Making the most of the Golden Quarter amidst COVID-19

Despite the coronavirus panemic, companies can still engage with customers through great experiences, says James Manderson, EMEA GM, Braze.

a gold cash register

Nowadays, customer loyalty is extremely dependent on great and consistent experiences.

Brands can no longer rely on familiarity to ensure they keep customers coming back, instead, they need to acknowledge that engaging brand experiences are what customers will remember. Which is why it’s critical that they invest in curating those experiences, whatever the channel, to stand apart in a competitive market. This is especially true right now as more devices, platforms, and customer touchpoints emerge. Brands are under pressure to navigate how to appropriately reach and engage their customers across the full spectrum of digital experiences in a meaningful way.

Just because we’re going to have a Golden Quarter unlike any previously seen does not mean that brands cannot capitalise on the opportunity to engage with customers through great experiences. Lockdown 2.0 and the continued fear of the virus means more and more customers are making purchases online. This is likely to still be the case even after the planned end of the UK’s lockdown on December 2. We know this because our recent research shows that 78% of UK shoppers admitted they weren’t comfortable shopping in stores after the first lockdown. The challenge for brands for the rest of the year is clear: rethink your customer experience strategy to incorporate a cross-channel experience this holiday shopping season. Here’s how they can achieve it.

Why taking a cross-channel approach is key

Consistency is what will make a difference between a great customer experience and one you’ll forget. As customers now rely on digital and online channels for purchases, brands need to evolve their strategy. They should focus on creating a holistic experience that uses several channels to boost engagement with customers as each channel has its own unique strengths. If a brand’s website shopping experience is spot on, they can’t afford to have a mediocre email strategy, for instance.

Babylon Health is an example of a platform that has built a great cross-channel engagement strategy. One of the most popular features of Babylon Health’s app is Healthcheck that asks users questions about health, diet, exercise, and any pre-existing conditions. It then gives specific recommendations based on the person’s health patterns. During the pandemic, demand grew and Babylon knew it had to be at the forefront of providing verified, doctor-checked and trustworthy information.

Working with Braze, Babylon identified that email was the right channel for Healthcheck. Babylon created an interactive campaign through email that drove users to the app, effectively delivering a cross-channel experience that delivered customers with exactly the information they needed, when they needed it.

But a channel agnostic experience requires a channel agnostic technology. Investing in technology that enables brands to deliver the right experiences at the right moments, is crucial.

Only then will they be able to tune-in to what customers want and how they behave in order to communicate and engage with them effectively.

First-party data is the new black

Marketers need to focus on providing cohesive and exciting customer engagement through consistent cross-channel customer experiences. But to create as much impact as possible, it’s imperative that marketers prioritise delivering relevant and responsive content at the right time.

To achieve this level of personalisation, it’s crucial that brands invest in the tools that help them get real-time, actionable insights from first-party data. Not only does it allow marketers to collect exactly what they need to create the right customer engagement strategies and experience, it also enables them to build effective acquisition, engagement and retention campaigns across channels. As a result, they can immediately incorporate fast changing information into a more personalised and dynamic customer engagement strategy.

An example of a brand that has been taking advantage of first-party data to give customers an exciting experience this Christmas is Marks & Spencer. The retailer is ditching the traditional TV ad for its clothing and home business this year, instead focusing on digital media to inspire shoppers as they search for gifts. The campaign will run both offline and online, using first-party data to create tailored messaging – for instance, tailoring its radio ads by running local location callouts, regional accents and regional turns of phrase. In practice, it means that a customer in Cardiff might hear an ad that says “Santa sliding down chimneys from Roath to Llanishen” while in Liverpool they would hear, “Aintree to Allerton”.

Don’t forget your existing customers

As we’re nearing the end of a year that has been tough on brands, it’s normal that the focus is on acquiring new customers. However, this shouldn’t be at the expense of those customers that have stuck with brands. Focusing on customer retention is just as important as winning new customers. Especially as recent research found that customers acquired during COVID-19 are quick to disengage: customers acquired during COVID-19 have an 82% lower retention rate than those acquired during a non-COVID time.

At the same time, almost all (97%) of shoppers that tried a new brand in lockdown are willing to try it a second time, so the opportunity to drive loyalty is now or never. With Black Friday just around the corner, brands need to focus on turning newly acquired customers into loyal ones. There are many actions brands can take to foster retention, from improving their customer onboarding process to ensure customers experience core brand values as soon as possible, to leveraging push notifications and focusing on mobile-first retention.

The COVID-19 era has redefined how brands engage and communicate with their customers. Building consistent online customer experiences is crucial for brands to be successful. Empowering brands with the adaptability and flexibility they need to fuel engaging campaigns will be instrumental in driving loyalty in the Golden Quarter and beyond.

  • Braze is a customer engagement software firm, headquartered in New York, US.

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