If panic buying during COVID-19 has made one thing clear, it’s that fear will make us behave in ways we didn’t think possible, and in ways we probably aren’t very proud of. From hoarding pasta, toilet paper and sanitary items to watching adults rage at teenage shop assistants, lockdown is bringing out the worst in some of us.

Behavioral experts refer to it as being in a ‘hot state’, where under pressure from heightened emotional, biological or physical conditions drive us to act impulsively. These reactions could be shooting off an angry email to your customer service team, late night social media rants or making impulse purchases.

As a retailer, we have an important role to play in these challenging times to build consumer confidence, drive down panic and fear and support customers in need.

With vulnerable communities in uncharted waters and no end of lockdown in sight, retailers must look beyond the physical demand of supply and inspire positivity in a time of crisis. Now is the time to innovate and explore new thinking for the sake of your customers and your business’s future.

Inspire a culture of calm 

When we see brands or businesses stating that it is ‘business as usual’, or sharing positive news and updates, it fills customers and partners with confidence.

Communicating regularly is crucial to maintaining trust. Be bold and be specific about what you are doing to manage inventory, hygiene protocols and how you are addressing any customer concerns.

For example, in the wake of supermarket hoarding, single use sanitary items (pads and tampons) have become hard to purchase. Over the last month, Modibodi has also seen a distinct uplift in demand from customers seeking a sustainable and reusable alternative to manage their personal hygiene needs.

We’re reassuring our customers that we can cater for high demand and that it is business as usual by sending out regular emails to our customers. We’re also providing isolation related content on our blog, including workout and mindset tips, daily routines and updates, to help us connect with our customers and provide them with tangible tips. The focus is on encouraging sincerity, compassion, and interesting stories.

We also started the #nopanicperiod campaign undertaken through owned and influencer channels to remind customers we can deliver to their doorstep in 1-3 business days.

The campaign utilises the reach of our online ambassador network to get the word out that our products are available if they are struggling to find their usual sanitary items.

Connect and collaborate

If you can’t connect with you customers in the same way that you did before COVID-19, it’s time to start looking at new service offerings, channels and partnerships.

Looking at different businesses you can partner with is an innovative way to extend resources, keep business going and open new avenues of opportunity that can exist for years to come.

Fratelli Fresh recently took this approach, utilising existing delivery services to maintain their business while eating-in at restaurants is off the menu. The Italian restaurant is delivering ready-made meals and pasta sauces as well as grocery items and household essentials such as toilet paper, hand soap and alcohol.

Likewise, Australia Post recently announced the launch of its Pharmacy Home Delivery Service in association with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to assist vulnerable members of the community who may be in isolation and unable to access essential medications.

Care for those in need

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, it’s up to all of us to lend a helping hand to those in need where we can.

Fashion retailer, Zara, made its factories and logistics teams available to the Spanish government to donate much-needed masks for patients and medical workers in need.

Having already donated 10,000 protective face masks, Zara will ship another 300,000 surgical masks to Spanish health authorities, along with gloves, protective glasses, caps, shoe covers and face shields.

Likewise, Modibodi is providing free product to several key community groups to support struggling Australians at this time. This includes 500 pairs of Modibodi underwear distributed to disadvantaged Australians via Good360 and 500 pairs distributed to seven shelters that provide crisis accommodation for women who are homeless.

Regardless of what retail sector you are in, stay focused on what you can continue to have a positive effect on relationships. Keep your brand relationships alive with positive communications, stories of hope, community spirit and a sense of reassurance to customers.

Kristy Chong is founder and CEO of Modibodi.