How the lifting of restrictions takes us into the uncharted territory of customer-led comfort requirements.
Can you believe it? After nearly 18 months the requirement to stretch a face covering, be it fashionable, colourful or just plain utilitarian, is finally, along with a slew of social distancing and limiting measures coming to an end by mid-July. Is this a cause for celebration? Quite possibly, but do you think everyone is as giddy as you about this? And, indeed, will this change actually have the effect of turning some people away from mixing more?
Brands, especially those in hospitality and leisure, will have to consider all of this along with the logistics of reopening their venues back to their full capacity for the first time in over a year. Will all customers return with gay abandon and get back to ‘normal’ or will this, indeed, put off those people who have already decided that they are going to continue to follow social distancing and mask wearing.
The important thing here is to find a balance – ensuring that your audience, no matter their viewpoint, has an enjoyable and safe visit.
Balance in all things
First, I’m not going to lie to you and say there is going to be a one size fits all offer that will please everyone. Instead, we will all need to think about what actions and messaging will resonate the most clearly to all audiences.
To do this, I’d suggest you’d follow the Three ‘B’s of COVID communications:
Be clear about what your current COVID policy is
From ventilation to mask wearing and cleaning protocols – be clear about what you are going to continue to offer your customers. This isn’t about pandering but being honest about the offer, allowing audiences to make an informed choice
Be upfront about the changes you will be making to capacity
You do not need to apologise for opening up and getting busier, instead be up front about your offer. Do you have particularly busy periods, or quieter times? Showcase them so you audience can make their own
Be ready to respond to COVID-specific feedback
Think about the types of enquiries, feedback and honestly, complaints as the world opens up. Try and have a structure of responses ready that you and your staff can use to try and answer as honestly and upfront as possible
By communicating clearly and effectively your policies around the ‘C Word’ you can then focus on promoting your full offer and what guests can look forward to experiencing.
Your Post-COVID Offer
This then begs the question: what will services look like now we have more freedom? If you are an events organiser, an attraction, a restaurant, a shopping experience do you feel confident to offer full capacity visits in the long term? Do you worry about potential restrictions or is this a little pessimistic? Well, old PW has been called that before, on occasion, but these are important questions to ask.
The simply reply would be – focus on offering the best experience and be ready to augment your offer to match the needs of the time.
Is there a potential for digital engagement alongside your on-site activity? This could be especially impactful for events organisers. Allowing audiences who feel uncomfortable visiting in person, or can’t reach you, think about streaming content –offering a paid-for digital package to help drive engagement and potentially inspire audiences to visit in person in the future.
We have seen some excellent examples of digital engagement during the pandemic, and thanks to these trail-blazers audiences are more aware and comfortable with this offer.
Indeed, all businesses can take advantage of digital engagement to showcase your offer through video content and live-streams. Keep the engagement going, and show what you offer for those intrigued or potentially nervous. The key here is to be as experiential as possible and promote the offer in this exciting format.
No simple answers but lots of content
The next few weeks and months are still going to have challenges.
We have already seen a host of hospitality businesses having to close down due to staff having to self-isolate due to Track & Trace – and this, again, is something that brands need to be open and honest about. Customers will be understanding if they are communicated to as quickly as possible.
We are entering a new era of engagement with our customers, and the most important thing to do is to keep communicating, keep engaging and show your offer and service in an honest, authentic and exciting way as possible. By doing all this we will, hopefully, have a strong summer and go into autumn and winter in a good position.
Keep talking, and listening – that is the essence of good marketing.