The pandemic accelerated a marketplace that was already moving towards omnichannel, direct-to-consumer sales. Retailers are no longer the sole outlet for consumer purchases – now more than ever, companies across the supply chain are incorporating business-to-consumer (B2C) opportunities in their distribution channels.
The best way to communicate to consumers about recalls has been an ongoing discussion in the industry, but the rise of B2C has put more importance on the need for fast, clear, and actionable communication. Here are three ways we recommend companies improve their consumer communication practices during a recall.
Build Trust With Transparency
It used to be that companies tried to minimize publicity around recalls thinking that it would help maintain brand reputation. Now, transparency is required by consumers, they value greater visibility about at-risk products, and perceive any avoidance or withholding of information as a breach of trust. Clear, open communication about the affected product and the required action is an important part of retaining consumer trust in the brand.
Since information spreads so fast, it is vital for brands to be the first to communicate about a potentially harmful or defective product – otherwise they risk consumers hearing from outlets that may spread misinformation or brand-damaging messaging. It is also important for the communication to be accurate and thorough, which means that systems must be in place ahead of time to ensure that the correct information is collected and distributed immediately.
Craft Consumer Centric Messaging
There is a big difference in the kind of communication appropriate for business customers versus consumers. In both cases, the focus should be on action, but the information that will enable action needs to be presented in a way that is understandable for the audience. Consumers need a different set of information presented in a different way.
For example, a supplier-to-distributor notification might include UPC, Lot Code, Shipping Date, and Disposition instructions arranged in a table format that allows for clear communication of multiple products the distributor received from their supplier. On the other hand, a consumer would only need specific UPC and Lot Code numbers for the item they purchased, along with instructions on how to receive credit for the product. And, consumers need this information in a readable format that highlights what they should do to protect themselves.
As a Recall Ready exercise in an omni-channel environment, companies can put thought into crafting communication templates for both businesses and consumers so that it’s easy to communicate effectively when needed.
Leverage Loyalty Programs
With vast data available that matches consumer purchases to recalled products, it is baffling how infrequently the data is used to provide fast, direct notification when a recall happens. The widespread presence of loyalty programs or online purchase records are under-utilized tools for direct-to-consumer communications.
Since technology exists that makes it possible to identify who has purchased recalled product, leveraging that data to get information into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible becomes a new level of customer engagement to strengthen trust with consumers. Putting systems in place to access data, get it to those in charge of recall communication, and to send notifications to anyone who bought the affected product becomes part of the modernized recall process, and makes it a priority for companies before a recall happens.
Best in Class Practices
The damage of a recall extends beyond the cost of lost product – the harm to brand reputation is an on-going cost that is hard to quantify but impactful to the point of being potentially fatal to a company. Putting resources into building best in class practices for consumer communication during a recall is in every company's best interest, not only because it protects their customers but also because it protects the brand they have worked so hard to build. A positive brand perception is vital to a thriving business, and it can be easily lost. Protecting consumers with fast, clear communication is the best way to also protect your brand.