Understanding the ever-evolving customer was tricky enough before the world encountered a pandemic. Some consumer habits were permanently adopted while others were gleefully discarded. Companies saw there were ways to connect with customers during changing times to cultivate brand loyalty.
The pandemic changed customer relationships. Suddenly, in some cases, what to buy, where to buy and how to buy items became a challenge. Brand loyalty was either strengthened or went out the window, depending upon the behavior of companies. Digital assets were more of a lifeline than ever before.
During the early stages of the pandemic, jobs were slashed and operating hours cut. Layoffs and furloughs were endless. As a result, many customers had to change the way they shopped because they wanted to or because they needed to move to a more value-oriented mindset. Customers relied on greater in-home entertainment and found they liked the convenience of being home and staying home.
Studies showed that a third of households experienced less income once the pandemic began, with 40% spending more carefully and there being a shift from discretionary items to more essential items. Consumers were pivoting to a home-focused purchase, such as residential remodeling, renovation, decks, landscaping, furniture, appliances or technology purchases versus going on a vacation to an exotic locale.
And most telling of all, 71% of consumers in an Edelman survey said they would forever lose trust in a brand that they perceived was choosing profit over people.
All of this makes being thought of as a customer-centric company even more important. Become an organization providing a good online experience, multiple channels and shared values with your customers. Offer loyalty programs and collect appropriate data to back your claims.
Another result of the pandemic is reinforcing the thought of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” through refocusing the role of convenience. Customers wanted to continue to utilize certain goods and services. Resourceful companies found a way to deliver. That ingenuity remains, especially with those who have now adopted on a permanent basis what was working.
Consider these possibilities:
Personalization. Do you recommend more options for the customer based on previous buying habits or expressions of interest? Surprise and delight customers with a personal remembrance — such as a cyber greeting or birthday offer to redeem — which is a simple, non-controversial, personalized way to show customer appreciation.
Meet customers where they are and where they want to be. A Mckinsey.com survey showed the vast majority of customers missed shopping in stores. Now, even though customers can come back, there are still expectations of multiple options to choose from based on customer preferences. Customers want to be able to shop:
- in person
- online and pick up items in the store or curbside
- in person and have ordered items shipped to their home
Keep safety first. Safety precautions still need to be visible. Customers want masks to be available at the point of entry to take advantage of the opportunity if they choose to wear one. The availability of a box of masks and containers of hand sanitizer will show that businesses continue to care about their customers and want to protect them.
Tailor your marketing outreach. Examine your spend to support your digital infrastructure and the logistics of your operation. Build your inventory and ad campaigns based on known characteristics of your customers and the data you’ve gathered about their preferences and favorite categories.
Especially during the last two years, we have all seen how the world’s people can be alternately impatient and kind, resourceful and resentful. It’s hard to strike a balance.
Being synchronized with customer preferences and values, exhibiting empathy and demonstrating a caring culture can go a long way in building and enhancing brand loyalty the right way.