Every one of us has been through a whole range of emotions in 2020. In-person communications have been replaced with virtual conversations through video calls, chat apps, and online entertainment.
Leading to emotion forming the basis of our communications. So much so that we’re now reliant on digital channels to convey these emotions. Chat apps, email, SMS, video calls, and other digital forms of communication are now all common bridges for human interactions – and firmly embedded in our everyday lives. Their ease of use and convenience means they will be integral to the next ‘new normal’ and future communications.
So, how do brands adapt to this overwhelming digitization of all communications going forward? And form lasting connections with not just a digital-first audience but also the laggards who have been forced to switch?
Our research suggests that technology is one part of the solution. The pandemic has given us a plethora of customer insights – from pre-pandemic, lockdown, and post. Hence, before trying to solve the challenge by adopting new technologies, businesses should use this situation as an opportunity to analyze and rethink their overall approach.
With that in mind they also need to up their emotional quotient and go back to the basics of customer communications – the human connection – to deliver moments that matter and leave a lasting impression.
What are the three key lessons that brands should consider for communicating with customers, both today and in tomorrow’s ’new normal’?
Everyone is different. While this sounds like stating the obvious, when it comes to brand communications, many businesses are still stuck on the one-size-fits-all approach. And, the current events – despite the resultant increase in direct to consumer communications – haven’t changed that.
Many brands are still not treating their customers as individuals based on our research, which indicates that 74% of consumers believe brands’ messaging lacks a personalized, human connection. It’s a trait that continues to alienate customer bases too, as almost half (47%) of consumers ignore any impersonalized messages they receive.
Brands must appreciate everyone’s individuality and integrate platforms that allow them to deliver effective communications at the right moment across a range of different channels in today’s hyper-connected era. This wholistic personalized, omnichannel experience is what forms the basis of a successful lasting relationship.
Rethink your channels
Right now, adopting an omnichannel approach that provides seamless interactions with customers matters more than ever. Our research shows that consumers aren’t fussy about where brands communicate with them, provided they share relevant information in the right format and at the right time. In fact, there was no clear winner when it comes to channel preferences, with over half of respondents not selecting a preferred channel for receiving brand communication.
Through our research, we’ve already figured that 35% of customers are happier to engage with brands on digital channels since the pandemic hit – and this number is only going to increase. And with the increased digital adoption there is no clear channel preference with 52% of people not selecting a clear choice.
Brands that invest in one channel to reach their customers are going to struggle to connect with their target audience. Brands mustn’t miss the opportunity to build a cohesive, consistent approach that reaches all audiences across a variety of channels, and caters for consumers’ changing preferences and modes of consumption.
Conversational channels such as WhatsApp, for example, are becoming more and more popular with consumers, and mobile app messaging has seen an increase as well. Ultimately those that fail to adopt this omnichannel mindset won’t be able to generate business growth or build those deeper relationships that provide value to both parties in the long run.
Customer behavior matters
One of the most used segmentation is based on demographics such as age and location. However, irrespective of age, one thing we learned is that 21% of customers switched brands during lockdown because of the quality of communications.
What does better quality of communications mean in this context? It means personalizing your messages and targeting them based upon your customers’ behavior. It’s not easy, but brands must double down on the value of listening; truly understanding their customers, treating them as people, irrespective of their age, and applying this intelligence to their communication strategy gives them the greatest opportunity for success.
For brands who get it right – the returns are loyal customers, with 30% becoming more loyal because of the right communication.
We all know the age brackets that consumers are commonly grouped into; millennials, Gen X, Gen Z, baby boomers, and so on. These age categories are often useful, but brands must acknowledge and remember that variation exists not only between each of these age groups but within each of them, too. Millennials for example aren’t one unitary group that holds the same set of preferences – there’s huge divergence within that group. It simply doesn’t make sense to assume that a 25-year-old will have the same communication preferences as a 34-year-old, for example.
One thing we saw that was consistent across every one of these groups, however, was an increasing willingness to embrace digital communications. Nearly half (46%) of people agree that technology plays a greater role in how they engage with brands since the onset of the pandemic – a trend that will continue as we experiment with new forms of communication to find what’s most convenient for each and every one of us.
It’s not easy, but brands must double down on the value of listening; truly understanding their customers, treating them as people, irrespective of their age – and applying this intelligence to their communication strategy gives them the greatest opportunity for success.
Customers have reshaped communications, and so should you
People are seeking contactless human interaction, and that has automatically transferred to customer communications. The increased usage of digital channels and changing customer behaviors has led to the need for personalized, omnichannel customer engagement.
Adopting an omnichannel approach to customer engagement is pivotal to making your brand relevant. Why is that important? Because it shows your customers that you understand them, their preferences and know what they are looking for. Only then can you ensure your brand delivers moments that matter.
As a business, you need to relook at how you’re communicating online, and what works for you. The face of your business are your digital channels, and they need to strike the right emotional and beneficial chord.
Before the pandemic, digital transformation was essential for the new digital-savvy customers, but today it is equally essential for those demographics who have been forced to shift online. Your omnichannel customer engagement solution needs to be one that fits both the digital-first and technology laggard customer.
The pandemic and lockdown have given you the opportunity to accelerate digital transformation in the right way – with buy in from key stakeholders as well. It’s time to use this unique moment to rethink and redesign with empathy in mind.