As we enter the second half of 2021 and continue our foray into the “AC” era (after Covid), it’s possible and even prudent to look back on some of the trends and lessons learned during the pandemic as a primer for how brands need to react quickly and pivot strategically when outside circumstances call for speedy maneuvers. The pandemic highlighted the need to listen to and encourage feedback from consumers in order to regularly meet current needs and predict upcoming trends.
This need to always have an “ear to the streets” isn’t going to change now that Covid is waning; in fact, recent consumer studies indicate that in order to create true customer loyalty and boost engagement, it will be crucial for brands to adapt to a strategy that both personalizes the customer journey and promotes messaging that reflects the current lifestyles and values of their customer base.
What challenges and opportunities should customer loyalty and engagement specialists consider as they plan for 2021? Here are five key trends to keep in mind:
1. Mitigating Risk Via Omnichannel Offerings
The pandemic forced consumers to patronize brands and stores that took safety seriously and implemented protocols and options that reflected that commitment. According to a recent study by Forrester Research, contactless transactions have grown 69% since January of 2020. That is a trend that is expected to continue in our post-Covid world. 94% of retailers indicate they expect contactless payments and services to expand to an even greater degree over the next 18 months.
What does that mean for the near future? Consumers will expect to see brands offering options for accessing and ordering from their brands, as well as presenting them with an omnichannel experience that doesn’t compromise on the personalized customer journey they’ve come to expect from the brands to which they are loyal. Ensuring you are doing your part to present a personalized brand and buying experience and demonstrating that you have a commitment to delivering services and products with an eye to safety and protection protocols tells your customers that you care.
2. Social Consciousness
More and more, today’s consumers are factoring in larger ideals (e.g., community involvement and sustainability) when they decide what and where to buy. And callout – or “cancel” – culture means brands are held publicly accountable for their decisions. Socially conscious decisions can be good for society and your business. Demonstrating you aren’t just in it for profits but also want to be a true partner and good steward in your communities is a significant way to increase loyalty as well as brand advocacy.
When deciding how you’re going to include a social consciousness into your marketing strategy, make sure you’re reading your customer base carefully. For example, if you’re a brand targeting millennials, look into what your brand can do to encourage sustainable packaging and resourcing, as this will resonate well with a demographic that has indicated these types of issues are incredibly important to them. If your products are more targeted to the Baby Boomer generation, you’ll want to look into involvement with organizations that donate time to helping the elderly maintain independent lives, etc. In other words, a commitment to being a brand with a social consciousness is wonderful, but make sure you “read the room” first.
3. Invest in Being Trustworthy
There’s no doubt about it: today’s consumers are much savvier than in eras past. With a plethora of options available to them and several brands crowding their inbox looking for market share, consumers today have many options on where they spend their money. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure what you’re promising is what you’re delivering, whether that’s a commitment to making returns easy, or fast shipping, or claims about what your products and services can and will do for them. You’ll want to review things like your value proposition and your brand’s mission to make sure it’s consistent with what you’re delivering.
Keep in mind that today’s consumers have outlets like social media review sites Yelp! to call out a brand that hasn’t lived up to it’s end of the transaction, and can also post reviews and comments on your own social media platforms that can harm your business. When you do make a mistake or have a hiccup in service, respond as quickly as possible to the consumer and if possible, do so publicly, so that other consumers can see that you won your mistakes and are quick to remedy them. It’s a good rule of thumb to adopt into your customer loyalty practice, as a recent study indicated that consumers who experienced a service problem that was quickly responded to and fixed are nearly TWICE as likely to be loyal to that brand.
4. Encourage Brand Advocacy Via User Generated Content
If you suspect that everyone and their sister has a YouTube, TikTok, or other social media platform following these days, you’re right. With YouTube channels dedicated to topics like “unboxing experiences” and product reviews numbering in the millions, consumer voices are more prevalent – and more important than ever when it comes to marketing your products and services. Rather than see it as a potential negative, turn it into a positive way to turn your customers into a powerful marketing force for you.
By regularly encouraging customer comments, reviews, and even User Generated Content (UGC) you are empowering word of mouth on your brand to reach new heights, and also giving your customers a stake in your success, something that is a proven method to engender brand loyalty. Additionally, consumer studies suggest that seeing positive reviews and comments from other customers is one of the most powerful tools to create new customers. Ask your customers for feedback, comments, videos, recommendations often and suggest that they share it on your social media. Offer incentives to those who do to get the ball rolling. Soon you’ll see you’ve established an army of brand advocates who encourage true loyalty.
5. Personalize! Personalize! Personalize!
If you’ve been focused on building customer loyalty for a while or are just starting to build a loyalty strategy, you’re likely aware that the personalized customer experience is the key factor in building a customer base that creates true customer lifetime value (CLV). Today’s consumers expect even small companies to create an interaction that is personalized and feels unique to them. Creating a personalized customer journey makes your patrons feel valued, heard, and respected. Consumer studies by groups like Forrester Research indicate that investing in the personalized customer journey is the single biggest step a brand can make to fuel solid loyalty.
And while customer loyalty programs used to be enough, they’ve become so standard that it’s rendered them a “been there, done that” strategic move. To create REAL brand fidelity, you need to invest in a data analytic strategy that continually informs you about your customer’s behaviors, predicts future outcomes, and keeps them engaged at every brand touchpoint. Continually finding ways to draw your customer into the experience you provide and make them feel valued creates an emotional bridge and a solid relationship that you can build on for years to come.
If you have yet to begin utilizing Zero-Party Data, Customer Loyalty or Insight Marketing Platforms to boost your customer engagement and overall customer lifetime value (CLV), then it’s time you begin implementing this next wave of technology into your marketing strategy. Contact the team at Group FiO today to find out more. Click here to arrange a meeting.