The world is still scrambling to navigate the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Businesses all over the world are facing a lot of challenging decisions such as shifting business hours, temporarily closing operations, fluctuating supply chains, and even protecting their frontline employees.
These difficult decisions are made to ensure that public health and safety remain the main priority for businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s global health crisis has also prompted organizations to rethink the way they deal with consumer insights and customer experience.
All of a sudden, organizations are re-examining the buyer’s journey and satisfaction of their consumers to help them understand and address the urgency of the processes they need to change.
Related: Digital Marketing During COVID-19: Five Ways to Help Brands Thrive
Google’s Consumer Insights showed several helpful ways on how brands and companies are responding to the current global outbreak:
By being current and transparent
Consumers today are looking for practical and relevant information, and they trust companies to deliver this information promptly. During these uncertain times, companies need to ensure that the organization communicates any expected business or product updates immediately.
In fact, Google’s data showed that over 85% of U.S. consumers believe that it is completely acceptable for companies and brands to be communicating at this time.
Organizations need to announce changes in hours, store closures, and changes in order fulfillment times to their consumers. They need to respond to the anxieties of their customers and assure them that they are still here to fulfill their needs.
By ensuring product safety
An efficient and dependable supply chain serves as the backbone of organizations. Companies need to take the necessary steps to ensure that their products are safe for both their employees and consumers.
Businesses are slowly adapting to this new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, even their consumers.
Google’s data showed that over a quarter of U.S. consumers can’t find the products they want or need, and nearly 3 in 10 bought brands they don’t normally buy.
Organizations have already started to change how they operate their businesses to sustain their operations and help people get the products they need in new ways. During these unprecedented times, organizations are doing the best they can to stay afloat. Although companies are facing many hard-hitting decisions, the safety of their employees, consumers, and all their stakeholders, need to remain as the top priority.
Adapting a new customer experience strategy for COVID-19
In times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with the organization can trigger a long-lasting and lingering effect on their trust and loyalty with the brand.
As global communities retreat into isolation and promote social distancing, customer experience will be the primary benchmark that differentiates the brand from the rest. Consumers will gauge how brands successfully delivered experiences with empathy, care, and concern.
Management consulting firm McKinsey and Company showed several ways how brands could address the needs of consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak:
ACTION 1: Focusing on the fundamentals: Care and Connection
Consumers need support and guidance to navigate the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. They want a resource that they can rely on to make them feel safe, and most importantly, they want someone that offers support during these overwhelming times. Companies that step up to take this role for their customers, employees, and the community will definitely win the hearts of their consumers.
· Care for consumers
The first step to show that brands care about their consumers is to reach out and offer their genuine support. During these challenging times, organizations are encouraged to help their stakeholders as much as they can. Showing care and concern in times of need is critical for consumers today. Its impact on the brand will help build positive relationships even after the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.
· Care for employees
Caring for employees is the first thing that organizations need to think about in times of crisis. Many companies around the world have pledged to continue paying the regular rates of their employees, even while they are on lockdown. For those who are still working, employees can provide new tools, training, and support to help employees give exceptional customer experience in this new working environment.
· Care for the community
Forward-thinking organizations understand that genuine care and concern should go beyond the immediate customer base. Companies need to step up and take on the role of being industry leaders during a time when everyone is scrambling to adjust to the new normal.
ACTION 2: Meeting customers where they are today
Every aspect of a consumer’s life has somehow been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Even simple trips to the mall or the grocery store are now difficult, risky, or even forbidden. Consumers need a new way to get their needs right at their doorstep.
· Accelerate digital options
Digital delivery and e-commerce have become a necessity for most customers who are confined to quarantine at home. For some organizations, digital readiness is vital to ensuring the continuity of its services. Companies are even going so far as making some of their digital services free to help existing consumers and broaden their reach.
· Bring businesses to customers’ homes
Home delivery services have been regarded as a necessity during a health crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, home delivery options have now expanded to cover beyond food and dry goods. Some pharmacies are now offering delivery services and even car dealerships offer to pick up and drop off options for vehicle repair and maintenance.
· Make physical operations touch-free
Companies are now shifting to contactless business operations today. Supermarkets, grocery chains, and physical stores have still kept their stores open to consumers. However, they are now adding new touchless measures, including the installations of plexiglass guards at the cash register to protect consumers and employees.
ACTION 3: Reimagining customer experience for a post-COVID-19 world
The COVID-19 outbreak will eventually be over at some point. Organizations need to anticipate changes in consumer preferences and come up with sustainable business models that will outlast the immediate crisis. While the health crisis may subside, there are still economic impacts that will continue in its wake.
· Find savings without sacrificing experience
Cutting costs are inevitable in times of crisis. However, it does not have to come at the expense of excellent customer experience since it can create substantial value for the brand. Migrating customers to digital channels is a good way to boost savings and satisfaction during a health crisis.
· Reimagine brick and mortar strategy
When physical stores reopen, organizations need to be prepared for the eventual reality that the world of brick and mortar stores may be fundamentally different. Consumers are now getting used to digital and remote options, even for the older populations. Companies need to be prepared to shut down underperforming stores and use mobile and online geospatial data to optimize their omnichannel sales.
