BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
We have all seen a massive shift in both our lives and our businesses in the last few weeks as measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus are implemented. The behavioural changes of customers and consumers has been well documented, but I wanted to take a moment to review those insights and the challenges or opportunities that they present.
Most of these insights that we are seeing are valid consumer needs and were before the pandemic began. However, COVID-19 has turned that want or demand up to 11 making it impossible to ignore. We have also seen the need to implement such changes sped up 1000% due to the forced disruption to normal commerce and our daily life.
Let’s look at some of the challenges that most businesses will now need to be addressing.
We have of course seen a massive push for avoiding physical interactions, both desired and mandated by country regulations. However, we have seen this trend slowing working our way into customer experiences over the last few years. Self-checkouts at supermarkets, account setup and onboarding through phones from banks like Monzo. Conversational AI chatbots like ones from Mastercard. These have all been implemented to improve customer experiences and efficiencies. With social distancing guidelines we are now forced to look at these options and implement them immediately.
Challenge – How do you engage with or differentiate your product or service with the removal of physical experiences? You must do this from a customer centric approach, understanding how your differentiators (e.g. speed, timing, luxury) can be relayed in this new environment.
Consumers are behaving in unexpected ways. In the first week of lock down we saw for instance oat milk sales were up 305.5%. Yet in contrast, water sales were up just 5.1%, and I’m not mentioning the toilet paper debacle. With consumers doing the unexpected this can make our existing personas and profiles outdated. We should be looking at revisiting these and broadening our focus to make sure we are engaging with our now changed target.
Challenge – Can we design for the unexpected? Our ultra-targeted personas can now be missing the mark. We should look at expanding these profiles to include a larger group which will allow us to engage more authentically with our customers. Think about highlighting 4 key datapoints that can provide the subject direction of the content. For instance: Industry, Life Context, Interests and communication preferences.
We have also seen a shift from people looking to each other to find comfort. In many times they are finding this comfort in shared community experiences. A Forrester (March 2020) study found that emotion for a brand that was “on your side.” That look out for the interests of their customers build the strongest relationships and create extraordinary value for their customers and themselves. This certainly gives us the opportunity to engage with our customer base with an authentic cause that’s benefiting either themselves or the community they live in. A word of warning though as there is a healthy amount of consumer scepticism as well. The same study also found that Only 24% of US online adults trust that companies are currently putting their health and well-being first when making business decisions around this crisis. So, it’s essential that the message is transparent and genuine.
Challenge – With a surging sense of community. How as a company or brand can we become an enabler and relevant to this consumer emotional need?
A February 2020 Re Hub survey found that consumers in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou expect the current situation to last at least another 4 months. I think it’s a fair assumption we will be looking at a similar time span here in Europe. 6 in 10 said they are likely to spend the same amount or more on consumer products in the
next three months compared with the same period last year but through other channels.
This shows us that for those of us lucky enough to not be financially affected by this event are likely to continue to be spending on certain products or services at continued or higher levels than before.
A great example of innovating within their own space and taking consumer insights into account is the east London brewery Signature Brew, creating ‘The Pub in a Box’.
’The Pub in a Box’ it includes their core range of beers (something for everyone), beer glasses, beer mats, a vinyl record, a pub quiz, a playlist, pub snacks. Delivered to your door. Reinventing their product and in turn creating a premium experience for their now home bound customers.
Challenge – In certain verticals and demographic groups, spending is not changing; the channel and experience is. Can your product or service be procured through these new channel preferences. What does that new experience look like and how are you communicating this shift to your customers?
As external entertainment is forbidden, we are seeing huge increases in content consumption from within the home. TV and subscription steaming services have seen large increases in viewership. Although both mediums are struggling in this new environment to create new programming.
Gaming has also increased, as has streaming of gaming events. Twitch viewership is way up and recorded several new viewership records over the last few weeks. One of the key drivers of this is the transitioning of sporting events to “e” variations of the sport. This is been particularly successful in the motorsport’s arena where drivers and riders in F1, NASCAR and MotoGP have all been competing in virtual races to maintain interest and engagement with their fans.
The same can be said for social channels and short form video like Tik-Tok. With increases in content going viral as we have seen with smaller successes like the National Cowboy Museum (@ncwhm) who shut up shop and left their security guard in charge of their twitter account. To the unbelievable success of Captain Tom Moore’s (@captaintommoore) 100 laps for the NHS fund raiser.
Challenge – Consumers are filling their time with increased content consumption. Are we communicating with them through these channels and leveraging the opportunity that it provides correctly?
The role of packaging is also shifting. From a presale to post sale role and switching channels. Packaging is no longer just there to attract the customer to take it off the shelf or protect the product during shipping. It’s also an opportunity to engage consumer and heighten the product experience. We also need to make sure that our packaging imagery is now optimized for digital and specifically mobile platforms, so that product features and differences are easily viewable on mobile devices.
Challenge – With packaging now moving to a post-sale role are you leveraging this opportunity to engage with your customer or elevating the product experience for them?
On the business front we have also seen a large shift in our sales channels. In a US Marketeer study, more than half of US B2B marketers said that in-person events and tradeshows were the most effective channel for driving conversions. These events are now cancelled and until we see restrictions lifted will not be an option for us. On top of that we cannot guarantee how many of these we return for us to fall back on in the future. We have also seen the demise of the standard business meeting, workshop or seminar. In fact, all traditional elements of doing business face to face have disappeared overnight. This leaves us with the huge undertaking of re-envisioning our entire sales strategy and building the future funnel from scratch.
Challenge – Are you nimble enough to move away from your in person or event strategy? Can you pivot to produce digital content or engagements that can still influence the intended audience.
So my 5 key opportunities in the COVID-19 are:
1, Re-envision your customer communication strategy and the profiles that you are targeting with messaging based on fewer but more essential data points. This will allow you to engage more authentically and to a larger customer base.
2 – Look at your end to end customer journey and find ways in which you can remove friction or contact areas. Allowing you to continue to do business with you customer base, but also in the future taking a large step to an improved and efficient experience for your customer.
3 – How does your product or service work within these new customer channel preferences? Also how are you communicating these changes to your customers based on their new reality?
4 – Move your sales and business to a contactless online experience. For our businesses to survive we have to be looking at redesigning the sales funnel to convert in a physical contactless way.
5 – Build your communication strategy to be community focused, empathetic and delivered though consumer preferred channels.