In this guest post, Amy Kelly, Director of EMEA Marketing at UserTesting, explores how UK consumers are adapting to COVID-19 and what they think of companies’ marketing comms to date…
At the end of March, the UK government announced it was putting the vast majority of the population in ‘lockdown’ – a prohibitive measure instructing people to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. While this measure was clearly warranted, it has had a devastating effect on businesses across the country, with an estimated cost to the economy of more than £2.4bn per day.
Organisations around the world are facing challenges today they’ve never experienced before. Agility and adaptability are now going to be crucial for their survival. This is particularly true for the food delivery industry, with companies taking extra measures to adapt and reassure consumers. Deliveroo, for instance, recently announced a ‘no-contact’ service.
To understand consumers’ thoughts and feelings on the pandemic, UserTesting asked a small group of UK-based consumers, aged 18+, about their reaction to the virus and how their buying behaviour is changing. We also asked their opinions on the crisis communications they receive from organisations – what they like or dislike, as well as advice they have for businesses.
Every single respondent said they’d tried to order groceries online to save them from leaving their home, but many are unable to secure a delivery because of the growing demand for store-to-door groceries. As a result of this, consumer confidence for grocery delivery has gone down.
Many participants noted that they don’t feel confident about selecting a delivery time too far into the future. They fear that the groceries they select today won’t be available if they wait, so they’re still going into the stores, despite their concerns about contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
On a more positive note, one participant answered that they had purposely increased their takeaway orders in order to support local restaurants during their closure.
“We’re trying to order in as much as possible to support local businesses, as we’d normally dine-in a few times a week.” Female, 25, UK
When asked to respond to virus-related marketing messages, participants overwhelmingly agreed that the frequency is too high and that the messages were becoming more irritating than helpful.
Expressions that stood out most among participants include “cliché”, “irrelevant”, “doom and gloom”, and “salesy.”
“[The messages] don’t sound very compassionate at all. They’re all pretty much the same and they’re becoming a bit of a cliché. They just sound like they’re trying to take advantage of the situation.” – Male, 46
On the other hand, the most successful messages, according to participants, are ones that included a community aspect. Organisations that communicate the efforts they’re making to support the vulnerable, elderly, and hard-working NHS staff, proved to be most well-received.
One participant highlighted a message from Morrisons, stating that they were impressed with their efforts to provide special food parcels to those with dietary restrictions and those struggling to get what they need.
Morrisons has launched the basic box, where they are going to put food essentials in a box. Then those [boxes] will be delivered to those that most need them. That was a brilliant idea that really stood out to me. Female, 39
At the end of the study, we asked participants to share any advice they may want organisations to consider when developing messaging. From the responses, we developed four key pieces of advice.
Focus on how you’re actually helping the customer or community. Don’t use this opportunity to promote your business as being socially responsible, or look to market other products to take advantage of the situation.
Consider removing the mention of the coronavirus in messages and focus on the efforts being made to help others instead. Try to bring more positivity to your customer messages if possible. Now more than ever people need good news and positivity to stay mentally healthy. Think more about how you can help them stay positive.
Customers need to feel that you understand what they are going through. Many of them have been affected by the virus in some way, so a little empathy can go a long way.
This is always good advice, but especially in times of uncertainty. Be clear in your communications and use plain language. What’s the goal of your message? Is it to communicate a clear change you’re making to your business or merely to fill the silence? Be clear about what you want your customers to take away from your message. If you’re a food delivery business, for example, be clear on the food handling process to reassure consumers that they’re safe buying from you.
Ultimately, there’s no rulebook for COVID-19, but with genuine human empathy, compassion, and consideration of customers’ situations and emotions, we could be on the brink of a new era of customer empathy, interaction, and trust.