Even before the COVID pandemic crisis swept across the world, Customer experience and engagement (CX) was quickly overshadowing price and product as a key brand differentiator.
With COVID-19 essentially halting traditional store footfall and physical retail, digital engagement and experience have become even more important in helping brands retain mindshare and maintain customer loyalty. So how do brands go creating non-transactional, personalized engagement at scale?
Engaging an anxious & comfort-seeking audience
Prior to creating an engagement strategy, it’s vital for brands to consider the shift in behaviours, priorities and attitudes brought about by the crisis. The COVID pandemic has resulted in several consumer behaviour shifts like rapid depletion of trust in institutions, especially healthcare systems; a deepened focus on financial stability and mental well being; spike in digital content consumption and social media usage and the desire for a safe, sheltered environment.
Marketers seeking to establish long-term connect with consumers in these troubled times will need to :
- Solve for specific consumer concerns.
- Align messaging towards values that matter most to worried consumers
- Offer products and services that seek to provide comfort in times of panic
- Avoid the temptation to bombard consumers with salesy campaigns
During the coming weeks, brands need to be sensitive to consumers’ needs and rethink their marketing and advertising.In short, they need to empathize and engage, instead of selling. That might mean pausing certain campaigns for certain products, and adjusting the copy and creative on ads to better speak to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Hershey removed ad spots that showed people hugging while sharing chocolate bars, and replaced them with commercials featuring product close-ups and KFC paused a campaign dedicated to its classic ‘fingerlicking good’.
Based on a survey by Gartner, here’s how consumers expect brands to address coronavirus developments :
- Notify customers if the company believes consumers may have been exposed to the virus at a company location
- Provide up-to-date information about shortages, delivery or service delays
- Implement additional measures for disinfecting in-store or physical locations owned by the company
- Update/communicate company rules that ensure customer safety and health
- Waive service fees and penalties (e.g., late fees, cancellation penalties)
The faster you can adjust to this new normal of customer engagement, the faster you’ll be able to build the trust and credibility necessary for establishing relevance in their lives.
Top 5 COVID Digital Brand Campaigns
Play for the World by Nike
Shoe and athletic apparel powerhouse Nike has been pumping up engagement with consumers with some stellar content marketing. The brand made its subscription-based Nike Training Club app, which offers streaming workouts, training programs and expert tips, free. It also began publishing more content on its Nike and Nike Running Club apps, website, TRAINED podcast and social media to serve the millions of consumers who are under lockdown and trying to manage their fitness regime. And finally, Nike packaged its content offering in a great marketing campaign, Play for the World, that leveraged its roster of athlete endorsers and shows how they’re keeping in top form during the pandemic.
Creativity goes on by Apple
Apple put out an inspirational campaign titled ‘Creativity goes on’ that featured celebrities making some really interesting stuff while they’re in lockdown. The campaign had pro-surfer Yadin Nicol finding a way to bring the waves to his kids at home, John Krasinski producing an episode of his YouTube hit #SomeGoodNews on his Mac and filmmaker Tee Ken Ng creating a dazzling zoetrope creation. The best part was all of this was conceptualized and created within the past three weeks, while we all have been quarantined at home.
‘Love has no fear by’ Louis Vuitton
LVMH leveraged the massive social media presence of its diverse brands to tap into the interest of customers around the world. Louis Vuitton launched a cause marketing campaign, “Love has no fear,” on Chinese social media platform Weibo. Multiple Chinese celebrity brand ambassadors recorded videos to encourage residents in Wuhan and support frontline medical workers. The campaign topic generated 4.2 billion views within its first week.
The Cookie Recipe by DoubleTree Hotels
The American hotel chain owned by Hilton is famed for its delicious chocolate chip cookies it serves guests at check-in. The recipe had been a closely guarded secret with many bakers and chefs trying their best to replicate them using unofficial recipes. But during the COVID crisis, the hotel chain surprised everyone by revealing its chocolate chip cookie recipe to the world. The video containing the recipe has nearly 300,000 views and fans have been sharing their pics of their version of the baked cookies on social media. Hospitality is amongst the worst-hit sectors by the COVID pandemic and DoubleTree pulled off a great content marketing effort to maintain a connection with guests at a time when they’re not thinking about hotels.
‘This is Not Goodbye’ by Mall of Emirates
The Mall of the Emirates used to welcome over 40 million visitors each year till ‘Covid-19’ happened. The establishment informed its visitors that they are closing its doors temporarily with beautiful cinematic visuals layered with a message of hope. The campaign titled ‘This is Not Goodbye’ conveyed the spirit of solidarity while promising a future filled with great possibilities.
Digital Engagement Strategies during COVID
Consider the New Nuances
While this point has been beaten to death, it still needs reiteration simply because it forms the core of your engagement strategy. Brands will need to be thoughtful and sensitive about all promotions and communications during these times. Brands acting like its business as usual and running pre-COVID campaigns are going to be harshly judged and labelled as tone-deaf.
Harmonize Cross Channel Communications
Customers are relying on an assortment of digital channels like mobile apps, OTT services, social media and websites to keep themselves informed and entertained during these tough times. Brands will need to ensure the content, engagement and experience across these diverse channels are consistent, connected and seamless. The key to achieving this is an AI-powered, unified customer engagement platform like X – Engage that intelligently pushes the right content to the right customer based on multiple factors like Channel Reachability, Channel Responsiveness, ROI and Offer Redemption Propensity.
Explore Commerce & Engagement Integrations
Commerce and customer engagement have been on a convergent path due to native integration of ecommerce and payment capabilities by several social media platforms and messengers. There are three key reasons why they are a great strategy for brands in the current landscape: the increased usage of social media and messenger platforms, the opportunity to offset the revenue loss from store closures and the ability to go online with minimal investment. Conversational Commerce platforms like Store2Door+ which harness a phenomenal engagement rate of 90%+ of WhatsApp Commerce can immensely help in the cause.
Empower your reps for success
Consumers are going to be reluctant to walk into retail stores for a while even after lockdowns are lifted. A great way to ease purchase friction and overcome concerns around hygiene and safety is to have your store staff interact with customers on a weekly basis. Empower your staff with a staff clienteling app like StoreMax connected to your CRM and loyalty systems to create a direct line of communication with your top customers.
Revisit Your Personalization Strategy
The personalization fabric is typically woven with months or years of customer data. Unfortunately, the new normal has shifted customer behaviour and user preferences beyond anyone could have ever imagined. This can result in incorrect and irrelevant recommendations and content being pushed out to your customers. While this can dent a brand’s image even under normal circumstances, it’s doubly damaging when the audience is anxious and stressed out. The key is to use smart segmentation to focus on your “Top X%” customers and have a dynamic campaign based on real-time user behaviour.
Capillary is committed to supporting you in navigating these uncertain waters. If you have product, strategy or service questions related to COVID-19 response, please contact us.