Striking the Right Tone: What Resonates with Global Consumers

July 8, 2020

Since the pandemic began, brands from every retail sector have been coming out of the woodwork to share their take on the global situation and communicate how they are responding. During times like these, consumers around the world observe how brands respond to a global crisis as it develops and changes. Aligning your brand's values with that of your customer base continues to be important. Brands should consider the ways they can strike the right tone in a way that is unique and authentic to them. Many brands fall into the unfortunate rut of communicating the same, or similar, messages making their voice forgettable among a growing chorus of brands all singing the same tune. It's important to be thoughtful when communicating to customers and approach messaging in a way that balances the brand voice while also acknowledging the global circumstances. But this is often easier said than done.

One thing is certain: consumers don't want or expect brands to stay silent throughout this ordeal. Ceasing communication with your target audience would be a mistake. In fact, brands that cut back on advertising and marketing in the first months of the health crisis saw a sharp decline in their online sales compared to brands that continued with their marketing efforts.

Acknowledging the current situation is important since pretending nothing is going on makes the brand appear disconnected or out of touch. A survey in March by Kantar revealed that 77% of respondents indicated that advertising should show how the brand is helpful in everyday life, and 75% believe that brands should communicate messages reflecting a response to a current situation.

Even though several markets are emerging from lockdown, it is still important for brands to continue addressing the following:

  • How is your e-commerce company handling the pandemic?
  • How much is the pandemic still affecting shipping and delivery times?
  • How available is customer service in responding to customer inquiries?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep your workers and your customers safe?
  • Have you rolled out any new policies, such as contactless delivery or curbside pickup, that your customers should know about?

The messages that e-commerce merchants send to customers right now should be more than just inbox fillers or ads that regurgitate what everyone else is already saying. During April and May, as brands realized they needed to pivot their pre-scheduled ad calendar to address the current crisis, they all ended up creating new ads that said practically the same thing. In fact, one of the first autofill phrases when searching on YouTube for "Covid ads" brings up a number of videos that show various clips of commercials that followed the same predictable formula (note the close similarities of the piano music in the background). And many notable brands fell into this trap with their messaging. While the approach seemed appropriate at the time, and seemingly necessary, it quickly became mundane.  Luckily, as life begins to return to normal, brands are beginning to shift their messaging toward humor or more lighthearted messaging and marketing communications to excite shoppers to re-engage in the summer season.

How does this relate to cross-border marketing and messaging? Keep in mind that the emails, social media posts, and blogs on your localized e-commerce websites should reinforce the culture of your company and what you stand for. And similar to the domestic market, it is just as important for brands to be authentic in the way they communicate in international markets and show how their values align with those local customers.

Here are a few steps you can take to be responsive to the developing global climate in acknowledging what consumers are experiencing while still being genuine to your brand voice:


Pay attention to what your customers are saying in each market where you sell. Keep in mind that in different geographic regions, people are going through different stages of this pandemic. Their fears, concerns, and needs will vary.  Looking at social media comments and reactions and soliciting feedback directly can help uncover customer sentiment and develop messaging that lands in the right way with the local audience.

2. Be sensitive to what they're going through.

This can be a crucial step for cross-border e-commerce merchants without a physical presence in the markets they're selling into. The last thing cross-border e-commerce retailers want is to come across as uncaring or even callous by focusing only on selling their products. A brand's empathy toward consumers should be reflected in messaging used on the site and in marketing. For example some brands continue to use narratives in their advertising that show appropriate social distancing and activities that can be enjoyed at home that thoughtfully connect to the brand's products.  

3. Know your customer segments.

This is really taking the two steps above (listening and being sensitive) to the next level. Consider segmenting your consumer base according to what you learn through research and surveying consumer morale and sentiment in different markets. There isn't a one-size-fits-all for marketing to customers during global disruptions and brand communication requires even more thought and care. It also requires an approach that is tailored to different international markets. You don't want to boil the ocean, but look at similar regions or your primary international markets first and look for similarities in your long-tail markets when crafting messaging that responds to the local situation.

It's important for cross-border e-commerce companies to be responsive in a way that still reflects their values. Remember that a response to developing global events can reveal character, and that extends to organizations as well. Above all, brands should be sympathetic but also stay positive and offer their customers something that will make their lives easier, or give them something to look forward to.

At Flow we help brands launch and manage the complexities of cross-border e-commerce.  We enable brands to market, sell and ship goods to consumers all over the world by providing shoppers with easy, local experiences.  We'll take care of localizing the customer journey for your different markets so that you can have time to craft and develop the right tone and messaging that will resonate with your global customers. Get in touch with Flow today.