective there have been reports that there has been an increase in pet ownership, with people seeing lockdown as a good time to introduce pets into their home and the mental health benefits. Whilst this provides opportunity, with a growing customer base for the industry, we must actively encourage responsible pet ownership, to help combat the potential issue of unwanted pets when the situation returns to normal.
It’s also proved how effective collaboration can be – assess how you can work with others to provide mutual benefit. It’s all about ensuring the industry gets through the crisis as unscathed as possible whilst being open minded to change through learning and adapting.
James Langan, managing director of Natures Menu