In the past several weeks, our culture as consumers has seen a seismic shift in nearly every conceivable way. As we face stay-at-home orders and quarantines, we’re now fully immersed in the new culture of simply staying healthy. And along with consumers, brands are formulating their own plans to remain as healthy as possible while weathering the storm.
For most consumers, the travel bans and office closures will lead to a hike in online activity and an increased appetite for digital engagement. On the other hand, feelings of anxiety will be peppered in as social-isolation fatigue, uncertain work conditions or job statuses, and other stressors loom. Each interaction with these consumers matters. Brands’ reactions and interactions in the coming weeks or months will be especially important in instilling consumer confidence.
As the sensitivity to messaging increases, an emphasis must be put on remaining empathetic while adapting to a new peak in digital engagement.
The most successful marketers understand that empathy goes beyond the language or tone of a message. It’s a larger concept that also means ensuring customers can be reached when and where they need to be reached. It’s about understanding where they are in the buyer’s journey. It’s about offering a level of comfort and familiarity in the form of relevant, personalized messages or by showing that whatever they need is still available for them. These are the activities that will help brands stand out among the deluge of outreach and offers, while driving brand trust and loyalty.
In a time of social-distancing, it’s important to help customers feel closer to your brand. Here are tips on how marketers can ensure each engagement counts.
Control What You Can Control
Some things can’t be controlled. Inquiries in certain inbound channels, for example, could decline in the short term and foot traffic to physical locations has already declined significantly.
Brands should shift focus to the things that they can control. For example, you can manage your outbound messaging and cadence. You can ensure that your messaging is compassionate and provides real value.
You can also control the quality of the data in your customer relationship management tool (CRM). The CRM is a library that contains each customer’s story — their identity, their lifestyle preferences and buying propensities, and much more. However, consumer data changes rapidly and can “break.”
There are many causes of data breakage within a CRM: the ingestion of inaccurate data, losses during data transfers between systems, and silos existing across multiple databases. One of the most common causes of data breakage is decay. Names, phone numbers, emails, and physical addresses change at a moment’s notice, leaving CRMs outdated. About 30% of a brand’s consumer data is out-of-date at any given time.
Through cleansing, updating, linking, optimization, you can take control of data breakage and be sure that you’re able to reach customers, prove that you understand who they are and will continually meet their evolving needs.
Adapt to Changing Customer Behavior
Changes in a customer’s buying habits can typically be measured over months or longer. Now, it’s something that seemingly can be measured in days. Things consumers are purchasing and the channels they are purchasing in are rapidly changing.
Being able to adapt equally quickly to changes in buyer needs and continue to be able to reach them as they shift in channel use (primarily toward digital channels) will bring success in the near term.
And while focusing on the rapidly evolving present, it’s important not to lose sight of anticipating their needs in the longer term. Being able to segment consumers by location, demographics, behaviors, lifestyles, or media usage enables the tailoring of personalized messaging for each segment to make relevant offers now and well into the future.
Be Prepared Now and Later
The status quo has changed in a major way, and the ramifications will be felt long into the future. However, brands and marketers must carry on in order to be prepared to come out the other side. They should focus on the here and now by understanding their consumers, and providing them the value and empathy they need in uncertain times.
But they also must keep an eye toward the future when consumers return to the new normal.
There is likely to be an unprecedented level of pent-up demand in nearly every industry as consumers begin to flock to businesses and events when they are ready to reopen shop. Brands that take inventory of that oncoming demand and what is around the corner by knowing who their consumers are as well as their needs will be in a position to thrive. And by remaining empathetic, informative, consistent and comforting even in a chaotic time, they’ll maintain consumer confidence well into the future.