Due to the impact of COVID-19, brands have had to find new ways to build relationships with their customers and keep them engaged through direct and relevant communications.

Three e-commerce marketing executives—Audrey Leibovich, CEO of SiO Beauty; Jeff Silverman, President of Global E-Commerce at Steve Madden; and Joanna Griffiths, Founder & CEO of Knix—recently chatted with us about how this year has been a catalyst for change in how brands approach marketing, customer communication, and digital innovation. 

Focusing on your customers’ needs

As customers adapt to many changes in their personal lives and how they interact with businesses, it’s imperative that brands are aware of their needs and expectations of your company. Sometimes, that means researching what those needs are and pivoting away from a “sales-first” approach. 

“We spoke with our influencers to understand how they were feeling and what they thought was the right thing to do,” said Audrey Leibovich, CEO of SiO Beauty. “For us, it was more important to be aware of the many social movements happening and to participate in the right way versus just thinking about sales.” 

However, these needs are always evolving, so it’s important to be agile and ready to listen and adapt. “Recognize that the world is changing quickly. We made it a priority to check in with our community and customer base every single day,” said Joanna Griffiths, Founder & CEO of Knix.  

Pivoting your strategy

Shifting your strategy is never easy, especially when many plans are formed months in advance. But the new norm requires businesses to be more nimble with their approach, in ways that they hadn’t been in the past. For example, Knix offers a warehouse sale every year as a way to clear out their inventory for new collections. This sale is usually an in-person event. However, with the social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, that wasn’t possible, so the team decided to build a separate landing page and offer the sale to their customers online. 

“When the site went live, we watched as we easily blew through our best sales day ever,” said Griffiths. “It totally exceeded all of our expectations and has made us rethink how we will approach sales, and promotional activity in general, going forward.”

It’s important to keep this in mind with the upcoming holiday season, which typically drives millions of shoppers to physical stores to purchase their gifts. With many retailers announcing their decision to forgo in-person shopping deals, pivoting your strategy may be necessary. 

“We were just talking about the winter holiday season—including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are such big events,” said Griffiths. “The world has changed so much that perhaps we all need to rethink how we approach these traditional promotional periods. And for us, that might mean going against the norm.”

Leaning into new technology and infrastructure

Consumer behavior continues to rapidly change this year, so it’s important that brands lean into new and innovative ways to reach their audience. For example, Knix launched virtual fittings for their intimates products in an effort to get their audience more comfortable with making these types of purchases online. 

“Like many retailers, when COVID hit, we had to shut our physical retail stores. So we accelerated a project—an idea of virtual fitting consultations—that had been in the pipeline but had never made its way to the top of the priority list,” said Griffiths. “We launched this service as a trial, using an appointment booker to facilitate these sessions over private video conferences. Over the past several weeks, we’ve reached over 1,000 appointments per month with a 70% conversion rate.”

Another way to shift your approach is to meet your customers where they spend the majority of their time—on their smartphones. “We knew 90% of our traffic was coming from mobile, so SMS as a marketing channel would be an effective way for us to mirror our email efforts but at a higher frequency,” shared Jeff Silverman, President of Global E-Commerce at Steve Madden. “After partnering with Attentive, our SMS subscriber list has grown by 450%. This is over about a five to six week period.”

Text messaging is the most popular smartphone usage, and with e-commerce sales projected to come primarily from mobile in less than a year, there’s no better way to consolidate your mobile marketing efforts than to launch and scale your own SMS marketing channel. 

“Each time we looked at the numbers from Attentive, we re-analyzed them and thought we made a mistake,” said Silverman. “I play the role of fan and critic because the numbers were so positive. In this case, I have to say Attentive has done a wonderful job for us.”

At the end of the day, consumers want to hear from you. They want to know that as a brand, you care about what’s going on and are ready to make necessary changes; to evolve as their needs and behaviors evolve. While this year has been difficult to navigate, it’s provided new ways for brands to grow and establish even stronger relationships with new or existing customers.

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