The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of life for both businesses and their customers. Lockdown has stopped people from going into shops, preventing the main area of communication with brands. However, just as friendships can prosper over long distances, a strong business relationship can be nurtured from afar.

Brands must strive to create a personal connection with customers to benefit from advocacy. And they can show that they care by maintaining a presence in their customers’ lives. This will bolster the human relationship with customers and facilitate growth after lockdown. The following five steps have been taken by businesses to build personal customer relationships in lockdown.

1) Transparency and relatability

Everybody is struggling in the current circumstances, and customers appreciate businesses communicating their own troubles. Honesty is the hallmark of a strong relationship, so brands should be no different.

By communicating how it is having to adapt to lockdown, customers will see that the brand shares their struggles. Fashion brands such as Zara and ASOS have been conducting photoshoots with their models over FaceTime. Their customers can relate to the disruption the pandemic has caused, strengthening their brand affinity.

2) Small gestures

In a time when everything seems more difficult, small gestures have never been more important. Small acts of kindness towards customers make a big difference and develop personal relationships. Customers appreciate knowing that a business is there for them, regardless of how small the gesture.

American pharmaceutical giants, Walgreens and CVS, waived prescription delivery charges for vulnerable customers. The gesture communicates that they care about their customers, strengthening their personal relationships.

3) Virtual events

While customers are unable to attend events in person, they can still get involved. There are only so many Zoom quizzes that can take place before time begins to drag. Therefore, customers appreciate the chance to take part in virtual events. Numerous brands have held events to entertain customers in their own homes – and raise money.

The National Theatre At Home series is the perfect example of this as productions have been uploaded to YouTube while theatres remain closed. Theatre fans have been entertained and encouraged to donate to the struggling industry. Similarly, Popworld has been holding weekly virtual parties on its Facebook page for the NHS. This gives Popworld a continued presence in its customers’ lives even while it is closed.

4) Crowdsourcing

Advocates respond best when they are valued as collaborators rather than simply customers. Crowdsourcing is a valuable tool to make advocates feel involved, as it encourages creativity. Brands have bought into this by setting challenges and campaigns for their customers to enter.

Ganni uses crowdsourcing by encouraging its community to share its own creations, via #GanniWFH. An overwhelming number of submissions have been received, with some set to be displayed at Copenhagen Fashion Week. The opportunity to co-create makes customers feel closer to the brand.

5) Communities

Customers want to hear from brands, but they also love communicating with each other. A brand’s customers can interact with each other and become a community. This increases the sense of belonging they feel, while also deepens the personal connection to the brand.

The community can interact and compete among themselves with little input from the company itself. The Strava app allows customers to post their exercise routines and creates league tables. The competition between members of the community motivates them to continue using Strava.

These steps help brands to be a positive force for their customers from afar. This is always important, but even more so in a time of global crisis. Although sales may suffer during the pandemic, businesses can still build personal customer relationships. The relationships built now will facilitate rapid growth when normality resumes.

At Hyve we can help you quickly understand where you currently are and help you get to where you need to be in order to create a brand advocacy programme that can help you increase revenue and enhance reputation.

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Mark Docherty

Author Mark Docherty

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