Over a quarter of retailers are now sending more messages compared to pre-COVID-19, survey shows

More than a quarter of retailers have increased their customer communication efforts compared to pre-COVID-19 levels according to new research, as high street stores pivot their strategies again to navigate the second lockdown.

Statistics show that a record number of shops shut in the first half of 2020 – twice as many as in the same period last year – with many others forced to make redundancies in order to avoid the same fate.

In a bid to find out what the sector is doing to stay afloat, telecommunications provider Esendex surveyed retail companies about their business messaging habits during the pandemic. 

Compared to pre-COVID-19, 28% of firms said they’re sending more messages to potential and existing customers, while almost half are sending the same amount (48.5%). One in 10 businesses said they’re sending fewer messages right now (13%).

When it comes to the different types of activity, here is a breakdown of how retailers are using business messaging during COVID-19:

Marketing/promotional activity – 30.23%

Appointment management – 23.26%

Delivery information – 23.26%

Customer service/process updates – 16.28%

Customer satisfaction surveys – 6.98%

Amy Robinson, senior brand development manager at Esendex, said: “It’s such a tough time for the retail sector right now, especially since so many businesses have brick and mortar shops that may have had to close, reopen and then close again. “Maintaining a great level of customer communication has never been so pressing, as companies have had to adapt how and what they message customers. The rise in SMS messaging, in particular, may be in part due to businesses trying to ‘cut through the noise’ and content saturation, preferring a method that has a 95% open rate.

“The reality is it’s unlikely that we’ll be out of the woods any time soon. I suspect marketing and promotional strategy planning for the year ahead is going to look very different for retailers up and down the country as they try their hardest to both attract and retain customers during this difficult period.”

The data forms part of a wider survey which asked 656 international businesses to state how COVID-19 has impacted their business messaging. When looking at all industries, 38% of companies said they’re sending more customer communications compared to before the pandemic, while 13% said they’re sending fewer messages.

Esendex’s top tips on how to use business messaging effectively during the pandemic

Be as helpful as possible

For those companies that are still open to appointments, appointment management messages and reminders will likely be appreciated by your customers right now, along with a link to a platform where they have the ability to change or cancel their appointment should they not feel well, or if they’re needing to self-isolate.

Keep it personalised

Customers have come to value and almost expect a personalised service these days. The more you can create a personalised shopping experience for them, the more likely they will be to impulse buy and to become a loyal customer. Ensure you have a clear ‘call to action’ in place to make the process as smooth as possible.

Gather valuable feedback

A great way to use this time is to carry out a customer satisfaction survey to see how your business is performing. When planning ahead to 2021, you can use this data to identify any areas of weaknesses and put together a plan of action, so that in 12 months time, you’ll be able to see some clear improvements.