OPINION PIECE: What COVID-19 Highlights About Databases

COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate overnight. And for some, it has completely crippled businesses.

In this opinion piece, I touch on what the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted about the importance of "databases".

I believe, a customer database is one of the single most important aspects to a business. I believe that without a customer base, you don't have a business - which then leads to the opinion that without a database, you don't have a customer base.

By 'database', I'm referring to stored information about a customer enabling you to contact them; a phone number, an email address, a Messenger contact, a WhatsApp contact, or even a physical address. A social media audience is also a form of database (though a little harder to direct target due to algorithms of Instagram/Facebook etc unless deploying paid advertising, and it's one that you don't technically own.).

This means when needed, you can easily communicate with your audience.

Here are some examples...

During Level Three lockdown in New Zealand some cafes and restaurants are offering takeaway, make at home meal kits, or other services. Other businesses cannot operate, and some businesses are by offering contactless delivery of their goods.

I'll share some experiences; some good, some no so good.

GOOD:

A restaurant that I haven't dined at in over two years, but is a Wellington icon sent an email offering DIY Meal Kits at home. With an upcoming birthday in the family, I promptly booked and paid for the meal kit. This restaurant would have collected my email address at an event previously or during a reservation.

My local butcher who I am connected with on Facebook put up a post saying they were now doing local contactless deliveries. I promptly booked and paid for a delivery.

My personal trainer is sending weekly text messages and staying connected during this time, even though he can't train clients face to face during this time he is offering online options. And, this builds connection for when the option to return to face to face training becomes available.

Online, stores that I have purchased from in the past are communicating and keeping me up to date with what's happening; when they will start shipping, or sharing "edits" such as Working from Home Fashion collections etc.

A popular meal box company who we haven't purchased from in over a year sent me a physical letter to my letterbox because I haven't been opening the emails. I read it, and it had a great kick start offer...

NOT SO GOOD:

Wanting to arrange a takeaway night for our bubble we were wracking our brains to choose a restaurant to order takeaways from. I know this restaurant has my email address, but by chance (lucky I guess), someone I follow on Instagram ordered from this restaurant so I now know they deliver. I would never have known if I hadn't seen that Instagram story.

A friend has a hairdresser appointment booked during lockdown. She knows she won't be getting an appointment during this time. She rings the salon, gets the standard 'you've reached us outside of business hours' message, and is feeling very unsure about whether she will be able to get into her hairdresser promptly when we go to level two. This is making her consider other options that she can book in with now. Had this salon simply communicated their strategy around they are going to manage bookings when move to level two, my friend would be happy to wait and not look for alternatives.

Other observations include;

Local coffee shop - are they open or not? A simple text message or email telling us how we can order and the process / if they are open or not would encourage us to visit and spend money. They would have had to built this database before lockdown - by why haven't they?

I get the feeling some businesses are open and struggling. Struggling to get enough orders for the day, to cover costs, to make it worthwhile. I can't help but wonder, if an effective database strategy had been deployed prior to COVID-19, would they be driving more sales???

A social media presence is an easy way to communicate with customers/your audience. And if it feels like the message isn't getting through organically, investing in paid advertising to the existing audience is an easy way to ensure the message gets through.

COVID-19 creates an opportunity to revisit strategy. An opportunity to connect with customers, create dialogue, add value.

I wonder if businesses will start to realise the importance of their database once business returns to the 'new norm' and invest in keeping in touch with their customers and fans? Now is not the time to dive into a deep black hole and turn off communications.

I'd love to hear what you think? What your experience of this has been during the lockdown or what would do differently?

Christine Westbury
Founder
Blackjet Marketing

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