female shop assistant holding open sign

I’ve just bought a carpet. If you’d told me in January when we moved house that I’d have to make an appointment to visit Tapi Carpets, would be met by a lady in medical gloves wearing a full face visor, and be asked to sanitise my hands before so much as flipping through the shag, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s just what happened, and you know what, it didn’t feel as strange as I thought it would – we just got on with it. A few jokes about the store never being cleaner… “just imagine the germs that were on credit card terminals before – yuck!”… and we were done.

As I walked home, I started to think about the reason it didn’t feel that odd or unwelcoming. Obviously, we’re a few months into this now, so we kind of know that when we buy products or services it’s probably not going to be conducted how it was prior to COVID-19. However, I think the main reason it wasn’t completely weird was because Tapi did a great job in preparing me for the experience.

From the phone call booking the appointment, to the email setting out what to expect, everything was reassuring. We were told we’d be the only people in the store, that their staff “may look a little strange” in PPE, and that the credit card machine would be sanitised with “fluid alcohol or a bleach solution after each use”. This was their first day back open since the government closed all non-essential shops, and they nailed it.

The UK is nervous 

As someone not in a high-risk group, I’m more comfortable than many – we’ve already booked a holiday; I’d be fine getting on a plane in the next couple of months. In short, I’m not representative of the UK. According to a YouGov poll in April 2020, just 32% of us would feel comfortable going back into a pub or restaurant and only around half of adults would be happy to go back into a clothing store (54% men, 42% women). Given these findings, how businesses communicate reassurance is going to be key to attracting physical customers back.

Crafting comforting copy

We’re currently working on many campaigns which include reassuring copy – from a developer offering socially distanced show home viewings, to a university explaining why joining a virtual open day will be just as good as being there in person. Here’s three things to think about when writing re-opening copy:

1.     Be upfront. Don’t pretend that COVID-19 hasn’t changed things – we all know it has. Instead talk honestly about the changes you’ve had to make for the benefit of both your staff and customers

2.     Be detailed. Long form copy gives you the freedom to explain exactly how things will work. Unexpected surprises will unnerve those who are already anxious

3.     Be upbeat. It’s a positive that you’re able to serve your customers. Don’t focus on the negatives. Tapi told me about the “success” of their opening trial and some great reopening offers, not that I might have to wait for an appointment and can no longer just turn up to their stores

If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on brand content in the age of COVID-19, you can find them here

Author James Murphy

More posts by James Murphy

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