How to keep your customers engaged with offline interaction

Brendan Straw, Chief Sales Officer, Ovato

With Australians spending most of this month firmly indoors, there’s a temptation for all of us to increase our screen time as well. Many of us are streaming more TV, scrolling the news obsessively or spending more time on social media to connect with friends and family. For ecommerce stores or brands that live online, this means more chances to engage customers looking for digital distraction.

While online channels have their positives, it’s important for all of us to prioritise our mental health, and sometimes that means switching off. For brands that deliver an offline service, or typically operate a bricks-and-mortar store, it’s also a chance to nurture meaningful relationships with customers that are looking for offline entertainment, joy and relaxation.

Printed matter to feed grey matter

News fatigue is real, and it’s growing every day with a steady stream of COVID-19 updates, news articles, think pieces and advice. You’re not alone if you’re looking for reading material that has nothing to do with the news, and figures suggest that the publishing industry is experiencing a Christmas-like boost in sales due to isolation. For publishers and book retailers, there’s a huge opportunity to promote the joy of reading to loyal, lapsed and new audiences alike.

Those of us working from home can put some of our usual commute time towards reading that book that’s been sitting on the bedside table for months. Avid readers might use this time to churn through a list of the best-reviewed or classic books. For customers with children at home, this could be an opportunity to shift reading from a chore and turn it into a hobby by the time we leave the isolation period.

Promoting free book delivery, discounting top reads and using social media to engage and create communities of readers are all effective ways to compete with e-readers like Kindle, and get customers interacting with the printed word.

Penguin Random House has done a great job of this, launching the hashtag #BooksConnectUs and encouraging people to share their current and future reads, which will introduce potential customers to new books they can purchase. The publisher is also hosting a virtual story time for parents and kids, highlighting reading as a family activity that connects us in a time of disconnection.

Your brand could encourage customers to share photos of their ‘to read’ stack, host a competition for the most creative bookshelf display, or start an online Book Club that brings a community of readers together to discuss a new book.

Entertainment via the letterbox

When you’re indoors for most of the day, even the letterbox becomes a point of excitement. And if it’s usually filled with bills and takeaway menus, any interesting content grabs attention and gains a sense of novelty.

For magazine publishers, this makes it an ideal time to promote subscriptions. Home delivery of inspiration, education or entertainment is a perfect remedy for the isolation and anxiety many people are feeling right now. It’s time to shine for Australia’s successful mindfulness titles, such as Breathe, Mindful Parenting and KIT, as well as other publications that offer distraction and a good read.

Using a targeted social media campaign, you can get directly in front of potential customers with subscription offers to generate a whole new long-term audience for your magazines.

Likewise, retail brands sending print catalogues should embrace the chance to add engaging content to the usual product material. Think puzzles, games, competitions, scratchies, or how-to guides. Kmart has done an excellent job of this, with the recent Easter catalogue including a range of activities for kids with places to scribble answers and draw on the page. Alongside, it included products relevant to at-home games and activity, giving customers a clear link to the value of shopping with Kmart at this time.

The letterbox can also be a point of connection between offline and online. Catalogues can drive customers to your digital channels, whether it’s promoting your website catalogue so they can shop online or highlighting ways to interact with the brand on social media. You can even integrate WebAR with print media to create an interactive experience, bringing your creative to life. Sending a product sample also puts your offering in the hands of potential customers when they can’t get to store. This can be turned into a user-generated content opportunity by asking recipients to snap a photo of them using it, and post and tag on social media.

Educate and inspire

Brands have a real chance to stand out from the pack right now. Not all content needs to push sales if stock is down or service interrupted. You can simply offer the support and distraction that many customers are looking for. An empathetic approach will have long-term returns for brands as they forge deeper connections with customers, play a role in their everyday lives and build a reputation as a trusted source of information or go-to brand for fun social content.

If you’re a food-related brand, there’s never been a better time to share recipes for kids to make their own lunches during the day, slow-cooking recipes that people can try with a little extra time on their hands, or meals made with pantry staples.

There will be plenty of people looking for new at-home hobbies, so brands that can engage people in creative pursuits should be promoting materials and activities. Encourage people to share their own creations, whether it’s knitting, painting, drawing or home décor.

And if you’re a B2B brand, why not look at ways you can help customers to work more efficiently from home, or support them on their journey towards remote, digital working practices.

Get creative and think outside of product. Not only will you reap a bank of user-generated content, but you’ll extend the reach of your brand to the networks of customers sharing their experiences with whatever you create. This is an opportunity to provide meaningful content that engages audiences for the long term and keeps your business running smoothly during a rocky time.

Find out how Ovato can help you to reach and engage audiences both offline and online.