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Consumer businesses urged to adopt omnichannel response to Covid-19

Author: Al Henderson, Chief Sales Officer at  Eagle Eye Solutions

Nothing is more important than people’s health and safety in the wake of the latest, novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), yet as governments and health organisations take measures to slow its spread, such as limiting travel and social gatherings, consumer-facing businesses are being urged to adopt an omnichannel response to cope with its impact.

Many saw sales fall well below their usual levels as consumers stay away from retail stores and food and beverage (F&B) outlets, even before many have been forced to close by lockdowns imposed across the world. Wireless Social, the hospitality Wi-Fi provider and Eagle Eye partner, for example, tracked an average 69% year-on-year decline in footfall to its clients’ venues over the last week alone.

This unprecedented impact prompted the likes of Primark to suspend trading of its shares and WHSmith, among others, to issue profit warnings. But many businesses are also using digital to mitigate the negative effect on sales and loyalty. They can also use the steps they take now to engage customers digitally and capitalise on the time when business returns to normal, as it is beginning to in China where Apple and Uniqlo are starting to reopen stores.

In the meantime, the most important consideration is to keep customers up to date, with digital engagement taking precedence. So, Eagle Eye has drawn on its digital marketing scale and reliability across consumer retail, hospitality and brand sectors to collate some best practice tips that can help reduce the impact of Covid-19 on customers, staff, sales and cashflow, both off- and online:

  • Grocery – In the wake of panic buying, managing customer communications and engagement, including promotions, in real-time online and instore is essential. Grocery delivery apps have had record downloads, while some have struggled to cope with demand.
    • Use digital services like websites, social networks and apps to communicate precautions, extra delivery and click & collect services at nominated times. Lidl and Tesco have implemented priority shopping times for those most at risk in Ireland.
  • QSR & Casual Dining – Many F&B businesses particularly are facing loss of revenue and cashflow. Casual Dining and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) should consider delivery, click & collect, drive-thru and mobile ordering services to keep some staff in work and sales coming in. Online delivery service, Deliveroo, has signed up 3,000 new UK restaurants, including Dishoom for instance, to convert their in-house foodservice capabilities into ‘dark kitchens’.
    • But many independent operators may lack an opted-in customer contact database to communicate extra measures or the capability to launch such services. Social networks can provide a great two-way communication channel in the interim.
    • Using online delivery services can help in the short term. But maintaining control of customer relationship through an own-branded app with mobile ordering can mitigate lost sales now and build customer connections for the future.
  • Pubs – As many countries force pubs, bars and casual dining restaurants to close for all but delivery services, these operators will need to think ahead and find ways to drive sales that can be realised when business returns to normal.
    • Consider using gift cards as a way to bring in revenue for future spend. This not only mitigates lost sales now – especially targeting affected seasonal events, like Mother’s Day and Easter – but can help build an opted-in database of gifting and giftee customers who may be interested special offers to incentivise a return visit in future.

To learn how Eagle Eye digital marketing can help your support business during these unprecedented times, and prepare for the immediate and long-term future, please contact us here.