When B2C Brands Invest in Digital, They Light the Way to Future Lifestyles
by Michael Klein
posted on 05-18-2020
Economies and customer behaviors evolve day by day, but large changes to the landscape don’t always come with a warning. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, has created sudden and unprecedented challenges for B2C brands, causing many to redefine how they interact and engage with customers.
For retailers and restaurants, this has meant shifting focus away from brick-and-mortar locations. Travel restrictions have grounded airlines and shut the door on international bookings. Meanwhile, telcos must hold together the surge of people working and communicating online.
In situations like this, customers may feel unsure about how they’ll access goods and services. They may weigh alternatives and wonder what brands are doing to keep people safe. Fast, resonant responses to these queries are essential.
Uncertain periods come and go, but brands can keep the lessons learned. Here’s how B2C companies can position themselves for greater success, resilience, and engagement by better understanding customer needs.
Reacting fast and well
We often hear of the latest disruption becoming the “new normal.” But truthfully, the “normal” state of play for businesses and customers can change whenever, and B2C brands must be ready to react in real time. A first step toward this is to nurture a collaborative culture — one where information is accessible across teams.
“Leaders should define how IT, marketing, and data teams interact in lockstep to make sure there are no silos,” says Bruce Richards, senior industry marketing manager for retail and consumer goods at Adobe. “Then, they can respond to urgent situations with quick, decisive action.”
Companies should explore technologies that aid communication between employees and make data insights easily understood and actioned upon. Bring all departments that contribute to customer experience together — be it for knowledge sharing, or closer collaboration on content, solution adoption, and goal setting. Leaders from all relevant corners should work together to shape the overall customer experience strategy and refine tactics as customer needs evolve.
Thoughtfully rerouting journeys
Timely internal communication is crucial, but it’s just one side of the coin. B2C brands must also reach customers with up-to-date information, messaging, and relevant services.
Many consumer-facing companies are currently dealing with a large influx of calls: travelers are looking to clarify refunds, e-commerce shoppers are asking for delivery updates, and remote workers are troubleshooting telecommunications hardware. If phone traffic overwhelms resources, these customer queries can go unanswered.
Fortunately, consumers can use brands’ digital channels to proactively answer questions and explore offers. Businesses just need to first create alternative journeys that can get them there. Online travel agencies, for example, can implement chatbots and instant messaging as more efficient points of contact. Teleco companies, on the other hand, can tweak their automated voice messages, store signs, and call-center scripts to raise awareness of digital self-service capabilities.
Layering in analytics can ensure these empathetic communications scale:
- Machine learning lets brands analyze massive sums of data in seconds, allowing travel players to create compelling ads and offers from anonymous data points like site visits, video plays, and ticket purchases.
- Search analysis lets travel brands understand what experiences customers crave. When movement is restricted and the economy uncertain, customers may prefer to make that dream trip happen later down the line rather than settle for a quick bargain. According to research by Google and Bain, more travelers decide not to book trips due to unmet needs (47%) than price (27%).
- Retailers, meanwhile, can use predictive analytics and custom alerts to communicate stock status with greater immediacy. As previously bought or browsed items deplete, brands can let account holders know using established communication preferences — and customers can further opt to receive notifications when stock returns.
Companies must learn what customers really want and create captivating journeys with that knowledge. Data not only helps them approach audiences with appealing offers, but identifies the best channels on which to share these personalized offers too. “Staycation” travel deals within driving distance of a segment’s location, for instance, can be communicated to desktop users via email or to mobile-heavy users through Instagram.
One message, all channels
Every customer touchpoint should relay the same correct information about products and services, particularly as company policies and operations change.
“Digital foundation and campaign orchestration are more critical now than before COVID-19,” says Julie Hoffmann, head of travel and hospitality strategy at Adobe. “B2C brands must align all channels with their website or mobile app, so customers always know what’s happening.”
This might take shape differently across B2C sectors:
- Restaurants can dynamically update social channels and digital ordering services (like JustEat) with opening hours.
- Online travel agencies can use data feeds and analytics to find out which vendors offer refunds and credit, and communicate those offers to customers across channels.
- Telco companies can identify areas at the highest risk of network congestion using predictive analytics. Then, they can notify customers about expected delays and allocate resources to support connections.
- Retailers that have temporarily closed brick-and-mortar stores can enable employees to support technicians and help desks, or experiment with producing online content for the brand.
Regardless of their industry or sector, all brands can analyze call and social media data to pinpoint the most urgent customer questions. And in response, they can update their FAQ pages and address concerns live via social channels. Proactive communication will help B2C companies emerge from difficult situations stronger than before.
Light at the end
By investing in journey creation, data analytics, and omnichannel efforts, B2C brands can reach customers with the right messages and offers. But customers also want to feel inspired. Companies can therefore continue building strong communities by adapting their messaging to suit their customers’ new lifestyles and using social media to spark imagination.
- Fashion retailers are advertising stylish “work from home” and workout wear.
- Restaurants are guiding customers on how to make quality meals with fewer ingredients.
- Travel companies are sharing visuals and stories from destinations around the world to influence that first trip away.
- Telecommunications brands with cybersecurity expertise are offering tips for staying safe online when working and connecting remotely.
In the face of uncertainty, B2C brands can forge closer bonds with customers by building stronger digital foundations. With that, they’ll be geared for success in crisis and in calm.
Learn how we’re helping retail, travel, and telecommunications brands enhance their digital experiences.
Topics: Retail, Future of Work, COVID-19