As we continue to live through a global pandemic, one certainty is that COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our lives forever. In particular, consumer life and behaviours have been remodelled by the crisis. It’s a challenging and still evolving landscape for brands to navigate, but to stay relevant is simple – treat customers as humans and as individuals.
In the last decade we’ve seen consumers take more power, dictating how and when they’d like to engage with brands. The pandemic has accelerated this, shifting the power firmly into consumers’ hands. Brands must now adapt to new preferences and behaviours – such as an increase in online shopping – that have the potential to become permanent even as lockdown measures ease off around the world.
Predicting consumer behaviour has never been easy and it will only continue to be predictably unpredictable. Will consumers stay at home, stay local, or travel? Will they spend more to distract themselves or limit their expenses to necessary items? It will be crucial for brands to closely monitor the behaviour and adapt accordingly to individuals if they want to engage customers and to not only recover but thrive post-pandemic.
With the right teams and tech, it’s possible to get to a point where you know your customers inside out and can communicate to them in a personalised and human way.
Listen to customers in real-time
Good relationships come from listening carefully, making decisions about what you hear and acting accordingly. Engagement with consumers should be the same and key to that is the ability to collect data in real-time. Doing so lets brands automate decision-making with real-time, data-based insights about how their customers are interacting with them, for example on their websites, in their stores or in their apps. With this, brands can tailor their communications strategy and engage customers in the moments that matter – not hours, days or weeks too late to be relevant.
Our data shows that in May, 94 percent of new retail consumers came via the web, which is hardly surprising given we’ve all been stuck in our homes during the lockdown. For brands who had access to this data in real-time, such data meant they could create channel appropriate strategies to cater to the new, less mobile needs of their customer base. Knowing the preferred channel to reach consumers impacts a brand’s communication strategy and allows them to create relevant experiences however and wherever consumers are engaging with them.
In the race for agility, don’t leave your teams behind
Getting the right message to the right person at the right moment is key to building strong relationships with consumers. It’s crucial that brands ensure that data agility is a priority and that the different technologies that make up their customer engagement ecosystem communicate effectively. Agile technology that combines intuitive, marketer-friendly interfaces with highly scalable architectures is what will give brands the power to collect, process and action customer data in near real-time. If brands combine this with channel agnostic platforms, messages can be adapted and distributed almost in real time to any channel, meaning customers receive hyper-personalised and human messages that are constantly tailored to them.
Agile technology also allows brands to collect, process and analyse data in a responsible, safe, and real-time way, so customers can trust that their data is secure, while brands gather crucial insight on customer behaviour and preferences immediately. This is the perfect recipe to create memorable experiences for customers and can be the difference between success or failure.
But technology isn’t the be all and end all. Brands also need to think creatively, be empathetic and be human to offer customers meaningful and personal engagement. Investment in the teams that are behind the technology is crucial. They need to be multi-disciplinary teams that have a 360 view of the customer, the product and the business, so they always know how to make the most of the data they receive from customer interactions and feedback.
Keeping up with the Customer
If there’s one thing brands should have learnt during the pandemic, it’s that maintaining strong relationships with their current customers should always be their priority. In times where brands are tightening purse strings, focusing on customer retention rather than acquisition will result in better returns.
The best way to build loyalty is by being in touch with customers’ needs and feelings. Ensuring messages are human, on point, and offer exactly what they’re after. Whether that’s special services, inside track information or discounts, brands can make their current customers feel cared for.
The world may never return to the way it was before the pandemic, but that doesn’t have to be bad news for customer engagement. Brands can use this time as an opportunity to future-proof by investing in the tech that will allow them to always meet changing consumer expectations and behaviour. Having the tech and teams in place to adjust quickly to change while always offering real-time, personalised communications at the right moment and on the right channel is what will set apart successful brands from the rest – in a crisis and beyond.