Missed an episode of Chatfuel School—the podcast where we cover hot topics in the world of bot-building and marketing? Don't worry; we took notes for you. 🤓 The topic for April 22, 2020 was how to ethically sell your products during the coronavirus pandemic. We brought in experts Ben and Meredith from Biddyco advertising agency to share their advice!  Here's the full episode. 👇 Keep scrolling for a recap of what you missed.

May 2020: The coronavirus pandemic drags on, and we're still a long ways from "business as usual." So if you're marketing and selling ecommerce products exactly how you were six months ago, your brand's going to come off as tone-deaf and insensitive. Consumers worldwide are coping with stress, uncertainty, and even grief. Your brand needs to adapt its strategies and messaging accordingly.

The good news:

  • There is a way to protect the livelihood of yourself and your employees while still being sensitive.
  • There is a way to ethically sell your products during these times.

The key is to make them relevant to the time, place, and context we're in today. There's never been a better time to show the humanity behind your brand. Now's the time to focus on speaking to your customers' new emotions, needs, and pain points.

In this episode of Chatfuel School, we spoke to Ben Philabaum and Meredith Schoenberger of Biddyco, a social advertising firm. Here are their top five tips for ethically selling during the pandemic, plus examples from real ecommerce brands who are doing it well.

#1. Don't prey on fear.

It should go without saying, but: Manipulating fearful emotions that people are feeling right now is a prime example of unethical selling. Even if this tactic results in some sales in the short-term, it's inappropriate and unfair, and will damage your ecommerce business in the long run.

Brand spotlight: Ettitude 🛏

Ben and Meredith highlighted bedding brand Ettitude as an example of an ecommerce company whose advertising doesn't prey on fear. Pre-pandemic, they already had a line of antimicrobial bedding. So once the pandemic began, it was easy for them to align their product benefits with their customer needs (feeling safe at home, feeling clean and away from germs) without being scary.

Ettitude could have easily targeted pandemic fears—like warning prospects that they're not keeping their families safe unless they have these antimicrobial sheets. But instead, this ecommerce store focused on the positive: conveying the comforts and benefits of their product instead of using fear as a sales tactic.

This ad is an example of effective, ethical pandemic selling because it:

  • Uses positive and simple language
  • Focuses on providing comfort and other benefits to customers without fear-mongering

#2. Show that you understand what consumers are going through.

All around the world, people are experiencing anxiety and stress because of the pandemic. As a result, they'll likely be more receptive to ecommerce brands that are sensitive to this— especially those that can offer some (authentic) positivity. Showing empathy and providing a bit of comfort can go a long way in these difficult times.

Brand spotlight: Headspace 🧘🏽‍♀️

Headspace was Ben and Meredith's example for a brand that's exemplifying this tip right now. This meditation app aims to help subscribers build a happy and healthy life. That's always been their goal, but how they help customers do this has changed a bit since the pandemic began.

In their advertising now, Headspace shows that they understand that their customers are feeling anxiety and stress. Then, they highlight the ways their product can help users find relief, peace, and tranquility. They’re showing that they get what customers are going through, and that they’re here to help.

This ad is an example of effective, ethical pandemic selling because it:

  • Focuses on bringing ease and relief in stressful times
  • Offers a product that can be used from the safety of a customer's home

#3. Focus on providing joy and inspiration.

During a global crisis, it can be hard to feel positive. It can feel like there's bad news everywhere you turn, and being cooped up at home with fun events and activities canceled can take its toll. That's why now's a great time for ecommerce retailers to focus on how their products can bring happiness and brightness to the lives of consumers at home.

Brand spotlight: Lindsay Letters 💌

Lindsay Letters is a brand Ben and Meredith commends for the positivity they inject into their advertising during the pandemic. This company sells beautiful art and wall calendars. While their products are already intended for the home, their COVID-era advertising focuses on the joy they can add to your space. While home decor isn't an "essential item" during these times, Lindsay Letters sells by pointing out the mental benefits their products can provide. They focus on simplicity, positive emotions and little joys we can bring into our life and our home via inspiring art.

This ad is an example of effective, ethical pandemic selling because it:

  • Is bright and colorful
  • Highlights happiness and joy
  • Is simple, clear, and relatable

#4. Turn outside activities into at-home activities.

During quarantine, we all miss the activities and events we used to do outside the home: grabbing a cocktail with a friend, dining out, getting our hair or nails done. So if your ecommerce brand can show how its products can be used to replicate some of those simple pleasures at home, you'll catch prospect attention. It’s all about recognizing your customer's new pain points during this time, and helping solve them.

Brand spotlight: Playa Beauty🧴

This hair-care brand is one Ben and Meredith highlighted as a great example of providing a way to recreate certain comforts at home. In lockdown, we've all had to become our own hairdressers! Playa recognized this, and focuses on how their products can help consumers with that transition. They emphasize how the items they sell allow customers to create a new routine of self-care and comfort at home.

This ad is an example of effective, ethical pandemic selling because it:

  • Is simple and straightforward
  • Acknowledges that these aren't normal times
  • Shows how the products can bring consumers luxury and comfort at home

#5. Highlight convenience.

Pre-coronavirus, consumers were used to brands serving them on demand: instant customer service, and lightning-fast shipping. But the pandemic threw a wrench into both of these processes for many ecommerce brands.

So if your brand is still able to provide fast service and shipping, emphasize these benefits. They're now some of your top selling points, and they represent a competitive advantage. Let your customers know you’re here to offer them speed and convenience in a time when that's no longer necessarily the norm.

Brand spotlight: Instacart 🛒

Ben and Meredith brought up Instacart as a brand that took convenience and speed of delivery to another level. They offer delivery and pick-up service for groceries. But what differentiated them from competitors early on in the pandemic is that they delivered even non-essential products to customers' homes within an hour! You have to admit—that’s impressive even for non-pandemic times. Their offering is attractive, enticing, and virtually impossible to beat.

This ad is an example of effective, ethical pandemic selling because it:

  • Uses clear language to convey the key perks of shopping with them: selection and speed, both of which are in-demand by consumers now more than ever
  • Focuses on creating a feeling of enjoyment while at home

Sensitive selling in times of crisis

If we were to distill Ben and Meredith's tips down to one guiding principle for ecommerce retailers selling during a pandemic, it would be this: Show your humanity. COVID-19 affects every human on the planet—we're all in the same boat. Approach your ecommerce marketing and sales with sensitivity appropriate for a crisis like this one. Use your own experiences to predict new customer pain points, and use relevant, unaggressive advertising to show how your products can help solve them.

Learn more about BiddyCo.