More lockdowns are being announced each day due to Covid-19. As the situation evolves, business owners are exploring ways to stay in touch with customers until shops can reopen. In fast-moving and uncertain situations, it's important that you be available to answer your customer's questions, communicate your business's status and provide support to your community. It may mean you try entirely new ways to reach your customers, such as SMS texting or web chat. Here are some tools to get you started.

Podium Webchat

Live chat with your customers using a web chat tool like Podium. Podium integrates with your website to allow your team to answer questions, schedule appointments and sell your product or service in 1:1 conversations with customers. The Podium widget can be customized to include an avatar, greeting and away message for any queries that come in after normal business hours. It's a great personal touch to add to your e-store: Research from Forrester found that customers who engage in a live chat conversation with a business are 2.8x more likely to complete a purchase. Keep your employees busy while interacting with customers from a distance.

Alternatives to Podium:

Sprout Social

Many customers automatically resort to social media channels to stay in touch with businesses. Your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram pages are the default place where customers will go to find out if you're open, selling or accepting returns. Make sure you're proactively managing your social channels with a tool like Sprout Social. With Sprout Social, your team can simultaneously respond to comments, direct messages and posts that your company has been tagged in to keep up with any questions and concerns. As you experiment with different marketing messages, you can tag and track campaigns, post types, subject matters and any other content you may want to test.

Alternatives to Sprout Social:

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an extremely popular email marketing platform, and a great way to stay in touch with your customers. Their easy-to-customize templates can help you build an appealing newsletter with relevant information, business updates and entertaining content. Email is one of the best ways to reach someone, too. A study by McKinsey found that email marketing is 40 times more effective at reaching your target consumer than Twitter or Facebook. While your store is closed, use your newsletter to share content that entertains people or keeps them engaged with your brand. For instance, a cafe might share a new recipe each week, while a bookstore might curate a list of recommendations of nonfiction, thriller and children's books. Mailchimp is equipped to help you build something that generates a high open rate.

Alternatives to Mailchimp:

TextMagic

Along with email, SMS messaging is another highly effective form of communication. If you have your customer's phone numbers on record, reach out to them with urgent updates through text message. Research from Gartner reports that while emails are opened about 20 percent of the time, SMS messages are opened up to 98 percent of the time.

Look for an SMS service that doesn't spam your customers, but instead provides truly two-way communication, meaning your customers can write back to any message you send, and you'd be able to reply directly. TextMagic is one tool that's easy to set up and won't cost you a bundle.

Alternatives to TextMagic:

Clipchamp

We could all use a little entertainment right now, which is why recording a video is one of the best ways to communicate with your customers. Clipchamp makes it easy to record something straight from your computer's built-in camera with no additional hardware necessary. Personal trainers can film a fitness class and send it out to their email list; hardware stores can film their employees working on home improvement projects. Solicit ideas from your customers through social media. Clipchamp has a native editing tooland can directly upload your file to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, or Google Drive.

Alternatives to Clipchamp:

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