Make sure customers never forget you  

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The daily news coverage and sobering statistics about the economic impact on top of the health implications brought on by the novel coronavirus can be overwhelming, to say the least. I find I’m also being bombarded by an influx of ads and email communications—as most people are, I’m sure—while we’re all hunkering down under shelter-in-place orders.

It seems almost daily that I receive a coupon or promotional offer from a store selling “non-essentials.” Do I really need perfume from Macy’s or a dishtowel from Bed, Bath and Beyond at the moment? Perhaps it’s better to use all this downtime to use up everything in the cabinets and closets, and maybe give away the extra stuff.

I get it: marketers are looking to cash in on captive audiences, many of whom are spending more time online. The thought process being, stay top of mind with consumers during the downturn, and they might reward you when they are ready to emerge from retail hibernation to begin buying again. But here’s the problem: With so many people out of work, the last thing customers need are spiffs for non-essential items. Rather, I think people will remember those who have been investing in the health and welfare of local communities.

Here is a heartwarming story about community investment near my home.

There is a Hilton Garden Inn across the street from a major teaching hospital in Albany, N.Y. State Employees Federal Credit Union spearheaded an effort in collaboration with Barry, Bette and LaDuke (a construction company) and from health care groups such as CDPHP and MVP Health Care to transform the hotel across from Albany Medical Center into the Heroes Landing, a nearby respite for our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to receive much-needed rest, nutrition, comfort and strength between shifts. Now, that’s memorable! These folks will be remembered as heroes.

Following tragedies, we cherish stories about people who go above and beyond the call of duty. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make your business a destination. This was a trend before COVID-19, and I expect it will escalate as we navigate this crisis. Why not be the leader in your community?

This is a rare opportunity to honor the heroes in your town—your mayor, the hospital’s personnel, delivery men—those whose jobs are essential. This is a great way to show them how much you care. Maybe you can have a barbecue in your parking lot (observing social distancing rules, of course.) It doesn’t have to be fancy; you just need to do it.

The new normal

No doubt, COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and communicate. One trend I see emerging from all this is the one-stop-shopping concept, especially as we continue to limit our exposure amid this pandemic. Even after this situation has subsided, I believe people will be cautious for some time. As China relaxes its coronavirus restrictions, the rest of the world will be watching closely to see if another wave of the virus hits.

I also expect online shopping as well as connecting through different social media channels (i.e. video chatting) will be more important than ever. Social media is what’s getting many of us through this and will continue to help us connect.

In the midst of everything that’s going on, think of creative ways to make customers remember you when this nightmare is finally over—and one day it will be over. Let’s not be victims complaining about what isn’t happening. Let’s prepare for the future and make it happen.

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