Chief Marketing Officer Emarsys
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Customer experience during Covid-19

8th Apr 2020
Chief Marketing Officer Emarsys
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Faced with widespread social and economic disruption, it’s fair to say that customer experience isn’t front of mind for businesses right now. In times of crisis, brands that have banged the CX drum for years are suddenly very quiet.

At heart, I think CX is still regarded by many as a luxury, something which right now must take a backseat to profit margins, stability and business operations. While it’s true that businesses need to focus on the bottom line right now, that doesn’t mean we should throw away everything we’ve learned about the importance of great customer experiences. In fact, businesses could do more damage by holding back their current CX initiatives and investments. 

All around the world, consumers are sitting at home staring at laptops and phones. They’re bored, they’re restless, and — according to the latest data — they’re still shopping.

From Emarsys’s own customer data set, we can see that sales of fashion items are up by 45% in the UK, while sales of home and leisure items are up 72%. Even sales luxury goods have climbed by 57%. Clearly, people are still buying online, and in times of potential economic crisis, that’s some much-needed good news for the business community.

Given this fact, it’s vital that brands don’t lose sight of what matters most — supporting their customers in times of crisis. Consumers are nervous, they’re worried about supplies and they’re looking for support. Crashing websites, incorrect stock figures and unhelpful error messages are not what people need right now. They need support and to know that their favourite retailers can be relied upon during the crisis.

It’s for this reason that a strong, predictable and reliable customer experience is so vital in times of crisis. But how exactly do you maintain such an experience with so much instability? Here are three ways to get started:

1. Be clear, concise and up-font with customers

With so much uncertainty and turmoil, customers are desperate for ease and reliability right now. As such the best thing that your business can do is help reassure them that it’s business as usual, and that they have no reason to panic.

Clear, concise information delivered up front is vital. Nobody wants to spend an hour doing their online shop, only to be told that there are no delivery slots available at the end of the process. If you’re expecting delivery delays or stock issues, make it clear to customers up front. You’re better off losing that sale and keeping your customer than annoying people and losing their business for life. A few small tweaks to the language on your homepage, product pages and checkout processes can go a very long way in helping customers through this time.

2. Make the most of the available data

Data has always been a huge part of customer experience management. Now, in the face of Covid-19, a good understanding of customer shopping behaviours is more important than ever. So much of what we thought we knew has changed. If you asked the average retailer (or analyst) three months ago what they thought consumers would be buying in April, I guarantee none of them would have told you face masks, toilet roll and hand sanitizer — but here we are. 

If businesses are going to get ahead of this crisis they need to plan as close to real-time as possible, that means relying on the most up to date data sources. Already world governments are releasing a whole host of data-driven tools to help businesses manage this crisis. There are also collaborative industry efforts, such as ccinsight.org, which are helping brands keep track of daily consumer spending trends on an international level. These types of projects are not only helping to predict spending, but can also tell brands where to focus their CX efforts when it comes to particular products and promotions.

3. Rethink your customer journey

In the last few weeks, web traffic from mobile devices has risen dramatically, while consumers are also spending more time on social media and on messaging apps. If you’re a business trying to survive this crisis, now is not the time to have a poorly-optimised mobile experience.

And it’s not just mobile experiences that need to change. Brands must take the time to tweak their customer journeys across all devices. By using the available data, retailers and brands can bring forward those product categories that are in high demand, helping streamline the customer journey and make it as easy as possible for consumers to find what they’re looking for. At the same time, optimisation will also be vital. With long wait times at banks and customer support desks, minor frustrations at checkout or potential payment issues will be magnified, causing major frustrations for end customers.

For many brands, Covid-19 will prove a stress test for their websites and wider customer experiences. Their goal during this crisis must be to help minimise disruption and support customers, and that means keeping CX front and centre of their marketing strategy.

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