May 8, 2020—Americans are venturing outside again wearing protective facemasks and gloves. After weeks of being homebound, laid off, or trying to hold together a business in an economy divided by essential and non-essential classifications, they are anxious and tentative.
Promoted as a return to normal, nothing is normal.
Business operators are brainstorming about what to do next to rebuild businesses of every kind.
Prior to the pandemic, 30.7 million small businesses were in operation across the U.S. According to the Small Business Administration, that accounts for 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses. Pew Research reports that 1+ million of these businesses are in retail trade or accommodation and food services, suffering through mandated closures and the ongoing need for social distancing.
So how does a business keep customers close while social distancing continues?
Custom gift cards.
The Global Gift Card Market is expected to grow by $ 527.11 billion from 2020 through 2024. That’s a 14% compound annual growth rate according to Globenewswire.com, the global press release authority with operations in North America and Europe.
THINK LIKE A CUSTOMER
Even families that did not leave their homes during the long stretches of Safe At Home, still opened their wallets to order online delivery. Mom, dad, grandparents, and teens pulled out the plastic to purchase deliveries from Instacart, Grubhub, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and more.
Think about it. If they had a plastic gift card in their wallets from your business, they would have had the opportunity to think of you and your service.
Customized plastic gift cards work if they’re relevant, rewarding, and easy to use.
Isn’t that what every American was seeking over the past month and a half…ease? When faced with ominous news every hour on the TV and internet, human beings were seeking comfort without pain. If it was easy to remember, easy to order, easy to send it was suddenly popular.
And if it was familiar, it provided comfort.
In the new normal separated by 6 feet from each other, loyalty can be achieved.
Consider the customer’s perspective: What is my loyalty worth?
When I walk into the dry cleaners am acknowledged by name, it makes it okay to pay $12.50 to get a burlap table runner professionally pressed. That’s emotional loyalty. When I buy new tires that come with a warranty covering free replacement or repair for a year, I’ve got peace of mind and a smooth ride. That’s transactional loyalty.
Both forms of emotional loyalty and transactional loyalty are reinforced when patrons receive a reminder of where their loyalties lie. A custom plastic card achieves that.
Loyalty programs work when designed to keep customers returning by offering the holder a reward. It can be a percentage off all future purchases for a year, access to special sales earlier than the general public, a frequent shopper discount, one free drink with the purchase of another if the local NFL team wins a game…the list of options is endless.
The point is to know your audience. The majority of business owners are older and more educated than the average in the U.S. workforce (Pew Research, 2019). Nearly half of the business owners are 55+ or graduated from college. Among the entire workforce, only 23% of employed workers overall are 55 or older and 40% are college graduates. If your product or service is intended for a younger demographic or a less educated demographic than you as the owner or your employee team, do your research.
Ask customers what makes them loyal to your brand. That’s a conversation that can be held over the phone, exchanged in email or even by reading reviews of your business online. You may be surprised at the answers you get. It could be that plenty of parking is available, or that your shipping is reliable. Play on those aspects in your message-on-hold, your website, and your gift card. Take it one step further and offer parking tokens or free shipping with purchase over a specific amount.
GET THE MESSAGE TO THE MASSES
If you’re a restaurant offering delivery-only service under Safer At Home, include a card with the delivery. Hungry customers will appreciate that you want their business especially if you put the card in an envelope demonstrating you’re following best practices to prevent the spread of COVID.
Apply the Concentric Circle Theory of Marketing with a postcard mailer and a punch-out plastic card offering a discount to customers in the immediate proximity of your location. Announce the precautions you’re now taking to meet social distancing standards from curbside pickup to appointment scheduling. If you operate a hair salon, let customers know that they are required to wear a mask and that you will take their temperature before they can enter the premises.
It’s preferable to explain the required changes in operation vs. taking customers by surprise. They will arrive prepared and there’s less chance they’ll object to the changes with advance notice.
THE ONE HIT WONDER
Survival in business means retaining customers vs. being a one-hit-wonder. Forbes.com reports that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25%.
The only one-hit wonder that actually hit the mark on the pent up sentiments of self-isolating could be the Los Lonely Boys and their first single, “Heaven” that reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #11 at top 40 in 2004. The song premiered in the 1990s and the lyrics are hauntingly precocious.
Save me from this prison
Lord, help me getaway
Cause only you can save me now from this misery
I’ve been lost in my own place, and I’m gettin’ weary
How far is heaven?
And I know that I need to change my ways of livin’
How far is heaven?
Lord, can you tell me
I’ve been locked up way too long in this crazy world
How far is heaven?
Getting to heavenly returns after the pandemic lockdown means revolutionizing your way of thinking about touching customers. Ask your Customer Rep at SSI for new ideas on how to reach your specific customer audience with any of our marketing and direct mail services. We’re here to help.