Making the Pivot to a Digital-First Strategy During COVID-19: 5 Useful Tips from Acquia Customers
by Karen Wood, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Acquia, on 18 December, 2020
Customer loyalty has never been more important than during COVID-19, but earning this loyalty has also become harder than ever. We all know the old adage that the top 20% of customers make up 80% of a company’s revenue, but nurturing and growing that top 20% gets tricky when old ways of engaging with customers are no longer an option. Airlines and hotels can no longer rely on frequent business travel to keep customers loyal. Restaurants must reinvent the way they serve and deliver meals. Higher education, once on the precipice of incorporating distance learning into their business model, must now make the leap or be left behind. Retailers that relied on loyal store shoppers must bring brand enthusiasts into the digital realm until they can safely re-open stores, and even when they do, the shopping experience won’t be the same.
For brands whose entire business revolved around an in-person experience in a pre-COVID world, it’s time to make the leap and become truly digital-first — or risk getting left behind while competitors figure it out before they do. According to a recent McKinsey report, over 75% of consumers have tried new brands during the global pandemic. This creates risks for brands that once relied on loyalists to drive their business if they don’t rethink their digital and data strategies.
Becoming digital-first isn’t just a buzzword-y way of saying it’s time to update your martech stack. There are prescriptive measures we’re seeing brands take that can make a huge difference in:
- The agility to quickly adapt to regional policies that enforce closing and re-opening (and closing again) (and re-opening again). With increased agility, brands can continue to grow and market to their customers regardless of the current state of COVID closures.
- Migrating customers who once preferred in-person experiences (e.g., dining out, shopping in stores, going to the gym) to digital experiences (e.g., shopping online, getting meals delivered, digital workouts). If data is unified across digital and physical channels, it’s much easier to promote new channels and experiences from what they’re used to.
- Expanding loyalty. When brands think beyond just points-based and couponing programs and consider a more comprehensive approach to loyalty, this can encourage more customers to become loyal and stay loyal as business evolves and changes.
- Future proofing your business. Aligning your data strategy across digital and physical channels will prepare you for success, no matter what changes to your business come after COVID.
So, what are these prescriptive measures that brands can take? We talked to Acquia Marketing Cloud customers who are facing these very challenges, and a few trends emerged that are helping these brands stay profitable and successful during these uncertain times.
1. Define What a “Loyal Customer” Really is.
Although points-based and couponing programs are important, they may not be the sole loyalty drivers during COVID. Consider what makes a loyal customer. Is it a combination of factors, such as owning a white labelled credit card and frequent transactions and high email engagement? Are other factors important? A solution that can unify several factors that influence loyalty may be helpful not just during COVID — but long term for brands that want to expand and increase the profitability from your most loyal customers.
2. Understand Your Customers Across Digital and Physical Channels.
This is essential for effective migration of customers who are used to an in-person experience to new digital experiences. Research shows that customers who engage with a brand on more than one channel have a higher lifetime value, so this initiative will pay off long after the pandemic is over. A unified understanding of your customers will reveal critical insights, such as which customers relied solely on the physical channel in the past? What would entice them into a digital experience now? How effective have channel migration strategies been to-date? A unified view of customers pays permanent profitability dividends, besides solving short-term needs.
3. Deliver Website Experiences that are Useful and Helpful.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to a logged in “portal” experience. Consider a customer who has gone to the trouble of creating an account, giving you data about themselves, and logging into your website — and then receives a generic experience despite all that. Personalized website experiences can go far beyond product recommendations. Consider messaging that is truly relevant, such as giving the status of a returned product in for repair, or featuring a socially distant event in their local neighbourhood. These personalized touches go a long way in our current digital-only environment to make customers feel like the relationship they once had with you is still real. Relevant and useful experiences are another way to enhance loyalty, retention and lifetime value.
4. Enable Your Call Centre and Support Teams with Customer Data.
Traditionally, call centre and customer support teams have access to data that is fairly limited about previous tickets and online transactions. There is so much key information that is typically left out of the hands of these associates who are connecting with customers in such important ways. Giving these representatives information about which customers are loyalists, which channel they prefer, how often they visit the website, how much money they spent with you across all channels — all of these details are critical insights for customer service teams.
5. Learn About the Customers you Acquired During COVID-19.
Time and time again, I’ve heard marketing leaders say that acquisitions made during COVID are “not the typical customer.” So who are they then? How can you get them to come back and purchase again? What would entice them to become loyal to your brand? Without solid customer analytics, these will be difficult answers to get. But understanding this could pave the way toward new profitable customer segments you never thought about before. All of these strategies and tactics can increase customer lifetime value, loyalty, retention and growth of your customers.