Engaging customer experiences have become a staple for brands to build and strengthen relationships and loyalty. Familiarity is no longer a leading factor determining where a consumer shops. Brands now must offer customers an experience that makes them stand apart in a crowded market, while embodying brand values and lifestyle.

However, the current climate has made it difficult for them to keep up with a customer base which is increasingly fragmented, shopping both online and offline, and whose expectations, demands, and needs are constantly evolving. Indeed, the pandemic has had two main ramifications for the rest of the year as we head into the Golden Quarter…

Firstly, economic uncertainty and the need for festive cheer means customers are starting their end-of-year festive shopping earlier than ever. We know Christmas sales are already up by 112 percent versus 2019, while sales of Christmas trees and decorations are up 232 percent and 156 percent respectively. As a result, the Golden Quarter will be crucial for brands and retailers that have been underperforming for most of 2020.

Secondly, we know many customers, post-lockdown, are shopping from the comfort of their own home. Our recent research told us that 78 percent of UK shoppers still aren’t comfortable shopping in stores, causing a shift to online channels. The challenge for brands for the rest of the year is to adapt their customer experience strategy to offer a seamless and engaging online experience this holiday shopping season. But how can they achieve this?

Consistent shopping experience = a successful golden quarter

The key to engaging a customer base which now relies on digital channels, is to offer a consistent experience across all channels. It’s important to not create siloed experiences, but rather a holistic one, communicated in a personalised way and depending on a customer’s preferences. 

A great example of an engaging holistic online cross-channel campaign is Babylon Health. One of the most popular features of Babylon Health’s app is a Healthcheck, in which users are asked questions about their health, diet, exercise, and any pre-existing conditions, and given specific recommendations based on the person’s health patterns. During the pandemic, demand for these kinds of services grew and Babylon knew it had to be at the forefront of providing verified, doctor-checked information that people could trust. Working with Braze, Babylon identified that email was the right channel to communicate about Healthcheck. Babylon created an interactive campaign through email that drove users to the app, effectively delivering a cross-channel experience that was not only successful for the company, but useful for the users amidst a pandemic.

Creating a seamless experience across all touchpoints and channels requires a strategy that emphasises tuning-in to what customers want and how they behave. To do so brands need agile, channel agnostic technology. With this, brands have the insights to create personalised and memorable experiences and can communicate with customers on the right channels and at in the right moment.

The real-time advantage

Cross-channel customer engagement strategies allow marketers to synchronise multiple channels and engage potential customers in thoughtful, cohesive ways. However, the benefit and value of this is lost unless such messages are shared via the customer’s preferred channels in a timely manner.

Having access to first-party customer data in real-time enables brands to spot changes in preferences and behaviours immediately and communicate in the moments that matter. Brands can turn this real-time data into insights to optimise their online customer experience strategy immediately.

Keeping current customers sweet

As we head deeper into the Golden Quarter, customer retention should be a focus for brands. With recent Braze research showing that almost all (97 percent) of shoppers that tried a new brand in lockdown would buy from it again, we know the opportunity to drive loyalty is there. By leveraging tools and insights to better understand customer intent and behavior, brands can strategically create personalised cross-channel campaigns that strengthen loyalty of current customers. 

IKEA is an industry example of a brand that listens to its customers to derive first-class experiences, which, in turn, boosts loyalty. IKEA customers wanted to be able to “try on” furniture before purchasing it, to ensure it would fit their home. The furniture retailer built a VR app to enable this, creating an interactive experience at home.

Launched in 2017, the app has been a major success since, with over two million downloads. By offering convenient and functional customer experience both online and offline, the Swedish furniture giant can build strong customer loyalty.

Building engaging and consistent online customer experiences is crucial for brands to be successful in the Covid-19 era, especially as we head into the festive shopping season and competition between brands heightens. Doing so will require adaptability and flexibility to cater to a fragmented and changing customer base. Agile marketing technology solutions exist to empower brands to respond in real-time to this challenge, and successfully navigate this era of uncertainty. By adopting such technology, brands will see customer insights come together to fuel engaging campaigns that drive loyalty in the Golden Quarter and beyond.

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