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For decades, the crisis navigation playbook for businesses has remained the same- focus on costs to ride out the downturn or spend ahead and gain market share. However, the disruptive impact of the pandemic on businesses has been different, causing a ripple in the customer engagement trends especially in retail. Unlike the recessions in the past where the shift was largely due to the markets, the pandemic has changed consumer behavior in different ways. It is these changing preferences that are driving a change in business strategy.
For example, click-and-collect sales in the United States alone grew by 60% for over-the-counter medicine, groceries, household supplies, and personal care products. 75% of U.S. consumers are trying new shopping behavior in response to economic pressures, store closings, and changing priorities and most intend to continue it beyond the crisis.
Today, brands have to look beyond costs and acquisition. The focus has shifted to delightful experiences and winning trust. Brands need to adopt a new playbook – one that’s centered around customer engagement to helps build customer trust and loyalty.
Customer-centricity is the key to growth strategy. Here are five customer engagement trends that customer-centric brands need to know as they build impactful experiences for their core audiences while keeping up with changing industry and consumer demands.
Artificial Intelligence, data, and personalization have enabled marketing technology (Martech) platforms to provide campaign analytics. Insight-led customer engagement platform prompts marketers to mark critical moments in the buyer’s journey. According to ACCL Managing Director Wayne Connors, the collaboration between marketing and insights is helping both sides of the partnership make better decisions to devise stronger, more consumer-focused campaigns that drive businesses. The data can further be used for personalizing the campaigns, an essential for customer engagement.
Such a strategy leaves little room for trial-and-error methodologies, leading to crisp, targeted and data-backed marketing campaigns.
In the past, marketers have been able to collect humongous amounts of consumer behavior-centric data. However, the dearth of tools for data analysis meant that brands could not leverage data fully for strategy and decision-making. Today, marketers have easy access to AI-based advanced tools whose primary value is the speed at which they can analyze large sets of data to generate predictive insights.
Emphasizing how AI has lent a more human-centric approach, Crush the PM Exam CMO Lacy Summers shares, “Better data analysis has provided us more insight into the needs of our clients who lost jobs or felt the need to upskill during the pandemic.” By employing more advanced data-based marketing automation, we have been able to offer discounts and content that better speak to our diverse customers, she adds.
AI has minimized manual efforts, at the same time providing a human touch to customer interactions by personalizing campaigns. As machine learning becomes more mature, we are likely to see more customer-facing marketing automation capabilities.
The pandemic facilitated digital reforms in traditional set-ups. It also accelerated digital transformation in the ones gradually making the move. Consumers vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in a couple of weeks since the pandemic spread worldwide. North America alone witnessed an increase of 65% in digital customer interaction during the pandemic.
Staying indoors forced consumers to realize the benefits and convenience of online purchases. We have seen e-commerce adoption rise more in the past year than in the last decade. This shift will be here to stay. This is necessitating digital transformation from companies that had a purely brick-and-mortar strategy.
The technological transformation in the form of mobile applications, automation, AI usage, and more have influenced consumer habits. Reinstating how digitization has compelled various sectors to transform their old ways, ETIAS Editor Jennifer Willy says, “Customer engagement platforms are breaking all the barriers and helping organizations understand the changing customer demands and behavior.” This has further enabled marketing and customer success teams to work in unison to innovate and transition all manual transactions to digital.
Until 2019 when Apple Pay overtook Starbucks, the coffee brand had been the most commonly used platform for mobile payments in the U.S. The reason for this popularity has been attributed to the personalized experience the brand delivers through its app where customers can place orders and pick them up in-store.
“Personalization determines communications, communication channels, and content that customers experience. Today, customers expect organizations to be intelligent, and understand them better over time. Personalized experiences that meet this expectation strengthen the customer relationship.”
Post-2020, any marketing tactic that came across as machine-created and transactional has not been successful in building customer loyalty This is regardless of how data was leveraged. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ experience may have been sufficient to attract and retain customers. But, it did not yield the best customer experience or the greatest customer lifetime value.
“91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.”
Personalization has become a vital investment as the economy recovers and consumers feel safe to start spending again. Brands that are personalizing their approach to where and how they engage customers and invest in paid media selectively will win a disproportionate share of sales as they bounce back.
The Bank of America has been using the omnichannel approach when it comes to offering free WiFi connectivity or doing online transactions in a kiosk. Their ‘Robo-branch’ initiative lets a machine handle customer grievances.
The business disruption made BrandLoom CEO and Founder Avinash Chandra realize how the multichannel approach lets you monitor every touchpoint of your customer insights across all channels. However, the omnichannel approach does not necessarily imply that organizations must employ every medium available. It is a more strategic approach that can be leveraged to utilize the channels that work best and maximize the return on investment (ROI).
The modern-day consumer demands consistent personalization in offerings across channels be it SMS, in-app, push, or social media. Hence, providing that consistent seamless experience via the use of analytics, AI and personalization have become of paramount importance.
2023 will no longer be about relying on third-party data and cookies to give a more personalized customer experience. Instead, the focus will be on using AI-driven personalization and automation tools that enable brands to drive a more human-centric approach. Organizations will be able to provide the right content and offer while tailoring everything to a personalized and seamless customer purchase journey. Businesses will revolve around the personalization of a customer’s journey. Those who prioritize quality customer experiences will be the ones who will emerge victorious!
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