The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in recent history. For many brands, this poses a significant challenge – particularly given that there’s no ‘rulebook’ to follow.
At times like these, brands and businesses need to show real agility as the customer experience becomes, above all else, entirely about empathetic engagement.
For certain sectors, providing experiences that are both relevant and considerate of the current situation can be extremely tough. For example, a brand like Secret Cinema usually relies on the physical presence of people attending an event; it’s not primarily geared up for providing remote entertainment. Many restaurant businesses are in the same position; there are likely more restaurant businesses without the operations to run a delivery service that is quite as lucrative as the usual sittings compared with those that run both successfully.
However, during this time, the key to adapting can be as simple as listening to your gut and leveraging emotional intelligence – asking yourself, what does a customer of ours want from us right now if what we’re providing is not an essential product?
As a society, we are all going through the same motions. Now more than ever, we can put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and better understand what they might be looking for from their favourite brands. What’s crucial right now is that brands listen and seek to improve the lives of the public with every touchpoint.
Providing a sense of connection
Whilst we are all in lockdown, the need for connection and keeping in touch with friends and family is heightened – as is the need for a sense of routine and activities to look forward to. With this in mind, the Secret Cinema brand has pivoted to provide a schedule of remote entertainment packages to its ‘community’ of customers through its Secret Sofa project.
Every week, the brand encourages its fans to create their own immersive film experiences at home by providing a series of well-loved films packed with surprises, bespoke content and interactive elements. They have also teamed up with Häagen–Dazs to provide ice cream deliveries straight to people’s doors. At the heart of Secret Cinema experiences is audience participation and strangers coming together to experience films in new and interesting ways.
As such, they have tapped into new needs – staying indoors yet remaining connecting – whilst maintaining an experience that is still very relevant to its core. Those taking part can dress up and take the participation element as far as they want to.
When lockdown is lifted, Secret Cinema will have continued to engage its customer base by providing them with a thoughtful experience true to its unique values. It will also have strengthened bonds with consumers looking to the brand for routine and a social connection.
Using resources for good
Similarly, when everything feels uncertain and unclear, customers will be looking to their favourite brands for reassurance that they are still going and navigating the crisis. With brands communicating in a way that was similar to before, customers may feel that this brings with it a sense of calm. However, the experiences that come with this need to be different in order to stay relevant.
For example, beauty brands right now may have less relevance in our lives given that we’re all hunkering down at home and interacting with strangers far less. That doesn’t mean to say we’ll never need them again. So, in order to stay relevant and encourage sales in the short term, several beauty brands are showing that they’re giving something back and using this down time to help the cause of fighting the spread of the virus. Some are donating their proceeds to charity, others allowing their warehouses and units to be used to create hand sanitizer, and some are even donating produce for free to key workers within society.
Those that are doing this well and getting through to customers will have secured a place in their minds when they are next in need of purchasing beauty products.
Another great example is Virgin Money’s London Marathon this year, which has been postponed from its original date of 26th April to 4th October. Rather than leaving the 26th April to pass by with no homage to the event that could have been, the event organisers encouraged participation in ‘The 2.6 Challenge’, which aimed to raise funds to fill the gap left by the postponement for many UK charities. The movement has had great success so far and has brought together all corners of society from runners, to athletes to primary school children and the elderly. Resources that would have been used to coordinate the event have now been utilised in a way that does good both to charities and society at large.
Focus on the now whilst keeping your eye on recovery
Likewise, right now, it’s important to stay present to what is happening in the moment but with thoughts also being dedicated to the recovery period. It’s likely that customers won’t be buying and spending in the same way that they used to for quite some time – even when the lockdown is lifted. This means that now is the perfect time to improve your digital customer experiences and prepare for an extended period of time where customers continue to adjust to an even newer ‘normal’.
The brands that survive and thrive will be those taking more proactive steps to engage customers, comfort them, go above and beyond – and really show that they are a support for the community as well as in it for the long-haul. Brands that do well now will earn themselves a great reputation, which will be essential in the future.