The COVID-19 virus has changed the lives of millions of people around the world. The crisis has affected both the business sphere and the economic situation in all countries. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the fact that most people have been forced to self-isolate themselves by choice or by the decision of the authorities.
Some companies quickly navigated the changing circumstances and adjusted their activities and operations, but the coronavirus caused losses for others. This paper will discuss how retailers and store chains at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis have changed their marketing strategy during a tough time.
One of the prominent companies, Walmart, has found the right way to ensure that customers are protected and satisfied. The company established clear communication about the undertaken measures offline in stores, mentioning the collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and execution of rules provided by Walmart’s own Chief Medical Officer (Walmart, 2020).
It is stated that due to marketing activities, including online discounts, special offers, and a unique communication page about preventive measures, the eCommerce sales of the company have grown by 74% (Cohen, 2020). Furthermore, Walmart has hired hundreds of thousands of employees during COVID-19 and won customers’ hearts by stories of these employees that were spread online (Webb, 2020).
Amazon, one of the biggest online retailers, has also changed its marketing strategy to highlight services, such as special retail hours for an elderly and “unattended delivery,” in its blog and online news channels (Day One Staff, 2020, para. 3). Furthermore, Amazon created Amazon Accelerate, a three-day virtual conference for small and medium businesses to communicate Amazon’s opportunities during challenging times for these organizations (Toney & Davis, 2020).
Journalists also highlighted the company’s creative marketing approach when it came to the pandemic, such as hiring people during the coronavirus and spreading the news about it on TV and online media channels (Newton, 2020).
Target sales have grown tremendously during coronavirus time. It is reported that the retailer has experienced a 141% increase in digital sales. The company has also acquired five new people who used Target’s drive-up service during the three months of 2020, and 40% had never used this service before (Bitter, 2020).
While all families stuck at home, Target introduced special discounts on entertainment, including games and toys, home appliances, and fitness equipment for Target Circle loyalty members, which people found especially relevant in the situation (Loza, 2020). The retailer has also sent letters to customers, highlighting its significant decisions towards combating coronavirus and guidelines for customers to limit its purchases to allow other people to get the necessary items (Bezzant, 2020).
While it was expected that the most prominent grocery retailers and hypermarkets would still get substantial or even higher demand and sales than before quarantine, clothing retailers and other non-essential stores have faced the challenging issue of motivating customers to buy online. Zara, one of the major clothing retailers in the Inditex Group in the world, has changed its services and marketing campaign by providing free delivery on all online purchases. Furthermore, Zara has extended the return policy so that customers can get a more extended period of return, depending on when countries open offline stores (Retviews, 2020).
Finally, Amancio Ortega, the founder of Inditex, has launched the production of masks and health-protective equipment on Zara’s production sites and delivered 300,000 masks per week for Inditex employees, and announced it publicly (Retviews, 2020). These measures helped medical workers, cashiers, police officers protect themselves and highlighted transparent communication and tailor-made decisions from the retailer that sells clothes.
Another big clothing retailer, H&M, has undertaken proper steps to mitigate the situation during coronavirus. The organization formed several steps essential to support its customers, employees, and society. It was reported that H&M donated more than 70,000 pieces of products to organizations like Children’s Defense Fund, The Los Angeles LGBT Center, GLAM4GOOD, and the Nashville Rescue Mission (Sheinberg, 2020). Moreover, the company has extensively used its social media channels and website to communicate measures that the company took for the frontline workers and communities (Sheinberg, 2020).
The Swedish retail group has not only donated directly to charity funds but also created a promotion campaign for those who spend more than 60$ online to redirect 10$ of these amounts to COVID-19 relief efforts of other organizations (Sheinberg, 2020). Despite the crisis, the company has partnered with middle-tier influencers and media to create appealing content, such as posts with tags to mention someone a user misses while staying at home (Binar, 2020).
Overall, it can be concluded that any company that has moved fast and created a touching and non-standard approach towards marketing its services and products won the customer and its loyalty. In the reality of quarantine, brands had the opportunity to diversify the catalog of services and attract a new target audience, which is hard to acquire. Those who were able to reshape their marketing strategy to adapt to an entirely new world organized unprecedented actions that have reached a recognition and brand awareness among customers who have been locked in homes for months.
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