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20 Customer Engagement Strategies During Crisis From Global Marketers

  • Updated: 17 November 2020
  • 13 min read

COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on customer behavior across all industries and geographies. The 'new normal' as it has been dubbed by global experts has forced people to accept the new reality of the unprecedented black swan event. Owing to the economic uncertainty imposed by the coronavirus recession, users have been prioritizing essential spend i.e. food, shelter, and safety over luxury expenditure. In fact, a recently conducted consumer sentiment survey by McKinsey, covering 45 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and the APAC region, indicates there has been a shift in buying patterns. Preference is given to mindful shopping with changes to the trading value, moving to online means of shopping, preference for retailers showcasing safety measures, and reduced confidence in out-of-home activities. This has resulted in businesses reevaluating their customer engagement strategies and adopting a more empathetic approach to acquiring, engaging, and retaining their users. 

While all businesses have been affected in some shape or form by the crisis, some have benefitted from unprecedented growth, while others have observed unexpected decline. During the peak of the health crisis, some industries like Travel and Hospitality has noticed a downward growth spiral globally, others like Media and Entertainment has seen a huge spike across geographies. We at MoEngage have covered that in our coronavirus business impact report, providing a detailed insight into each industry vertical using an impact quadrant, showcasing where they lie in terms of business growth.     

The next question to be answered was how do businesses cope with the impact caused by the crisis? What are the next steps to ensure bounce-back to pre-crisis numbers or sustain the unexpected growth post-crisis? We teamed up with AppFollow to gather actionable insights from global marketing leaders across industries like travel & hospitality, media and entertainment, health and fitness, gaming, technology, and fintech. The ready-to-implement, proven tactics covered in our Customer Engagement Strategies During Crisis Playbook, are sourced directly from detailed discussions with marketing leaders across 50+ global brands.   

In this article, we have distilled insights from 20 such marketers from brands like Asus, ixigo, 7Mind, Landmark Group, Indiabulls Yaari, Zurich, Lovoo, IMVU, Cure.Fit among others.

Check out the customer engagement strategies these brands are implementing to ensure business growth. 

Rossana De Padova, Marketing Director, Compettia

Insights from Compettia (Rossana De Padova, Marketing Director)

[bctt tweet="We observed good acquisition numbers while retaining a lot of the existing users. The new users primarily came from inbound efforts as more brands realize the importance of gamification. We are focused on adding value to the users through content as users have ample downtime owing to lockdown."]

Compettia (Atrivity), the gamification platform offering customized solutions to businesses has reported good acquisition numbers while retaining a lot of the existing users. Most of the new users came from inbound efforts as more and more brands realize that the gamification app for learning is not just a bonus but a genuine need. The brand is covering pain points for different buyer personas through their content apart from spreading awareness and highlighting how other companies are dealing with the crisis.

June Le, Deputy Director of Marketing Department, Asus Vietnam

Insights from Asus (June Le, Deputy Director of Marketing Department)

[bctt tweet="Demand for laptops significantly increased during lockdown with more people working from home/learning and increasing laptop consumption business to 35% during quarter one of 2020 compared to the same time last year."]

The brand launched MyASUS app, an exclusive app portal for ASUS laptop users where they can get 1-on-1 support, update software, optimize PC performance, troubleshoot common problems instead of visiting an offline store or service center. Republic of Gamers (ROG), a gaming specialized sub-brand of ASUS, kicked off their user engagement campaigns promoting work from home and game from home by asking gamers to post pictures of them playing COD & other game titles to win some giveaways from the brand.

Christinne Cuyugan, Global Mobile App Marketing Lead, Zurich

Insights from Zurich (Christinne Cuyugan, Global Mobile App Marketing Lead)

[bctt tweet="While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, the key is to analyzing users and understanding how they interact with your brand. That will be your guiding light to planning campaigns to engage them even post-crisis once things return to normalcy."]

There's not one single strategy or tip because the crisis has hit the mobile app industry in very different ways. However, app marketers asking: "can we retain the users we acquired and the kind of engagement after this period?" need to measure it appropriately by having a look on all of the users acquired as a separate cohort, and analyze how they interact with the app further. Once this is done, they'll have the ability to follow up with unique post-COVID19 campaign strategies, and prepare for mobile marketing in the ‘new normality’.

Rahul Mishra

Insights from Shemaroo (Rahul Mishra, Head of Marketing)

[bctt tweet="Shemaroo, has seen a massive surge in content consumption with some categories observing as much as 140% growth. Observing the reception trends, we’re making more and more content available for audiences with projects like ‘work from home’ tray available for family viewing."]

