Blog: Make it personal (and local)

Anne Flynn Wear//Assistant Managing Editor//April 20, 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced almost all commerce to be e-commerce, I’m hearing that more and more retailers are rethinking their sales funnel and when they need to start interacting with potential consumers, both now and once this uncertain time is over.

E-commerce retailers are known for the ability to customize communications to where the shopper is on her journey — from the initial search, to the education phase, narrowing down options, making the purchase and after the sale.

But with most brick-and-mortar store locations temporarily closed, we’re watching all retailers now using that same playbook to find and retain consumers, either with currently available e-commerce options or to garner consumer interest for future in-store purchases.

For those retailers with physical locations who kept putting off the move to digital methods of interacting with consumers: Now is the time. And once these new ways of finding and interacting with consumers prove to be successful, I believe there’s no going back.

Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are a great way to reach out to potential consumers with valuable content, from interior design ideas to new financing options all catered to the individual shopper. This would allow companies to post reminders of upcoming sales or new product launches and to talk with potential consumers rather than talk at them. Company representatives can answer questions posed on social media by consumers to create a truly personal interaction.

Tech companies that operate in the home furnishings space say that retailers are also increasingly relying on AI for online and text chats, product recommendations and even virtual room planning that all help to develop a level of trust and a new type of consumer loyalty that will change how businesses operate in the future.

Many communities also are calling on people to buy and support local companies. I joined a Facebook group called the High Point Biz Mob that encourages residents to support local businesses, and Greensboro has a comparable effort underway at Similar movements are likely taking place in towns and cities across the country to help local economies stay strong both now and in the future.

Although the current growth of e-commerce will likely continue, there may be another outcome. Just as communities are coming together now to individually support social distancing guidelines, they also may come together to support local businesses to help their communities recover economically when the pandemic is over.

Although technology is often seen as impersonal, the ability to use it to personally connect with consumers may be exactly what’s needed to drive loyalty, both during and after this challenging time.

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