Customer Data: How Brands Can Prep for the Post-Covid Consumer
In short order, we’ve seen entire industries turn themselves inside out to meet the new needs of their customers and communities during the coronavirus crisis. Everyday life looks dramatically different than it did at the start of the year. Essential services like healthcare, education, grocery stores, and food delivery have strived to meet increased and changing demands while many industries have been put on an indefinite pause.
But what about after this? It’s hard to imagine a quick return to our pre-Covid way of life. Some of the changes we are currently making out of necessity may become a lasting new normal, forcing businesses back to the drawing board to recreate connection with their customers.
This transformation will require entire organizations—not individual teams—to reconsider the value they offer and how that value is communicated.
Understanding the Post-Covid Consumer
Figure 1: The immediate impact of coronavirus on various industries several weeks after shelter-in-place orders started in the US has varied widely by industry. (Source: NeilPatel.com)
Social distancing may be a temporary phenomenon, but the buyer journey was already shifting (albeit more slowly) from in-person experiences to mobile and other online touchpoints well before coronavirus. More than ever, understanding your customers and optimizing your interactions with them is paramount.
We can expect buyer habits will significantly skew toward online interactions rather than physical ones even after shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Creating exceptional customer experiences during these uncertain times will result in lasting loyalty as the situation evolves.
A look at the region first affected by the coronavirus provides clues as to how businesses can plan for recovery. For example, Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan had to close 40 percent of its retail stores, but it converted a portion of its workforce to online-focused channels and actually achieved growth.
We imagine the following will be key to business success in the post-Covid environment:
1. Trust will be the top post-Covid consumer value.
Consumers are moving their historically offline purchases online, and a massive amount of people will pick new brand loyalties, or they are rethinking old brand loyalties. For instance:
- People who rarely ordered food delivery may become heavy users if the customer experience is smooth enough, and their brand loyalty is up for grabs.
- Regular moviegoers will pick new streaming services, and their brand loyalty is also up for grabs.
- Those who always shop for apparel at brick-and-mortar locations will now look for online options, creating an opportunity to form new brand loyalties if they can find the right fashions and fit.
Businesses that nimbly move their offerings online will have the best chance to thrive.
2. Connection will happen across multiple online channels.
Social distancing and isolation will fundamentally transform user habits by forcing consumers to interact with multiple online touchpoints. Once ingrained, these habits will be hard to let go. This will result in a much more informed buyer and therefore, only brands that optimize for consumer’s online experiences will survive and thrive. Most brands collect consumer information through these interactions, but use the collected information exclusively in the channel where it was originally collected due to the difficulty of integrating various marketing and sales technology. Breaking down these channel-centric barriers to create a unified customer profile helps you truly understand the customer journey.
3. Consumers will be more selective and discerning.
We are no longer in a growth economy. The market almost instantly turned into a bear market, and most countries are sinking into a recession. Therefore, consumers will think twice before they make a purchase. They’ll only want to part with their money if they are absolutely convinced that your product is going to make a difference to their lives. Therefore, making sure that you target the consumer—with the right message, confidently across the preferred channels, and for the preferred products—is paramount.
So brands and retailers need to use the information they already know and collect about consumers. But they also need to make the most of that information by using machine learning to predict the next best action, next best channel, product recommendations, and other timely offers.
4. Customer journey mapping will drive growth.
Mapping consumer journeys is an age old concept. However, until now, consumer journeys have been siloed to channels because centralization required monumental effort, including armies of engineers and complex big data systems. But as consumers adopt more channels to interact with brands, unifying these journeys becomes more important. A customer data platform (CDP) provides out-of-the-box functionality to map customer journeys. By mapping customer journeys, you can target customers at the right time, incorporate measurement, move customers through the journey funnels, and drive campaigns effectively. CDPs also allow you to easily suppress and frequency-cap campaigns across channels to prevent campaign cannibalization and consumer messaging fatigue.
5. Insights and analytics will make or break your business.
In the post-Covid world, the importance of customer analytics cannot be overstated. Brands need to understand every aspect of their marketing program through audience insights, campaign analytics, channel performance metrics, web analytics, and multi-touch attribution. Historically, data analytics have been the domain of IT teams, and marketers have had to request the information they need to make campaign decisions.
The advent of CDPs has been a boon to customer analytics. A CDP pulls data from many different locations and martech platforms, centralizing customer data and measurement and providing out-of-the-box dashboarding. These capabilities help you easily customize or rework customer journeys when business conditions change rapidly. Another advantage: CDPs are user friendly so marketing teams can self-serve the analytics they need for faster modeling of what-if scenarios and quick changes to customer journey maps.
6. Consumer trends and market conditions will continue to shift quickly.
We are still in the early days of this pandemic. Yet, we’ve already seen how quickly market trends and consumer behavior can change. For example, when hand sanitizer became scarce, people heard they could make their own with rubbing alcohol and aloe to prevent their skin from drying out. Next alcohol solutions sold out at many stores, followed soon by aloe gel.
Adapting your marketing plan to be able to respond quickly to change is essential to stay in business. Gone are the days when marketers could afford to wait weeks for data to be collected, processed, and delivered in the form of static segments. Marketing organizations need a marketing platform that is real-time, agile, and allows them to immediately create campaigns that adapt to changing markets. The Arm Treasure Data CDP is agile, detects real-time changes in both individual behavior and overall shifts in millions or billions of events. It helps marketers to fully control their data so decisions can be made in minutes, and marketers can run campaigns with the appropriate messaging and content.
Transforming with the post-Covid consumer
We can already see a glimpse of the post-Covid world characterized by a major shift to online channels and rapidly changing customer demands. Now more than ever, marketing organizations need to understand their customers’ journeys and invest in technology that allows them to be responsive in tough times and to drive growth strategically in good times. Brands and retailers cannot keep pace with changing consumer demands with old, siloed, IT-driven systems. The best hope for most companies is to use data analytics for insights into what customers want to buy, why, and with which channels. The best time to invest in such technology was yesterday; the second-best time is now.
To learn more, visit www.treasuredata.com.