Comment: The importance of communication during Covid-19

Katch International founder Georgie Woollams on why you should stay in touch with your customers

Georgie Woollams
Georgie Woollams

In difficult times like these, it’s all about adapting your communications approach and overcoming the challenges of a pandemic world. According to recent studies, there has been a 61% rise in social media engagement, worldwide, so, whether your business is open at 30% capacity, operating on a delivery-only basis, or has been forced to shut down for the time being, you should still be actively communicating with your customers.

Now that lockdown restrictions have been somewhat eased, you need to make sure your customers haven’t forgotten you. Here are a few tips to help you re-engage with them:

Shout About It
In recent weeks, I’ve participated in various webinars and online workshops, in collaboration with the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) and Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA), and the importance of maintaining a strong marketing and communications strategy during the current crisis has come up again and again in conversation.

An Influencer Marketing Hub report on the impact of COVID-19 found that 74% of the brands surveyed are communicating less through social media. This highlights the huge value of regularly communicating with your audience, at the moment, because, by doing so, you have a real chance of standing out and staying top of mind as lockdown restrictions are lifted further.

With so much of your target audience online, now is the time to really up your game. If you focus on rolling out fun and creative content, combined with an effective digital marketing strategy, you can generate worthwhile engagement without breaking the bank. For example, our client recently executed a very creative Instagram campaign with a budget of less than AED 5 per day and grew its following by 10,000 in under a week, thanks to neighbourhood-specific targeting.

A Better Kind of Neighbour
You have the opportunity to reassess how you talk to your target audience and engage with them in new ways. Reach out to your customers! Doing so will not only keep your brand top of mind, but also enable you to satisfy their post-lockdown demands. A key insight from GlobalWebIndex’s recent survey showed that 45% of consumers are spending more time on in-home media consumption. Therefore, it’s about time you got online and engaged with your customers, consistently.

When it comes to creating the right kind of content, it’s all about positivity, transparency and honesty. Avoid posting unimaginative, generic messaging and concentrate on creating content that is meaningful and relatable. Make a real effort with your CSR and focus on supporting the vulnerable people in your community. By positively contributing to your community, your customers will see how much of an integral part of the community your business is.

Even small gestures, such as free meals for frontline workers or discounts for the elderly, will leave a lasting positive impression when the pandemic passes. A great example of this is The Noodle House’s initiative to give free nutritional care packages to Dubai’s healthcare and hospital workers.
Creativity is King
Whether you decide to host online cookery classes and IGTV/Facebook Live Q&A sessions, or repost fun user-generated content (UGC) and send out informative newsletters – there is a world of choice when it comes to engaging with your audience.

Look at email newsletters, for example: A Bouncex data report found that retail email open rates have increased by 40%. So, if you’re not currently updating your customers through email, start building up a database and get the conversation started, but don’t forget to add plenty of creativity and that invaluable personal touch.

It’s also vital to know where your customers are consuming their online content. On top of considerable increases in usage stats for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, TikTok’s popularity has surged. The video-sharing social network is the app of the moment, with almost a billion downloads. Additionally, 80% of its 3.7 million monthly active users in the UAE are aged between 18 and 34 – key demographics for the F&B industry. That means that a huge chunk of your target audience is made up of TikTokers.

Don’t Go Dark
Above all, remember that this will end, and the easing of restrictions on Friday is a big step in the right direction for businesses! Carry on communicating and remember to keep creating positive and engaging content that leaves a worthwhile lasting impression on your audience.

As bars, restaurants and other F&B businesses slowly begin to reopen, albeit at limited capacities and with restrictions still in place, put yourself in your customers shoes, and ask yourself, “How am I supposed to know if my favourite bars, restaurants and cafés are reopening, if they’ve stopped communicating with me altogether?”

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