ShemarooMe, the OTT offering of Indian content powerhouse Shemaroo, has seen a massive surge in content consumption with classic shows like Ramayana and Mahabharata becoming the most-watched shows in the country. Bollywood movies and classics, in particular, has seen an increase in consumption across all generations and age demographics. Shemaroo has noticed a surge in their email communication with an uptick in their click-through numbers. The brand’s social media handles have seen the high engagement of late with activities like virtual dumb charades being hugely successful. As a brand, they’re communicating more and leveraging user-generated content like memes made from their movie collection to spread awareness and educate about the health crisis. The brand recently launched ‘ab rumor nahi humor failega’ campaign by including a good section of comedy films on the platform. ShemarooMe partnered with the Indian High Commission, offering the library free for two weeks for Indians living abroad.

Jamie Gagliardi, Head of Marketing, JimmyBringsInsights from Jimmy Brings (Jamie Gagliardi, Head of Marketing)

[bctt tweet="In March there was this random panic buying of toilet paper which made the stock scarce. That's when we as a brand decided to source and deliver the product. It was a perfect example of how brands need to be really reactive and adaptable to any crisis. It is imperative to have this adaptability in the company culture, to make changes, and create opportunities because if you aren't that brand then there is a competitor out there striving to be that."]

JimmyBrings, an Australian online alcohol delivery service that added delivery of toilet paper to its prime offering. In March 2020, the brand noticed a huge surge in demand for toilet paper and not enough supply. JimmyBrings saw this as an opportunity to solve a real problem their users faced - acquiring toilet paper. After an internal decision, the brand decided to partner with a toilet paper provider to store their products in its warehouse. The user reaction came in the form of stock being sold out within 24 hours; the brand continued to stock more toilet paper.

Ketan Patel, CEO, CASHeInsights from CASHe (Ketan Patel, CEO)

[bctt tweet="There has been an increase in loan applications due to pandemic induced economic uncertainty. We changed the communication strategy from loan repayments query to user awareness and support."]

CASHe has recorded an upswing in the number of loan applications as a result of the economic uncertainty and subsequent stockpiling of capital. CASHe changed its communication strategy from loan repayments query to user awareness, education, and CASHe support. As a result, 40% of people prepaid their EMIs compared to an average of 30%.

Seif, CRM Specialist, Landmark GroupInsights from Landmark Group (Seif Tawfik, CRM Specialist)

[bctt tweet="We have optimized our communications (push notifications sent to users) according to the situation based on geographies and are currently focusing on automating our flows."]

We tailored our communication strategy according to the prevailing situation across countries, thereby reducing the number of notifications sent to users in some countries while focusing more on automating the flows, accordingly.

Nina Pollex, Head of CRM, BabbelInsights from Babbel (Nina Pollex, Head of CRM)

[bctt tweet="We have been revoking at our emailers, automated flows, and, notifications to ensure no irrelevant information goes out given the sensitivity of the situation. We have introduced personalization in our welcome flows and highlighted offerings like a free one-month subscription for students and one week for every user."]

Babbel has observed a massive boost in numbers with an upswing in DAU and installs. Babbel has scrutinized their communication viz. emailers, automated flows, and daily/weekly notifications to ensure there is no irrelevant information going out during these sensitive times to prevent being tone-deaf. Introduced personalization in their welcome flow, and point towards offerings like podcasts, free one-month for students, and one week of free trial for every user. Tweaked user acquisition and engagement strategy to increase the content frequency bearing in mind the engagement patterns.

Dogukan Dag, Growth Marketing Manager, Lyrebird StudioInsights from Lyrebird Studio (Dogukan Dag, Growth Marketing Manager)

[bctt tweet="We noticed an increase in average screen time from our users and hence are focused on communicating relevant information. As a brand, we are optimizing our App Store content to continue our organic growth during and after the crisis."]

We provided more relevant content to our users who were ready to consume it as evidenced by the increase in average screen time. This, in turn, helped increase engagement and average session duration. Working on app store metrics helped drive more organic downloads.

Lomit Patel, Vice President, Growth, IMVUInsights from IMVU (Lomit Patel, Vice President, Growth)

[bctt tweet="With acquisition costs down by 20-40%, we have noticed an influx of organic users and are working on ensuring our serves are capable of handling the increased volume of new users. We focused on providing empathetic and inspirational messaging thus establishing goodwill among the users."]

The execution process at IMVU was automated leveraging AI, thus no noticeable impact on managing and executing campaigns. CPS and CPM dropping by 20-40%. After adapting to the new reality, IMVU noticed an influx of organic users and had to ensure servers had operational capacity needed to handle the barrage of new users. The brand changed messaging to empathetic and inspirational which has helped the brand stand out.

