How Social Distancing Inspired Companies to Digitise, Fast

From virtual facials to at-home museum tours, coronavirus-induced social distancing has prompted many businesses that rely on bricks and mortar to recreate their IRL offerings, virtually.

On a personal level, lockdown has signalled a 'back to basics' shift in consumer lifestyles (see: banana bread baking and candle making). But industry-wise, it has inspired a digital revolution. It wasn't as though companies didn't have the tools to digitise, just that many were reluctant to do so. But desperate times call for desperate measures, prompting even the the most old-school of companies to pivot, fast. From virtual museum tours to clever product launches, we take a look at how both B2C and B2B businesses traditionally offering physical customer experiences have continued to service their customers at home - and drive revenue - by using digital technology.


Gamification for future-proofing

China's Suzhou Museum launched four mini games through its WeChat and Weibo accounts, whereby users could work on art-themed challenges. Plus, Formula 1 replaced postponed races with a Virtual Grand Prix Series featuring F1 drivers, which drew in a record-breaking 30 million views.

Virtual appointments and treatments

London-based facialist Pfeffer Sal began offering Guided Facials through video conferencing, while Face Gym launched Online Face Workouts. and hair salons started giving at-home colour advice. Plus, US beauty brand Glossier and British retailer John Lewis, both known for their impeccable customer care, quickly rolled out virtual appointments - all bookable via Instagram and followed up with a customised list of products.


Reactive product pivots

Smart B2C brands swiftly pivoted their merchandising and/or buys to respond to a newly home-bound customer base. Draper James pulled forward the launch of their new loungewear collection, and saw a 1,200% increase in sales of lounge units, as reported by Glossy. Bleach London launched Party Packs, collections of products for at-home application (complete with micro-site and robust marketing strategy) and has just unveiled Trim Kits. On the B2B side, renowned fashion show production company Blonstein Productions collaborated with LA Design Studio to launch Blonstein Digital, a model-less, sample-less, fashion show platform.

Community over conversions = increased engagements

Many B2C brands pivoted their strategies to focus on community-building and customer retention. L'Oreal pulled offline advertising and reinvested it online, and retailers such as MatchesFashion.com and H&M offered exclusive discounts to existing registered customers - simultaneously nourishing their existing fanbase and promoting their membership initiatives.

Digitalised experiences for data capture and sponsorship

Secret Cinema - known for staging cinema experiences with custom-built sets and performances - launched Secret Sofa with Häagen-Dazs as the sponsor. Viewers signed up to emails for updates, bought tickets and received costume suggestions, playlists and more, in time for a weekly screening.


Live-streamed, fitness classes to maintain revenue, reward loyalty and drive social growth

Class-based businesses and gyms (SkyTing, ClassPass and LA Fitness, amongst others) have offered live streams and digital classes, available behind a member paywall, via a fee or free via Facebook Live, Instagram Live and YouTube. Luxury gym chain Equinox also launched its at-home fitness app Variis during lockdown.


Video tours to tap into a younger, digitally savvy audience

The Louvre, MoMA, the Met, The National Gallery and the Guggenheim all rolled out virtual tours and immersive online exhibitions on-site and via Google Arts & Culture, while nine global museums enlisted curators to take viewers on video tours via Chinese social platform Douyin.

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