An effective communication strategy keeps customers informed and provides a better brand experience.
We’re all taking a crash course in crisis communication in real time. As businesses reopen, the need for an effective communication strategy isn’t shrinking. If anything, it’s growing. There’s so much more to communicate now: policy changes, community support, new hours, openings, curbside pickup, and more.
Fabric and craft retailer JOANN Stores nails it with content that brings flair to commerce site communication must-haves. The company’s website covers informational basics, plus added contextual information, patterns and tutorials, and best practice tips. For example, you’ll find instructions explaining curbside pickup. And how-tos that support the sewers of America as they make enough masks for everyone.
“We’re focused on giving our customers the information they need,” says Sarah Wright, director of value realization at JOANN. “Right now, even simple communications feel urgent – because they are. From customer support to commerce and content, it’s a team effort to give our amazing customers what they need.”
Find content gaps with a five-item checklist
As Wright notes, keeping up is a challenge when everything is urgent. But staying on top of communications across your commerce site is simpler when you use a checklist. That makes it easier to spot and address gaps. Use the list below as a starting point for creating a checklist.
Let’s look at five key communication must-haves and how JOANN covers each:
1. Highlight your overall response
Depending on your business, this might be as simple as explaining all brick-and-mortar stores are closed, but online shopping is available. Or you might need to explain a number of options, like curbside pickup, the availability of online sales consultations, and more.
JOANN makes important information available right on its home page. For instance, when the company began offering curbside pickup, customers saw that right away. They also learned that the company offered a coupon for free standard shipping on all orders with no minimum. Plus, customers find prominent links to the additional information listed below.
2. Share your community-focused efforts
From donating PPE to hospitals to providing slippers to healthcare workers, many companies are helping communities address the public health emergency. Explain how your business is helping, too. That’s especially important if your efforts involve customer participation.
Few companies have gone bigger than JOANN on customer participation. They realized that many customers were sewing and donating masks. JOANN decided to amplify their efforts by setting a goal of making 100 million masks. The company even provided mask-making kits to customers.
The response? Excellent. Wright explains: “Our customers and partners surpassed the original goal in less than eight weeks. They’ve made and donated more than 140 million masks. You can check the tracker on our site to see how many.”
JOANN set a new goal: make masks for everyone in the United States. You can learn all about it on the JOANN site. There you’ll find an explanation of the effort along with FAQs specific to the program.
3. Dive into the details
Let customers know how the situation has (or has not) affected your return policies and other purchasing basics. Add a link to FAQs to your home page if that’s where you’re collecting the most up-to-date information.
JOANN’s communications around curbside pickup provides another example. Like many retailers, JOANN offers a new curbside pickup option for online purchases. And many customers want to know more about this service because it’s a new experience for some consumers. JOANN features a page that explains how it works, walking customers through ordering, when to go to the store, and what to expect when they arrive. It’s a simple three-step process designed to make contactless shopping a good experience.
4. Create relevant content
Engage customers with how-to content pertinent to your products and the current situation. If there’s not an obvious connection, brainstorm ideas for how your products are relevant. For example, people are exploring stay-at-home hobbies, home improvement projects, and loose clothes. Check out the data in the Q1 Shopping Index for COVID-19 Shopping Insights. Or use lists of top search terms to fuel brainstorming.
JOANN offers beginner-friendly how-to videos on making face masks. And for those with more advanced skills? You can find instructions and video how-tos for shaped masks in a variety of materials. The content helps both long-time customers and those new to sewing and JOANN.
5. Link to relevant resources
Let customers know where you’re getting the information you’re using to inform decision making and how-to content. Small businesses may want to include a link to local or state definitions of essential business or distancing guidelines.
JOANN links customers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page about recommended cloth face mask fit, use, and washing information.
Review your site with the five categories above in mind. You may spot areas that need attention. Beyond content, you may also need a site you can update readily, even if you’re working from home. If you don’t have that, Salesforce Care for Commerce Communication can help you create a crisis response site for customers. It’s a free, no-code option that includes templates relevant to commerce companies.
Looking to accelerate the move to contactless-commerce with buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside? The Quick Start for Curbside and Store Pickup can help.