The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways people engage with brands and how they expect brands to engage with them. Brands that resist this new reality will suffer, but those that manage these increasingly more digital experiences stand to benefit greatly.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name”
From 1982 to 1993 most Friday nights, I’d hear these words, the chorus of the opening theme song for the American NBC sitcom, “Cheers.” Years later, as I reflect on data-driven marketing and the importance of customer experiences, I’m reminded of that television show and the above lyrics. Being British, I was a huge fan of the quick wit and ready sarcasm of the show, but again, being British, I’m also very familiar with a pub culture it reflected, so much a part of my own country.
Whether or not it’s a pub, we can all identify with the sense of belonging being in a place where everybody knows our name. This desire is fundamental to human nature and extends across most aspects of life from home to work, to places where we relax, like pubs. Of course, for some time now, the internet and ecommerce have been on a march to fundamentally redefine how these experiences occur in a digital rather than physical sense.
A Seismic Shift in Circumstances
But as we all are painfully aware, 2020 changed everything, completely and quickly with pubs, restaurants, shops and pretty much everything, across Britain and many parts of the world, forced to close for the first time in decades. Suddenly these familiar places were off-limits, and people were forced into new routines. Now as the world fitfully recovers region by region from this pandemic, brands and customers emerge into a landscape where how they engage with the everyday has changed significantly.
People’s priorities, needs, and how we go about resolving them have drastically been altered, in many cases forever.
- Online shopping and buying of course have exploded to include big-ticket items like vehicles but also items like groceries that historically were purchased in-store.
- Virtual meetings and gatherings for both work and socially have exploded. Both businesses and people are surely going to further embrace work and relationships virtually as they see the benefits.
- Home-based entertainment and those brands that support it are through the roof. People are spending money on digital streaming services like never before with new demographic segments gaining noticeable traction.
Re-tooling Customer Experience Strategy
This convergence of fundamental customer needs and expectations, technology, and global crisis lays bare new imperatives for brands. Brands that ignore or, worse still, resist these fundamental reality shifts do so at their peril. Conversely, brands that do the foundational heavy lifting to manage these increasingly more digital experiences stand to see tremendous gains even as there is the eventual “correction” and people start to assume at least to some degree more traditional buying routines.
There is an enormous opportunity for brands positioned or willing to position themselves to leverage data to:
- Deliver improved customer experiences,
- Earn trust, and
- Strengthen relationships.
It’s all made possible by data, of course. We’ve known for some years how much we rely on data to understand customers. While too easy to lose sight of, this is no revelation. However, make no mistake, models based on the assumptions of 2019 in many cases won’t work.
Shift with the Changing Consumer Behavior
So, what to do? The industry is awash with so-called 2020 solutions, yet they are built on a 2019 framework. But I would suggest that customer experience management that results in a meaningful, relevant relationship across channels requires a reset marketing framework for 2020 and beyond. First, you must have the customer at the center. Every aspect of the marketing and adtech stack must revolve around a radical customer-centric strategy fueled by customer intelligence. Customers now more than ever have unique needs, and they want to engage with brands that offer solutions for them.
To accurately provide unique offers you absolutely must get identity management right. Conventional wisdom and age-old marketing techniques are simply not good enough. You need more precision across channels. You simply cannot nurture a customer relationship if you can’t recognise the customer and deliver a consistent customer experience. Simultaneously, you need to unify the disparate data you’ve likely been leveraging and the technology both on the marketing and adtech side. Connecting these data “gaps” shores up the “What” and the “Who” but also the “How,” “When,” and “Where,” allowing for an experience the customer not only wants but has come to expect. See how one specialty retailer improved customer and household recognition by 14% and delivered experiences that mattered.
This may sound daunting, and truth be told it’s not easy. But essentially, this is still just old-school marketing, but on steroids. Know your customer, meet their needs with products and services they see as valuable, and use the available tools at your disposal to make these offers when, where, and in ways that are easy, trustworthy, and comfortable.