Manan Bajoria, AVP – Growth _ Marketing, ixigoInsights from ixigo (Manan Bajoria, AVP – Growth & Marketing)

[bctt tweet="At ixigo, we focused on communicating DGCA approved travel safety advisory instead of promotional offers. We have also created a COVID-19 news section with a live tracker. We are using all of our customer touchpoints and channels to communicate policy changes and travel itinerary updates as and when required."]

The popular Indian OTA ixigo stopped sending sale communication i.e. cashback offers and instead focussed on travel safety advisory, a checklist to follow while traveling via flights/trains. ixigo has introduced a dedicated section for COVID-19 news and a live tracker to keep the user engaged by providing legit information about policy changes, booking delays, or change via WhatsApp.

Marta Fogel, Head of User Acquisiton, 7Mind GmbHInsights from 7Mind (Marta Fogel, Head of User Acquisition)

[bctt tweet="At 7Mind we were quick to roll out dedicated crisis content to help users deal with anxiety caused by the health crisis. The content is available for free upon downloading the app. We are also conducting daily live meditation sessions across all of our social channels helping users meditate together. We have optimized our CRM campaigns to provide tips on dealing with the crisis."]

The mindful meditation app, 7Mind, recorded a massive uptick in user activity, installs, retention, session duration, and LTV parameters. This was due to the adoption of a holistic approach to user acquisition, engagement, and CRM. The brand quickly rolled out dedicated crisis content to help users unwind, relieve stress, and deal with anxiety. This content is free and accessible to anyone at the time of downloading the app. The brand unlocked a meditation course, “Kids & School”, available solely for members of 7Mind Plus to help kids and teenagers unwind. Single meditation sessions are also available for kids to help them fall asleep. To engage community users, 7Mind is conducting daily live meditation sessions across all social media channels (one of them being their active Facebook group), helping users meditate and relax together.

Krishnan VR, Head of CRM & Retention, ZoomcarInsights from Zoomcar (Krishnan VR, Head of CRM & Retention)

[bctt tweet="At Zoomcar, we are conducting regular inspections to ensure the safety of our patrons. All vehicles in our fleet are cleaned and sanitized completely. We have also introduced keyless entry to further reduce physical touch. We are communicating all these hygiene changes and safety regulations to our users via awareness and education campaigns."]

One of India’s popular self-driven car rental brands, Zoomcar, bounced-back after an initial slowdown during the two-month pandemic related lockdown which restricted availability of car rental services. The brand has revised its subscription model to offer extended and flexible subscriptions from a minimum of 1 month up to a maximum of 36 months. Zoomcar is ensuring that patrons of the brand remain safeguarded from risks by inspecting each car that is hired. All vehicles are completely sanitized and cleaned, including the keys, steering wheel, gears, front and back door handles and pocket door hand rest.

Akshay Rajwade, Head of Product & Growth, Cure.FitInsights from Cure.Fit (Akshay Rajwade, Head of Product & Growth)

[bctt tweet="We have rolled out live workout classes to help users exercise from home along with others. We have implemented something called energy meter which will help users measure their performance against others during the live workout sessions thus keeping the competitive gymming experience intact."]

Due to the pandemic induced lockdown, several offline Cure.fit centers had to be closed. To engage users and help them workout from home, the brand has rolled out live classes under its Cult.fit banner. These classes cover different fitness formats and can be accessed by people of all age groups/fitness levels. The aim of the classes is to offer a gymming experience similar to the offline format, where users work out with others and see how they measure up in comparison using the energy meter feature. As a result of this enhanced online experience, the brand observed a 100X increase in DAU and sessions, along with a 5X increase in organic app downloads and very good user retention trends.

Ramalingam Subramanian, Head of Brand and Communications, CoinDCXInsights from CoinDCX (Ramalingam Subramanian, Head of Brand and Communications)

[bctt tweet="CoinDCX has observed a 10x increase in user signups with 47% growth in trading volumes in Q1 alone. As a brand, we have launched #TryCrypto campaign pledging $1.3 million for user education. Our aim is to increase the number of Indians using crypto from 5 million to 50 million."]

Cryptocurrency in India and globally has been affected the least owing to the small size of its market. After the Supreme Court lifted the banking ban, industry-wide adoptions have increased. CoinDCX saw a 10x increase in user signups and witnessed a 47% growth in trading volumes in Q1 alone. In addition, CoinDCX has also launched and pledged USD 1.3 million for the #TryCrypto campaign and invested in user education, influencers, and community efforts. The aim of the #TryCrypto campaign is to onboard and increase the number of Indians using crypto from 5 million to 50 million.

