How to leverage customer insights during COVID-19
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting businesses the world over, many companies—both online and offline—are considering what options they have. Governments have imposed a number of restrictions to control the spread of the virus, but it shows no signs of going away anytime soon.
It’s not all bad news, however as some businesses seem to flourish despite the crisis, particularly those with online stores. Online wine sales are booming as consumers stock up for “virtual happy hours,” with off-premise sales rising up to 50% and merchandise increases of 282% in Italy and 162% in the US. Nike is also showing signs of recovery after a series of store closures in China. The company’s shares have risen 9% and it now has a playbook of what to do in other regions.
Not all businesses are created equal, though, and it is prudent to prepare yourself and implement measures to control the effects of the current crisis immediately.
Weathering the Storm
In times of crisis, it’s tempting to think that your focus should be on supply chain or other aspects of the business. While sensible, this mindset hinders you from thinking about how situations like this can change customer behavior, perception, and preference. Now is the best time to listen to your customers voice so you can maintain your brand reputation and bounce back from the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
Here are a few changes you need to make now so you can improve your customer experience during the COVID-19 crisis.
Expect Changes in Customer Journey
Customer personas and journeys rarely shift this quickly, but the current situation will shift expectations and needs and impact the way business is done for months to come. Government restrictions will also limit what customers can do and force them to work around these limitations. The current situation is the best time to shift your focus on customer experience and what you can do to improve brand perception.
Make an effort to create customer scenarios based on the research data you already have to determine customer demand. Work with CX (customer experience) experts and cross-functional teams to determine the impact of COVID-19 on your business and come up with solutions.
From Data to Customer Data
For years, it has been known that predicting customer behavior is the key to marketing success; it’s also the hardest to do. Traditionally, marketers would conduct surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions to get both quantitative and qualitative customer data. Some even went so far as conducting ethnographic research, which entails shadowing customers one by one to observe their behavior.
Fortunately, technology has again come to the rescue with real-time experience tracking (RET). RET is a research and data collection method that can capture customer reactions in real-time without intruding into those reactions. What makes it an invaluable tool is the ability to apply it to a large number of customers without straining your marketing budget. Take a look at how you can do your own RET using the tools at hand.
Tap the Power of User-generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content that’s created by your customer. These contributors are usually fans who wish to promote a brand via user reviews, social media posts, blog articles, images, and website pages. This helps foster a positive brand image because brand promotion is done by a legitimate user or customer instead of the brand promoting itself.
UGC is beneficial in many ways:
- It puts customers first and foremost.
- It creates a community of brand ambassadors.
- People are more likely to trust actual customers than marketers.
- It has a high ROI.
- It’s cost-effective, i.e., it’s free.
Today’s consumers aren’t as passive as before and take a more active role in the decisions they make on what to buy, where to buy, them and who to transact with. It’s important that they feel represented, especially among the noise of online ads, social media sponsored content, and video ads on popular streaming sites. Customers are more likely to visit a website or try a product or service if it is recommended by a friend or colleague.
To remain relevant during the COVID-19 crisis, customer satisfaction is vital, and keeping up to date with current customer trends is a task that should be on top of every marketer’s list. Data-driven marketing should influence decision makers so marketing initiatives can be designed according to current customer sentiment. This way, customers will remember your brand as “the brand who cares.”
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Alon is an Israely product and marketing executive with a track record in leading customer centric product management and inbound marketing strategy. While improving user engemenemt and customer, I help Start Ups achieve product market fit and expand their online footprint. I specialize in technology, entrepreneurship, customer experience.