In these unprecedented times there is an opportunity to rethink how we engage with customers; to be more than we have been or maybe become something we have never been for them. Priorities and needs have changed for people across the board. That means how we engage with our customers must also change. The status quo is simply not an option.
A recent Nielsen report predicting an increase in media consumption upwards of 60%, shows people desperate for ways to fill a new void. But they aren’t looking for product features and benefits, continuous sales messaging, new products they could upgrade to, or events to attend. Instead, they are looking for content; they are looking for new ways to engage with brands they love or direction on how to engage with brands they need; they are looking to be entertained and lifted up; they are looking to fill a basic need. As a result, brands must now rethink planned engagement strategies to consider how to fill three basic needs – emotional, practical and financial.
On the one hand there is a visceral, emotional need. Day after day people are seeking that which is familiar and comfortable, a sense of stability, and joy anyplace they can get it. A study completed by Visual Capitalist found “…over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak.” Brands have a unique opportunity to play a part in filling this void. Your customers have already indicated an affinity with you. So, the question becomes, what is it that you can offer them to fill this emotional need? It could be showcasing the best ways to use the products that they have bought in an alternative, perhaps now more relevant, way. Or maybe providing something that offers comfort or entertainment using existing content through partnerships, existing assets reimagined, or connecting to other areas of interest that relate to your brand (e.g. videos, customer stories, games, movie recommendations, exclusive celebrity interviews). Some examples of this include the release of Trolls: World Tour straight to digital streaming or musicians giving virtual pop-up concerts. It could be giving your customers an opportunity to support their community through you (e.g. donating to a local food shelf), making them feel good about having contributed in some way.
On the other hand, there are basic, everyday needs that have to be fulfilled but in a completely different way. Students no longer go to a building to learn. Teachers must figure out how to teach virtually. Shopping in many categories has moved online, to delivery or curbside pickup. Even doctor or dentist visits have become virtual in many cases. Companies across industries have an opportunity to serve customers in a new way. For example, the fitness industry moving swiftly to streaming and virtual workouts or Zappos’ “Customer Service for Anything” approach. What are those products or services you have that can help your customers fill a practical need? How can you let them know that you are still there for them? What do they need to know to take advantage? As important as identifying the new solution is communicating what it is, how it works and how to use it. And making it easy is a must.
Tied tightly with all of this are the financial needs. In the current environment, people are feeling varying levels of financial anxiety. And there are many ways brands can help to reduce both anxiety and financial burdens. Promoting discounts or sales that make necessary items more affordable is a good starting point. The key will be to focus on essentials rather than something that may be considered a luxury item. For example, a catering company who shifted to providing affordable, family size meals. Other possibilities include offering alternative payment options that allow customers to defer or reduce payments, or providing content for maintaining existing products to enable individuals to limit purchases in the near term.
As essential as the options themselves, is ensuring the language used to communicate is infused with empathy and understanding of what people are experiencing. This isn’t a time for sell, sell, sell. This is a time for understanding, compassion and genuine solutions. There is so much opportunity to engage differently today. To create an engagement strategy that incorporates aspects of all the ideas we’ve discussed. This is the time to connect with your customers on an intrinsic level that will stick with them for years to come.
Nicole Rich, VP of Client Services