Commerce-in-the-time-of-the-COVID-19-crisis v2

Commerce in the time of the COVID-19 crisis

Inspiration for marketers and brands

Like everyone, we’ve been absorbing the news and commentary that surrounds COVID-19 coverage and reaction. One of the recurring themes is the massive impact this pandemic is having on commerce. Already omnipresent in our lives, commerce is now an essential part of our protection and survival. It is one of a few public freedoms we still have: supermarket and pharmacy trips and of course, online buying.

For students and practitioners of commerce, COVID-19 is providing a unique window into how consumer behaviour is being reshaped. We could never have predicted that it would take a global pandemic to further accelerate adoption of ecommerce, on-demand delivery and many other trends that will define the future of retail.

Many retailers are experiencing a surge in their business, while others are being forced to shut their doors for good. Brands are responding quickly to shift their tone and approach to address the sensitivities experienced by consumers in these unprecedented times.

Here are the five trends we’ve seen marketers embrace as they race to support businesses and consumers faced with the uncertainty of what this new reality means.

Community is everything

Be a part of your customers’ community, have a practical idea and talk about what you are going through together.

Brands must remember their critical role in driving societal and economic progress. With anxiety at an all-time high and uncertainty over what comes next, acting with compassion and showing support goes a long way.

How brands are bringing this to life

  • Guinness Ireland has pledged €1.5m to support local Irish bar staff and elderly citizens.
  • Walmart is providing cash and early bonuses to hourly workers.
  • Sweetgreen announced it will open dedicated outpost operations and teams to support hospital workers and medical personnel by delivering free salads to hospitals in the cities it serves.
  • Ally Bank is giving 120-day relief on all its auto and mortgage customers and is pledging $3m in financial aid to the local communities and organisations it serves.

Accessibility is key

With store closures and limited supplies, delivery and accessibility remain critical for a brand to remain relevant. As the reality of quarantines and nationwide store closures set in, the question to ask yourself is: what utility can you offer to consumers today that they didn’t need yesterday?

The approach may mean innovating in real time and in new ways to serve the consumer. Early research into changing consumer behaviour points to a new openness to try new things out of necessity.

How brands are bringing this to life

  • Uber Eats and DoorDash have waived commission fees for independent restaurant partners, and Postmates has launched a pilot programme that temporarily waives commission fees for small businesses across the country.
  • Freshly and Nestlé joined forces to donate $500,000 to Meals on Wheels, a meal delivery programme for high-risk seniors to keep them healthy and nourished in their homes. They will be supporting the most vulnerable groups of the US to ensure they receive food delivery.
  • Whole Foods, Target and Dollar General have opted for early morning “senior only” hours to prevent at-risk exposure and to provide optimal shopping for essential supplies.
  • McDonald’s and supermarket chain ALDI have partnered on an employee-share programme. As McDonald’s restaurants closed down in Germany, employees who were faced with no work were quickly shifted to the front lines of ALDI to support the influx of consumers heading to stores for essentials.

Contribute to consumer resilience

We all know we are in the midst of a crisis. Consumers don’t need to be further reminded or bombarded by negativity and fear. They are most in need of positivity. Brands that are sending messages of hope, using well-chosen words of encouragement, are setting the tone for a world that feels confident and cared for. A world that will pay-it-forward.

How brands are bringing this to life

  • Latin America online retailer Mercado Libre has discounted their personal care products (nappies, formula milk and hand sanitiser) to get the products into the homes of rural users. They also designed an alternative logo, which replaces shaking hands with an elbow bump.
  • TimeOut has rebranded to TimeIn to encourage its readers to take social distancing seriously and find new ways to stay entertained indoors.
  • Nike has encouraged quarantining and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. They are donating $15m to COVID-19 efforts and will be providing their Nike Training Club app for free. “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.”

Power of purpose and agility

During this time, your brand purpose will guide your action and is the best asset to lean into. By staying true to your brand purpose, moving quickly to address genuine need and providing real value to the consumer, you will create lasting loyalty.

How brands are bringing this to life

  • LVMH, the luxury giant and France’s biggest company, met the call from French officials to help with medical supplies within 72 hours by switching their perfume factories to producing 12 tons of hand sanitiser for 39 hospitals in France and Europe.
  • BrewDog, the independent distillery, is converting its production facilities to help meet the growing need for hand sanitiser in the UK. These hand sanitisers will be given out free directly to local charities and the community.
  • Alibaba has opened telemedicine centres that patients can access on their Alipay and Taobao apps. They have also blocked/banned vendors from increasing prices on masks, healthcare and cleaning supplies.

Give your employees a bigger role

Experience is everything, and brands that are having to utilise their online presence as a single driver to connect with consumers are finding new ways to remain customer centric. In this new landscape, moving quickly to harness the power of your people can go a long way in driving loyalty with both employees and consumers. Employees also need to know you are doing things to protect their health and livelihood. Especially those on the front lines.

How brands are bringing this to life

  • Cosmo Lady, the largest lingerie company in China, developed a programme aimed at increasing their sales through WeChat and are leveraging their employees to promote this to their social circles. The company created a sales ranking among all employees helping motivate them to participate in the initiative, turning employees into social influencers.
  • Kuaishou promoted online education offerings to compensate for school and university closures. The company and other video platforms partnered with the Ministry of Education to open a national online cloud classroom to serve students.
  • Alibaba and Pinduoduo are scaling up their efforts to promote selling fresh produce online with livestreaming as an essential part of their strategy. Farmers, who mostly live in remote and rural areas, can take advantage and use video to directly engage with consumers and introduce their products.



published on

02 April 2020



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