2020 has been a challenging year for retail. As Victoria marches towards COVID-safe operations and restrictions continue to ease across the country, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the sector heading toward the festive season. And just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Both days originated in the US but have become staple events in the Australian retail calendar and are set to be the first big opportunity for consumers to spend with renewed confidence in the economy.

Many retailers will want to leverage these days to kick start their recovery, so how can they stand out from the crowd and cut through to customers?

Communication is key

Despite the economy starting to open back up, many consumers are still adjusting to ‘COVID-normal’ and unaware of which businesses have been able to open their physical doors, and which have not.

Although many retailers may be operating online, they must make it abundantly clear what, when, where and how they are operating as we move toward the Black Friday weekend to ensure they maximise both in-person and virtual ‘foot-traffic’. According to CRM platform HubSpot, it can take up to eight touchpoints before a customer will buy a product and there are several useful communication tools to support marketing efforts including email, advertising, PR, SMS and social media. Having a well-rounded mix will work to meet consumers at multiple touchpoints to increase the likelihood of a sale.

The right messages at the right time

Re-opening notifications, click & collect instructions or delivery alerts, online cart reminders, and special discount offers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all key messages that will engage consumers.

These quick-fire messages can be delivered and measured effectively through SMS which has an unmatchable cut-through rate with 90 percent of messages read within 90 seconds of delivery. Why is this so valuable for retailers? The message reaches the customers on their mobile device where 54% of online retail purchases are expected to be made in 2021.

Keeping track of open rates and responses across any form of communication will allow retailers to test and optimise their messaging to promote positive engagements with the customer and avoid any negative sentiment.

Staying COVID-safe

While we’re all excited and relieved to see stores opening again, the prospect of another COVID-19 wave would be utterly devastating.

Having a COVID-safe plan in compliance with the government’s guidelines and having clear instructions for customers is essential to mitigate risks and keep things open. Letting customers know ahead of their visit to come prepared will allow for a smooth and safe experience.

Contact tracing has also emerged as a crucial factor in controlling the virus and can easily be set up via a number of methods, including SMS.

In fact, MessageMedia has developed a free set of SMS templates for retailers to use as Black Friday approaches to help businesses stay COVID-safe, and importantly attract more customers and boost their sales.

With consumers increasingly aware of the challenges facing retailers as we emerge from the pandemic and start to rebuild the economy, they will be motivated to support where they can. The better businesses can communicate how to engage with their stores while staying COVID-safe, the sooner consumers can help bring their businesses and the economy back to life.

Tara Salmon is chief marketing officer at MessageMedia