Timothy Perchey, VP Digital Marketing, ClarkInsights from CLARK (Timothy Perchey, VP Digital Marketing)

[bctt tweet="Clark is educating users about the importance of being insured during the crisis by creating content to show how the pandemic affects insurance cover. We have reduced offline ad spends and shifted budget to assets showing promise viz. podcast and influencer advertising."]

Clark noticed an initial dip in sales for 1-2 weeks as our customers in Germany focused on food, shelter, and essentials in favor of other expenditures. This unusual behavior has stabilized since. The company focused on educating users about the importance of being insured during the crisis. The team at Clark has created content to show how the current situation affects insurance cover and used this information to make users feel more secure in these uncertain times. Clark has been agile in our user acquisition strategy, shifting budgets to avenues such as podcast/influencer advertising, where the users are. At the same time, Clark has considerably reduced offline and TV spends. The users have neither engaged more nor less but there has been a slight improvement in the business performance.

Sunu Nair, Vice President, INDIABULLS YaariiInsights from INDIABULLS Yaarii (Sunu Nair, Vice President)

[bctt tweet="We have noticed an increase in women applicants now compared to predominantly male applicants. The assumption is while men of the household are borrowing elsewhere, the women are applying to spread the ownership of lending. We have also noticed a drastic decrease in the acquisition, saving as much as 2.5X of their previous acquisition costs. We will go back to providing loans to interested customers with genuine needs with tighter pre-qualification criteria for customers keeping in mind delinquency."]

The entire lending industry is circumspect at this time. As soon as the economy reopens, INDIABULLS Yaarii will go back to providing loans to interested customers. The brand foresees huge demand for credit in the retail and business segment. INDIABULLS Year intends to tighten pre-qualification criteria for customers, with delinquency being a big factor going forward.

George Natsvlishvili, Head of Organic Growth at GlovoInsights from Glovo (George Natsvlishvili, Head of Organic Growth)

[bctt tweet="Our main category of ‘food delivery’ took a hit as restaurants shut down owing to the mandatory lockdown imposed by the pandemic. However, without any delay, our brand shifted focus to grocery delivery which was gaining popularity and as a result, we got a massive volume of orders coming in from users unable to step out for buying groceries."]

Glovo, the Barcelona based on-demand courier service, was affected as its main category i.e., food, and the critical partner McDonald’s shut down across many countries. The brand has since leveraged opportunities to enter other categories like grocery, which is experiencing growth as people are in lockdown and prefer ordering groceries online. Glovo is also working with charity organizations like UNICEF and is delivering some products for free to senior citizens, helping the medical industry by providing pharma essentials. During this crisis, the brand has shifted its focus and strategy from food & restaurants to grocery and essentials, with restaurants shutting shop (thereby declining orders) and people not stepping out of homes due to social distancing.

Saket Toshniwal, Head Of CRM, LovooInsights from Lovoo (Saket Toshniwal, Head of CRM)

[bctt tweet="At Lovoo, we have focused on ASO to better help and engage the user according to the current situation. We are actively driving app updates to ensure an increase in organic growth. We have made significant changes to our app based on the changes in buyer persona."]

The user acquisition has gone up with costs remaining the same. The remarketing results have improved as Lovoo can now target and bring inactive users back to the app. ASO has played an important part, where the brand has optimized the app store information according to the situation. Lovoo drives app updates to ensure an increase in organic growth. Based on the changes in buyer persona, Lovoo has made significant changes to the app.

Ilia Kukharev, Head of Organic Growth, AviasalesInsights from Aviasales (Ilia Kukharev, Head of Organic Growth)

[bctt tweet="Aviasales is focusing on the local travel market, as people are afraid of traveling abroad. In order to enhance organic growth, we have been updating the app’s metadata to focus on local and safe travel."]

All paid marketing activities at Aviasales have been paused. The focus is now on the local travel market, as people are afraid of traveling abroad. All organic traffic experiments have been paused amid a huge decrease in downloads, thus making data-driven decisions difficult. Focusing on people-brand connections is essential as the crisis will subside one day but people and brands will stay. To enhance organic growth, our app’s metadata is updated to focus on local and safe travel. Apart from building strong relationships with users, Aviasales has turned on paid marketing activities, but with a focus on domestic travel.

Check out where your industry lies and what strategies you need to implement to bounce-back, sustain, or accelerate the pace of your growth in our Customer Engagement Strategies During Crisis Playbook!

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About The Author
Creates and builds insightful content for the B2B/B2C marketing community by the day, moonlights as a pop culture aficionado by the night. Published author with global and national publications like e27, TechInAsia, Yourstory, Tripoto, Huffington Post, and YouthKiAwaaz. Can be found binging on Sci-Fi and High Fantasy when not churning content.
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