ACTION 4: Building capabilities for a fast-changing environment
Research is the primary tool that will help maintain a robust customer experience in a crisis. Companies need to adjust and innovate to understand the changing dynamics and new pain points of their consumers.
· Keep in touch with customer preferences
Traditional consumer insight techniques like surveys may take too long to deliver results in a time when customer conditions may vary from hour to hour. Organizations need to find new and innovative ways to keep a pulse on consumer sentiment as quickly as possible.
· Adopt agile innovation
The sooner companies can adjust and fulfill the needs of their consumers, the better off they will be in the long run. Building agility across all organizational processes will help companies handle the changing needs of their consumers. It will also have lasting approaches to the company’s innovation pipeline as they discover new remote, digital, and home delivery trends to enhance customer experiences.
Adapting a new marketing strategy for COVID-19
During a crisis, customers may never know how a brand will react to unprecedented events.
Regardless of the type of crisis, a brand’s marketing strategy always sits at the center stage. The brand’s strategy is then translated into every video ad campaign, message, and channel.
Related: Digital Marketing During COVID-19: Five Ways to Help Brands Thrive
Taking the step in the right direction may prove to be daunting, especially in a very dynamic environment. However, marketers should not wait for the problems to escalate before they take action.
Gartner, a global research advisory firm, shared a four-step action plan for marketing during the COVID-19 outbreak:
ACTION 1: Engaging in scenario planning
Define the best, worst, and moderate scenarios that the organization may experience during the crisis. Companies should also consider the perspective of the business, its customers, and critical partners.
Marketing should not just rely on high-level corporate scenarios. It should also focus on brand development. Companies need to identify the pain points of their stakeholders and identify actions that the brands need to take for each scenario.
ACTION 2: Listening to changes in customer sentiment and behavior
Consumer trust for brands is fickle and ever-changing. Companies need to push against the tide and rise to the challenge by reestablishing trust with a consumer-centric strategy. Here’s how to do it:
Now more than ever, brands need to be in touch with their consumers. Use social listening to monitor customer concerns or any information that is relevant to the brand. Ask the sales team about what they need for the front lines and track emails, phone calls, and service chats for changes in consumer sentiments.
· Balance the brand’s response
Organizations need to support and protect their customers. However, they also need to be transparent about what they can and cannot deliver at the same time. Businesses need to be careful about taking action on what they can promise to provide short-term gains at the expense of long-term stability and, ultimately, the customer’s trust.
ACTION 3: Anticipating operational impact on the business
Disruption of supply chains during a crisis is challenging the ability of businesses to provide exceptional product and service delivery. Companies need to adapt their strategies to reflect the realities of the crisis while at the same time, staying true to the brand’s values.
Set realistic expectations about service deliveries, product launch dates, and product availability. Evaluate the company’s current policies and consider making changes such as allowing cancellations and extending payment terms on products and services.
ACTION 4: Adapting changes to the marketing plan
For the next three to six months, societal changes will trickle down to the organization’s marketing strategy. Use scenario planning to make changes and alternative marketing strategies that will focus on:
· Delivering compelling digital content
More people are bound to spend time at home over the next few months. Brands need to provide uplifting, informative, and encouraging content to people at home.
· Securing digital media ahead of time
As the economy struggles to recover, every company is struggling to secure and replace their lost opportunities. Organizations need to work with a good media partner that can help them produce and publish stellar digital media content.
Here are several best practices of video marketing campaigns from brands with creative PSAs to uplift and encourage consumers to flatten the curve:
Oreo is reminding everyone to stay at home while staying playful at the same time. With a montage of fun-filled moments with the family, Oreo reiterates that despite the distance, the playful vibe can never end as the world comes together while staying inside.
Apple’s heartwarming “Creativity goes on” ad celebrates creative people all over the world as they come up with innovative ways to share creativity, humanity, and hope during these uncertain times.
Realtor wants their viewers to rediscover the meaning of “home” and change the way people view the four walls and a roof they live in. Whatever “home” means to every one of us, they want their viewers to #StayHome and weather the crisis together.
TurboTax expounds on the message to #StayHome and show that in a time when a lot of “firsts” happened, there’s also a time to lend a virtual helping hand to people who are filing their taxes at home for the first time.
Elon Musk for Tesla
Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of automotive manufacturer Tesla, gave a brief engineering update on the Tesla ventilators. He and his team demonstrated their innovative design from their engineering lab as they gave a walkthrough on how they intend to create a respirator from the existing inventory of Tesla car parts.
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Consumer Sentiment & Expectations Amid Coronavirus (COVID-19). (2020). Gartner. Retrieved 26 April 2020, from https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/research/consumer-sentiment-covid-19
How retailers are responding to coronavirus – Think with Google. (2020). Think with Google. Retrieved 21 April 2020, from https://bre.is/vNGaNSfF
Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus. (2020). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 26 April 2020, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/adapting-customer-experience-in-the-time-of-coronavirus
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